Center for Naval Analyses

CLA designed and delivered development program to build leadership skills, launch innovative projects, and increase the bench strength of key positions across the organization


It became evident to the executive team at Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), a federally funded research and development center with a historic relationship with the US Navy and Marine Corps, that their leadership capacity was not adequate to address the challenges they faced in adapting to the shifting defense industry and general government procurement of research and analysis. Downsizing and repositioning risked threatening their 80-year old relationship with the Navy, while an inward focus on only the Navy has impeded progress in building business outside of this congressionally limited funding stream. Given the significant external pressures, the executive team identified the need to accelerate the leadership capabilities of not only the top leadership team but also of high-potential talent in the next two to three layers below. CLA was retained to enhance and cascade leadership capacity within the organization to drive immediate impact and financial results. CNA was looking to CLA to help the organization move away from familiar practices and the associated diminishing returns, and develop new ways to locate, penetrate, and deliver value to markets in order to create a more productive and impactful future than the current path was driving toward.

CLA Approach

The CNA executive team designated 5% of the total population as High Potentials, who were divided into two groups of equal size and enrolled in this year-long development program co-designed and delivered by CLA with the goals of: (1) building leadership skills, (2) launching innovative projects, and (3) increasing the bench strength of key positions across the organization. The program was multi-episodic and interspersed with action learning. Teams emerged within the cohort to work on key business issues facing the organization to ensure that development occurred in the context of meaningful, collaborative work. CLA consultants facilitated learning events and supported and held participants accountable on an ongoing basis through periodic phone and video conference coaching sessions.


High Potentials in the first cohort launched in 2013, have begun to take ownership of and make progress on critical organizational challenges, including identifying new target markets, enhancing business development opportunities, and becoming more price competitive while still maintaining the analytical quality of their research output. Leadership development is evident in the level and depth of conversation now generated within the cohort and in the willingness of this group to engage with and challenge the top team in a constructive way. Prior to CLA’s involvement, the senior leadership team had not been able to name the “elephants in the room” and hold courageous conversations about recent diminishing business results. The first cohort was able to engage the CEO and COO in a difficult conversation around how the entire organization is diagnosing and acting on the organizational challenges impeding growth.