Author Topic: Loyalty and Dissent: Getting Flag Officers to Hear the Truth  (Read 1698 times)

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Offline daftandbarmy

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Emperor's new clothes? This way please, sir.....


The forces of deference to senior leaders are strong in any large
organization. As former Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner has
noted, “Most people in positions in government or the military exist in very
hierarchical institutions. You need to do a huge amount to lean against the
forces of excessive deference.” Too much deference and not enough candor
can cause senior leaders to make bad decisions, because they become
bureaucratically insulated from valuable criticism and objective feedback.

https://warontherocks.com/2019/03/loyalty-and-dissent-getting-flag-officers-to-hear-the-truth/

- mod edit to fix spelling of subject line -
« Last Edit: March 22, 2019, 05:59:31 by milnews.ca »
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline AK

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Re: Loyaly and Dissent: Getting Flag Officers to Hear the Truth
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2019, 09:15:59 »
We have to have the internal fortitude to tell the powers-that-be what they need to hear, rather than what they want to hear.  Unfortunately too many people are more concerned with their career progression than doing what is correct.

But this is not just a military problem although our structure tends to encourage it.  This attitude contributed to the whole Phoenix debacle.

Offline Navy_Pete

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Re: Loyaly and Dissent: Getting Flag Officers to Hear the Truth
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2019, 10:25:05 »
Aside from the sycophant, echo chamber culture some offices get, a lot of the time when you have as many flag officers involved as we do, the decisions seem to get sucked up to levels where they are three or four steps removed from people who know the topic in detail, and the briefings come through the CoC filter, so the people that actually understand it are not in the room for the briefing and decisions. At best, you can maybe have briefed the person that gave the briefing, but sometimes it's a third or fourth hand briefing.

Gets even worse when you get multi departmental efforts.

Offline Colin P

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Re: Loyaly and Dissent: Getting Flag Officers to Hear the Truth
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2019, 13:08:23 »
Very true, part of the problem is that people that raise issues are seen as "Not a team player" and that many of the senior management types are not well versed in what their organization do or how they do it, so they are loath to have to many experts in the room as they can't follow the conversations and always want a nice simple explanation so their ignorance won't show.

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Loyaly and Dissent: Getting Flag Officers to Hear the Truth
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2019, 13:12:12 »
Very true, part of the problem is that people that raise issues are seen as "Not a team player" and that many of the senior management types are not well versed in what their organization do or how they do it, so they are loath to have to many experts in the room as they can't follow the conversations and always want a nice simple explanation so their ignorance won't show.

But luckily they'll usually have a 'consultants' report' to wave around, right? ;)
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline stoker dave

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Re: Loyaly and Dissent: Getting Flag Officers to Hear the Truth
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2019, 13:54:40 »
Mid- and senior-level officers have any number of options on how to respond to situations when they are presented with problems including:

1.  Say something like "Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions."
2.  Make the guy (or girl) that found the problem fix the problem.
3.  Blame the problem on the guy (or girl) that reported it.
4.  Say something like "I expect that problems like this get sorted out before they are brought to me."

(Feel free to add others that you have heard and seen.... I have heard and seen all the above.)

Of course none of the above actually do anything to encourage communication, problem solving or teamwork.  But they make the boss's life much less unpleasant because he (or she) will then have fewer problems to deal with when nobody wants to report a problem.

Offline Furniture

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Re: Loyaly and Dissent: Getting Flag Officers to Hear the Truth
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2019, 13:21:32 »
Aside from the sycophant, echo chamber culture some offices get, a lot of the time when you have as many flag officers involved as we do, the decisions seem to get sucked up to levels where they are three or four steps removed from people who know the topic in detail, and the briefings come through the CoC filter, so the people that actually understand it are not in the room for the briefing and decisions. At best, you can maybe have briefed the person that gave the briefing, but sometimes it's a third or fourth hand briefing.

Gets even worse when you get multi departmental efforts.

We can't just point to the top, or at officers as being bad for this. At the Snr NCM level it's easy to see people who are 10-20 years removed from actually doing a job, refusing to listen to the Jr members problems/solutions. Made worse by the mid-level NCOs (thinking of their own PERs) just going along with the Snr folks so they don't look like a "trouble maker".

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Loyaly and Dissent: Getting Flag Officers to Hear the Truth
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2019, 13:59:45 »
We can't just point to the top, or at officers as being bad for this. At the Snr NCM level it's easy to see people who are 10-20 years removed from actually doing a job, refusing to listen to the Jr members problems/solutions. Made worse by the mid-level NCOs (thinking of their own PERs) just going along with the Snr folks so they don't look like a "trouble maker".

That's a great observation (and very true of course) that points to the deeper culture of deference at all levels.

I recall distinctly, three decades ago, when a 'not very bright loud and obnoxious but still a good SNCO' was giving we newbies a lecture on mines. We were fairly leery of him, for all the usual reasons.

He was reading from a manual and, at one point, said 'Mines CRATER obstacles.' We all knew that he meant to say 'CREATE', but I dutifully wrote 'Crater' in my notebook. Seriously.

Bizarre, wrong, and a very good example of a powerful deference culture in action.
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline PPCLI Guy

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Re: Loyalty and Dissent: Getting Flag Officers to Hear the Truth
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2019, 19:56:31 »
I have heard that this article is making the rounds amongst certain circles of GOFOs, and it is the dissent piece that is attracting the most attention.  I have met a few GOs that are good at dissent....they tend to move very slowly along the GO advancement path.
"The higher the rank, the more necessary it is that boldness should be accompanied by a reflective mind....for with increase in rank it becomes always a matter less of self-sacrifice and more a matter of the preservation of others, and the good of the whole."

Karl von Clausewitz

Offline SeaKingTacco

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Re: Loyalty and Dissent: Getting Flag Officers to Hear the Truth
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2019, 21:47:21 »
You don't say...