Academic journal article Military Review

Leading and Managing High-Performing Army Organizations

Academic journal article Military Review

Leading and Managing High-Performing Army Organizations

Article excerpt

Everyone wants to be a part of a high-performing organization. The difference is clear the moment you join one. People are motivated and purposeful, pride and morale are high, and things of importance are being effectively accomplished. High-performing teams and organizations are focused on their goals and typically far outperform similar outfits. What is the common denominator for high-performing organizations? The presence of great leadership and management.

The Army prides itself on its ability to provide inspired leadership. Dozens of books are written and thousands sold yearly on the merits of military leadership. But, to create and maintain a high-performing organization, both leadership and management must be present. Art and science? Yin and yang? Whatever the analogy, leadership without management is impaired by the lack of an enduring focus, while management without leadership feels mechanical and is unable to produce impressive results. Good leadership can be likened to the ability to recognize that a soldier deserves an award upon departure, while effective management ensures the soldier receives the award before he or she departs.

If a leader mismanages an organization, then that leader puts the people and organization in a position to fail. Leadership and management are two sides of the same coin. Separating the functions, for example, in an arrangement where the commander practices leadership while a deputy provides management is imperfect; to achieve levels of high performance, all the top leaders in the organization must employ both qualities simultaneously and seamlessly.

Army Management

As mentioned, volumes have been written about Army leadership, but leadership by itself is insufficient; it also takes effective management to yield extraordinary results. So, where is the reference on how to manage in the Army, especially when it comes to large, complex organizations? Interestingly, the word "management" is absent from Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22, Army Leadership. In fact, it is generally missing from all Army doctrine and reference publications. Indications are that it was downplayed as a visceral reaction to the perception that certain leaders attempted to "over-manage" Army formations in the Vietnam War. (1) Hence, training is provided to leaders on the basic management functions necessary to operate at the company or battalion level, such as developing a training plan or managing a unit maintenance program. Yet, after that point in their careers, Army leaders receive little education in management techniques. The management skills they must employ in succeeding at more complex assignments at brigade level and beyond are generally acquired either through self-development or observation. Unfortunately, what Gen. Don Starry wrote in 1974 while serving as the commanding general of Fort Knox, Kentucky, is largely still true today:

   Army officers are not very good managers.
   For example, I'm the mayor of the third
   or fourth largest city in Kentucky, with an
   annual operating budget of over $100 million.
   Nothing in my background, except my
   three years in ACSFOR (Assistant Chief
   of Staff for Force Development), equipped
   me adequately to hold this job. And I'm
   trying to straighten out a lot of pretty bad
   situations left me by some great guys who
   preceded me but who, like me, really hadn't
   been trained for the job. (2)


The gaps in our leaders' knowledge of management are not limited to military officers. In a 2016 survey conducted at the Army's civilian professional development school, the Army Management Staff College, General Schedule 14- and 15-level students surveyed reported their number one professional gap was in business acumen. (3) The significance of this shortfall in business and managerial acumen is growing as the Army must adapt to reduced funding and the accompanying requirement to make the most of available resources to maintain readiness. …

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