Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boots vs process

Since it's November, I'll return one more time to the November Harvard Business Review that has an interesting set of articles on military leadership.

In an article entitled "Which of These People Is Your Future CEO?: The Different Ways Military Experience Prepares Managers for Leadership", authors Boris Groysberg, Andrew Hill, and Toby Johnson make the following observations...paraphrased for PM:

Where there are highly integrated complex systems for which consequences are difficult to predict or control if managers and do'ers go "off book", process is king.  Everything is 'by the book'.

Where there are close encounters in local situation with local tools and capabilities, more or less self contained, then agile, evolutionary, and even emergent responses may be the best approach, indeed the required approach.

The Air Force and the Navy more often encounter the former: in general their officers highly value process; the Army and Marine Corps are more often in the the latter situation with 'boots on the ground', and they value personal initiative and local maneuver.

The authors say this:
To generalize, Navy and Air Force .... take a process-driven approach to management; personnel are expected to follow standard procedures without any deviation. This allows the [them] to excel in highly regulated industries and, perhaps surprisingly, in innovative sectors. Army and Marine Corps .... embrace flexibility and empower people to act on their vision. They excel in small firms, where they are better able to communicate a clear direction and identify capable subordinates to execute accordingly

On a lighter note:
As one former Army captain, a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, put it: “Misplace a bolt in the Army and you might have a broken-down truck. Misplace a bolt in the Navy or the Air Force, and you might lose a $100 million piece of machinery

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