Futures Lab Command Lead: Mike Bird


Domain: Strategic Command
Years of experience in defence: Over 35 years

Brief summary of your career prior to Futures Lab:

I served in the military for 33 years in a range of command and staff appointments, including multiple operational tours. Recognised through the award of an MBE, my last role was heading a capability branch in defence. I Joined Atkins in 2018 and seconded into Futures Lab in 2020 prior to its launch in 2021.

What does your role involve?

I talk with defence to explore its challenges and provide insights and advice on a way forward, including how a collaborative team, drawn from industry and academia can inform defence decisions. Having identified a tangible activity that will inform a decision, I assist the client develop a Statement of Requirement (SOR), liaise with the Aurora Partners to select the Coordination Partner for a specific task, engage with the Provider Network Team and help shepherd the task through to contract award, maintaining client relationships throughout delivery.

What aspect of your role is exciting, rewarding, or interesting?

Knowing that I’m actively supporting defence as it navigates complex strategic challenges. Having spoken with a defence client, it is very rewarding to simply be told, “Thanks Mike, that was really useful”.

How important to you is teamwork? Are there any other factors at play which are crucial to you being successful in your role and key in the success of Futures lab?

Everything we do is a human endeavour. Therefore, effective teamwork is critical to achieving success. However, fundamentally, you have to care; care about the task, care about the people you work with and care for those you aim to support. Other factors at play are integrity, the relationships you build across the Futures Lab stakeholder community and with the client, coupled with proven competence.

How are you helping embed change in your domain?

Representing a real opportunity, I try to encourage and push for the diversity of perspectives within industry and academia.

Can you provide an example of a task you’ve led on and how this has helped to improve military capability for the MOD?

The title ‘Command Lead’ refers to where my primary focus lies within defence. Accordingly, I lead Futures Lab’s engagement with Strategic Command. The tasks that are created are the result of collaborative engagement with the client. In progressing a task, I advise and guide the client until the task is formally on contract, at which point the primary relationship then lies with the Delivery Team. Futures Lab tasks are general pre-concept. We therefore aim to help defence make key decisions which eventually result in core capabilities that enable the effective delivery of defence outputs.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in defence?

At its core, it is an enduring wish to serve the country to help it remain secure and prosper.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

Hoping that I can make a difference.

What is the most interesting/exciting task you’ve led on and why?

I’ve been lucky to be involved in a range of tasks, the span of which has been invigorating. I’m very mindful that whilst we seek to leverage cutting-edge technology, we also seek cutting-edge thinking. By way of an example, I was delighted that Futures Lab was able to provide insights and recommendations on cultures and behaviours in support of a major transformation programme.

If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing instead?

Looking for wider opportunities where I can support defence.

If you could provide any advice to aspiring colleagues, what would it be?

Don’t forget to keep caring. When you’re busy and spinning multiple plates, ensure you care to do the right thing. Don’t be tempted to do what’s easy.

What has been your career highlight?

Working with some truly outstanding people.

What is the best advice you have received?

I can’t isolate a single piece of ‘best’ advice. Advice needs to be in context. I don’t have the monopoly on ideas or how to approach a task, so advice is always welcome. Accordingly, I routinely receive great advice.