Changing the army - how?

The annual AOSB crop may contain the raw material to make into effective platoon commanders within 18 months. It doesn't seem to contain many original thinkers or fine minds.
Not sure I agree, but I'd be pushed to evidence it.

My hypothesis would be that (as has always been the case) original thinkers and fine minds present themselves to, and are selected by AOSB, and their regiments, but thereafter, they are - for the most part - career-penalised for being original thinkers and fine minds, because these characteristics are 'disruptive' to one or other status quo.

OPFOR (whomsoever they may be) are seldom concerned with status quo in the same way - and as a consequence are more fleet of foot in adapting to the context of the day.
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
Yes, but there is a thing here some people seem to have difficulty with. There is lint on my floor that I care more about than those kind of mistakes and behaviours in the vast majority of private companies (excepting powerful monopolies controlling important public functions, like Facebook). Shareholder interest and value is up to them or the owners, and employment is up to the employees as much as it is the employer.

But it becomes a massive problem when that is applied to the public realm. Multiply that by some in the "important" public realm (this includes Defence). Multiply that again when it controls key powers or functions (again, Defence hits both). Again when lives are at stake (obviously Defence). Yet again when there is a mismatch between rules/values/talk and behaviour: not for moral purity, but because for a thing to be accountable you need to know what it is doing, so institutional hypocrisy and dishonesty is about escaping accountability.

The degree of angry we should be about failures is not in proportion to how common or normal they are: it should be in proportion to how big the effects are, i.e. the paragraph above. The effects of failures in Defence are huge, a point many in Defence both use to plump their own status as a general assertion, and try to avoid acknowledging when it implies specific fault. It is morally and practically much worse to have a Houghton as CDS - or, say, a Harding at the head of the NHS - than to have him elsewhere. But people tend to shrug shoulders as if to say "well there are incompetents and asses everywhere and forever". That doesn't mean there is equivalence between them.

We should be incandescently angry about the Houghtons precisely because Defence is important, not shrug as if it isn't. The British, including a lot of Army officers, behave as if it's the latter.
OK, but the problem here is that we aren’t seeing much of an argument against this view and I think the debate would be much richer if there was one. What we are seeing on Arrse is people raging (rightly I think) against the ‘machine’.

A machine which I agree has demonstrably failed at the strategic level in the last two campaigns. So you might say that any argument against your view is without worth, it’s a given, the Army’s fucked, VSOs have failed etc etc

I’d disagree - not with your view, but that there isn’t a counterpoint that is seen here. Which is a pity as no debate thrives on a single view, it’s just an echo chamber.
 
the problem here is that we aren’t seeing much of an argument against this view
Possibly because there isn't one.

More likely because the opposition are not engaged with any kind of social media, least of all ARRSE

I mean - FFS - how else should one account for the awe-struck insistence on 'cyber' as the panacea for all ills faced by the Land Component of Combat Power?
 

green_slime

War Hero
because cyber might be as much a change to how nations fight as was the internal combustion engine around 100 years ago.

We will still need solid infantry with boots and steel to hold ground and fight, but unless you embrace change and opportunity you will lose the next war against that your opponent has.

This has been the nature of war since bronze vs iron, learn or die.
 

green_slime

War Hero
my view is that our armed forces have now become defence forces.

I cannot really see a current position where we would actively ( and in isolation) declare war on another sovereign nation for around a generation. We might send training or support troops to support another nation, but as part of a wider initiative.

But we are still trying to equip ourselves in case we might fight a peer in an unsupported nature, there is not the national or multinational political scenario for this. We are not resourced to do both lines with the amount of funding. The RAF and RN (and RM) have made clear positions on capability (and the gaps) but the army still tries to be all things to the Defence Minister and ends up being nothing. It cannot maintain a resilient armour or deep fire capability with these numbers, nor recruit and train enough infantry to maintain the quality of Rangers, Paras, SSR and SF it wants.

It is although retaining and growing Int and specialised signals capability who are key to 21st C warfare in my estimate.
 
Not sure I agree, but I'd be pushed to evidence it.

My hypothesis would be that (as has always been the case) original thinkers and fine minds present themselves to, and are selected by AOSB, and their regiments, but thereafter, they are - for the most part - career-penalised for being original thinkers and fine minds, because these characteristics are 'disruptive' to one or other status quo.

OPFOR (whomsoever they may be) are seldom concerned with status quo in the same way - and as a consequence are more fleet of foot in adapting to the context of the day.

Of late our flip flop shod, technical riding opposition seem to have been unencumbered with doctrine and group think. Take away our air support and even leaving our istar they would have been a formidable challenge.

Agility at the operational level - how we going to achieve that with our layers of micro management and procurement lag?
 
OK, but the problem here is that we aren’t seeing much of an argument against this view and I think the debate would be much richer if there was one. What we are seeing on Arrse is people raging (rightly I think) against the ‘machine’.

A machine which I agree has demonstrably failed at the strategic level in the last two campaigns. So you might say that any argument against your view is without worth, it’s a given, the Army’s fucked, VSOs have failed etc etc

I’d disagree - not with your view, but that there isn’t a counterpoint that is seen here. Which is a pity as no debate thrives on a single view, it’s just an echo chamber.
What’s the argument and thus counter?

That if you stay in the Army beyond Captain you are axiomatically a self-interested ******** who can only display toxic leadership? I think anyone with half a brain knows that to be wildly untrue.

That the Army can’t work out which way is up? I’d counter that deep down, the Army does know what it wants to be, but isn’t brave enough to actually make a stand for it.

That HERRICK and TELIC were strategic failures. I’m not sure any amount of turd polishing will change that, but it created a generation of the Army that had been hardened in a battle. If that was the battle they wanted to fight is a different question.

I think the fundamental question that might be worth pondering is whether the Cold War was an abnormal period in the UK’s history, or is the basis of a future paradigm? How does it tie to the previous British/English “way of war” (do it as cheaply as possible, and try not to use a massive standing Army in particular)?
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
because cyber might be as much a change to how nations fight as was the internal combustion engine around 100 years ago.

The problem is that it's not a simple change. Motor vehicles transformed warfare - the side with lorries won, the side hauling supplies by horse or oxen lost. Yes, vehicles need fuel, but horses eat a terrifying amount of fodder a day; and you can park a truck for a week while you wait for fuel, try doing that with an unfed horse.

"Cyber" can shut down networks, mess up logistics, screw up command-and-control... but when a T-55 is clattering towards you, pelting you with 100mm HE-FRAG and machine gun fire, there's no "cyber" button that will make it stop or go away.
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
What’s the argument and thus counter?

That if you stay in the Army beyond Captain you are axiomatically a self-interested ******** who can only display toxic leadership? I think anyone with half a brain knows that to be wildly untrue.

That the Army can’t work out which way is up? I’d counter that deep down, the Army does know what it wants to be, but isn’t brave enough to actually make a stand for it.

That HERRICK and TELIC were strategic failures. I’m not sure any amount of turd polishing will change that, but it created a generation of the Army that had been hardened in a battle. If that was the battle they wanted to fight is a different question.

I think the fundamental question that might be worth pondering is whether the Cold War was an abnormal period in the UK’s history, or is the basis of a future paradigm? How does it tie to the previous British/English “way of war” (do it as cheaply as possible, and try not to use a massive standing Army in particular)?
Erm, it’s not necessarily my argument. I don’t think the Army displays only ‘toxic leadership’, there’s plenty of that to be seen in spades in your lot and the RAF. I just don’t see it in the binary fashion that many others do, all I’m saying is that on here, there’s no counterpoint which is unfortunate because a debate with only one side isn’t a debate.

Your last point is more worthy of debate - and one that looks pretty accurate.
 
I've yet to find a good book on this topic. The likes of Hackworth, Powell, Schwarzkopf et al mention it in their memoirs, but only in passing as "those were shit times, but we turned the Army round, yay us".

Most generalist histories skim over it "poor morale... drugs... difficulty recruiting" in favour of covering equipment programmes & NATO strategy, before zooming ahead to Grenada as a prelude to Desert Storm. Dig around online and you find mentions of Project VOLAR, pilots like establishing soldiers' councils, allowing soldiers to elect tribunes with a direct line to the RSM etc, but not ( to my knowledge ) a book which specifically looks at the turnaround period.

All suggestions welcome :)
There’s a book that covers the Westpoint Class of 66 that’s worth a read, if you haven’t already. The Long Gray Line by Rick Atkinson.
 
Erm, it’s not necessarily my argument. I don’t think the Army displays only ‘toxic leadership’, there’s plenty of that to be seen in spades in your lot and the RAF. I just don’t see it in the binary fashion that many others do, all I’m saying is that on here, there’s no counterpoint which is unfortunate because a debate with only one side isn’t a debate.

Your last point is more worthy of debate - and one that looks pretty accurate.
Oh, there’s plenty of toxicity to go around. Indeed, I’ve had the “pleasure” recently to be lectured by a truly awful individual.
 

green_slime

War Hero
The problem is that it's not a simple change. Motor vehicles transformed warfare - the side with lorries won, the side hauling supplies by horse or oxen lost. Yes, vehicles need fuel, but horses eat a terrifying amount of fodder a day; and you can park a truck for a week while you wait for fuel, try doing that with an unfed horse.

"Cyber" can shut down networks, mess up logistics, screw up command-and-control... but when a T-55 is clattering towards you, pelting you with 100mm HE-FRAG and machine gun fire, there's no "cyber" button that will make it stop or go away.
No, which is why I referenced the need for armed forces.

Cyber can shut down your economy, it can make you power and fuel plants explode. It can make your armament depots make tiny, but critical changes to undermine your weapons or armour. It can make your C4 work for us and not you. You might win the battle, but we win the war.

Age of the geek baby
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
Oh, there’s plenty of toxicity to go around. Indeed, I’ve had the “pleasure” recently to be lectured by a truly awful individual.
Did you deserve it? Sometimes some people do:wink:
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
OK, but the problem here is that we aren’t seeing much of an argument against this view and I think the debate would be much richer if there was one. What we are seeing on Arrse is people raging (rightly I think) against the ‘machine’.

A machine which I agree has demonstrably failed at the strategic level in the last two campaigns. So you might say that any argument against your view is without worth, it’s a given, the Army’s fucked, VSOs have failed etc etc

I’d disagree - not with your view, but that there isn’t a counterpoint that is seen here. Which is a pity as no debate thrives on a single view, it’s just an echo chamber.
This is misconstrued. For the record I don't think it is binary, or that there is no good in the Army or individuals. It is complex, like most things it's a network of interacting effects. My point is precisely that the careerist officer problem is a (the) disproportionate effect on the whole: it is a blockage which without clearing the potential energy in the rest of the system remains just that, unfulfilled potential.

It's a false debating flaw to see everything as a binary. In almost all cases, at any given time an individual thing is the most important factor. You should know this because it's exactly the point of that logistics quote that every amateur likes to say: logistics is the talk of professionals because everything else is dependent on resources, so if you don't have those, talking about anything else is moot. Resources will always be a cornerstone without which nothing else is possible. There are only a few functions which can claim this importance: resources, information, and decisions (J2/4/5 by my count). Everything else, even J3 / operations, flows from and is dependent on them, or the quality of them.

The position we are in now is that the abysmal quality of decisions is the cornerstone blocking everything. Until that is sorted, there is literally no point in talking about anything else. There is no 'balance' in this problem, some things just need killing dead so you can progress. Balance is what may be restored by progressing. But at present, any discussion which isn't about fixing decision-making is just air into the ether.
 
I don't agree with much of that. Deming has things to say about process, and what process quality means (in essence, reducing waste) on which I've had cause to lean in the context of digital projects in the last half-decade, for a start.

What's more interesting is that (while the packaging may have changed) his principles around breaking down barriers and trusting those involved in 'the process' to be custodians of its quality, chime very comfortably with the theory and practice of Agile development.

O - and they chime equally comfortably with the practice of Auftragstaktik - of which the British Army are past masters only in the collective imaginings of the upwardly mobile (and disingenuous) Chosen Ones . . . .
I think you are taking Deming out of context. Deming studied and wrote about the use of statistical analysis to identify quality failings in manufacturing. His 14 principles were developed to provide a system for businesses to improve product quality and reduce waste. Yes, they can be applied to services; Deming himself wrote about applying them in healthcare.

Of course you can pull out bits of Deming work, whether his 14 Principles, the PDCA cycle or the Seven Deadly Sins and see that they chime with other systems and processes; nothing stands alone. You can also identify individual points that apply to any organisation. But their slavish application to organisations that don’t manufacture mass products or deliver mass services is nonsensical doctrinal dick dancing of the sort practiced by Shrivenham “educated” VSOs.

IMHO Deming should be on the essential reading list of anyone who aspires to lead a complex organisation. On a similar note, I’d add Michael Gerber to that list, because his work goes in the opposite direction. How to start something small, systemise it and replicate it to scale into a bigger organisation.

It all goes back to having a broadly educated senior officer cadre.
 
I think you are taking Deming out of context.
Then we disagree from the get-go.

Not least because:

slavish application to organisations that don’t manufacture mass products or deliver mass services is nonsensical doctrinal dick dancing of the sort practiced by Shrivenham “educated” VSOs.

doesn't begin to resemble my understanding of the finer points of Deming's world-view..
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
It's a false debating flaw to see everything as a binary. In almost all cases, at any given time an individual thing is the most important factor. You should know this because it's exactly the point of that logistics quote that every amateur likes to say: logistics is the talk of professionals because everything else is dependent on resources, so if you don't have those, talking about anything else is moot. Resources will always be a cornerstone without which nothing else is possible. There are only a few functions which can claim this importance: resources, information, and decisions (J2/4/5 by my count). Everything else, even J3 / operations, flows from and is dependent on them, or the quality of them.

The position we are in now is that the abysmal quality of decisions is the cornerstone blocking everything. Until that is sorted, there is literally no point in talking about anything else. There is no 'balance' in this problem, some things just need killing dead so you can progress. Balance is what may be restored by progressing. But at present, any discussion which isn't about fixing decision-making is just air into the ether.
Err, that’s my point? The logistics thing is an enduring problem by the way not a temporary one. Apart from that my point (again) is that I think it is unfortunate we don’t hear a contradictory voice on this forum to your heartfelt posts and the equally strongly held views of others that gives a counterpoint.

I don’t think that saying that there isn’t one is good enough, it’s not debate, it’s an echo chamber, however right minded it may be.
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
No, which is why I referenced the need for armed forces.

Cyber can shut down your economy, it can make you power and fuel plants explode. It can make your armament depots make tiny, but critical changes to undermine your weapons or armour. It can make your C4 work for us and not you. You might win the battle, but we win the war.

Age of the geek baby
Until a cyber-proof T55 rolls up to your front door!
 

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