Archive for March, 2010

A reflection on educating Army officers in force management

March 26, 2010 7 comments

Full diagram originally drawn by John Boyd for...
Image via Wikipedia

The college  in-briefed the new Commander yesterday; From the dialogue emerged his 4 priorities

1.  Leader Development (sub-bullets below are not all-inclusive)
– Develop and implement ILE 2010
– Identify ILE and captains career course backlog issues related to ARFORGEN

2.  Mission Command Center of Excellence
(We emphasized LD&E’s contribution of manpower toward this effort: two colonels to lead along with a force management SME.)

3.  Training
(The DC showed BCTP support as LD&E’s main effort ISO this priority.)

4.  Doctrine
(Weshowed our support to writing teams for FM 3-0 and FM 5-0, doctrinal reviews, and curriculum updates IAW doctrinal changes as LD&E’s main efforts ISO this priority.)

From our departmental discussion emerging the following insight, to which I respond below

Seems to me the leader development sub-bullets include the three principal prongs (these are the main efforts right out of the ALDS [ ed.:  Army Leader Development Strategy], Nov 09):
The effect of complexity and time.
The effect of decentralization.
The need to frame ill‐structured problems.

If we begin to reorient our approach to curriculum design and delivery (particularly for F100), these desires have somewhat radical implications.  I would argue we do not model these (at least in our approach to the core course).  If we were to juxtapose these with “opposing poles” I would argue we tend to be focused on the wrong end (left side):Would like to engage in counterpoints/other arguments–in other words what are your thoughts?

simplicity <———complicatedness———–> complexity
well-structured problems (tame or tamed)<——–craftwork———>ill-structured (wicked) (the need for DESIGN)

“Houston, we have a problem!”

I think there’d be a good article and an F100 reading in treating the 3 prongs as lines of operation intersecting the “tenets of force management” as centers of gravity (using the metaphor of the construct for stability operations)

It’s abundantly clear that the “world of threats” as we have chosen to define the characteristics of the threat, and the chosen roles & missions of the Army, have created a dynamic where the threat is inside our OODA loop of adaptability. When you read Boyd’s description of what happens to the enemy when we are inside his OODA loop, you will recognize the symptoms immediately as a good description of our operating force and the processes being used to generate and sustain it.

The “routine processes” of force mgt: the technocratic emphasis on planning, control, budgeting and precise forecasting (ie PPBE), are dis-integrating and causing the dis-integration of the force to the point where, last week, at the FORSCOM quarterly Reset Synch, at the council of colonels, after 3 days of intense efforts to synchronize the next batch of BCTs in the cycle (they have given up right now on trying to centrally synchronize anything lower than a BCT), the O6s around the table looked at each other and could only ask: what are we trying to do here?, to what standard? for what purpose? and how could we (not even “should we”) define success. The meeting ended with more loose ends in the tapestry than it began, but there was a hint of growing appreciation for design thinking.

I made the same points in that session that Chris makes below: and that is that FM is a wicked problem, and that they were colonels and organizations trying to perform design, and they didn’t know it; they were locked into a planning paradigm that sought a near-perfect solution to the de-synch problem of force generation; that tentative solutions come from both above and below; that information needs to flow in all directions, to be used as evidence to support inquiry, and not stove-piped; that the “common operating picture” is not very common, and is not very operational.

There is an implication of incompleteness as a necessary part of any Design, which respects the dynamism of the world and which commits us to an ongoing process of inquiry, to develop a tentative appreciation for the situation and its context, leading perhaps towards understanding, and an intellectual humility.

I invite the F100 team (and interested others) to identify the overarching “tenets of force mgt” so that we can get a fresh top down look at how the the 3 lines of intellectual operation below intersect, in order to see what emerges that’s applicable to

One example: An FM system should carefully manage money as a resource, in order to be good stewards. This leads, under a technocratic control mindset, to completely plan and program every dollar based on a centralized, far-sighted forecast where precision is the goal. In a dynamic world with an adaptive enemy, we are constantly having to find the least painful bucket of money to “re-program” against the newest high priority, unforecasted threat. The magnitude of this problem can be measured on a time series chart of ONS submitted from the theater for urgent requirements that are not available in the Army inventory. The re-programming induces turbulence in existing programs, and is the most costly way to fund immediate solutions to new requirements using the “Pick 2: Cheap, Fast, Good” model. So, the current model and mindset can be shown to be self-inflicted foot-shooting system

The 3 prong analysis:
1. The effect of complexity & time?: destabilizes the current “machine”, making it produce things that aren’t: cheap, fast, good. It produces things slowly, that are costly, and not very good. (I accept your criticism that says our equipment is better than “not very good”)

2. The effect of decentralization?: requires a reversal of the trend to centralizing to DA which is shown to be unsustainable (the downsizing of Corps, and installation and MACOM staff as intermediate management HQs; the implementation of CENDOC; centralization of budget mgt…etc). The Army’s response: Lean Six Sigma and the “Core Enterprise” approach can be seen as a way to do even MORE centralization, yet there is an acknowledgement growing for the need to move more routine mgt functions of Force Generation (ARFORGEN) to the MACOMS (HRC, FORSCOM, AMC, TRADOC, IMCOM). This has 4 star attention and is a high priority at DA and MACOM staff levels. The FORSCOM quarterly Training Synchronization Resource Conference (TSRC) and the Reset Synchronization Resource Conference (RSRC) are part of this effort to “de-centralize”

3. The need to frame ill-structured problems?: the emergence of Design thinking in our capstone manuals, and the draft AR 525 (ARFORGEN) now in the comment phase of staffing of the initial draft, and the corresponding development of a FORSCOM pub 525 to formalize synch processes in the generating force, and the development of the ARFORGEN Synchronization Tool (AST) (a web based COP for REST coming to a computer near you this summer) are all evidence of efforts to move the force generation wicked problem towards “semi-structure”

As an educating group, we are presented with a continuing design challenge in F100 (and beyond!) to satisfy these competing questions for our constituents:
1. How is the Army SUPPOSED run?
2. How DOES it run?
3. How is it’s running process EVOLVING?
4. How COULD it run better?
5. How SHOULD it run?

These are related, yet not identical: I suggest that we are engaged in a continuous design process to get the mix right in studying these questions.

One of the principles of design thinking, and of inquiry, is to make sure you are studying the very best set of questions; even more important than the provisional conclusions you discover along the way

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Preview of Professor Mike Wesch’s symposium on Mediated Culture/Mediated Education

March 24, 2010 3 comments

Michael Lee Wesch
Image via Wikipedia

Professor Mike Wesch‘s visit on 5 April 2010 is a really big deal. Here are a few points of interest  for those interested in exploring his work before the symposium on Mediated Culture/Mediated Education

He is a profound thinker, and a genuinely nice person. His insights have important implications for our leaders in the field as well as our faculty and curriculum designers/developers here in the college

Here are some overviews of his work as prep a 5 minute overview of Web 2.0 a Must See! a 5 minute riff on “Information Revolution” his 8 min speech at Carnegie Foundation accepting “Professor of the Year” award (55 min presentation from 2008 at Library of Congress: spellbinding)

(Note the power of YouTube to support preparing to learn)

his bio:


Dubbed “the explainer” by Wired magazine, Michael Wesch is a cultural anthropologist exploring the effects of new media on society and culture. After two years studying the implications of writing on a remote indigenous culture in the rain forest of Papua New Guinea, he has turned his attention to the effects of social media and digital technology on global society. His videos on culture, technology, education, and information have been viewed by millions, translated in over 15 languages, and are frequently featured at international film festivals and major academic conferences worldwide. Wesch has won several major awards for his work, including a Wired Magazine Rave Award, the John Culkin Award for Outstanding Praxis in Media Ecology, and he was recently named an Emerging Explorer by National Geographic.  He has also won several teaching awards, including the 2008 CASE/Carnegie U.S. Professor of the Year for Doctoral and Research Universities.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A reflection on charismatic leadership

March 20, 2010 11 comments

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military com...
Image via Wikipedia

I am naturally skeptical about charismatic leaders, but I have seen its power in action.

Just before GEN Petraeus left our college to take command in Iraq he gathered faculty and students in our large auditorium, which seats 2500.

He spoke in a very relaxed manner, hardly the tone you might expect for a guy getting ready to take on the most politically sensitive mission around, one frought with peril, and which could go wrong in a thousand different, easily imaginable ways

It was surprisingly intimate moment, as he spoke humorously with and about his aide de camp and some of the other majors in his morning running group

he spoke frankly about the challenges ahead and the values we were going to use to see our way thru the fog and danger.

after about 10 minutes there was a palpable feeling that we were in good hands at the top and that we were going to prevail, and that if there a way thru the forest we were going to find it

it was the opposite of demagoguery, yet charismatic in its own way in that it was authentic, and appropriate and somehow “fit” who we all were at that moment in time

So, I am intrigued by charisma, where it comes from, how it works, why it works, and all that jazz 😀

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Reflecting on self-directed leadership in a military college environment (an action research approach)

March 20, 2010 24 comments

schematic view of Curriculum in/out of school,...
Image via Wikipedia

The purpose of this assignment is reflect upon my learning through this course and to describe what I am doing to provide for the development of leadership capabilities in those who look to me for direction and guidance. My professional work centers on preparing Army organizational leaders for a world of complexity and uncertainty, and specifically in designing a teachable curriculum that satisfies both the accreditation system and the needs of individual students and faculty. As a result of many cycles of action research involving a variety of stakeholders, I have been designing curriculum that seeks to maximize the opportunities for student and faculty Voice in all phases of the classroom experience, including: design, preparation, delivery, assessment and follow-through. Because the strategy represents a significant shift from the traditional methodology, I am finding many leadership challenges and opportunities throughout the program. I will explore a number of important themes and strategies in this paper.

Chaos and complexity theory point towards a need for multiple points of view and an accommodating culture and practice in order to account for uncertainty in the world. Leaders set the stage for an organization that seeks to thrive under these conditions and therefore become primary leverage points in setting the conditions for success. Because our students are not objects at a distance,  not third-party objects of study but rather thinking, feeling human beings with insights and experiences and discretion, we have shifted our design team composition to include routinely groups of students in the form of focus groups and co-researchers in the action research tradition. Incorporating students in the design of lessons that will be taught that academic year represents a paradigm shift.

I am shifting our feedback system to incorporate more qualitative assessments from both faculty and students. This is a departure from our standard practice of relying exclusively on quantitative instruments. Our new feedback system for programmatic assessment is much more from the mixed methods tradition, which seems to me to be central in going forward in our efforts to understand and appreciate complexity. My intent is that the mixed methods approaches in the classroom will expose students and faculty to this methodology as a way to prepare them with a useful tool beyond the boundaries of the college environment.

I am systematically pursuing outreach and connections with faculty and curriculum designers from other teaching departments  in order to establish a network-centric approach to integrated curriculum design. This is taking the form of a leaderless, self-directed workgroup, with group norms and processes emerging to take the place of formal assigned individual hierarchical leadership. This self-directed work group presents recommendations of consensus to the traditional leadership of the College and is proving to be more and more influential with each successful project.

Because collaborative and adaptive leadership represents a shift in the cultural and operational perspective of the college, students and faculty, it is necessary to build up a resource and reference base that can be used to justify and support our inquiries. We are building a set of wiki’s and blogs that are interactive in order to prepare for our new lineup of lessons, to support collaborative learning inside the lessons dynamically, to document the results of our in class inquiry and to expand the knowledge base both for future lessons and for the field force in general. There is evidence to show that our students and faculty are getting the hang of this technique. This is reshaping the way we approach lesson preparation and our resource base and it is carrying over into our distance learning and remote site teaching strategy. Remote site teachers now have access to our growing experience base on the wiki and blog and can use that in their classroom for air where they do not possess personal experience and expertise.

Finally, I am working with interested others in formalizing our new approaches into college policy and SOP in order to lock in our games in the college’s infrastructure. Without these changes, initiatives are only as enduring as the energy of the interested parties. By incorporating them into our explicit rules and policies, we can institutionalize changes and ratchet our way towards success.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A reflection on Hunt’s “Leadership: A new synthesis” (1996)

March 20, 2010 17 comments

Andrew Carnegie, American businessman and phil...
Image via Wikipedia

remember that Hunt is writing his synthesis in 1996, and he comes from the leadership discipline, not education or cognitive neuroscience. He is good when it comes to synthesizing existing literature, but his excursions into the future of “what-if” are not very convincing.

There has been a lot of important work done on the very issues of rationality vs intuition, on (control & prediction) vs (emergence & adaptation), but it hasnt come from the land of leadership.

I have been doing a ton of research in this area, and in fact the limitations of rationality, and the implications for leaders, leadership skills, organizations and culture, strategic planning and operational execution are precisely the reason i started this program.

my mission is to figure out what leaders need to know, be, and do to manage problems & opportunities outside of the bounds of rationality and convention, and then design and deliver a teachable curriculum that prepares students and faculty for fuzzy situations and coalitions. where goals, cultures, standards, criteria, resources, time horizons are much closer to chaos than order, and with no interest among the stakeholders to move away from the apparent chaos.

I take Heifetz as representative of the state of leadership which has apparently spent the last 2 decades trying to micro-refine the individual models of leadership, and which in my opinion have been left behind by the nature of the challenges for organizations. Even seen as a consultants handbook, Heifetz is comfortably situated inside conventional, stable organizations trying to tweak their way to success.

Back to your point.

The rationality vs intuition debate is best developed from the world of decision-making and cognition. The essential and representative authors to read are Gerd Gigerenzer & Gary Klein, on intuition and heuristic decisionmaking. William Poundstone’s “Labyrinths of Reason” is an excellent introduction to the limitations of rationality. James March on decision-making systems is foundational. Mintzberg is pretty good on recognizing the implications Tversky & Kahneman’s Nobel prize winning work on cognitive biases and behavioral finance is the top level theory basis (spanning 40 years), and all of these guys connect back to the incomparable Herb Simon’s bounded rationality from the 1940s, and which still is some of the best writing and thinking in this area.

The most promising area of current research is found in the fields of emergence, chaos and complexity theory (including complex adaptive systems) but there are miles to go to connect these ideas to the leadership disciplines

So, i think Hunt was intuiting that something else was needed, but hadn’t connected to that body of work.

There is another whole discipline that’s waiting to be incorporated: education, especially adult education, and that’s where i seem to be centered: in the preparation of leaders for these new demands/considerations, while satisfying the constraints of an accreditation system which values certainty, objectivity and standardization.

it seems to me that education lags about 20-25 years behind the cutting edge, as accreditation’s fascination with certainty, objectivity and standardization reflects what was thought to be essential in business and commerce 2 decades ago. So education is just discovering that which the rest of the world is abandoning (or at least moving well beyond)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

education, leadership, biodiversity and the limits of reason

March 18, 2010 11 comments

This image is a digital reproduction of a phot...
Image via Wikipedia

at the other end of the time scale from the doctoral programs, i think the right model to use is that of bio-diversity.

It’s not “survival of the fittest” in the wild, it is extinction of the unfit & toleration of the “good enough” which promotes a broad gene pool. A broad gene pool gives us the adaptive flexibility to adjust to “black swan” events, (Taleb).

well, our educational system should seek to promote that kind of diversity in outreach, methods, programs etc and not just short-sidedly focus on how to efficiently pass the next round of standardized tests which are geared for the immediate environment, but which leave us uneducated for the possibilities of an infinitely rich future

there are many skills, habits, behaviors, attitudes which dont thrive in an individual, cut throat environment, but which may be needed for  an environment that favors cooperation: such as living in a nuclear age.

I think it’s important to remember that “the failure” is in the system’s inability to provide a medium for the seed that is the person to flourish.

We know from “The Long Tail” that digitization and globalization allow for the creation of feasible 1:1 relationships. we are less constrained to find “economic” tradeoffs that satisfy the many and underserve the tails of the distribution.

We should, therefore be looking to expand the set of possible methods and resources to serve those further out on the tails of the distribution in order to  broaden our “gene pool” of human potential.. See Axelrod on “The Evolution of Cooperation” for example

Good survival strategy for the a species, all species, for life itself, is to maximize biodiversity, because of the possibility of discontinuous “shock” events to the environment, for which prior specialization is unsuited.

The examples of Branson and Gates amply illustrate the rich rewards waiting for us on the untapped wide tails of the human distribution

It is arrogant of education to presume it can forecast the future and determine what can and should be precisely taught for “success”.

If education hasn’t learned that yet, then it should attend some of its classes in the sciences and arts to discover the limits of pure rationality and control 😀

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A reflection on self-directed education and doctoral programs

March 17, 2010 11 comments

Rendering of human brain.
Image via Wikipedia

my sense of the self directed learning challenge is that the role of the professor/mentor should include modelling the kind of behavior that we hope to inspire in others, which includes the vulnerability aspect of all good research: that is, that the inquiry is in the middle of the uncertainty we are exploring

for me this entails sharing my research ideas and ventures in the classroom with my students as appropriate to their own interests and needs. i want to demonstrate to them the kind of behaviors I hope they exhibit as students

this is why i have committed to publishing my reflections and interim results on the blog and wiki, and encouraged people to take advantage of the opportunity for independent research projects with me (or other faculty) in our elective period

this model follows that of the crafts and professions where we proceed from novice->apprentice->journeyman->meister. each level has its appropriate roles for learning and socialization, and there is a recognition of the importance of the structured craft experience which is an accumulation of “know-how” and “know-what” which has survived and thrived through all manner of environmental pressure and should not be discarded lightly. Later in the life-cycle, the amount of independence increases and we move towards “know-why” and “know-FOR-what” or purposeful knowledge, and the realm of true individual artistry.

it is fair to question why a model of knowledge generation,acquisition, dissemination and application deriving from ancient & medieval times is appropriate for a dynamic, digital information age, but in the last 20 years we have seen plenty of claims that “this changes everything”
and “this time its different” go down in flames across many commercial and academic disciplines, and its is also fair to ask why it IS different this time. This is nothing more than what we would expect on the boundaries of new cognitive areas.

i think this feeling of “being on the edge” supports your value of “And/Both”: the sense that we ought to preserve such knowledge and technique as remains viable, useful and innately of value for its own sake (like everything we already know about mentor/mentee relationships) while pushing the boundaries of new approaches and ways.

my working hypothesis (a belief) is that the deep theoretical basis for mixed methods as a co-equal of qualitative and quantitative methods lies right in this sweetspot of chaos and opportunity between tradition and cutting edge. It calls for both creativity and critical thinking; creativity to find new ways or apply the old in a new way, and critical thinking to help us find viable paths and allocate limited resources wisely.

the sooner we see the desire for taking responsibility for their own learning in th eyes and hearts of our students, the sooner we can launch them to fly, while taking on new roles as co-researcher, colleague, resource sharer, member of their network, critical voice, supportive voice etc

the biggest moment in the doctoral candidate’s lfie is the moment the realization hits that we EXPECT them to figure it out for themselves: its the start of the rite of passage. That there is such a common frustration with this in the minds of students is something of a mystery to me, but probably because i had thought hard about this before starting my program, whereas i see a lot of others who are pursuing the credential for something other than to satisfy a burning need to know, and they are looking for a fast-track linear path to completion

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]