Magazine article Army

The Hard Sell: How to Get People to Accept New Methods of Management

Magazine article Army

The Hard Sell: How to Get People to Accept New Methods of Management

Article excerpt

Man does not easily accept changes in accustomed ways of doing things. The general staff system, for example, was forced upon the Army over bitter opposition. Today, there are many in the service who are skeptical about the Army Command Management System.

This resistance to management and administrative change is difficult to understand in light of the eagerness with which the Army seeks technological innovations. New vehicles and new weapons are the accepted pattern of things. No one gives a second thought to the discarded items, for in technology there can be no adherence to tradition or emotional ties of the past. This is because in technology we can easily measure the advantages of the new over the old.

Changes in management philosophy are not so easily evaluated. The advantages of a new management system may be apparent only at the national level. The individual at the installation, on the other hand, can see only the added costs required to develop data and reports which may be of little value to him and his associates. No one has bothered to explain to him the reason for the change, and so for a great variety of personal reasons he cannot accept the new concepts.

It would seem appropriate at this time, when so many new business tools and techniques are being introduced into the Army, that we examine what is necessary to get commanders, troops and civilian employees to accept advanced management and necessary administrative changes.

First, we should look at the elements essential for acceptance; second, the factors that influence resistance; and third, some means of preventing or decreasing opposition.

Our military installations cannot be managed by dispatching the customary five-paragraph field order. The principles of leadership are the same, but you cannot effectively administer a post of 40,000 troops, civilian employees and dependents in the same manner as you would direct a corps attack.

It takes more than an SOB

The basic difference between tactical operations and management is the degree and frequency with which command is applied to the situation. In both operations, the leader must get things done through people. In a tactical situation, he depends upon the disciplined execution of his orders. The overriding principle of timing, which governs surprise, movement and mass, permits little opportunity in combat for lengthy discussions and explanations. The individual must be responsive to the will of the commander immediately and without question. He must be prepared to sacrifice his life, if need be, to advance the objectives of his unit. And so, as one of our combat leaders has said, "When they have a tough job, they send for an SOB." This is sometimes necessary in management, even in industry and business. Usually, however, the alert leader in a nontactical situation should have few emergencies and little need for issuing autocratic orders. He places greater reliance on understanding and acceptance of what has to be done.

In following this thought through, it is significant that even in battle, real authority comes from below rather than from the top. A company commander has the built-in authority of his rank and position, but his men will follow only if he enjoys their respect and acceptance, which is the real authority. And so, directing action by issuing an order does not necessarily assure its execution. The order may be misunderstood, in which case it cannot accomplish what the leader wants. Or, in fact, it may be understood, but if it is not fully accepted it will not be efficiently and effectively carried out. This is true, of course, in battle as well as in management.

How to win subordinates and influence opinions

Proceeding from this premise, it is apparent that any change involves carefully prepared action by the leader and favorable reaction by those who must get things done. Accordingly, it is not enough to conceive a new idea. …

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