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Yeeeah, did you get the memo? On Violence on Management

Management matters, as I explained yesterday. But--the good reader might ask--this is a blog about violence, the military and foreign policy. What does that have to do with management?

Simple. Bad management can literally get people killed.

Read the passages about General Tommy Franks in Thomas Rick’s Fiasco. Ricks doesn’t really describe an inept leader, he describes an inept manager. This inept management led to a poorly planned post-invasion Iraq. (As an interesting side note, Franks now runs a Leadership Academy in Oklahoma. I don’t know if they cover management.) 

Most people in the Army seem to know that it doesn’t run well. Every memoir Eric C read has a section on incompetent leadership. The Atlantic claims younger officers are fleeing by the boatload, and mentions management. Clearly, I’m not pleased by Army management. A Colonel lambasted ISAF’s PowerPoint culture, got fired, and all the comments on articles about it said, “Yep, I know what he is talking about.” Frankly, if the U.S. Army were a corporation, it would have run out of business (or be bailed out by the federal government) a long time ago.

I don’t think people feel that way because of leadership, though. I think they feel the effects of bad management.

So I’ve decided to start a series of posts on management. These posts won’t just harbor my petty complaints, though. I want these posts to advise, assist and help, to share what I have learned managing soldiers, and to make the military run better by managing its people better.

If the U.S. Army can’t manage itself well enough to win wars--and win them quickly--the side effect is more death, of both soldiers and civilians, often needlessly. I’ve written before about whether waste in contracting was immoral; I could write a similar post about how horrible mismanagement of people, time and resources gets even more people killed. In simple terms, an effective, efficient and well-managed American Army will keep violence to a minimum. An ineffective, inefficient and poorly-managed American Army can drag two different countries into protracted civil wars.

Management isn’t completely new to On Violence either. A long time back, I wrote about management training and PowerPoint. In fact, a particularly painful Command and Staff meeting originally inspired On Violence. While I was sitting in a doner kebab shop in Milan sipping forties (the smallest size of beer the shop served, amazingly enough) venting my frustrations to Eric C about the military, he told me I needed to start writing about this.

Thus, my first run of posts consisted of complaining and whining, and Eric C threw those away. In that mess, though, were a couple good management ideas, which I plan to share for as long as the blog exists. Here are two free ideas for today:

1. Read Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Time management isn’t taught in ROTC. Or in the Infantry Basic Officer Course. Or any Basic course. Or in any meaningful way by TRADOC. Somewhere, at some school, TRADOC probably does have a course on time management, but way more officers go to Ranger School than receive any training on time management. Way more people go to Airborne school than go any time management class.

Time is the one resource even the Army can’t get more of. Once it is gone, it disappears. And no book does time management (or task management/priority management) better than Getting Things Done.

2. Go to Manager-Tools.com. Especially listen to their podcast on Email, Meetings and PowerPoint.

I discovered Manager-Tools.com when I got a new iPod in 2006, right before I started active-duty. Thank the Maker. I used its advice in every job I had. Particularly, Mark Horstman and Mike Auzenne’s management trinity has use in every management job. Period. Don’t take my word for it: their podcast routinely tops the most downloads on iTunes and wins the Podcast Awards.

(And believe us, we aren’t making a dime on these endorsements. On Violence doesn’t have a financial relationship with Manager-Tools.com or Getting Things Done, and we no longer have an Amazon Affiliation. They are simply the two best pieces of management advice on/in the Internet/world. We want to get them out there.)

One comment

Interesting. If bad management can get people killed, what is the effect of bad accounting? Or does the metaphor not transfer?