#6 My Silent Partner - Mr. Boyd Rules the World

"We will seek individuals ready and willing for warrior service. Bound to each
other by integrity and trust, the young Americans we welcome to our ranks will
learn that in the Army, every Soldier is a leader responsible for what happens in
his or her presence regardless of rank. They will value learning and adaptability
at every level, particularly as it contributes to initiative: creating situations for an
adversary, rather than reacting to them. They will learn that the Army’s culture is
one of selfless service, a warrior culture rather than a corporate one. As such, it is
not important who gets the credit, either within the Army or within the joint team;
what’s important is that the Nation is served."

Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee
Former Chief of Staff of the Army General Schoomaker
Serving a Nation at War

My friend COL Boyd keeps showing up all over the place. I found the quotation above in a TRADOC study entitled The US Army Study of the Human Dimension in the Future, TRADOC Pam 525-3-7-01 the other morning and have been almost devouring it's contents for the past 2 days. The study is an attempt to look into future requirements for the Army both in terms of operations and in terms of what types of training and education it will take to produce Soldiers capable of fighting and winning in future conflict. In essence, it's a look at people in 3 domains, moral, physical, and mental.

For me, the key phrase in the above quotation is the following: "They will value learning and adaptability at every level; particularly as it contributes to initiative: creating situations for an adversary rather than reacting to them." This is the absolute essence of the OODA loop. In order to win in a conflict, one side must be able to so disrupt the oppositions decision cycle that the opponent is continually not able to execute his strategy, but rather spends all of his efforts reacting to what is being done to him. By being able to dictate the 'terms' of the battle - be they moral, physical, technological or otherwise, one organization gains a distinct advantage over the other in the contest. Generally, this does not bring about a grand victory where one adversary formally surrenders to the other, but rather victory occurs when one adversary does not posses the mental and moral character to continue the contest and quits.

In further writings, COL Boyd went on to talk at length about the moral, mental, physical conflict (see link: http://www.d-n-i.net/boyd/pdf/poc.pdf) a theme that continually shows up in the TRADOC Pam. To me, these slides show up as almost a primer for any organization or nation on what is required to 'win' in the 21st century. Any discussion of the advantage of technology can, and is, being tempered by the reality that a small band of men on donkeys, living in caves who posses the 'moral' certitude of their cause is arguably winning our current conflict. And why? Because by acting with absolute 'moral' certitude they also imbue an ethos - dare we call it a Warrior Ethos? - that is stronger than their adversaries and allows them to draw upon a reserve of strength and willingness to persevere that their adversary does not posses.

The TRADOC Pamphlet, which envisions the Army from 2015 - 2024, then goes on to ponder the idea of what types of citizens the Army will have as a prospective pool in the years ahead. Looking generationally, these young people are called "Millennials". For reference, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Millenials. The study forwards the following thought,

"People born between 1980 and 2000 will have the greatest influence on the nature of the
Army in 2015-2024, either as experienced Soldiers or new recruits. These learners belong to a
generation known by several names including the Millennials. Although each millennial is an
individual with unique characteristics, when viewed collectively certain broad conclusions can be drawn about them as a generation. Ethnically and culturally, they are a diverse generation.
According to the Washington Post, “Forty-five percent of the nation's children under age 5 are
racial or ethnic minorities. The percentage is increasing mainly because the Hispanic population
is growing so rapidly. The country as a whole is 33 percent minority. Due to these changing demographics, the use of languages other than English is common. Americans are
more tolerant of other languages now, whereas assimilation was the norm in the past."

Socially, “[the Millennials are] the ‘Babies on Board’ of the early Reagan years, the ‘Have
You Hugged Your Child Today?’ sixth graders of the early Clinton years, and the teen
contemporaries of Columbine. They are the children of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
and the first generation to grow up in the post 9/11 world. Their structured lives included
parents shuffling them from one activity to another all under the watchful eyes of teachers,
coaches, tutors, and music instructors. Wide-ranging child protection laws and safety products
that came out of the 1980s have made Millennials one of the most sheltered generations.
Consequently, they have emerged as a tolerant, pragmatic, ambitious, and optimistic group. They believe themselves to be influential and unique. They are familiar with all things digital, having grown up immersed in computer games, MP3 players, DVDs, digital video recorders, cell phones, and the Internet. Their values are not constant, but are variable according to the
exigencies of the moment. Their perception of right and wrong will probably differ from their
leaders. The majority of high school students freely admit to lying, cheating, and stealing, yet see nothing wrong with their ethics and character. These factors if left unchanged will have a
major impact on future recruiting and training policies."

Let me try to string together some other thoughts here and try to discover a theme. 1) The Army needs to be a values based organization... 2) Those values are embedded in the Constitution, and the fabric of American culture.... 3) That fabric is changing based on various global outside influences... 4) Values are shaped by common, shared experiences... 5)Generations have differing understandings of the meaning or interpretation of the shared values... 6) Consequently, they have emerged as a tolerant, pragmatic, ambitious, and optimistic group. 7) "Man is the first weapon of battle. Let us study the Soldier, for it is he who brings reality to it." - Ardant du Pique...8) The second O of Boyd's OODA Loop is Orient...9) "First and foremost, the Army is Soldiers. No matter how much the tools of warfare improve; it is Soldiers who use them to accomplish their mission. Soldiers committed to selfless service to the Nation are the centerpiece of Army organizations."
FM 1, The Army, June 2005

So, we must raise a generation of Soldiers who came of age in a rapidly changing world, with a different value system than their predecessors, who are less likely to be swayed by grand value themes (Freedom vs Oppression, Good vs Evil etc), who have a more practical interconnected and global view of their environment and who will continually keep a sharp eye to their own self-interest. Hmmm. And we must find a way to combine that reality into the organizational requirement of the Army as a value based organization.

The Top must start paying very very careful attention to the Bottom. Using OODA, we now reach a point where we have begun a cursory look at the Observe (a problem with Soldier and leader development) and the Orient (the why outlined above) and now we come to the Act. How will we combine the moral components of a values based Army with the moral needs of a changing Soldier population? How must we change our current actions to ensure that we can adequately prepare Soldiers and leaders for the changing face of conflict in the early 21st century?

One quick answer may be to simply ask the Bottom what it values. Enquire of it what is important. Ask why it thinks/acts/feels the way it does. Principally, respect it. Treat it in reality the way it is outlined in FM 1. Treat is as the most precious commodity that the Army has. We must study the Soldier and leader requirements for the world we are living in and become so committed to their success, that they feel so valued that they willingly absorb the organizational ethos that sustains them and gives them purpose. In essence, while not surrendering those organizational, immutable, moral constructs that are required of the Army, we must listen to what the Bottom is telling us and communicate our understanding of them in a way that resonates to them. Not us. Them. That is the key. If we keep talking to ourselves at the Top and using words that have meaning only to us, then we will lose the Bottom. We will lose the singularity of purpose that an Army requires. We will lose the moral/mental component of the Soldier.

COL Boyd knew this. And his thoughts keep showing up in my life everyday.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting blog, but it’s missing an important part of the equation: Generation Jones (born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X). Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten a ton of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term. In fact, the Associated Press' annual Trend Report forecast the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009.

    It is important to distinguish between the post-WWII demographic boom in births vs. the cultural generations born during that era. Generations are a function of the common formative experiences of its members, not the fertility rates of its parents. Many experts now believe it breaks down more or less this way:

    DEMOGRAPHIC boom in babies: 1946-1964
    Baby Boom GENERATION: 1942-1953
    Generation Jones: 1954-1965
    Generation X: 1966-1978

    Here is an op-ed about GenJones as the new generation of leadership in USA TODAY:

    Here's a page with a good overview of recent media interest in GenJones: