And he has a snazzy new site since the last time I looked. I’m jealous. I hadn’t considered taking the time to make a top page image with blinking headlights…
July 3, 2004
Hugh Hewitt interviews the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs….
Hewitt: General Myers, I have very narrow question. A lot of us who use the internet for a living and blog for a living are interested in this. There are a lot of military bloggers out there. Individual active duty servicemen and women who put their thoughts, their impressions of their duty stations and the world around them on the internet on milblogs. Whatâ€™s your opinion of that? I love them. I hope you keep them, but whatâ€™s the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff think about those?
General Myers: You know, I donâ€™t see that many of them, but based on this conversation Hugh, I will see more of them (laugh). I think, you know, when you get to the four-star level, you fight to get information from the troops and you donâ€™t want to be a victim of just getting fed what the staff brings you every day. The way you work that is through the internet as you just mentioned or you visit places. You go to Iraq, you go to Afghanistan and you try and get down to the individual soldier, airmen, sailor, Marine level, coastguardsmen duty, civilian and look them in the eye and say, â€œHowâ€™s it going?â€ and establish enough rapport that theyâ€™ll tell you, and at my level itâ€™s a constant fight to make sure that you get the straight skinny. I think itâ€™s a good idea that I plug into some of those too in my spare time.
In this post I review a book and ruminate over something that’s had a hold on me for a while.
I just finished the book Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram. It was a tough read because I have been thinking about organizational change for a while.
So this guy Boyd has a little in common with Sun Tzu in that he redefined how to fight war. Boyd also has a little in common with John Nash, a mathematician who did amazing things with game theory and was a sincerely messed up dude in similar ways (see A Beautiful Mind for details). Boyd led a team that caused some organizational change.
The book is long overdue; one of Boyd’s peccadilloes is that he didn’t have any biography or allow one to happen, and another is that Boyd’s writing is frickin’ impossibly dense and tough to wade through. I can’t think the way his raw briefings are written; I would need to see it in the format Boyd used, the presentation. The book has a good elementary introduction to what in the world Boyd was going on about.
There are a few weak points about the book. The author got captured by Boyd’s followers. Normally that would make the book overly sympathetic, but what happened instead is that the narrative now fits the way the Acolytes of Boyd think. So you get some insight into how these guys saw the world, but don’t get the distance that might be useful in order to critique how they failed as well as succeeded. Another weak point is that the writing is a little klunky. Despite these flaws this was a book that was well worth my time.
—- topic shift —-
I worked in a small organization that caused change in a less confrontational manner, for a boss who wanted to cause change but didn’t want to pay the price others like Zumwalt had done. I also did a little studying of my own about changes. I spent a good chunk of time thinking Big Thoughts, reading things by Warren Bennis and Clay Christiansen’s book, asking petty questions of researcher Captain FitzSimonds, visiting every shipyard on the U.S. East Coast with some Really Smart People, and participating in a few little changes of my own. And I can’t figure out what Boyd’s followers could do to address the people issues that blocked the organizational changes they really were looking for; I think, from reading the biography, that they have a blind spot in understanding people that kept them from doing so. (As an example, I don’t see how Chuck Spinney could ever, at this point in his life, cause real and substantive change to occur in Pentagon procurement. I also can’t subscribe to Boyd’s either-or to do or to be choice, because there are counterexamples in the world.)
Now, however, I’m cut off at the knees in this organization and have no way to improve the submarine force (although I could become some Navy change agent for something small if I was on the right team). I guess I’m stuck thinking about this academically for a while longer until I have some more answers. If you’ve got any I’ll take ’em.
- Oh, geez. Meryl Yourish is begging for attention. And I thought she got lots more hits than I do.
- The Hudson Review (forgot who to hat tip) has a long but interesting article on several books by Europeans about America.
- The new WordPress software is pretty great stuff–and free, darn it; it warms my miserly little heart. Owen Winkler’s Exhibit was a bit tough to implement but does exactly what I needed it to do.
- I just got the new Speaking Canaries album. The short description of the band might be “a math rock Van Halen”. It’s a very good soundtrack for a little entirely-too-fast driving. The link is to their Scat Records site with a download .mp3. I love the label–original home of Guided by Voices, Cobra Verde, MDID, Nothing Painted Blue, and I know you’ve never heard of any of these but they rule and you’re missing out.
- Oh, man, Tom Barnett has a weblog. I guess he’s going on the ol’ blogroll over there on the right.
So here’s the begathon part of the post: I want more readers. I’m currently suffering from the summer doldrums, and my readership has hit a plateau.
he might write like this. I can’t really summarize the whole post because it’s got a beautiful rambling arc, so please go read the whole thing.
Today we found IEDs at our front gate, and went on a convoy. People were literally blowing kisses at the vehicles. Nothing like a reality check. Which will it be today? Bombs? Or the whole spectrum?
It was only a hundred today, but last night there was a three-quarter moon, and under it we ambushed one soldier who’d had a birthday that day. The mail clerk held onto his package, and we all trooped down the hallway to his room, Captain Grumpy in the lead. Captain Grumpy is the big, red-faced captain who likes to throw knives at the door when he’s bored, and whose sense of humor is so dry that people frequently hang their wet laundry next to him because it gets done faster. I had a day off before I went to Qatar—Qatar and a day off are items of equal importance because one expects them to happen with equal frequency around here—-and I was so happy about it that when I relieved him for lunch I got a bit chatty. He always does this thing where he hunches down behind his computer till all you see are furious-looking bushy eyebrows. As I chatted away with the outgoing chief, the eyebrows got more and more ferocious-looking, till they positively twitched with rage. (Except he never really gets angry; it’s just for show most of the time.)
This woman needs a writing job. Quicklike.