McKinsey&Company appointed to advise the Army WEF Jan 16

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I've no doubt @Caecilius feels he brought a certain 'polish' to the party - which is (in career terms, obviously) much, much more important than the pursuit of specific, agreed, measurable strategic goals . . . . :-D
You keep saying we need to pursue measurable goals, but have given no suggestions as to what they might be. All you have to fall back on is weak ad hominems to cover the fact that you simply can't answer that point.

Also, this seems a timely reminder:

If you're seriously interested in the answer, rather than in seeking opportunities to deride on the internet some stranger you've never met
While it's touching to know that a family man was thinking about me very late on Christmas Eve (judging by your post timings) maybe try adding some substance to your argument for once rather than just acting like a child.

What measurable criteria would you use for success in Afghanistan?
 
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A2_Matelot

LE
Book Reviewer
Really, what does a consultancy bring us that our own team couldn't create given the seemingly limitless access to SMEs, the fact we only recruit (allegedly) the top 10% and, of them, the top 1/3 go on to complete I/A/HCSC?
I wholly agree but the idea of external consultancy use is that they bring something different, usually commercial experience and best practise, in the end it often just becomes perceived objectivity.

Many of our people are as good if not better but we suffer from red badge syndrome, unless you're a contractor you're not believed.
 
I wholly agree but the idea of external consultancy use is that they bring something different, usually commercial experience and best practise, in the end it often just becomes perceived objectivity.
The most useful thing an external agent can do for their client organisation, is to give structure and sharp focus to the implicit knowledge that resides in the members of that organisation. Hence methodology is important - and hence the line about consultants borrowing your watch to tell you the time.
 

Mr_Pink

War Hero
I've no doubt @Caecilius feels he brought a certain 'polish' to the party - which is (in career terms, obviously) much, much more important than the pursuit of specific, agreed, measurable strategic goals . . . . :-D
Why don't you divert your rivers of overflowing spite into aggressively weeding your garden, or trimming your hedges or something? These endless digs are cheap, boring, and frankly bizzare.

I too would love to know what your idea of 'specific, agreed, measurable strategic goals' for Afghanistan are. I've spent a decent amount of time there, and also work in Business (PBUH) as a consultant (albeit for one of the frankly useless 'corporate parasite' firms with their inexplicable multi-billion dollar top lines, >40 year histories and consistent double digit growth CAGRs, rather than as a brilliant independent like yourself), and it strikes me as a very hard nut to crack.
 
Why don't you divert your rivers of overflowing spite into aggressively weeding your garden, or trimming your hedges or something? These endless digs are cheap, boring, and frankly bizzare.

I too would love to know what your idea of 'specific, agreed, measurable strategic goals' for Afghanistan are. I've spent a decent amount of time there, and also work in Business (PBUH) as a consultant (albeit for one of the frankly useless 'corporate parasite' firms with their inexplicable multi-billion dollar top lines, >40 year histories and consistent double digit growth CAGRs, rather than as a brilliant independent like yourself), and it strikes me as a very hard nut to crack.
You quite obviously went to a Public School, are polished and thus highly untrustworthy.
 

broken_toy

Swinger
Just an observation. It isn't only the big brass who feather their nests for retirement. It was interesting to watch the development of the contracts that came out of the old 4 Div for the maintenance of the Garrisons (catering, cleaning, etc). All sort of issues with the scrutiny and compliance. Funny thing is that many of the staff officers involved in the tendering process retired and became managers within the winning company. Just a coincidence probably.

I too dealt with contractor support in Iraq and yes generally the ones that employed competent ex-military types who were dealing with issues within their area of expertise were indeed a force to be reckoned with. However, there were those who (mostly in the security / protection business) really did not have a clue. Cannon fodder mostly as their bosses who set up the contracts were safely supping doubles back in Blighty.

Anyway, why let this spoil our festive season. Its not as if we are going to get a say in the development of the scope of work for these new consultants. Its just a shame that (1) either our own internal personal development is unable to produce staff officers of the right quality OR (2) we are now so strapped for people that we cannot generate a viable consultancy team OR (3) both of the above.

Happy 2016 to you all.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I too would love to know what your idea of 'specific, agreed, measurable strategic goals' for Afghanistan are...and it strikes me as a very hard nut to crack.
Even the Afghanistan Compact, mentioned by @bobthebuilder, doesn't come up with an answer. All it says is that afghan security forces 'must meet the security needs of the country'. Sure, it's an articulated goal but it's completely open to interpretation as to what those needs are and how well the security forces meet them.

By some measures, current British security forces don't 'meet the security needs of the country', while by other measures we could do the job with about 10k troops and much smaller SIAs.

It's also interesting that the Counter Narcotics effort is defined in terms of arrest numbers. I suspect this is another case of desperately trying to measure something that is essentially unmeasurable, and coming up with a solution analogous to 'body count' in its irrelevance.
 

Mr_Pink

War Hero
Even the Afghanistan Compact, mentioned by @bobthebuilder, doesn't come up with an answer. All it says is that afghan security forces 'must meet the security needs of the country'. Sure, it's an articulated goal but it's completely open to interpretation as to what those needs are and how well the security forces meet them.

By some measures, current British security forces don't 'meet the security needs of the country', while by other measures we could do the job with about 10k troops and much smaller SIAs.

It's also interesting that the Counter Narcotics effort is defined in terms of arrest numbers. I suspect this is another case of desperately trying to measure something that is essentially unmeasurable, and coming up with a solution analogous to 'body count' in its irrelevance.
I think this one's my real favourite:
The Compact said:
All illegal armed groups will be disbanded by end-2007 in all provinces. .
If only we'd read that bit.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I think this one's my real favourite:


If only we'd read that bit.
Brilliant. Can anyone name a single country, other than North Korea and the Vatican, that doesn't have illegal armed groups?

Some parts of that document are truly mental.
 

HE117

LE
I have to say that the level of bitch slapping in this thread is becoming a little tedious..

I know it is difficult, but is it possible to keep the debate to principals rather than personalities, or have the general staff corps descended to tabloid levels of logic?

.."just asking?"
 
I have to say that the level of bitch slapping in this thread is becoming a little tedious..

I know it is difficult, but is it possible to keep the debate to principals rather than personalities, or have the general staff corps descended to tabloid levels of logic?

.."just asking?"
Indeed, and many of us have done. Principally those Military Officers amongst us who've never actually seen a Management Consultant expect as strange creatures on the other side of an HQ. I was particualrly interested in how they were going to take the embedded and reigning culture in the Armed Forces, and actually do something with it. Instead, a lot of bollocks about public school 'polish' was brought to the fore, which is a shame, as I went to crappy comprehensive on the edge of Hull :grin:
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I have to say that the level of bitch slapping in this thread is becoming a little tedious..

I know it is difficult, but is it possible to keep the debate to principals rather than personalities, or have the general staff corps descended to tabloid levels of logic?

.."just asking?"
I've been trying to get this to happen for years, but to no avail. Hopefully you'll have more luck.
 
Rubbish. The Afghanistan Compact agreed at the London Conference in 2006 set up the mandate for the NATO mission. It quite clearly described the strategic aim and desired end state, listing the detailed goals that needed to be achieved to reach them. The goals were measurable and time bound.

The Afghanistan Compact makes no mention of a strategic aim "to get rid of the terrorist havens", so quite how you can use that as a measure of success beats me. It staggers me how few officers have actually read the Compact.......

Also worth noting that the Compact set out clear timelines for goals to be achieved. We left four years after most of the target dates for goals to be achieved. No doubt many of the goals were very stretchy and some unrealistic, but the framework of objective goals and measurements against which success should have been was clearly established.
...and 2 years after this landmark agreement nothing very much had changed - apart from timeline slippage, benchmark adjustment, and meaningless comment.

http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/IMG/pdf/5-6_fevrier_2008_-_Eng.pdf

Incidentally, why would the majority of officers needed to have read this Compact - the military mission was only a very small part of what it was intended to achieve - it's hardly 2-up is it?
 
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A2_Matelot

LE
Book Reviewer
The most useful thing an external agent can do for their client organisation, is to give structure and sharp focus to the implicit knowledge that resides in the members of that organisation. Hence methodology is important - and hence the line about consultants borrowing your watch to tell you the time.
I'm not sure I'd agree with that. What they do must surely depend upon their contracted tasking, it has to be relatively rare to be 'giving focus'. I've worked with lots of management consultants that we've brought into MoD Inc the KSA, all brought in their own methodologies, which invariably resulted in polished PowerPoint but nothing more than we already knew. We tend to try to exploit similar methodologies as it is; we've established portfolio offices everywhere, train staff in P3M, MSP, PRINCE, MoR but we never follow through correctly or man these initiatives correctly. We take a short term view and simply elect to use external consultancy instead of creating internal capability that could do the job just as well
 
I'm not sure I'd agree with that. What they do must surely depend upon their contracted tasking, it has to be relatively rare to be 'giving focus'. I've worked with lots of management consultants that we've brought into MoD Inc the KSA, all brought in their own methodologies, which invariably resulted in polished PowerPoint but nothing more than we already knew. We tend to try to exploit similar methodologies as it is; we've established portfolio offices everywhere, train staff in P3M, MSP, PRINCE, MoR but we never follow through correctly or man these initiatives correctly. We take a short term view and simply elect to use external consultancy instead of creating internal capability that could do the job just as well
If you took the trouble to think about it, there is (IMHO) a high degree of overlap between your experience and mine: the consultancies of whom you have had experience may have played back to the sponsors the things that the consultants have learned along the way, but the consultants have done the 'learning' without really getting the grown ups emotionally involved in the process.

It would be one thing for me (as a consultant) to recommend to a 1-star I've met on a handful of occasions, that he should read my report and endorse a set of goals and metrics, based on my 3rd-party analysis of a policy document produced by his bosses minions. This is the customary engagement model. It benefits nobody save the Consultancy.

It is quite another thing for me (as a consultant) to insist that the 1-Star and his sponsor need to spend a half-day in a structured, managed discussion with the sole purpose of achieving a clear, and common understanding of intent, (a clear, measurable Mission statement) on which to base a series of similarly structured events with SMEs down the CoC, through which to understand the potential scope of the work needed, and the risks associated with, attaining the defined goals, leading to a clear, unequivocal, and - above all - personal commitment to the defined goals.

In the customary engagement, the sponsor expends no blood, sweat or tears. No emotional commitment is engendered on their part: prospects of progress, let alone of success, are generally small/nil - yet we keep hiring consultancies to behave in just this way. From the PoV of McKinsey/PWc it's a license to print money.

Look at it this way: if you were planning a battle, you wouldn't run the planning process by remote control, on the basis of recommendations made by junior employees of a 3rd party commercial body with no stake in the outcome of the fight.
 
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I was particualrly interested in how they were going to take the embedded and reigning culture in the Armed Forces, and actually do something with it.
Surely that misses the point of what a consultant is and can do? The consultant can only observe, contemplate, offer insights, advise, coach and facilitate; they have no executive role. The only organisation that can actually change the Army's "embedded and reigning culture" is the Army itself.

Changing culture is immensely difficult in any organisation, particularly one so conservative and routed in tradition. It takes corporate leadership, a much wider skill set than the functional leadership model through which officers are developed and selected against. There are numerous threads on here about major defence change initiatives that have failed; if you analyse them, there is a common factor of a significant leadership gap. Not a command gap, but a lack of the corporate leadership that can sell ideas and convince people to engage in painful change.

If the Army's senior leadership has got the McKinsey contract right, they will get themselves a slug of intellectual horsepower independent of the chain of command and thus not compromised by the needs of the next OJAR or the political agenda of the CS. They will get access to people with knowledge and experience of successful corporate change programs and they will get much-needed support in developing their corporate leadership. Get it wrong and they will be seduced by McKinsey Waves and other process, which, I think seems to be what you fear.

The reality is that no organisation can really see what is right or wrong with itself and initiate the required changes to improve without external help. And very few senior leadership teams would attempt major change without support. Assuming McKinsey's get their side right, the key to success will be how well the VSOs respond to the consultancy team; how much they open their minds, listen and discuss.

So my answer to your question of how they are going to actually do something is; they aren't. But they might just enable and facilitate the senior leadership
 

Mr_Pink

War Hero
...on the basis of recommendations made by junior employees of 3rd party commercial body with no stake in the outcome of the fight.
I don't recognise this as the model followed by any large strategy consulting firm (to be fair, I'm not sure about how PWC, EY et al run things).

Each project's going to have at least one partner leading the team and making those recommendations. I'm also unsure how you've concluded that they have 'no stake in the outcome'. If McKinsey are crap, they won't be invited back. If they're truly crap, it may even affect their ability to secure other public sector work, which for them is a very significant revenue stream. I think that's probably enough to ensure they think they've got a stake in the outcome.
 
their ability to secure other public sector work, which for them is a very significant revenue stream. I think that's probably enough to ensure they think they've got a stake in the outcome.
See my remarks on 'farming' earlier in this thread. Their reputations don't hang on the success/failure of your initiatives - FFS, PWC walked away from the (utterly predictable) trainwreck that was the NHS NPFIT without batting an eyelid. Gubmint had to pick up the pieces - made easier for the Coalition by the fact that it was long-running St Tone of Sedgefield initiative to begin with, but a massively expensive waste of effort that enriched PWC, without blemishing by one iota their corporate position in relation to government,

Revenue is all, to the big consultancies: MoD - with its near-constant Staff Officer/VSO 'churn' is a cash cow.

Don't understand/Don't want to believe that's how it works?

Congratulations: you're part of the problem. :-D
 
See my remarks on 'farming' earlier in this thread. Their reputations don't hang on the success/failure of your initiatives - FFS, PWC walked away from the (utterly predictable) trainwreck that was the NHS NPFIT without batting an eyelid. Gubmint had to pick up the pieces - made easier for the Coalition by the fact that it was long-running St Tone of Sedgefield initiative to begin with, but a massively expensive waste of effort that enriched PWC, without blemishing by one iota their corporate position in relation to government,

Revenue is all, to the big consultancies: MoD - with its near-constant Staff Officer/VSO 'churn' is a cash cow.

Don't understand/Don't want to believe that's how it works?

Congratulations: you're part of the problem. :-D
Good thing you're here to save us...
 

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