INSIGHTS FROM EIGHT DECADES #7

Small is good. Big is bad. At least that is what we hear in our political debate. I much prefer small government, but small government can also be inefficient, politically motivated and corrupt. Even when government is made smaller, it can still be integrated and centralized beyond the management skill of humans. In my previous blog, I discussed the ‘centralization’ process and its profound effect on efficiency.Today,I want to develop the theme further without getting into mind numbing detail and too many words.

The key words are founders and guardians. Organizations in the beginning of their history can point to the people who were the founders. With maturation, nearly all organizations slowly, but inexorably, move into the control of the guardians. These well meaning good people use the power of process to protect and perpetuate the organization they inherited. Process expertise does not involve the understanding or the furtherance of the founder’s mission, it is solely concerned with the way the mission is accomplished. You have all seen them. They are the enablers of the units who focus on personnel management, accounting, logistics, communications and finance. Good people all and their skills are needed and respected. They should not supplant the line mission leaders. The downside is the effect of their process requirements on the effectiveness and direction of the line mission of the unit. Seldom can a person with process skills actually lead people engaged in the primary mission of the organization they serve.

A few organizations have a built in correction factor that eventually keeps them in the control of people who understand how the mission is accomplished. There are people who are natural warriors who deeply understand the mission and how it must be accomplished. These natural warriors don’t often survive the growing process and procedures of a few decades of peace. We have never gone to war successfully with the leadership of our military that is in power after a long period of peace. After a period of disasters and tentative fumbling, the leadership is replaced with military leaders who can fight a war. Look back at all our conflicts and you will easily note the changes. The Civil War being one that clearly shows the search for military leadership.

Other non military organizations have a somewhat different means to keep the people from the front edge of their respective mission in leadership roles. They have an ingrained system of metrics that clearly indicate success and failure. For example, the world of sports, entertainment, engineering and medicine do not long tolerate poor performance. They have a way to reinvigorate themselves, usually by constantly upgrading the team or unit with the best people they can find. Professional and college sports teams are a good example. Points scored, yards gained, rebounds, track times, winning coach records all make a clear metric for us all to follow. Imagine professional football coaching ranks having a number of coaches who never played, coached or even followed the game. What impact would that have on the players and fans? Imagine how the men and women of some of our leading agencies respond to their bosses who never walked in their shoes and could not do so now. They barely understand the problems and methods of the organization.

Political is not above these concerns. As in any other field, people can master the language and process of campaigning for office or career without having any substantive skills or experience. In general, I greatly prefer Governors, Generals and CEOs, rather than Legislators, as presidential candidates. Leaders and managers cannot learn their skills without experience encompassing failures as well as successes.

Comments welcome.

Incidentally I’m easing back into my Storyteller role. My second novel is now in the hands of the editors. I hope to publish it by May of this year.

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Filed under Intelligence & Politics, political solutions, Politics

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