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A Revolution In American Military Affairs Part Two

Probably the greatest sin, however, is a certain mindset that is cancerous to any organization. The most important task of a military leader is to identify and nurture competent future leaders, not lapdogs and yes-men. It is not even a choice between loyalty and competence. Too many of the military leaders at the highest levels prefer subservience or obsequiousness over competence. If your organization operates in this way, there is no limit to what you won't accomplish.
by Lawrence Sellin
Washington (UPI) Oct 24, 2008
Death by staffing is a common problem in large organizations, including the U.S. armed forces and the Department of Defense.

A box in an organizational chart should not automatically entitle one to a seat at the table if that individual cannot add value. Nevertheless, chiefs of staff will often insist that an action be "staffed" by the broadest contribution of useless entities creating the operational equivalent of constipation. It can be either intentional or the result of some knee-jerk and clueless managerial process.

The consequences are invariably the same. The merits notwithstanding, action will remain in an administratively semi-torpid state until all interest in its potential worth evaporates in an atmosphere of apathy or is simply overtaken by events.

Structure trumps function is another common bureaucratic pathology. The Army is transforming and suddenly the individual's unit or command no longer has a mission. The reaction should be about identifying relevant capabilities, in which one responds to military "market forces" by asking questions such as "Who are my customers?," "What do I have that they want?" and "How can I deliver it better than anyone else?"

Instead the individual chooses a fashionable structure, which I think that I can "sell" to gullible or inattentive general officers, bending every possible operational scenario to fit my preconceived notions. It is a solution in search of a problem.

Incapacity for innovation is also common. An inability to innovate can arise from multiple sources. It can include a lack of insight, administrative rigidity, risk aversion or change avoidance. A particularly insidious contributor to organizational stagnation is institutional incest, in which the same people occupy the same positions of responsibility or are simply rotated through those positions over a long period of time. There can also be an over-reliance on management tools or processes as a panacea. If you are too dumb to know how to get from point A to point B, then Lean Six Sigma won't get you there.

Finally there is the problem of misunderstanding leadership. Leadership is not a single thing. It is not just about having a vision, which, in fact, could be the wrong vision. Leadership is certainly not simply about making decisions and barking orders.

There are, of course, some fundamental principles of leadership, such as being competent, taking care of your soldiers and never asking someone else to do something you yourself would not be willing to do.

In a world of nearly constant change, leadership requires flexibility and innovation. It concerns quickly and accurately understanding problems, identifying where your organization needs to go and how you are going to get there.

All too often in the military the wrong people are selected for critical positions. It is at least partially due to a lackadaisical attitude and an absence of transparency in the military system for promotions and leadership assignments.

Probably the greatest sin, however, is a certain mindset that is cancerous to any organization. The most important task of a military leader is to identify and nurture competent future leaders, not lapdogs and yes-men. It is not even a choice between loyalty and competence. Too many of the military leaders at the highest levels prefer subservience or obsequiousness over competence. If your organization operates in this way, there is no limit to what you won't accomplish.

As Lou Gerstner, former chairman of the board and chief executive officer of IBM, explained about competent and engaged leadership:

"You have to understand what people do every day -- the processes, the values, the rewards. It requires immense involvement by the CEO. If you're a CEO who tells employees, 'That's it. You know where we're going,' you'll find yourself with no followers."

(Lawrence C. Sellin, Ph.D., is a U.S. Army reservist and an Afghanistan veteran.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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Outside View: Russia's new army structure
Moscow (UPI) Oct 23, 2008
The Russian army is changing. In addition to troop-size reduction, yet another reform is aimed at fundamentally changing personnel composition and structure, especially within the ground forces.







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