What systemic issues would you change in the MOD or in the single Services?


War Hero
I think it may well have been versions of the same thing. It metastasized quite rapidly.

For your email example, I'm not sure that your conclusions are entirely correct. I had the same experience and wrote roughly the same VB macro in my first job, which I then carried around with me. I had to go through the manual install process for every new terminal or person who wanted it because I could never get a sysadmin to group install it. The problem wasn't (this was over 10 years ago) just nobody identifying / solving the problems, it was absolute resistance of 'the system' to anything that didn't come from them, and often the incompetence of the various alleged professionals (several times I was told that they couldn't install a macro amounting to all of 9 lines in case it had a virus ... they literally couldn't understand 9 very simple lines of VB).

Over the years I saw several of examples of that naming convention fix from various people who did basically what we both did - one may well have been yours! It wasn't the lack of solutions that was the problem. I encountered the same issue regularly in a 'cyber' job out when everyone first got excited about it in 2009-2010. There were plenty of specialists, they had identified and often proposed solutions, and remarkably, in the early days, they all agreed (largely because the answers were such low hanging fruit). But the 'system' was structurally incapable of listening. This was how absurd it could get. One time about 30 of us were called to an SME conference specifically intended to identify these kind of problems/answers. 30 out of 30 of us made the same point as our top concern at the conference start. Yet the (non-SME) Major running it refused to address the point because he believed it was outside his terms of reference, set by another non-SME superior. This despite an SME who outranked them both being present (but, of course, from another command).

A top-down system that inflexible will always fail to leverage the ideas it contains, regardless of where it places its people.
Ah, I see where you went wrong - you tried to do the right thing via the right channels. Rookie mistake :p

[geeky thread drift]

I also looked into trying to get something installed system wide but quickly found we would need a formal (and funded) change request. That wasn’t going to happen: it was impossible to quantify the benefits in monetary terms (an unknown number of users manually renaming an unknown number of emails) and a solution was only needed because users were ignoring the mandated naming convention. If users behaved, there was no need to spend money on a solution.

So I created a tool in Excel. Everyone had Excel.

My version allowed users to target a specific email folder, could add date and time, stripped out problem characters, allowed users to replace characters and words (to replace, say, ”Main Building” with “MB” or add keywords), highlighted excessively long titles, added classification, and used dynamic arrays to compare every email’s index (44+ characters) with every other email’s index to identify and preserve the last email in a conversation. It could then export the emails (in msg format) into a target folder or network drive.

I then let it spread by word of mouth across the Info Mgmt community.

[/geeky thread drift]

Part of the problem that is preventing MOD using IT to streamline working is that there are very few staff with an understanding of unit needs / ways of working and an understanding of what the IT can actually do.

If you can embed geeks into units and give them the task of finding ways to streamline info / data usage within the unit, a lot of military personnel effort can be freed up and focused at pointy-end stuff.
I think you’re missing my point. I’m not suggesting that JHub needs to be successful as a stand alone; certainly not whilst it has a benevolent investor like the MOD. But there are plenty innovation hubs that do have to stand up as a business; their funding is dependent on them producing a pipeline of viable projects. By no means all will go beyond startup, but enough have to make the process viable.

But, irrespective of the commercials of the hub itself, it has to do more than produce working concepts. It has to produce viable, investable ideas. And either that investment comes from the MOD or it comes from established corporates, venture capital or angels.

So to clarify my point about innovative defence ideas; unless there’s either a mechanism of sparking a defence program or the organisation is finding commercially investable ideas, it’s a vanity product.
"there are plenty innovation hubs that do have to stand up as a business; their funding is dependent on them producing a pipeline of viable projects" . . . are these what were previously referred to as "Consultancies" ?!
"there are plenty innovation hubs that do have to stand up as a business; their funding is dependent on them producing a pipeline of viable projects" . . . are these what were previously referred to as "Consultancies" ?!
No, they’re very different. Philosophically, innovation hubs “do”. Consultancies “advise.

I do some work with a friend in a Sydney innovation hub, helping people or startups with an innovative idea to raise funds. Basically we help them to write and develop their pitch and business plan.

We don’t charge for the work we do; we work on the basis of a cut from the funds raised. Or occasionally equity if the owners prefer. That means we get paid for about one in ten of the jobs we do as only one on ten gets to second stage funding. That is typical of how hubs work; they put bright innovative people in the same space as entrepreneurial people and people who can help to get those bright ideas to market.

If I was consulting, I’d charge a fee to all of the companies I advise. And I wouldn’t be invested in the hub itself.


Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Not technically a wicked problem. Just a very difficult one.
It shares at least this characteristic with 18 carat wicked problems:

While traditional circles of entrepreneurship focus on speed and agility, designing for impact is about staying the course through methodical, rigorous iteration

Staying the course vs 30 months in post, and a coupla golden OJAR moments.

Hmm. I know which I'd be betting on as 'most popular' :wink:
If you think you can “solve” a wicked problem, then it’s not a wicked problem.

Wicked problem definition:
There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem.
Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but better or worse.
There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.
Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation"; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt counts significantly.
Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan.
Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.
The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem's resolution.
The social planner has no right to be wrong (i.e., planners are liable for the consequences of the actions they generate)

There’s quite a body of work around managing wicked problems. FWIW, war (and COIN) can be classified as a wicked problem, which leads to some interesting cross-over in the theories.
You can have bureaucracy or you can have agility, but you can't have both.
I think you can. There’s lots of work out there about how to develop agile bureaucracies particularly in the public sector.

The over riding conclusion of most that I have read is that, to be agile, a bureaucratic organisation needs a clear common purpose. In an organisation where there is a clearly enunciated vision and purpose, “bureaucracy hackers” will thrive because they hacking shortcuts to deliver the purpose.

But in an organisation that lacks a common purpose, bureaucracy hackers are shut down by those with personal agendas that don’t share the common purpose.

The problem for the Army is that no strategic leader has ever managed to enunciate a common vision. It changes with every CGS. And further down the hierarchy, there are structures that nurture and enshrine a divergent purpose.

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