Is the MoD a Learning Organisation

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by meridian, Nov 4, 2008.

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  1. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    We have probably the most experienced armed forces and civilian defence department in the world

    We have decades of management technique

    We have centuries of buying complex weapon systems

    We have project management skills coming out of our ears


    So why do we constantly have to relearn lessons from the past at an exhorbitant price in 'blood and treasure'

    Why do our military acquisitions more often than not end up under specced, late and over priced?

    We always seem to enter the next war equipped and set up for the last one and have to pay a steep price for forgetting the the lessons so hard won by those that have gone before. Recent conflicts are awash with examples of us having to re-learn those lessons the hard way.

    Are we alone in this or do all militaries suffer from collective memory loss and is there anything that can realistaically be done about it?
     
  2. msr

    msr LE

  3. Yes, it is. It has learnt the art of avoiding responsibility for poor decisions through its pervasive culture of 'no blame'; it has learnt to identify lessons; and learnt equally quickly that when it is too expensive or difficult to implement them said lessons are consigned to the Lessons Indentified, Evaluated and Suppressed (LIES) DataBase.
     
  4. They don't seem to have learnt not to leave laptops,sensitive documents or memory sticks lying around the place.
     
  5. There is no incentive for anyone anywhere in any defence-related organisation to strive for efficiency. The MOD wastes cash because it doesn't check carefully enough what it's being used for and the contractors know this; they will overcharge on everything and quote unrealistic deadlines because they know that when the project doesn't come in on time the MOD will just put its hand in its pocket and come up with more cash until finally the job's done. When it is done, it turns out to be useless because it was thought up by a couple of civil servants and a 19-year-old art and design student from Swansea none of whom have a clue about what is practical and what is necessary.

    When a good idea comes up, the MOD choose that moment to pinch pennies, so rather than getting Lowa to produce a really good general purpose boot, some knock-off shop produces the CAB, and we all have to stop doing PT in boots because too many people suffer ankle injuries. The uniform manufacture is outsourced to China, so we end up with well-designed kit made out of recycled paper bags, with enough stray threads to rig a whaling ship and with laughable errors like the Union Flag sewn on somewhere near the armpit rather than on the crease. Result; we end up with people spending their wages on ripstop SAS smocks and decent boots; meanwhile the MOD pay a fortune for three carriers whilst simultaneously cancelling the Joint Strike Fighter which will fly off them leaving us with the GR9. Awesome :roll:

    Whether this will get better I don't know. Whilst the person answerable for defence procurement is a civilian, I doubt it.
     
  6. Its 2 carriers not 3 and JSF isn't being cancelled. Person in charge of defence procurement is a 4* general and not a civvy.
     
  7. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    I though the Sec of State for Defence Procurement was a politician?

    Back to the questions though, they are serious:

    Does the MoD learn, difficult to justify a yes given current and past events

    Can it learn?
     
  8. msr

    msr LE

    Not until people start getting held accountable (i.e. sacked) for wasting public funds.

    msr
     
  9. I would say no, as they say (Quentin Davies) "it's the Army's fault" apparently........:roll:
     
  10. I think the MOD has a massive problem with 'the Andy'.

    The MOD issue a requirement for a new plane, and during the presentation by BAE whenever the rep points out what can be included within the price, Andy pipes up and says "I want that one!".

    "We can include radar X"
    "I want that one!"
    "that radar will cost more per unit and will require restructuring of the aircraft, but ok. As for the engines..."
    "I want that one!"
    "Well they are more powerful, but they wont have much effect on performance... the costs will be extravagant..."
    "WANT THAT ONE!"

    In short, the MOD always changes the design… often about 30 seconds after a contract is signed or the supplier has already ordered some of the now ‘old’ spec kit.
     
  11. 1 single point:- 2 years then staff move.......not very clever really.....Civie strass have this strange idea that Project "leaders" stay onboard untill complete endex, that's to stay delivered and accepted by the client. There's not many major Civile Building projects that sack and rehire major figures on the project every 2 years. There's lots of examples of why not to out there in Government land.
     
  12. On defence leadership point, I read it to be that the individual in charge of the process, rather than the Minister. Happy to be corrected.

    As for the problems - MOD should learn, and occasionally does learn. The problem to my mind is the way in which we move people every 2 years, and make a lot of programmes be seen as high profile career boosters. Too many times people move in thinking that they have to change, or do something to the programme to enhance their own career prospects.
    We also have the lack of long term coherency on the budget, meaning that project requirements are constantly changing, not because of strategic reasons but because we are cutting cloth to fit in year problems. This is because of political (No 10/11) reluctance to provide the £8 Bn or so that would solve our long term issues.
     
  13. I'm not sure it does learn, unless hugely embarrassed. Rapid staff turn-over, inability to determine an appropriate specification and stick to it, gold-plating, buying our own rather than an off the shelf product, the list is endless.

    The actual problem ? No real accountability and too many vested interests in maintaining the over-manned, over complex status quo.

    My pet example is WOLF landrover. Just what extra effect did all the military re-spec achive, over and above the civvy spec 300 Tdi with a rollcage, that could have been bought off the shelf ?
     
  14. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    If you go back 10, 20 or even 50 years did the same things happen

    My point is questioning the ability of an organisation to learn from its mistakes and stop them being repeated. Its OK for the British Wool Marketing Board (publically funded with an £11m annual budget by the way) to fcuk things up but in the MoD the stakes are rather higher

    What prevents an organisation from learning

    1. No mechanisms by which to analyse activities and affect change
    2. High staff turnover
    3. Conflicting and changing strategic objectives

    Do all 3 apply here so maybe we are doomed to forever pay for these deficiencies with the lives and limbs of service personnel
     
  15. OBE? MBE? :)