In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we looked first at the emergence of the US Army’s new H2F human performance initiative and then explored the underpinnings of a theoretical “athlete-centric” model of athlete training and management. In this third and final article, we’ll examine how data analytics can be used as a force multiplier within a large-scale human performance system and how the US Army might replicate some of the successes seen in other endeavors through the use of a Tactical Human Performance Platform.
The Inherent Risk of Scale
As we mentioned in the first article of this series, when programs of any type expand in scale, there is an inevitable increase in risk that comes with that growth. When a small team of embedded human performance practitioners is responsible for 100 individuals, roles are clearly defined and expectations are easily met due to the ability to easily manage a relatively small number of athletes. When that population expands to several thousand, however, things inevitably become somewhat trickier.
One solution to this problem of scale is to introduce an effective Tactical Human Performance system early on to put the power of data analytics into the hands of the practitioners. Whereas previously the system might have relied on face-to-face contact in order to establish relationships between practitioner and athlete, a strong Tactical Human Performance Platform gives a single strength coach, athletic trainer, dietitian, or any other member of the performance team the ability to rapidly communicate with and react to incoming information from several thousand warfighters.
Signal vs. Noise
Data analytics is not without a downside, however. When considering which pieces of information are relevant to a program, it becomes easy to mismanage or even pass over key data points that get lost in the steady flow of information within the system. As it becomes easier and easier to collect information off of wearable technology, warfighter questionnaires, or even through passive or observational means, connecting the dots between what is relevant and learning how to ignore what is not–effectively differentiating between signal and noise–becomes art as much as skill. A well-run Tactical Human Performance system complete with seamless data collection across thousands of athlete inputs allows practitioners to paint a picture of readiness, resilience, and effectiveness within their population.
Looking back at our discussion on a warfighter-centric human performance model allows for some examples to emerge of powerful data metrics. Introducing daily wellness questionnaires, sleep surveys, and even physical training metrics like rate of perceived exertion across an exercise or an entire session equips practitioners with key data points that can allow for the adjustment of training either acutely or across an entire block. Instead of driving warfighters into the ground with preset training models, coaches and trainers can fluidly allow training to respond to the readiness of the individual thus reducing injury rates and increasing the likelihood of success. Similarly, from an administrative level, scheduling features and communication strategies can be implemented to give thousands of warfighters the ability to create touchpoints to a program that they may otherwise never engage with merely due to its large-scale nature.
Perhaps most importantly, though, a Tactical Human Performance Platform allows for a team of practitioners to effectively create reports on program wellness that can easily be translated to any level of leadership. With massive programs such as H2F, return on investment on behalf of the taxpayers is always front and center. By examining metrics such as injury rates, duty days lost, and physical fitness testing, leadership can see, at a glance, the health and effectiveness of their program. In more specific and creative instances, data can even be translated to compare cost savings of seeking care through the embedded sports medicine team versus equivalent care outside of the team. In massive human performance programs such as H2F, even small percentage shifts in the right direction can result in massive positive change at an organizational level.
H2F as a Model
Throughout this series of articles on industrialized human performance, we’ve taken a look at how these programs come to fruition, how they might rethink their concept of operations, and how data analytics can be used effectively to both justify the program’s existence in the first place and provide practitioners with a powerful force-multiplying tool. What the Army’s H2F program ultimately represents is an unprecedented effort at bringing the success of special operations human performance programs to the wider conventional force. If executed well, H2F will likely have a positive ripple effect across the entire human performance enterprise, setting the stage for how to effectively deploy and utilize small teams of experts across warfighter populations numbering in the thousands and providing an example of how to wield data analytics to grow and sustain a program.
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