Enlightened Conflict

believing in something is powerful enough

July 7th, 2017

 

ideas dream make fly people think believe imagine educate

 

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“We are tossed about by external causes in many ways, and like waves driven by contrary winds, we waver and are unconscious of the issue and our fate.’

 

We think we are most ourselves when we are most passionate, whereas it is then we are most passive, caught in some ancestral torrent of impulse or feeling, and swept on to a precipitate reaction which meets only part of the situation because without thought only part of a situation can be perceived.”

 

Will Durant

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“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.

Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

 

—-

Golda Meir

 

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So.

 

good bad idea battle for path businessIt would be an understatement to say that the number of ways a leader can lead are so numerous it would most likely take a book to explain them all <and people have certainly tried>. Trying to simplistically suggest “this is the way to lead” is … well … simplistic tripe.

 

It would be an understatement to say that the number of ways a leader can articulate an idea for people to rally around and follow are so numerous it would most likely take a book to explain them all <and people have certainly tried>. Trying to simplistically suggest “this is the way to share ideas in a meaningful way” is … well … simplistic tripe.

 

That said.

 

Today I will talk about leaders and ideas and articulating ideas … let’s call it “the business idea” leadership challenge.

 

For those of us who have had the fortune, or misfortune, of walking the halls of management in business we have all crossed paths with all the scary tactics and rhetoric associated with leaders who cannot articulate an idea if they actually tried <and most do try>.

 

These are the leaders who do not really have the ability to articulate an idea well enough for the idea to gain traction and be implemented.

 

it exists truth example life ideas business

……………….. the idea ………………….

I sometimes believe what makes a good leader is the ability to articulate an idea so that <a> people can grasp it, <b> people can envision it as “something” tangible enough to want to hold it and <c> people can attach some emotional connection to it <ranging from ‘I believe’ to ‘passion’>. But many leaders just struggle with idea articulation and use a variety of tricks to present an idea in a way that encourages people to … well … believe in the idea.

 

To be clear.

This is more a discussion of the psychology of managing employees … let’s call it “believing management” more so than motivating employees.

 

This is more about unlocking employees – unlocking potential. I mention potential because that is what ideas do … they are like a powerful chip inserted into people which energizes, focuses and drives individuals <and inevitably the organization itself>.

 

And because of all of what I just said there are a variety of ways to create some energy behind ‘believing’ in an idea.

 

Us versus them.

War analogies wherein those who don’t believe in our idea are ‘enemies.’

The narrative behind the idea always seems to have a “good versus evil” aspect.

 

 

Two thoughts on that.

 

  1. Selective tactical ‘good versus evil’ leadership is appropriate. Sometimes you need to give an organization some “oomph” <a technical organizational behavior term> and this is an easy way to create some energy around the idea.

 

 

  1. Being reliant on “us versus them” narrative is lazy leadership. Yes. Counterpoints always provide some contrast which permits some clarity, however, an idea should be able to stand on a blank page in a blinding spotlight and create enough ‘belief’ in that idea that people will want to fill the blank white space simply because they want to … they choose to … not because they ‘have to.’

 

 

people crowd ideas together friends waitbutwhyBad leaders misunderstand leading with an idea.

 

They always feel like they have to have an enemy which the idea has to slay. Or they feel like they have to divide so that their idea looks bigger.

They have it wrong. And dangerously wrong.

 

Good ideas power up on their own. Good ideas have a size to stand up to … well … any size idea out there.

 

Good ideas encourage people to go out and evangelize not destroy or kill or attack. The belief in the idea, in and of itself, is enough to make people go out … sometimes attack bad ideas, more often defend the idea and all the time presents the idea as some desirable thing that anyone in their right mind should want.

 

I have always believed that if you have a good idea, and you have people who believe in that good idea, you shouldn’t worry about competition or naysayers & doubters but rather focus all your energy on … well … showcasing the energy of the idea.

 

Now.

To be sure.

 

If you talk with enough people who have managed groups & companies and you will notice that at some point someone will bring up “I have to be a psychologist.”

 

To be clear.

 

Do business managers have to be psychologists to be effective? No. not really.

But playing the psychologist role on occasion certainly doesn’t hurt.

 

I am chuckling. I am fairly sure what I am discussing has some high falutin’ organizational behavior ‘management principles’ published and formal white papers with long esoteric discussions on employee personality types and some personality testing voodoo and lots of ‘how to energize organizations’ crap.

 

Anyway.

 

Most good managers clearly understand that different people are motivated by different things and that different things can inhibit the potential of each employee.

 

Suffice it to say, in my mind, once you move past trying to motivate a specific individual one-on-one it really all comes down to one basic management principle: the idea.

intangibe idea yet to be future business

 

 

Simplistically every leader’s objective is always to free your employee to be their best and do their best. But sometimes this means stripping something away … and sometimes this means adding something … and it always means giving them something to believe in <not just do or ‘fight’>.

 

More often than not while you are leading your organization you invest gobs of energy focused on the pragmatic ‘here is what you need to do’ underpinnings crap which keeps everybody focused on the shit that keeps the doors open in the business every day.

 

But, at some point, you have to energize the attitude.

And that is where “idea” comes in. This isn’t really a vision … this is the idea of who and what the company is and the ‘belief’ which is kind of the unseen glue which makes “one, out of many.”

 

This idea is a heuristic management tool because while leading people certainly can contain some aspects of ‘enthusiasm management’ one of the most basic leader self-survival techniques you learn <or you will die> is how to manage without too much investment of self. Therefore I have always viewed “the idea” strategy think anger angry business ideas filteras the compass AND engine for the true potential of the organization.

 

Yeah.

 

As a manager you always hunker down on the pragmatic aspects of what needs to be done first.

 

Always.

 

It is kind of your heuristic trick to assess any attitudinal challenges to getting the frickin’ pragmatic aspect done.

 

But you always keep an eye, and an ear, open during the pragmatic ‘whether the shit will actually get done … and done as well as it can be done’ for the employee’s, and organization’s, idea ‘belief factor.’

 

And while Belief can come in all shapes & sizes & behaviors one thing remains constant … make the idea tangible and anyone can see it <rather than have it be some nebulous thing they have to define in their own heads>.

 

And it can get even tricky.

 

Tricky because the same employee who was bursting with blind belief one day will be the same employee sitting in front of you the next day discussing a completely different project or task … semi-frozen in ‘belief doubt’ or ‘belief confusion.’

 

Look.

 

The fundamentals of effective management are pretty much the same everywhere.

 

But, ‘idea belief management’ can, unfortunately, sometimes take a fine subtle touch … and most of us everyday leader schmucks aren’t always subtle.

Therefore, we tend to lean on “us versus them” and “we are at war” to create some sense of “we must defend this idea” rather than instilling the idea, of the idea itself, as thoughtful rabbit idea quick slowhaving value even in times of ‘non-war.’

 

Ok.

 

I imagine I wrote this not to offer any “how to” guide to anyone. I wrote it because I just saw someone aggressively and darkly outline a world in which the business idea was under attack and attempted to drive belief in the idea through ‘threat’ rather than ‘inner belief.’

 

And as I watched I thought “this person has no idea how to articulate an idea in a way that the idea itself exudes energy in and of itself.”

 

As I watched I thought “this person doesn’t understand that ideas don’t need enemies to be meaningful and powerful … believing in something is power in and of itself.”

 

Look.

 

I have different expectations for different levels of leaders and I certainly understand that when presenting or communicating things you gotta deal with what is in front of you and get shit done and get the best out of your employees. And sometimes you do whatever it takes in the context of the situation.

 

But.

And this is a big but.

 

A business cannot always be at war in order to justify, and formalize, the idea it idea think explode expandbelieves in. The idea, in and of itself, should be good enough … and articulated well enough … to be powerful enough for people to just believe in it.

 

I am not suggesting this is easy … but that is what separates a good leader from a crappy leader …the ability to make the most of an idea by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

 

I imagine my real point is we should all be wary of the leader who can only articulate an idea through an ‘us versus them narrative’ or a divisive tone.

Why?

 

Because they are either lazy or they don’t know their shit.

 

the non decline of American military

May 29th, 2017

military cemetery

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“Those who worry about an American military supposedly in decline should relax.”

 

—–

Michael O’Hanlon and David Petraeus

 

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U.S. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley:

 

“the US Army … more capable, better trained … and more lethal than any other ground force in the world.”

 

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“Neither our strategy nor our psychology as a nation and certainly not our economy must become dependent upon the military establishment.”

 

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John F. Kennedy

 

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Ok.

 

heroes memorial-dayOn Memorial Day, a day on which we honor the ones who gave ‘their full measure of devotion’, I pulled out a piece that has been sitting in my draft folder for quite some time.

 

It is a thought piece on the rhetoric and thinking on the overall decline of the American military as well as some of the simplistic thoughts being shared on the spending and size of the American military.

 

I will not provide gobs of resources to support my thoughts but rather I will direct you to two foundational resources if you want some more thinking fodder.

The first is www.warontherocks.com . If you ever want to get a better grasp on military thinking & strategy, I find no one better than the people at WarontheRocks at offering a wide range of thinking, and thinkers, to help you move beyond the simplistic politician rhetoric.

The second is a fabulous piece written for Foreign Affairs magazine by Michael O’Hanlon and David Petraeus called America’s Awesome Military.

 

Anyway.

 

I can honestly say I have always had a point of view with regard to how much the USA spends on its military and I absolutely believe in spending on the military and defense.

100%.

 

But I sometimes believe we need to get a grip.

 

Now.

 

Politicians, Trump in particular, seems to have a nasty habit of tying spending to old school military things and thinking – lots of big ships, lots of people in uniform and lots of big weapons <and cool ones>.

always more and more life desire

Basically it is just a ‘more & big’ spending strategy.

 

But if you listen or speak to military people there are some real nuanced discussions going on – what do I actually need money to spend on and what strategies of combat do I need to invest money to support?

 

There are some real debates within the military with regard to spending to support the present and spending to support the future. I wish politicians would just step aside and let the military go directly to the people and say “this is what matters and this is how much it would cost” <with none of that wacky politician budget maneuvering and fake low ball estimating where we end up accommodating overages>.

 

I wish that because a couple of military commanders, Petraeus in particular along with Michael O’Hanlon, have put a nice stake in the ground with regard to some spending truths.

 

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Despite five years of official complaints about “sequestration” budgets, U.S. military spending remains historically high. In 2016, U.S. military spending will be $607 billion, including $59 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, the fund that ostensibly finances wars but also funds non-war (or base) accounts. Barring a new budget deal, the fiscal year 2017 budget, now stuck in Congress, will be virtually the same size.

 

In real (inflation-adjusted) dollars, Americans spend more on the military today than at any point in the Cold War, except the brief peaks during the Korean War and the 1980s. Current military spending is 36 percent higher in real terms than in 2000, with two-thirds of the growth in base spending. The United States spends more than double what Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea collectively spend on their militaries.

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Their real point is that the military doesn’t necessarily need a bigger budget but rather they need money to update & upgrade.

And here is where I believe politicians are showing a true lack of imagination.

 

Year after year we haggle over annual budgets and all we end up doing is funding a great military operation in need of investment spending.

That’s stupid.

 

what-i-think-i-can-do-mind-over-matterWhat would I do?

 

Just as I would have done with the Iraq War <but Bush decided to not do> I would go to the American people with a specific number needed and a specific one-time tax to get the money. I would treat the upgrade need as a specific project with specific objectives for which the military will offer specific updates to the American people showing what their money is being spent on and what is happening.

 

Why do I believe that will work?

 

  1. The current budget is big enough. I may be interested in tightening the screws a little on current Pentagon budget management but, in general, they have enough money. Tell the people that because it sounds reasonable.

 

 

  1. People are fine with paying one-time costs … especially for something as important as the military. In addition it sets the military up for future “ask American people for specific project funding” asks. And you know what? if people cannot be convinced to invest in it maybe, just maybe, the military should go back to the drawing board. but I have to tell you … in my experience … the senior military personnel are better than 99% of business people at outlining needs & wants and rationale.

 

 

  1. To a certain extent the military should involve the everyday people more often. We often talk about the wealth inequality gap in America, well, there is an increasing gap between military and everyday people. Military people, and families, and associated services are becoming increasingly cocooned. This does not benefit the military nor does it benefit the everyday citizen. Both groups are made up of some incredibly patriotic people who have the best intentions for America … it would behoove America if they interacted more often.

 

 

  1. Lastly, military strategies are changing. And while my idea is about budgeting and asking for money it bleeds into the military sharing with people how conflicts will be conducted. This benefits both the military and the everyday schmuck like me. it sets better expectations and stops people from defining military by movies and past military historical events.

 

 

Now.

 

I brought up that last point because WarontheRocks had a fabulous piece on “the three things the current Army Chief of Staff wants you to know about the Army and the changing face of conflicts/war.”

 

The biggest thing that jumped out to me was actually a business idea <described in military terms>. I call it “controlled autonomy” <driving disciplined decision making in a business as close to the actual business itself> but the Army Chief of Staff called it “disciplined disobedience.”

 

Wow.

What a great fucking phrase.

Awesome.

 

But it also has budgetary repercussions <you need to train and recruit different types of soldiers>.

And the everyday schmuck like me needs to hear about this so I can better understand why the military needs a specific budget.

doing the right thing bravery

Milley offers several fabulous thoughts which impact funding.

 

Mobility versus static <not just troop movement but supplies, command posts & resources – “stand still and die” is the overriding thought>.

At the point of conflict ‘disciplined disobedience’ skill set.

Ability to adapt shifting necessary resources <air, ground, support & naval> in real time.

 

All of which suggest that monies need to be shifted to accommodate strategies.

 

All of which also suggest that U.S. military spending is partially high because U.S. security ambitions are broad AND the strategies are evolving but not evolved <this suggest inefficiencies>.

 

What do I mean? For example … quick strike & response is dictated by proximity and if you see threats everywhere then … well … you need to be everywhere with enough force to be meaningful.

 

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A strategy of restraint would serve the United States better. By narrowing the scope of what U.S. security requires, restraint would establish a true “defense” budget. Though cost savings are secondary to strategic benefits, a military budget premised on restraint would save substantially more than hunting “waste, fraud, and abuse,” a common method of finding military savings. Waste hunters implicitly endorse primacy by objecting only to what offends their sense of sound management: overruns in acquisition programs, failed projects in war zones, or research projects with foolish titles. The Pentagon’s efficient pursuit of unwise goals is a far richer target for cuts.

<source: WarontheRocks>

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Once again … we have the resources, we have the trained soldiers … the military doesn’t need complete overhaul but rather some fine tuning <source: America’s Awesome Military>:

 

  • The condition of most weaponry compares well with that of the Reagan era. For example, most Army vehicles have “mission capable rates” exceeding 90%. To be sure, there are concerns, for example in certain helicopter fleets. Problems that exist are specific, not systemic.

 

 

  • Training is still recovering from the stresses and strains of recent years. The ground forces in particular, after so many years conducting counterinsurgency, are gradually restoring their abilities for large-scale maneuver warfare of the type vital to deter Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, among others. About two more years will be needed to complete the task. But the recovery path is now well charted and well funded.

 

 

  • The men and women of the U.S. military, though tired and strained, have never been finer. That is not a simple statement of patriotism. The data back it up. For example, today’s typical serviceman or servicewomen has even more experience in uniform than those of Reagan’s day. Military pay is solid, compared with jobs in the civilian economy. For example, the latest quadrennial review of military compensation calculated that the typical soldier, sailor, airman, airwoman or Marine earns more than about 85% of his or her civilian cohorts with comparable age, education and experience in overall compensation.

 

 

  • The defense budget, though itself not proof of quality, is high by historical standards. Counting combat operations as well as nuclear weapons accounts at the Energy Department (but not counting the Department of Veterans Affairs budget, which is separate), national defense now costs America slightly more than $600 billion a year. That compares with a Cold War average of about $525 billion, in inflation-adjusted 2016 dollars. It is at least three times China’s budget and six to eight times Russia’s. And those much-pilloried U.S. allies collectively budget about an additional $600 billion between them, meaning that the Western alliance system accounts for at least two-thirds of global military spending.

 

obama military stand up for the uniform politicsLet me summarize all the detail I shared <because I dint think everyone would go to the highlighted article.

 

Setting aside all the rhetoric … the US armed forces display high standards of professionalism, expertise, and experience. As Michael O’Hanlon and David Petraeus said in America’s Awesome Military:

 

———————

The United States has the best military in the world today, by far. U.S. forces have few, if any, weaknesses, and in many areas—from naval warfare to precision-strike capabilities, to airpower, to intelligence and reconnaissance, to special operations—they play in a totally different league from the militaries of other countries. Nor is this situation likely to change anytime soon, as U.S. defense spending is almost three times as large as that of the United States’ closest competitor, China, and accounts for about one-third of all global military expenditures—with another third coming from U.S. allies and partners.

 

Nevertheless, 15 years of war and five years of budget cuts and Washington dysfunction have taken their toll. The military is certainly neither broken nor unready for combat, but its size and resource levels are less than is advisable given the range of contemporary threats and the missions for which it has to prepare. No radical changes or major buildups are needed.

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“We have what we need, but we need every dollar, every training event, every person.”

 

———

Col. Robert Whittle, 1st Cavalry Division

 

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Now.

 

Politicians posture. That is what they do <no matter how misguided it is>.military respect salute

 

But we need to stop talking about military not only in last generation terms but also in a discrete way … what I mean by that is the United States has many resources to draw on beyond its military forces. The country’s high-tech and innovative sectors are the best in the world. It has solid economic fundamentals, including a gradually growing population base, the world’s best univer­sities, and a large market at the center of global finance and commerce.

 

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“We know already that computers are mightier than guns. We know that the new opportunities reside in the campuses of the scientists, rather than in the camps of the army.”

—-

Shimon Peres: May 1994, at the signing of the Gaza-Jericho Accord

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And, assuming the current administration does not dismantle it, the United States leads a globe-spanning system of alliances and partnerships that includes some 60 countries, collectively accounting for two-thirds of global economic output and military capacity.

 

Look.

 

Feel free and visit some of the resources I have provided. You will clearly find some incredibly smart military minds discussing what strategy & tactics look like in the future. Most discussion revolves around mobility, instant adaptability, ability to integrate with nation coalition forces, divesting force structure <remove some land bases and use increase navy as ‘moving platforms’ to deliver & deploy … which allows substantial savings in personnel, operations and maintenance, intelligence, and real estate costs> and the combination of combat & stability operations <post combat>.

 

They clearly recognize that the world looks different as does military response needs.

 

And all of that impacts budget needs beyond the simplistic “more ships, more planes and bigger stuff” arguments.

 

Lastly.

NATO.

 

Geez.

At some point I would either like Donald J Trump to have a NATO 101 lesson or simply let DOD secretary Mattis handle it.

 

Bottom line is that there is a relationship between what other members invest in their defense and what USA invests. But it isn’t ‘their money versus our money.’

 

Their investments eliminate the need for USA resources … that is the soldier dad youre-home-safe_largerelationship. They spend more and we can spend less <make some cutbacks>.

 

And you know what? Obama was able to squeeze out a promise to increase their own expenditures 4 years ago and … well … as Mattis just said: “And the bottom line is that nations are spending more on defense now than they were five years ago or ten years ago”.

 

The whole NATO discussion out of Trump’s mouth wanders between crazy ignorant and crazy grandstanding.

And the worst part is that uncertainty with NATO impacts budgetary needs.

 

Anyway.

 

On this memorial Day I want to suggest we need to provide the proper resources to our military … but that doesn’t necessarily mean just throwing money at them. In today’s world I want money to chase smart thinking. And, as I have already said, peruse the military minds around the country and we have the smart thinking … we just need politicians to get out of the way.

 

Enlightened Conflict