Friday, May 23, 2008

US Army "Fly In" and Military Tattoo - Lessons Learned

Briefing at the PentagonThe Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) Chicago Chapter coordinated a "Fly-In Visit" with the US Army to the Pentagon and they were gracious enough to provide me an invitation.

Always Be Present

The visit was flawlessly arranged and coordinated by K Stephenson the Director of Executive Partnerships at the Executive Office of the Army. I know K had a busy schedule all day, coordinating a number of tours and performing her normal duties, but you would have never known it. K, as well as, all of our hosts (4 generals and 4 Colonels and 1 Major) made sure to make us feel like we were their priority, despite the fact that the US Army is executing a Global War on Terror (GWOT) on two major fronts and other engagements across the globe.

Our hosts' hospitality and personal engagement reminded me of a business quote:
You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.

Dale Carnegie
Lesson Learned

The value of being present and interested in your guests and will take this lesson with me for life.

Global War on Terror (GWOT) - The Long War

We got a lot of information about the current high profile conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and I came to the conclusion that these battles are part of a continuum in the GWOT that is anticipated to persist for the foreseeable future (The Long War). The reality is the GWOT did not begin with on 9/11 or the day that the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen in 2000, its roots can be traced all back to the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979 or even earlier. This perspective of time provides us with a clearer vision of the seeds of the GWOT; I am confident that 10 or 20 years from today, the importance of bringing the GWOT to our enemies vs. the homeland will be applauded by historians instead of being chided, as so many of the news media do today.

The militaries need to manage the US citizens' expectations and the news media’s constant prodding reminds me of the process that a publicly-traded company might engage in with Wall Street to manage quarterly earnings expectations. The best companies focus tactically on the next 90 days, but are strategically looking over the horizon, 10 or 20 years out.

I think that the US military should consider reviewing Google's position on providing earnings guidance below:
Although we may discuss long term trends in our business, we do not plan to give earnings guidance in the traditional sense . . . A management team distracted by a series of short term targets is as pointless as a dieter stepping on a scale every half hour.

"An Owner's Manual" for Google's Shareholders
Setting unrealistic timetables for troop withdrawals in GWOT is akin to "a dieter stepping on a scale every half hour."

Lesson Learned

Let's give our troops the leeway to execute their mission of protecting freedom, lest we overmanage the GWOT in the short term and undermine our way of life in the long term.

Speaking from Experience

A cornerstone of the EO values is to utilize Gestalt Protocol, "speaking from experience."

It came as no surprise to me that our "fly-in" include an element of experience sharing from the fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Ken Spielvogel spoke to us about how he worked on a project in Afghanistan to develop micro-hydro and hydro electric infrastructure. LTC Spielvogel is quite a character and share some great stories about his experience delivering power to some villages in Afghanistan that had never had power.

Major (MAJ) Jeffrey Weinhofer talked to us about his time in Iraq, as a Transition Team Advisor, helping to train and develop the Iraqi Security Forces. MAJ Weinhofer was upbeat, yet candid about this very difficult mission.

Lesson Learned

The Iraqi culture values of personal relationship over any professional qualities an individual may possess. The GWOT will be won by engaging the community at a grass roots level; it will not be won by occasionally removing a terrorist here and there.
An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Mohandas Gandhi
Impressions of the US Army
  • Great Leaders
  • Articulate
  • Engaging
  • Charismatic
  • Committed
  • Competent
  • Courageous
  • Positive
Lesson Learned

I would be happy to hire an Army Veteran, they would be a serious asset to any civilian organization. I would also encourage my son or daughter to join the US Army if they expressed interest.

I left with a lasting impression of the Army: they would be in good hands. To me, the most important people in this world are my children—and if the field leaders are similar to those that I encountered during this trip—my children would be well cared for.

Challenges Facing the US Army
  • Recruiting
  • Retention
  • Family is Strained
Lesson Learned

The concept of a feeling of failed leadership. Great leadership can overcome any obstacle, but the hit to morale even from the perception of failed leadership can prove devastating. Leadership Matters.

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