An Outside View…

The Army is a large organization. And like any large organization, leadership and management are important parts of successfully achieving the organizational goals.

Troops start leadership training from Day 1, mostly by learning how to be a good follower, but soon learn leadership and management both by on-the-job training, and through the Army’s formal schools system. There isn’t a pay grade in the Army where you stop learning leadership and management.

The Navy of course, is much the same. They take a justifiable pride in their ability to train and teach leadership. Unlike a business, they can’t really go out and hire mid-level managers. They have to grow their own.Currently, there’s a fad in the Navy to adopt business practices as the best way to manage the Navy’s assets and people. This is not universally appreciated by the sailors and officers in the fleet. Some are downright skeptical.

But the Army and the Navy are also somewhat insular organizations, with limited interaction with the rest of the community. So it is nice sometimes it is nice to see what others think of what the Navy is doing. As a part of an effort to better explain what the Navy is and does, they recently invited several influential bloggers, most of whom are not affiliated with the services, to partake in brief “embark” aboard the USS Nimitz and see what life was like aboard a nuclear aircraft carrier underway and conducting operations.

Bill Reichert is an entrepenuer and blogger. Here’s a taste of his take on how private business can learn from the Navy (and I would argue, most of this applies equally to learning from the Army).

4. Recruiting and Training: There is a common misperception that the military attracts the lower performers in our society who have no other choices. The Navy is very fortunate to have more people who want to join than there are available slots. But more important, the men and women who make it through training are astoundingly competent people. The lesson here is that it’s not about fancy degrees and prior polish; it’s about a commitment to excellence in each individual, and the willingness to work to exhaustion to make sure you live up to your commitment.

Go over to the excellent USNI Blog and see his other nine points.

2 thoughts on “An Outside View…”

  1. When in VAQ140/CVW7 on the shakedown of USS George Washington CVN73 in the autumn of 1992, we were exposed to the Deming thing or as it was formally titled, Total Quality Leadership. It was leadership by committee. Hmmmmmmmmmm. On a Man-of-War? I don’t know how it ended up as I had a date with retirement about one year later. It almost took the LPO out of the loop in the short time I was exposed to it. But we were getting ready for Bubba’s Navy, even though we didn’t know it at the time.
    As a Leading Petty Officer in multiple airframe and hydraulic shops over the course of my career, I was in charge. And that meant of everything in the work center, personnel, tools, support equipment and the airplanes at the organizational level. If one of my guys screwed up, I had to answer as to why. Along with the leadership and management comes the responsibility. You can’t run from it. It is there.
    Taking college courses and all that other “total man” criteria for advancement does nothing for an LPO/LCPO in the day to day world of operations and maintenance. Doing this was called “checking the block” in the old days. And in 1986, I did attend the LMET course because it was required of me in my rate and billet description. The one interesting teaching aid in this course was the original movie, “Twelve O’Clock High” with Gregory Peck.
    The most I ever learned about leadership and management was from men like ABH1 Jack Trafton, AMHC Jim Russell, Gunnery Sergeant Dave Dozier, Gunery Sergeant L.G. Slater, AMHC Ed Urbantke and AMCS Larry Jones. They had the experience to pass on to at times a young petty officer. And it didn’t come from a text book or NAVINST.

  2. There is always a give and take between book learning and practical experience.

    The best leaders I have seen know how to apply textbook knowledge to the real world, have enough real world experience to know the difference between the two and they listen to others. No matter if it’s an E-1 or O-6, they listen to good ideas and never let them go to waste.

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