Archive for January, 2009

The gift of welfare that will keep on giving, unto the 7th generation

January 31, 2009 1 comment

Trust the Financial Times of London to get it right, as usual. At least their press hasn’t folded up like cheap lawn chairs in adoration:

About a third of the present stimulus bill – the welfare and social service parts – will be exceedingly hard to end. That includes the $92.3bn being spent on labour initiatives, hiring teachers and expanding pre-schools, and the $11bn in bail-outs to states. The core of the bill is $117bn in healthcare spending, which Republicans correctly see as a way of enacting, under false pretences, the national health plan that Democrats have lacked the mandate to legislate in non-emergency times.


Stimulus plan?! How about reward your friends plan?

January 29, 2009 3 comments

with 5% of the 800+B going towards actual infrastructure, the truth is revealed about promises made.  The ones that matter are the long standing ones made to supporters early in the process, years ago, behind closed doors.  Private promises made by public faces.

If you wanted a real stimulous for the economy you would remember that small businesses are the engines of job creation and that you have to try a lot of things in a low risk way. My sense of what is needed is a combination of:

(1) microloans made by community banks and credit unions to members of their opwn community who are willing to to risk their own efforts, time and equity on small businesses, as validated by the local community. That’s where real oversight comes from.

(2) fully funded, expert venture capitalists who would use their proven skills in finding excellent opportunities to fund slightly larger-in-scope ventures.

Now, like in all things, a lot of these would fail, BUT you would be rewarded entreprenurial behavior and actually risk making successes out of independent small businessmen. Therefore I conclude this will not become policy because clearly the current administration is all about wealth redistribution after government takes its cut first.  We have vacuumed up all the loose cash for the next 20 years which might have actually fueled good startup business ideas and shipped it to people who’s ideas couldn’t attract enough money to get funded when private capital evaluated them.  We have set the economy back at least 20 years with these actions.

PAR Journal entry: initiating the “Force generation” project

January 26, 2009 Leave a comment

this is the text of an info paper I wrote for our Deputy Commandant to send to the 3 and 4 star generals in charge of Army leader education and training. It describes the motivation for and purpose of our inquiry into “the education gap of force generation”, and lays out a methodology and strategy for accomplishing the mission. Upon close examination, you would recognize all the elements of Participatory Action Research and a collaborative inquiry in the action research tradition. It’s easier to get the project moving and going thru the PAR and AR steps without getting bogged down in the “naming”, so I intend to get irresistable momentum built and introduce the concepts as required and as we go.

Force Generation Curriculum Project:


Educational gap: based on feedback from the DC, the field, and  our current students and faculty, we have identified “Leading Army units through the Force Generation Process to build ready units” as one of our most important educational gaps in the field.


Results of initial curriculum analysis:

1.       All departments teach on some aspects of the Force Generation process, but we need to do more in AOWC to get our officers to the “Apply” level of learning.

2.       Existing curriculum can  be integrated and leveraged for part of the solution, but we need more attention to and information on the Reset phase, and on integrating the insights of supporting organizations.

3.       A Terminal Learning Objective  for AOWC that incorporates “Force Generation”, that is developed through Enabling Learning Objectives and the appropriate standards which includes insights from all departments, fully integrated through the ongoing AOWC Working Group will lead us to an integrated solution, and follow our own Accountable Instructional System (AIS)


Force Generation. Research Questions:

What we want to learn:

by focusing on the specific topic of “force generation” within the CGSC curriculum, we want to answer the following questions:
Our top level questions are:
1. What do Army Majors (and sister service equivalents) need to know about Force Generation?
2. What are the qualities of the educational environment that will best support their learning? translation: How can we best create the conditions for learning? How sho9uld we teach it?))
Our supporting questions: (these are what we are asking of all the stakeholders to help construct our group knowledge)
1. Who are you and what do you know about Force Generation?
2. What does your organization do in Force Generation?
3. What do you think Majors need to know?
4. What can you contribute to our knowledge base?
5. What can majors do with your knowledge?
6. What are your questions about force generation? (we want everyone to learn)
7. What would you do with the answers and why is it important?
8. Who else should be part of our team?
Initial stakeholder list:




·         Students

·         DLRO faculty

·         CD & Faculty of other departments

·         Army staff: G1, G3, G4, G8, ACSIM

·         AMC

·         HRC

·         JFCOM

·         FORSCOM

·         CASCOM

·         CALL

·         BCTP

·         1/1 HBCT (partnership with field unit entering reset & train/ready pools)

·         Senior Warrant Officers at proponent schools

·         IT support staff (for digital learning environments)

·         BCKS forums (watering holes for interesting ARFORGEN conversations)


Methodology:  Co-operative inquiry  with all stakeholders in the Force Generation process, focusing on support to the education of field grade officers attending CGSC


Initial actions (already underway):

1.       Establish POC at each stakeholder and begin staff work to answer initial supporting questions

2.        Announce to all stakeholders we will have a 3 day workshop in May at Ft Leavenworth to review all supporting question inputs and then craft an answer to the top level questions

3.       Begin planning for said conference

4.       Identify wiki solution for  an adaptive knowledge base that will support ongoing curriculum and reach back capability for FORGEN (done: Blackboard, in the reachback area)

5.       Integrate concept of threaded Force Gen lesson theme into AOWC WG process with 1st order estimate of hours required (done: 10)

6.       Plan for an AAP to catch any spillover from conference and this inquiry that will not fit within AOWC curriculum.

7.       Develop project management framework to monitor progress and include in DLRO SigActs routinely (LTC Judy, LTC Hart)

8.       Draft DC info summary describing FORGEN initiative (Mr Long)


Expected outcomes:

1.       Quality staff recommendation for AOWG FORGEN curriculum and an AAP for “spillover” material

2.       An  interdepartmental “application” level curriculum fully integrated through the AOWC Working Group process

3.       An inquiry- based research process that models the principles of group-learning in real time, which can serve as an example for other inquiries in important topics

4.       An infrastructure that supports student learning while in attendance, and after graduation as a reachback

5.       A knowledge base that focuses on support of our student and faculty population, and wehich synthesizes quality research & knowledge from Army staff and support organizations

6.       A documented staff process that will support our ongoing accreditation and scholarship standards



College, teach thyself?

January 25, 2009 Leave a comment

My commentary from a discussion thread at the CAC blogs on the topic of General Officers education and selection. I am interested in how we improve the capability of the college to support life long learningi nour student officers (and faculty). I argue that our college should be as flexible as the organizations we are telling these officers they will have to create and lead when they leave our building.

Marshall fired a ton of old guys prior to WW2 who were optimized for their peacetime positions based on their experiences and the nature of the pre-war environment. The discontinuity that was WW2, in Marshall’s judgment, required a bold shift in selection criteria for GO. It’s a young man’s game? But is there a substitute for the years of practical experience and intuition honed by the career paths of GOs prior to their promotion? Doesn’t the top leader have to go through all those formative experiences to develop the skill sets required for the thorniest problems? Perhaps, if you believe that we are looking for leadership to be contained within a single node inside the network organization.

But if you believe we are in a world of complex adaptive systems, filled with wicked problems, then the probability goes to zero you can have anticipated all the requirements the GO leader must have in place prior to the challenge emerging. You would tend to prefer selection systems that reward the kind of attitude toward learning and developing that Jim Greer describes above, where ideal GOs candidates have a record of modelling the lifestyle of life long learning and building organizations. Particularly if you believe that the solutions for or management of wicked problems are to be found in quickly framing problems and assembling the right team from the network of resources to satisfy the challenge.

In that kind of organization you would expect to see officer students inside Army schools taking on more responsibility for their own education, particularly those attending colleges that aim for graduate level education and seeking to leverage the insights and potential of soldiers fresh from the cauldron. You would expect to see a broad diversity of topics, approaches, methods and reflections, a flexibility towards learning that models the kinds of open and inquiring attitudes we say the future battlefield will require. You would expect risk to be taken within schools, rather than say, an approach of standardized curriculum, methods and assessments that aim to certify performance against an established, seductively time-tested checklist.

within CGSC, for example: do we “give students voice” to shape their personal learning environment? Are our students speaking their minds or are they waiting for permission to speak? If they aren’t speaking is it because they are certain about the probable outcome of their feedback? How much authority do they have to steer their own learning course? We see stats from student feedback in curriculum meetings but there are no students present when we make crucial decisions, and our curriculum meetings are not assessed on quality and performance like we do for every lesson, block, and graded student product. Are students satisfied with the payoff of giving feedback for themselves? Or is it really indirect, weak “feed forward”?

Are our classrooms and learning environments truly a network of learning organizations or are we a set of isolated, compartmentalized homogenized standard parts designed to teach the same things in generally the same way against a single consensus view of what’s required for the next 10 years of service?

If you’d argue that we can’t teach everything the officers will need to know in the next 10 years I’d agree, and then ask if we are helping jointly create the environment that promotes lifelong learning, providing the infrastructure to support it through reachback and the ability to adapt quickly to emerging educational requirements in whatever scope and size is required for the next surprise, rather than trying to get the curriculum “correct and stable, once and for all”.

The Romans had tribunes of the people to directly represent the people, with real authority to act in real time on their behalf. Do our officers have an equivalent voice to take on real responsibility for their education?

Could our college routinely solicit the educational needs of our newly arriving officers in August, do a needs assessment and create curriculum for learning inquiries that satisfied most of the expressed “needs to know” within 3 months? We couldn’t if you believed that each new piece of curriculum would have to be exhaustively researched, vetted and synthesized and approved for mass consumption before the first day of class, and we couldn’t if you thought every new piece of curriculum must meet the standard of “every MAJ for the next 10 years needs to know”. And yet that’s the kind of organizational flexibility and adaptability we are asking them to develop in their units upon graduation. College, teach thyself?

Chapters 25 and 27 of “The Future of the Army Profession” (2nd ed) are scholarly treatments of these issues

The right way to get out of debt from Bridgewater Associates

January 25, 2009 Leave a comment

says it nicely in few words: not harsh, or only as harsh as capitalism itself, from Bridgewater Associates:

“There is no easy way out of a debt restructuring. Someone will have to bear the cost of prior bad decisions. The people who should bear the cost are those who made the bad decisions to make the loans or those who financed the people who made the loans. They intended to profit and would have profited if they were right. But they were wrong, so they should lose. The government needs to allow the losers to lose and focus their actions on minimizing the knock-on effects of their failure on people who didn’t do anything wrong (to minimize systemic risk). They should then take action to minimize the future exposure of the innocent to the future dumb decisions of the small minority, because no amount of regulation will ever eliminate dumb decisions, so you have to plan for them (through much lower bank leverage limits to cushion losses, bank size limits and non-bank entities playing bank-like roles to improve diversification, safety nets to prevent losers from poisoning the whole system, etc.).”

Market reflections January 24, 2009

January 25, 2009 1 comment

1. The teaching is good in our new state-of-the-art college building at Fort Leavenworth. Everyday as I walk to the new building I go past the old building which is being demolished. I’ve been watching the wrecking ball taking apart beautiful building and I can’t help but noticing how quickly the heavy ball takes apart the work of many months of skilled craftsmen to put together the old building brick by brick.  It sure is coming down a lot faster than it went up. But these days, but times change quickly and we are adapting to the new educational requirements. The old rules no longer apply. But the same attention to detail and level of professional craftsmanship which enabled the first building to weather Kansas storms for 60 years went into the making of the new building from which I take a great deal of comfort when the tornadoes blow across the Kansas plains.

2. I can’t help but think as I listen to the news coming out of Washington DC a spending bill after spending bill commits our future stream of income into pursuits would not be supported by the free markets and pure capitalists. I still have the sinking feeling that the best case for us 20 to 30 years of zero real growth in the Japanese model at our current rate of mortgaging the future.

3. Meanwhile the market lurches along in their normal mode, volatility which had decreased from historic highs is slowly on the rise once more and oil has apparently found support and is quietly climbing northwards and only gold seems to have any kind of staying power is money off from sector to sector in search of temporary security. It is precisely at times like these that the discipline of daily and weekly review of technical indicators helps me keep my judgment calibrated in these unusual times. Keep your powder dry and your risk managed and your eyes on the prize.

participatory action research and the “scoping” problem

January 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Some advice for a friend grappling with the difficulty of finding and keeping a tight focus of the issues emerging from his group research into sex discrimination in the workplace. I wish i could foloow my own advice and stay focused

Phil: here’s a thought experiment: what would happen if you treated your research inquiry as a journey and proceeded step by step out from your start point, sensing and responding to the co-researchers needs as you go?

i see you trying to get your arms around a topic that is miles wide and deep; it addresses one of the most complex sociological issue-complexes of all time; i hear you devleoping plans to “understand all of it” in order to do….what?

what if you had in your hand something precious already being developed thru the voluntary contribution sof your trusted others in your group.  what are the questions with the most energy that are emanating from that group? which you CAN get your arms around? what research is needed to satisfy their hunger to know, and do, and be and become? what’s the emotional driver that keeps this group going? to satisfy what end? what need? maybe, let the research direction and depth support that hunger to know

do all the members of your group share your interest in the massive research undertaking you are describing?  have you already mentally left the group to climb your own mountain?

just thinking out loud, as i go through the same cycles of trying to solve the largest problems i can imagine, often at the expense of taking care of my own little garden plot