This sort of assembly line model pervades everything we do. As soon as someone identifies a need for anything in the Army and that need is institutionally validated, the solution will be crafted in such a manner as to produce an outcome that can be replicated over and over. This is the whole notion of Task, Condition, and Standard. A need to train on this or that task is identified and validated. From that point an arbitrary condition will be created which will allow the developer to create a consistent measurable standard that can be applied uniformly across the entire Army spectrum. Every Soldier will be faced with this task, under these conditions, and be required to achieve this minimum standard. In fact, there is a whole subset of folks who work for the Army and their sole job in life is to develop the Tasks, the Conditions, and the Standards.
In light of this, I came across an article on the Small Wars Journal website last week by Col (Ret) Christopher Paparone entitled, "Design and the Prospects for Mission Analysis" that caught my attention. You can find the link here:
In general the article states that using an empirical scientific model, most conventional armies attempt to keep dissecting a problem into smaller and smaller bite-sized tasks (missions) that when stacked together become the building blocks that solve a strategic issue. The Soldier maintains his/her rifle. That rifle functions properly as the squad lays in an ambush position. The squad ambushes the enemy. The enemy is killed. The squad fulfills their portion of the platoon mission which fulfills their portion of the company mission, which fulfills their portion of the battalion mission etc until all those blocks together fulfill a national strategic objective. Col Paparone and others describe this as a "scientific method" or "empirical realism" view of problem solving. This is then compared/contrasted with a more personal, intuitive, and behavioral model which is termed "critical realism". The difference between the two as outlined in the article:
"From the viewpoint on left side of the continuum, tasks are ―mission-analyzable, that is they can be pre-programmed or planned. Organization theorist Charles Perrow called these types routine tasks (accomplished by standing, requisite organized capabilities—core competencies or, for the US military, ―METLs) and engineering (planning organized capabilities in combination—task organizations) tasks. Looking from the right side of the continuum, tasks are unpredictable and improvisational; hence, Perrow called these craftwork (the creative, improvisational use of already organized capabilities) or emergent (requiring the localized reforming into novel organizational entities) tasks."
Routine Tasks and Engineering Tasks vs Craftwork or Emergent Tasks
We lead human beings. Individual, emotive, thoughtful, distinct, people. No two are exactly the same. You cannot build an assembly line to produce the exact same model over and over. The 'scientific method' will not work when trying to influence people. People - and their development into leaders - is the work of the craftsman, not the stacking of thousands of parts that all come together to complete the aim of the organization.
This example might make more sense if you see the development of the leader as the 'strategic goal' of the mission. The institutional model of programmatic design stacks blocks on top of each other from the individual Soldier all the way up to the national interest, in the same manner that the scientific leader development model stacks finite options together to achieve some defined view of a 'leader'. What this scientific model leaves out are the idiosyncrasies and vagaries of person, the environment and the point in time that a leadership decision needs to be made.
This is a critically important realization. By using a 'scientific' quantifiable model of leader development we have essentially discarded a learning model that is much more well suited to creating thoughtful, adaptive, unique individual leaders with the skills, abilities and attributes we need for our current conflicts. I don't think most of our leader developers today see themselves as craftsman. They are more likely to view themselves as production line managers.
At this point I'd like you to go to the following link:
This article was sent to me this week by a colleague and it struck such a chord that I posted it to Facebook that night and it was picked up by BCKS the next day. Please be careful to both read the article and watch the video. The video will give people a really good view of some of the behaviors I was talking about in post #86, "One Clear Moment", but it should also make everyone consider the leadership methods were used in their own development and ask themselves whether or not those methods would work under the conditions described in the article. As powerful as the video is, the written portion is more important. Take the following paragraph:
"The day after the joint patrol, the 101st leadership met with Gerhart, Knollinger, Farnsworth, and Lachance for an after-action review, to discuss what had gone right and wrong during the mission. Gerhart flipped through index cards on which he’d prepared notes. His suggestions were sound—better hydration, classes on patrolling techniques and using radios, pre-patrol inspections of soldiers’ equipment—but his delivery was abrasive and accusatory. Why, he asked, had it taken the reinforcements from Combat Outpost Tynes six hours to show up after the first casualties were reported?
The IED threat was extreme, Tom Banister, the new unit’s first sergeant, said, and he hadn’t wanted to risk more heat casualties while trying to reach the compound on foot. So they ended up waiting for helicopters.
“I guess I’m just used to being out there with hard-charging guys,” Gerhart said.
Since arriving at Tynes, Banister had found himself in the bizarre situation of deferring to men who weren’t yet born when he’d joined the Army, 24 years earlier. He accepted that his and his soldiers’ learning curve was steep. But he couldn’t tolerate Gerhart’s near-constant impertinence, and the general condescension from the 82nd paratroopers toward their replacements. “We appreciate all you guys have done, we really do,” he said. “What I don’t appreciate, what gives me the ass, is your holier-than-thou attitude that we’re incompetent and unprepared for this mission. Roger. I got that. We’re a field artillery unit tasked with an infantry job. Are we going to take casualties? Hell yeah, we are. We know that.” His vocal cords tightened with emotion. He paused. “Don’t count us out,” he said. “We’re a fighting force. We’re not going to leave you hanging. We evacuated our guys, but we brought you 20 more.”
This is only one example from a very powerful piece about why leader development needs to take a much less 'scientific' approach and a much more 'craftsman' approach. For every reason laid out in a schoolhouse that 1SG Banister should have crushed SSG Gerhart's action and attitude, it is only his absolute appreciation of the immense challenges faced by this young leader that prevented him from doing so. He had to choose. The option for a directive style based upon seniority and rank was always available to him. But his ability to recognize that using that approach would not advance anything was critically more important. This speaks volumes about judgment, recognition, respect, value, candor, honesty and real vs perceived power than almost anything else I've read lately. At age 22, SSG Gerhart has seen things that many will never see in a lifetime. He is "One Clear Moment" personified. For Banister to understand that reveals a lot. And none of those revealing things were taught in any leader school he attended. I guarantee it. I've been to those same schools. Banister's ability to read, recognize, respect and move through what could have been a horrible interchange speaks volumes about the craft of leadership and acts as a powerful message about the need to replace in our schoolhouses task driven, black and white, yes or no approaches and start to replace them with an artist's perception, a craftsman's feel for how our leader development programs should be tailored. Gerhart wasn't even born when Banister joined the Army. Their exchange exemplifies what happens when everything else gets stripped away. They were dealing from a position of mutual respect and trust. Two guys, worlds apart trying to accomplish a mission. There is a lot of craftsmanship involved.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.