Death By PowerPoint

I was kind of lucky I left the Army when I did. PowerPoint was just coming into vogue. In fact, it was still something of a useful tool back then. Even cutting edge.

Sadly, like almost every other tool at the bureaucrats disposal, it became bloated and went from being a means to an end in itself.

Most of you have seen some¬†interminable training or marketing presentation at work. Guess what, the Army is even worse. There are a slew of officers at work who do nothing but generate PPT presentations. ¬†And we aren’t talking about stateside staffs, or offices buried deep in the bowels of the Pentagon. We’re talking about the operational forces in theater in Afghanistan or Iraq.

With that much information, virtually all of it useless, you are almost certain to attain paralysis by analysis. But that is the nature of a bureaucracy.

So it is more than a little surprising that a Reserve officer has thrown the bullshit flag.

For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information. Even one tiny flaw in a slide can halt a general’s thought processes as abruptly as a computer system’s blue screen of death.

The ability to brief well is, therefore, a critical skill. It is important to note that skill in briefing resides in how you say it. It doesn’t matter so much what you say or even if you are speaking Klingon.

Not surprisingly, COL Sellin has been relieved.

Hat tip to the invaluable War News Updates. Be sure to watch the video.

11 thoughts on “Death By PowerPoint”

  1. Depressingly true. When I was in charge of the daily ops/intel briefs on ship (2001-2003) it was pretty awful. I can’t even imagine what sort of hell it must be these days.

  2. Nice to see your name in lights again, B-rad. I enjoyed yur insight an skilz an stuff. Talk soon.

  3. You have to have something for all those staff weenies to do. I just feel sorry for the peons that are required to attended the useless briefs. I like to imagine the reaction of a Patton or MacArthur to a powerpoint brief. I’m sure Patton’s would have been the more histrionic and interesting to watch.

    1. Every WWII combat leader would likely have had amusing reactions. Rueben Tucker, who commanded the 504th PIR, “was famous for screwing up everything that had to do with administration. One story going around was that when Tucker left Italy, he had an orange crate full of official charges against his soldiers and he just threw the whole crate into the ocean.” I can imagine his reaction if his staff tried to show him a bunch of pointless slides….

  4. As I read Lucian Truscott’s biography, I’m seeing all the Corps commanders who got sacked by Ike for sitting in their command bunkers, in the rear, underground, never venturing forth to see the fight. Fredendall after Kasserine Pass, Lucas after Anzio, and so on….

  5. From the book, it sounded like Truscott didn’t want to take his place and that Clark had hamstrung Lucas from the start by telling him “not to stick his neck out” and not giving him enough support. However, one of the first things Truscott did was an image thing, by putting his CP above ground. Lucas’ CP was apparently in a labyrinthian cellar (wine cellar, maybe? can’t remember and book is at the house). I’ve limited specific knowledge of Clark, but my impression is that Clark cared about the wrong things.

  6. Geoffery Perrett in his excellent “There’s a War to Be Won” says that Lucas was the scapegoat for Clark’s failures. And Rick Atkinson follows somewhat the same argument in “The Day of Battle.”

    Atkinson has a higher opinion of Clark than Perrett. I’m not a huge fan of Clark, but every dog gets two bites.

  7. I’d read ‘Army At Dawn’, but got tied up with books on Dragoon and Overlord, so never got ‘Day of Battle’. Will have to add that to the Christmas list.

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