It's a paradox that the organization that gave us Command and Control is an organization that has done so much to find a new way of doing things. What was General Sullivan's context for understanding that Command and Control had to go?
As we have witnessed in the last decade, the modern battlefield is now incredibly complex. There is simply no way that all the information can be fed back to the command, understood and then relayed back to units. Everyone has to be in the loop at the same time and those at the front have to have the maximum liberty to take action with no call back for orders or more information. The issue for distributing all this information and power of command is not directly technology. It is culture. If you have a culture of command and control you can't use the new technology.
This is actually every "General's" context whether she runs Hewlett Packard or he is the Clerk of the House. The complexity of our world is increasing exponentially.
The principal tool in the Army's portfolio for culture change is a deceptively simple process called the After Action Review. The AAR works like this. After any task those involved time out and WITH A FACILITATOR, have a discussion about what really happened and what they should learn from this. Does the AAR work? The US Army may not be the exemplars of peacekeeping but their tactical performance in the Middle East was breathtaking. The AAR is recognized as the most important tool in unlocking the culture and enabling this type of tactical flexibility. Brigadier General W (Scott) Wallace, formerly in command of the NTC, has observed that the AARs have "instilled a discipline of relentlessly questioning everything we do.
Above all, it has re-socialised three generations of officers to move away from a command-and-control style of leadership to one that takes advantage of distributed intelligence. It has enabled us to learn that we can never become too wedded to our script for combat and that we have to remain versatile enough to exploit the 'broken plays' that inevitably develop in the confusion of battle.“
Let's play with this for a moment. Do you have real and frank discussions about what is really going on? Do you have junior folks speak in front of you telling you what you did wrong? Do you have junior folks acting as the thought leaders in the group? I doubt it. The key? The Facilitator. Here is where the pattern started to become clear to us.
Culture is embodied in voice. At the heart of the managerial relationship is the issue of voice. Stress as Marmot says visits those of us most that have no voice or who feel that we have no voice. Having a voice does not mean that everyone is in charge. The US Army is still firmly attached to the chain of command. Having a voice means that our opinion is taking seriously. Having a voice as a leader means that we speak the truth.
How we speak to each other is the culture in action. If we have a habitual way of speaking we cannot change this on our own. If you are the DM, or the general, you have a certain type of dialogue with junior folks and they expect this and also speak their side of the deal. To speak differently demands that there is a neutral broker, as in the CIBC or the AAR, to level the playing field. Both the CIBC process and the AAR in their DNA open up the conversation between the leader and the led. They have to use a neutral facilitator to pull this off because we have all be trained too well to play the old conversation.
The central figure in the development and deployment of the AAR is a remarkable man. Col (RTD) Ed Guthrie. Ed was not only the staff man for Sullivan on this file but has since his second retirement, Sullivan called him back to be the AAR guy for 13 years after he had retired, has gone on to make a substantive difference at BP. It was in speaking directly to Ed that we began to see that finding ways to shift the culture were not enough. There was another step that we had missed. Unless you then change the main operational doctrine, you are still bridging two worlds - you are not in the new yet.