The disconnect between the Front Line and our VSOs

HP is always an interesting case study because no matter how well they transformed their management, in the 5 years the Carly Fiorina was CEO (from late 1999 to early 2005), the five years during which this transformation took place, the company value fell by about 50%, and then she was sacked.

HP.jpg


Here is another case study

http://gsm.ucdavis.edu/sites/main/files/file-attachments/hpcasestudyorgdynamicsfinal3.pdf

How you build mistrust in a company, the company, HP

And I love this quote

As Ms. Fiorina steered the company deeper into hardware, H-P software engineer Peter Hagelund said he and colleagues in the middleware division—which created software allowing servers to communicate—spent idle months churning out hundreds of ideas for a company innovation program.

In early 2002, for example, Mr. Hagelund said he came up with chopsticks that dispensed soy sauce. The company program paid $100 for every idea, requiring only that they be approved by another H-P employee of any rank.

The chopsticks were perhaps the most far-fetched idea cooked up by the engineers, who submitted hundreds of proposals and shared the proceeds. Mr. Hagelund, who changed his last name from Petersen, said he netted thousands of dollars by the time he left the company that year. He later worked at IBM, where he earned several patents.

“If I had put forward the chopsticks idea at IBM, they would have laughed at me or walked me out the door,” Mr. Hagelund said, adding that at H-P, the idea helped pay for a red Jeep Liberty.
Soy sauce dispensing chopsticks :)
 
That 2010 article pre-dates HP's massive brain drain, often quoted as the largest in corporate history, which occurred from 2010-12. I was more thinking about their recent transformation under Meg Whitman and the spilt to form HP Enterprise. I still can't find the article!

Meridian is right that not all of HPs six major reinventions have been successful, but that doesn't make it any less worthwhile to study; the soy sauce dispensing chopsticks story is a very good example of how innovation promotion schemes can go badly wrong. But a company that has survived nearly 80 years in the tech industry, where corporate life is rarely measured beyond 10 years, must have done something right.

A quote from Whitman:

"Every 10 to 15 years, there’s big tectonic plate changes. We’re on the cusp of another enormous change. Everything about computing…is changing."
 
That's very similar to the higher echelons of the army. There is an established path to glory through a small handful of jobs and the only way to bypass that is to go SF.
The problem with both those routes is that they focus entirely on the war fighting (or, at the very least, operational) end of the defence activity, at the expense of managing defence. This has been exacerbated by the slow transformation of Shrivenham form being a defence academy into a pseudo war college; we no longer develop people with the ability to actually manage the big and complex.

The end result is that people who do have the leadership (as in business leadership) and management skills to run big, complex, multi-stakeholder projects leave, because they never get the chance to do so. Meanwhile, those big programs go to people who fail to jump the next rung of the path to glory, people who have never developed the skill set necessary to manage them.

I think this manifests itself in the multitude of failed, or less than Army successful programs, from recruiting, procurement, transformation etc etc. The irony is, these failures directly impact on the ability of the G3 warriors to do their job.

Perhaps we should be far more ruthless in culling people as they stall on the path to glory, whilst investing more in those who have the intellect, aptitude and desire to manage the big and complex.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Perhaps we should be far more ruthless in culling people as they stall on the path to glory, whilst investing more in those who have the intellect, aptitude and desire to manage the big and complex.
It needs more than that, in my view. People who do well on the first couple of steps along the current path to glory aren't necessarily going to be the ones who do well down the road. I've said it before (a few times I think), but at the moment the linear progression means that you're very unlikely to end up as CGS without a quick PFA time as a Platoon Commander.

There is no reason why the best Platoon level officers need make the best senior officers (and there is certainly no correlation between ability to tab over the hills and being good at a strategic level). At the moment, however, we are selecting the latter from the former thereby both limiting our selection pool and quite possibly eliminating the people that we actually want. We need to find some way to stream Officers early in their careers so that the can be split along the lines you suggest.

Personally, I think the executive/professional stream idea at major works well and should be significantly expanded. We should select our likely future senior officers and train them to manage big projects, while picking our best COs and training them in how to go right flanking with bags of smoke. Those with a mind for procurement, or doctrinal thought, of technical skills should also be identified at this point. The key to all of this is in the streaming - it isn't enough to just pick your 'best' officers on the old metric and throw them into the executive stream. We need to carefully identify individual talent and where people can offer the most to the army, along with where they'll be happiest. What the different streams should actually be, and which metrics you use for selection, is a rather more tricky question. Answers on a postcard to DM(A).
 
The key to all of this is in the streaming - it isn't enough to just pick your 'best' officers on the old metric and throw them into the executive stream.
The problem with streaming is that it stovepipes people and does so early on. I saw this in action as a Sapper professionally qualified engineer; we were corralled into specialist roles and blocked from wider employment by byzantine rules, no matter whether we were better suited and qualified for the role than the generalist who got it.

Managing brain drain from the expensively trained professional scheme will be very difficult. To put this into perspective, when I was promoted to Lt Col at 41, I went up to Glasgow for my third stage interview to be told I might make Colonel, but had probably reached my ceiling. Moreover, ACSC, for which I had been selected, would make little difference to either my future promotion or likely roles. I well remember being told I could always try my luck in industry. What a way to retain expertise; why on earth would I stay for 14 years with little prospect of promotion, development or wider employment.

The point in all of that is that top professional stream officers will go if they are treated as second-class-citizens by the executive stream. By the way, I left and, within two years, was in a serious executive role in a global US business. So much for being pigeonholed as a specialist professional...........

Putting the right people into the right roles is an immense challenge. Industry often gets in the same result by different means; far too many business look to fill roles with people with "five years experience in the sector", thereby closing off routes to entry and transfer of skills and innovation.

I think the whole thing needs to be much more diverse and flexible and far less focussed on providing long term career streams.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
The point in all of that is that top professional stream officers will go if they are treated as second-class-citizens by the executive stream.
But that wouldn't necessarily happen. If the streams were selected correctly then you'd have the right people in any given stream rather than the 'best' people. We also need to be able to tie reward to something other than promotion; the idea that salary needs to be linked to rank is seriously holding us back.

Will people who desperately want to be CGS leave if they're selected for the regimental command stream rather than the project management stream from which we draw our senior officers? Probably some, but I think more would relish the fact that they're in a career field to which they're suited and that they enjoy. The number of Officers volunteering for the BTC, despite the fact that it can put a ceiling on your career, is testament to this.
 
The problem with streaming is that it stovepipes people and does so early on. I saw this in action as a Sapper professionally qualified engineer; we were corralled into specialist roles and blocked from wider employment by byzantine rules, no matter whether we were better suited and qualified for the role than the generalist who got it.

Managing brain drain from the expensively trained professional scheme will be very difficult. To put this into perspective, when I was promoted to Lt Col at 41, I went up to Glasgow for my third stage interview to be told I might make Colonel, but had probably reached my ceiling. Moreover, ACSC, for which I had been selected, would make little difference to either my future promotion or likely roles. I well remember being told I could always try my luck in industry. What a way to retain expertise; why on earth would I stay for 14 years with little prospect of promotion, development or wider employment.

The point in all of that is that top professional stream officers will go if they are treated as second-class-citizens by the executive stream. By the way, I left and, within two years, was in a serious executive role in a global US business. So much for being pigeonholed as a specialist professional...........

Putting the right people into the right roles is an immense challenge. Industry often gets in the same result by different means; far too many business look to fill roles with people with "five years experience in the sector", thereby closing off routes to entry and transfer of skills and innovation.

I think the whole thing needs to be much more diverse and flexible and far less focussed on providing long term career streams.
Did you hear the great phrase "you are competing against a very strong cohort in your year of birth?"

18 months/1 telic later, most of those he had referred to had signed off
 
But that wouldn't necessarily happen. If the streams were selected correctly then you'd have the right people in any given stream rather than the 'best' people.
That's a big assumption......and not something many organisations attempt to do. I'm not convinced that much of the spectrum of officer employment really is "vocational professional"; the bits that truly are are already covered by PQO and Group B employment streams.

Army careers are already largely stove-piped by cap badge, a choice that we make at RMAS and which, for all but a select few who get E2 roles, is almost impossible to break out of. It beats me why we regularly put Cbt & Cbt Spt arm officers in DCOS roles........

There is time in an officers career to pursue multiple interests and avenues and that should be encouraged. The problem is that time isn't available because people have to do the right jobs to build their MS profile for the next career hurdle.
 
Did you hear the great phrase "you are competing against a very strong cohort in your year of birth?"
I never really worked out who my cohort was.

I started SGC at Sandhurst three weeks after my 21st birthday. My contemporaries from RMAS, YO course, JDSC etc etc were mostly a couple of years older than me, so they promoted earlier, commanded sub-units earlier and went to Pink earlier, despite us having the same experience (in years).

Many of my ATOS promotion cohort joined 2-3 years after me; I competed against some who were troop commanders when I was an Adjutant. To make matters worse, mine was the first YOB when the Beige List moved from promotion at 32 to a range from 30-34, so my seniority cohort as a Major widened further away from my "length of service" cohort.

LTOS is not much different; it just reverses the situation........why the fascination about age or years served.

A quite barking way of managing promotion.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Army careers are already largely stove-piped by cap badge, a choice that we make at RMAS and which, for all but a select few who get E2 roles, is almost impossible to break out of.

There is time in an officers career to pursue multiple interests and avenues and that should be encouraged. The problem is that time isn't available because people have to do the right jobs to build their MS profile for the next career hurdle.
E2 is only a problem for non-combat arms. One of the reasons that the combat arms are disproportionately represented among the higher ranks is because their E2 liability is relatively small. For the cavalry, it is almost non-existent.

I agree with your last point, but I still think that allowing breadth doesn't get around the problem that we will only select our VSOs from our 'best' junior officers.
 
E2 is only a problem for non-combat arms. One of the reasons that the combat arms are disproportionately represented among the higher ranks is because their E2 liability is relatively small. For the cavalry, it is almost non-existent.
I think we are making the same point; E2 opportunities are now vanishingly rare, so people are more stove-piped. Twenty years ago and a larger E2 roster was largely populated by combat arms; the rest didn't get a look in.
E2 is only a problem for non-combat arms. One of the reasons that the combat arms are disproportionately represented among the higher ranks is because their E2 liability is relatively small. For the cavalry, it is almost non-existent.

I agree with your last point, but I still think that allowing breadth doesn't get around the problem that we will only select our VSOs from our 'best' junior officers.
Perhaps the Army should make an effort to track and attract back quality leavers. By that, I mean actively re-recruit people who have left and developed useful skills or gained relevant, valuable experience. When I say attract them back, I mean back into appropriate rank, not some FTRS role a rank or two lower than they left at.

I can say quite honestly that, after 5 years in industry, I was far better placed to take on a big military project than I would have been if I hadn't added the business experience. And I was far better placed than my contemporaries who stayed in and promoted. It doesn't take long to get back to being current,,,,,,
 
Saw this online this morning

CgU3tl5WsAAlhC5.jpg


If you were an RAF CPL, for example, would this (forgetting the chippy comment) demonstrate a disconnect between you and your VSO's?

It is pretty heavy with the buzzword bingo isn't it?
 
Perhaps the Army should make an effort to track and attract back quality leavers. By that, I mean actively re-recruit people who have left and developed useful skills or gained relevant, valuable experience. When I say attract them back, I mean back into appropriate rank, not some FTRS role a rank or two lower than they left at.

I can say quite honestly that, after 5 years in industry, I was far better placed to take on a big military project than I would have been if I hadn't added the business experience. ,
This is where I find myself, I have recently rejoined the regulars following almost 3 years at the sharp end of what my capbadge delivers in civvie st, and now hold quals that are simply unavailable to DE officers in my corps. Despite that, it was articulated that when I was interviewed I essentially had to beg for my job back, reserve service was discounted and I have taken a 3 year hit on seniority.
I don't mind - I'm just happy to be back full time, but the TACOS I was offered has made me feel penalised for the audacity to expand my horizons.
 
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Saw this online this morning

View attachment 241919

If you were an RAF CPL, for example, would this (forgetting the chippy comment) demonstrate a disconnect between you and your VSO's?

It is pretty heavy with the buzzword bingo isn't it?
As I think I said when this came up at the time, if you were at the event where this was uttered, had been given a bit of insight into the 'cunning plan' thus had an idea of what underpinned this (and were there willingly vice being pinged to turn up for some event you didn't quite understand on your day off), it made rather more sense than that meme suggests.

The problem was - inevitably - that some consultants had turned up and added their touch of expensive magic onanism, and since Pulford was more diplomatic than (say) Timo Anderson (who'd have sent them away with an entire flea circus in their ear for coming up with 'weaselwankword mumbojumbo') or Stu Peach, who might have spontaneously combusted at some of the jargon.

As it happened, some of the Corporals there were quite interested to learn that they could apply to get a fully-funded Masters or even a PhD out of the RAF as part of this, as long as they met the entry standards for the programme (there is at least one SNCO doing just that at the moment).
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
This is where I find myself, I have recently rejoined the regulars following almost 3 years at the sharp end of what my capbadge delivers in civvie st, and now hold quals that are simply unavailable to DE officers in my corps. Despite that, it was articulated that when I was interviewed I essentially had to beg for my job back, reserve service was discounted and I have taken a 3 year hit on seniority.
I don't mind - I'm just happy to be back full time, but the TACOS I was offered has made me feel penalised for the audacity to expand my horizons.
Are you RMP? When you say sharp end, are you talking CP or more traditional police work? If the former then I can sort of understand why the army wouldn't be too excited; if the latter then it's a symptom of the criminal (pun intended) overlooking of talent that the army manages across all corps.
 
Are you RMP? When you say sharp end, are you talking CP or more traditional police work? If the former then I can sort of understand why the army wouldn't be too excited; if the latter then it's a symptom of the criminal (pun intended) overlooking of talent that the army manages across all corps.
Nope, the latter (without wanting to sound like a total Walt (or a dick) I've been deliberately vague).

Having been CP I converted my qual to civvie as a Plan B. I can totally understand and wouldn't whinge, I've seen civvie cp operate in Afghan and have had job offers.
 
Saw this online this morning

View attachment 241919

If you were an RAF CPL, for example, would this (forgetting the chippy comment) demonstrate a disconnect between you and your VSO's?

It is pretty heavy with the buzzword bingo isn't it?
The RAF prides itself on being fully conversant with all forms of communication and copyrighted buzz word bingo c1940.

The biggest disconnect has always been that the officers are the ones who go to war and the ORs stay behind for the most part. It will always be like that but anything that bridges that gap is a good thing no?
 

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