Friday, June 25, 2010

Read First, Then Opinionate: McChrystal

I know it's old news, McChrystal's gone, Petraeus is in now, yada yada yada. But did you read the article in Rolling Stone? Did you really? Here's a link--go read it if you haven't. Yes, it's 6 pages long, go take your Adderall or your Provigil and read it for pete's sake.

Now, think of this situation in terms of your own work. I think that is the best way to consider it, since at bottom, it really is a Human Resources/work/management issue. How much joking at the expense of management is going on? How much open disagreement? How much of either would you tolerate if it was you in charge? If you didn't get rid of someone, what would you do instead? Those are the considerations that President Obama had to undertake.

Now, of course it wasn't that simple. Other people reported, then offered opinions and advice. What was written by the Rolling Stone reporter was quoted to support one view or another, often out of context. What McChrystal said was often confabulated with statements made by his staff members. The whole thing rapidly became bigger then it really was. That is why you have to read the original article--to see the quotes and issues in context.

Now, Mr/Ms. CEO, what do you do with this really smart employee, this manager with documented successes, but an occasionally difficult personality and with more difficult personalities lurking on his staff, who has some differences with others in the company about strategies? That's the question that you have to ask. How much of this sort of orneriness do you want and/or tolerate among your people?

Here's my answer: If this had stayed in-house or if publicized, had not blown up way bigger than actual size, I might just ask the general to keep a better track on his staff, keep his own doubts private in the chain of communication, and ask what I could do better to help him in his work. With it blowing up the way it did, even though at bottom it was not that big a deal, it became a big deal. When it became this big deal, it began to create uncertainties about the top leadership. In that case, which is what happened in reality, I would reluctantly accept his resignation. When I did, I would take time to talk about what a great leader he was and how much success he created--that he has been and hopefully will be continue to be an asset to the country.

In all of this, we missed something of an opportunity--the opportunity to revisit our entire strategy in Afghanistan and consider whether or not we should be there at all. This could still happen as a change in leadership is always an opportunity for assessment.

PS: I did not forget about the Constitutional issues. The founding fathers placed civilian control over the military, for better or for worse. This is the frame we work under, and this is the frame I answered the question in. The President is the Commander and Chief. He is the CEO. The military is a division that while working quite independently at times, still in the end, reports to the POTUS. Together they work on plans and strategy and work out their differences. Together.


Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
First, I took your advice and read the article. Good for you--all of us blathering on w/o the primary source.

Unfortunately, page 4 doesn't show.
I am going to see if I can find the last known copy of Rolling Stone tomorrow.

Last of all, so far anyway, McChrystal sounds like a maverick operator. This is something in the U.S. we revere and joke about. "I managed to push it through despite the REMF" and so forth. This has its good points and its limitations.

If you are not going to play the political game, then you'd better shut your sycophants up. And you'd better not allow RS reporters into your Sit Room.

Some of his achievements sound smart. I have read of big American social excess there, so isolated on base, and whatever he did to shut that down is more than welcome. The Afghans are poor, desperate, and I think naturally parsimonious.

So keeping a low profile on our own extravagance is damn smart. On the other hand, stuff for our troops hasn't gotten all that much better, from reading other reports.

It's a big fat mess. I will return (like MacArthur) after I read the full!

Darn good post, my lady,
Ann T.

Capt. Schmoe said...

Here's the thing. The few words in the article that are actually from McChrystal and the multitude of those from his staff, indicate a deep rooted disdain of the Obama administration.

That in itself is not a problem, we all have worked for people we did not respect. The difference is, the media really doesn't care if Schmoe or The Observer don't think their bosses are competent.

Once the article was published and the media made it front page news, the president had no choice. Even McChrystal knew this and offered his resignation immediately.

There is some discussion out there that this is what McChristal wanted, he was tired of the whole show and wanted out.

Who knows.

the observer said...

Ann T:
Good start as usual--I have no idea why the article on line wouldn't load fully for you. Might try starting from scratch--from their home page.

Every time this sort of thing happens, I am somewhat amazed at the fact that reporters are let in any where!

The Observer

the observer said...

Capt Schmoe:
I agree 100%. Once this got out and was picked up and noticed, it was only a matter of time. It made Obama look weak, so McChrystal had to go.

Maybe he did want out and this is why he let the reporter in?

Great comment! Have a good weekend!