In 1978, Professor Henry Mintzberg writes:
“Most of our studies show evidence of two main patterns, one superimposed on the other. The first is the life cycle of an overall strategy its conception, elaboration, decay, and death. The second is the presence of periodic waves of change and continuity within the life cycle. (Longer cycles of this kind could be identified as well, from one life cycle to the next.) What this second pattern suggests is that strategies do not commonly change in continuous incremental fashion; rather, change even incremental change takes place in spurts, each followed by a period of continuity.”
A reflection on Mintzberg:
The Dept of Defense’s capstone Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution System (PPBES) is the supreme techno-rational control process left in the world after the demise of the Soviet Union and its central planning. It values precision, detail and control and is based in a belief that certainty can be achieved even in complex situations. It responds to uncertainty with more planning and a quest for more certainty.
PPBE is failing at a rapid rate as more competitors learn to offset the American economic and conventional military advantages with asymetric threats. Recent battlefield and political successes can be attributed to setting aside the formality and lockstep bureaucracy with adaptive improvisation and design thinking. The best measure of this phenomenon is in the rise of Operational Needs Statements which are how local commanders submit requests for people and equipment not contained in their centrally planned an designed organizations. Once a rare exception, they have now become the primary way by which unit redesign and organizational change are conducted.
This is considered by many to be an indictment of the PPBE system, which still endures due to institutional inertia and the fact that it is easily gamed by defense contractors
Extreme environmental pressure created the need to bypass the formality of PPBE, in spite of every effort made by insiders to maintain business as usual. This inertia cost the nation many 10s of billions of dollars in wasted procurement programs that were not needed by field forces.
The micro changes of field units working around the system in an ad-hoc manner which ultimately became the Operational Need Statement was a bottom up transformation (still in progress) which is revolutionary in nature.
Micro-improvements to the process brought discipline and normality to the ad hoc process and it may succeed in significantly amending the PPBE process. Without the constant tinkering and experimenting of a strategy in process, the PPBE would have collapsed under its own weight and risked failure in Iraq.
A detailed plan with rigid adherence was a recipe for disaster in Iraq and so I will disagree with those who want to preserve strategy for the sake of consistency and certainty. Under some circumstances that can be the worst strategy of all.
“The Pentagon Wars” book and movie outline the absurdity of the over-formalized PPBE process, while “Boyd” by Robert Coram is an excellent treatment of the military reform movement of the 1980s which was the last serious attempt to reform an outdated strategic control system.
The story of the modern reform movement is still being debated and discussed in the halls of CGSC, including my dissertation topic which examines the education of the next generation of leaders and their understanding of change management
- Reflection on Mintzberg’s The Rise and fall of Strategic Planning (1994) (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Review notes on Garrett Jones text on organizational theory, sixth edition (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Needed Defense Spending Cuts – CGSC Student Blog (usacac.leavenworth.army.mil)
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Integrated strategic change and how it differs from traditional strategic planning and traditional planned organization change
Cummings and Worley define the concept of integrated strategic change (ISC) as a comprehensive OD intervention that examines how plan change that can add value to strategic management. The integrative piece looks at a synthesis of business strategies and organizational systems responding together to external and/or internal disruptions. This strategic change plan then would help members manage the transition from current status and organizational designs to a desired future strategic orientation. The simultaneity of strategy and organizational design is the essence of the integrated change plan. ISC is one of the newer concepts in the OD repertoire.
ISC can be either radical or gradual in its systemic realignment between the environment and the businesses strategy. It has a results-focus while simultaneously examining processes, structure and strategies. It is concerned with the implementation, transition states, and human resources and not just the conceptual plan.
It looks simultaneously at strategy, operations and tactics; and both planning and execution. ISC considers three-time states: the present, the transition, and the desirable future. It goes beyond the isolated, rational analysis of traditional strategic planning to include human factors, culture and environment in the implementation phase. It is a highly participative process as opposed to traditional strategic change planning which typically resides in a small staff sell at the highest echelon in the executive branch of the organization.
It has four phases: strategic analysis, strategic choice, designing the change plan, and implementing the plan. The four steps are overlapping and iterative as opposed to linear and compartmentalized, as in the traditional methods.
Finally, ISC differs from traditional processes by examining strategic orientation as the unit of analysis; considers how to gain commitment and support for the strategic plan as an integral part of the overall plan; and incorporates elements at all echelons throughout the organization in analysis, implementation and monitoring effectiveness. Ownership is central to this concept.
My experience with Army strategic planning has been of the traditional variety and it’s clear that ISC is a better fit for the real world of managing change in large organizations. The annual off-site gathering of senior leaders to create a vision which is put on a shelf and back to business as normal is the stereotype, mostly true, of the traditional process. The pilot program of reengineering an Army installation that I participated in as the senior military planner, featured some of the elements of ISC and in those areas the plan was much more successful than when we applied traditional means. To the extent that we consider transitions in implementation, human factors, and incorporated stakeholders from every echelon, we were successful. When we tried to implement a top-down, from-a-distance strategic vision, we suffered the usual problems of traditional planning.
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My take on the problem with force management is that it has been treated as a complicated problem, suitable for central planning (PPBES) and not as a complex problem, rife with social & political context, in a dynamic state where the variables change parameters far faster than the planned decision cycles. Consequently, we never get what we planned for, it’s always too costly and the steady-state never is.
My suggestion that FM be treated with design, as a complex problem, would engage with fundamental questions of the purpose of the Army and process by which it is designed, fielded and sustained. I’d argue against an Archimedean perspective because that’s what has led us to the cumbersome, over-planned, under-executing Byzantine bureaucracy we have in place. The owner/operators (ie operational career field “end-users”) have generally stayed outside of the process and have let the “experts” run this system. I argue for them to be part of the FM process, and thus believe design-thinking is needed in order to get the Army you want.
I consider it to be complex, and not just complicated, because of the multiple actors, time frames, values, purposes that combine to resemble March’s “garbage can decision making model” w
A rather longish discussion of how social, political and “unplanned” FM can be is here: http://usacac.army.mil/blog/blogs/dlro/archive/2008/11/24/a-reflection-on-army-force-structure-decision-making-from-1995-1996-passing-on-the-bct-based-army.aspx
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/jobs/13boss.html?fta=y another story of brave women in business, making their own way, on their own terms. very cool, and…math! inspiring advice i’ve shared with my daughters
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Manny: I agree that when we feel connected to our purpose that our decisions and actions come naturally and easily and we can find the resources we need to break through challenges. Staying connected in a human way to our sources of strength with an appreciation of our own limits but our own potentials helps us turn the long journeys into successful ones.
Loyalty really is an important part of our decision-making, because it commits us to taking actions on the basis of incomplete information and which affect our values at the deepest level. This is why I have been arguing this term for the importance of transparency as opposed to poker playing with our deepest beliefs. I believe we owe it to our superiors but more importantly our subordinates to be as transparent as possible in order that they can have trust in our commitments and confidence in where to place their loyalties.
I agree that silence in the meeting is as important as the space between musical notes. I make sure that when I go into our important curriculum design meetings with the senior leadership I have carefully laid out the arguments I want to make with key phrases that I want to install in their minds that are supported by deep analysis which I can call upon if needed. I look at the agendas to anticipate where I can most effectively and logically make the arguments and I rehearse our meeting routines to see how and where I can best insert my insights.
I make sure that I have considered who will be at the meeting and how I can approach them before hand so that they’re not surprised by the things that I will say and to gauge their response to my ideas. I have found this to be very helpful in communicating my ideas effectively and preventing me from taking on ill considered recommendations in public. By being transparent in writing with my proposals I find that I have built trust-based relationships and a reputation for having no hidden agendas.
Expressing myself in writing demonstrates a commitment to transparency and evidence which has silenced many “he said- she said” responses to complex negotiations.I then make notes during the meeting on who I should talk to and on what topics immediately following the meeting to seal the deal. I make sure also that the person making the written notes for the meeting is on my distribution list and that the things that I thought were important are reflected in their written record of the meeting. This artifact becomes an important tool for developing the situation in the days and weeks ahead because it is the basis for taking formal action.
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