Sunday, August 17, 2014

Testing Future Concepts of War






This post continues the Twitter based professional conversation between military leaders in the United States and faculty and students at Kings College in London. If you’re interested in participating just “tweet” your response with #CCLKOW

In February 2013, Lieutenant General (then Major General) McMaster spoke at the Maneuver Ball at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. During his remarks, he said leaders needed to develop their own personal theories of war .He challenged the leaders in the room to study the various theories of war in order to better understand them and to also compliment our study with professional discussion which will help to challenge and refine our own personal theories as they develop. 

So how do we as a military organization (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) challenge our theories and refine “organizational” thinking?

In the book “Seeing What Others Don’t”  Gary Klein lists flawed beliefs as one of several reasons we miss insights. He gives several examples of researchers and analysts that were resistant to new data missing key insights that led others to develop a new and correct understanding of the problem they were working on.

Organizations also have flawed beliefs and are good at ignoring data that they see as problematic and threatening. Thus,as the military prepares for future conflict, how are concepts of war tested and validated?

In his article titled Military Innovation Through ‘Brilliant Mistakes’ Andrew Hill writes that “..the Army should be relentless in identifying emerging gaps as it prepares for future conflict” and calls this “anomaly seeking”. He goes on to state that every wargame, and simulation that involves other nations and adversaries,  presents an opportunity to discover an anomaly. However,  he cautions, “..All of that is pointless if we have not determined what information would cause us to question our assumptions.”.

That brings us to the questions for discussion:

How can army leaders create conditions that are conducive for individuals to challenge our current assumptions about war and warfare?

What are some of the different ways the Army can explore new ideas and concepts of war that challenge current capabilities?

 For more on this topic I encourage readers to check out:


Jonathan Silk is a Major in the U.S. Army. He has served as a Cavalry Scout platoon leader , and has commanded both a Tank Company and an Infantry Company. He is currently an Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at the United States Army Military Academy, West Point, NY. He was a recipient of the calendar year2009 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.
 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Promoting Entrepreneurship in Organizations

Continuing the Twitter based professional conversation between military leaders in the United States and faculty and students at Kings College in London, This week’s topic is Entrepreneurship and how to develop and promote entrepreneurship in organizations. If you’re interested in participating just “tweet” your response with #CCLKOW



To kick it off I will use Professor Howard Stevenson's definition from this HBR blog post by Thomas Eisenmann   "Entrepreneurship: A Working Definition": "entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled."


 
The motivation for fostering entrepreneurship in an organization entirely depends on who the leader or stakeholders are. We would like to think that the motivation to promote entrepreneurship would be out of service to the organization, but fact is, many stakeholders must benefit for it to be sustainable and not everyone's motivations are "selfless" in nature.

Building on the premise that in an organization, members will be willing to develop new concepts if they are given adequate support, a leader’s role is to encourage and create an environment for the free flow of ideas, which can lead to new innovations. In entrepreneurship, ideas are a dime a dozen, so leaders must also be able to influence others in order to acquire more resources than they control in order to develop and implement the best ideas generated.

The #CCLKOW weekly discussion is one example of entrepreneurship in action. It started with professionals looking for a new platform to connect leaders in conversation since most, if not all, DOD organizations require users to have CAC access to participate in discussion forums. Not every defense/leadership/strategy topic needs that level of restriction. The firewall and CAC-access serve as barriers to conversation and the flow of new ideas.

Another example is from when I commanded a tank company in a Combined Arms Battalion  in Korea during the 2007-2008 timeframe. During this time, Korea was a resource constrained environment because the priority was Iraq & Afghanistan. We were only able to maneuver our tanks and other equipment during Battalion and Brigade-level training exercises. To conduct company level training I turned to the Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT) and utilized it in a way it had not been used previously. My company conducted a 5-day exercise in simulation and we were able to replicate many of the conditions of a traditional training exercise. There were numerous other examples of “entrepreneurship” in our unit and this was largely due to the support my fellow company commanders and I had from our battalion commander.

Of course, not all leaders are entrepreneurial. In fact, some trap their subordinates in "conventional thinking" and do not allow for the free expressions of ideas, or they kill ideas by playing the role of the “Devil’s Advocate.”  In his book, “The Ten Faces of Innovation" , Tom Kelley describes the person who injects into a good, creative, free flowing discussion "Let me just play Devil's Advocate for a minute...". He goes on to discuss how this kills innovation by stopping discussion  " ...every day thousands of great new ideas, concepts, and plans are nipped in the bud by Devil's Advocates.”

This brings us to this week’s discussion questions:

- What are barriers to entrepreneurship in defense organizations or any organization in general?

- How do leaders encourage intellectual curiosity and promote an entrepreneurial spirit?

- How can the military get more entrepreneurial behavior from its members, and how can entrepreneurs inside a military organization act on their ideas, while minimizing risk to themselves and to their respective organizations?

 Respond using the hashtag #CCLKOW

Jonathan Silk is a Major in the U.S. Army. He has served as a Cavalry Scout platoon leader , and has commanded both a Tank Company and an Infantry Company. He is currently an Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at the United States Army Military Academy, West Point, NY. He was a recipient of the calendar year 2009 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Learning the Lessons of Experience at the Individual and Organizational Level


Continuing the Twitter-based Professional Discussion (#CCLKOW ) between military leaders in the United States and faculty and students at Kings College in London, we will be discussing how individuals and organizations learn from the lessons of experience. If you are interested in participating tweet your response using #CCLKOW (View previous Twitter chats here: https://twitter.com/hashtag/cclkow )
 

 
Learning from experience is the primary medium in which adults learn and develop professional competence. In his 1984 theory on Experiential Learning  David Kolb wrote  Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience and Ideas are not fixed immutable elements of thought but are formed and re-formed through experience.

How do we learn from experience?  Learning and growth results from constantly reorganizing and reconstructing ideas, and connecting them to the activity currently being engaged in. Kolb's experiential learning cycle demonstrates this through the  four processes of concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation displayed in the diagram of Kolbs Experiential Learning Cycle below.

 

One of my favorite books on experiential learning is the book "Lessons of Experience” by Morgan McCall. 
 
He writes It's one thing to make a list of lessons , quite another to master them. These lessons are not delivered with spellbinding clarity; they must be dug out of complex, confusing, ambiguous situations. Even when they are delivered up, they are tough to incorporate."


Carl Von Clausewitz wrote about  learning from experience in "On War " writing "The knowledge needed by a senior commander is distinguished by the fact that it can only be attained by a special talent, through the medium of reflection, study, and thought: an intellectual instinct which extracts the essence from the  phenomena of life, as a bee sucks honey from a flower."

With the war in Iraq now recent history and our current fight in Afghanistan about to end ,the expert war fighting knowledge  developed from all levels of war resides in the minds of the leaders who fought it. To learn everything we can from these wars it is critical that we reflect on our experiences in order to prepare for the future. Studying war through reflection and discussion hones our judgment and decision making skills. It makes sense to study the recent experiences of our military in combat as well as the historical ones.

The last twelve years has demonstrated that the environments we are fighting in are complex, ambiguous, dynamic and dangerous and the future environment looks to be the same.

That leads to the questions for this weeks discussion:

 How do we as leaders learn from our past experiences in war and prepare for the next set of experiences?

What  are the types of experiences we have to create in order to teach the lessons of experience to the next generation of leaders?

If knowledge is created from our experiences how do we make it available for others to use? What systems and processes are in place?

 Respond on Twtter using  #CCLKOW

Jonathan Silk is a Major in the U.S. Army. He has served as a Cavalry Scout platoon leader , and has commanded both a Tank Company and an Infantry Company. He is currently an Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at the United States Army Military Academy, West Point, NY. He was a recipient of the calendar year2009 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.

 
 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Leading Through Crucible Events


Continuing the Twitter-based Professional Discussion (#CCLKOW ) of the past four weeks, we will be discussing how individuals and organizations learn from failure in the context of a crucible experience.  Framing failure as a crucible, whether it be personal or organizational, can lead to incredible opportunities to learn, develop, increase effectiveness, and perform better than before the crucible.

A crucible is, by definition, a transformative experience through which an individual comes to a new or an altered sense of identity.

Crucible Overview: Everyone is tested by life, but only a few extract strength and wisdom from their most trying experiences. A crucible is, by definition, a transformative experience through which an individual comes to a new or an altered sense of identity.  Extraordinary leaders find meaning in, and learn from, the most negative events. Like phoenixes rising from the ashes, they emerge from adversity stronger, more confident in themselves and their purpose, and more committed to their work.
The Many Shapes of Crucibles:
Some Crucibles are violent and life-threatening; others are positive, yet profoundly challenging (such as demanding bosses or mentors).  Crucibles can  be any event where a person has faced great pressure, stress, and/or adversity of his or her life to date. Whatever the shape of the crucible, leaders create a narrative telling how they met the challenge and became better for it.

Bennis, Warren G, Thomas, Robert J. (2002) Crucibles of Leadership. Harvard Business Review, Crucibles of Leadership, Harvard Business Review, September 2002

If interested you can read the full article here

The diagram below depicts a crucible event. It was developed by former CALDOL Director, mentor, and friend COL Tony Burgess (http://www.tonypburgess.com/ ).  Referencing the diagram, an individual or organizations is operating and performing, and then suddenly something happens, a crucible moment occurs, and they find themselves at the bottom of the divide.




Crucible events create dissonance and confusion. We don't control them, they are unplanned, and can happen at any moment depending on market conditions, enemy situation, forces we can’t control, etc….

If failure is viewed as a crucible moment, then how do we react to the opportunity failure presents? Individuals or organizations have three options:

       Spiral out of control and do not recover from the crucible event
       Recover, but “Flat Line” and do not learn or develop from the experience
       Find meaning in, and learn from, the crucible experience


For organizations to persevere through crucible events, competent leaders are needed that understand the opportunity crucibles present.  These leaders must be able to plan to address the current circumstances but also demonstrate a readiness to quickly change and adapt thinking when it is not working. These types of leaders have to be developed and that is a topic for discussion below.


For discussion from a personal and organizational perspective:

#1:What happens when we fail? Make a mistake? Screw up? Go through a tough situation? That "crucible moment" can be a catalyst for our development if we choose to learn and grow and emerge on the far side better than when we started. How can we develop competent leaders capable of leading through these events?

#2:What happens when one of our subordinates or a subordinate unit fails or screws up?  What happens when a strategic mistake is made, when the enemy votes and does something different?  Can we help them frame the situation as a crucible/developmental moment?

Join the conversation using the hashtag #CCLKOW 



Jonathan Silk is a Major in the U.S. Army. He has served as a Cavalry Scout platoon leader , and has commanded both a Tank Company and an Infantry Company. He is currently an Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at the United States Army Military Academy, West Point, NY. He was a recipient of the calendar year 2009 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

Trials and Tribulations Translating Policy into Strategy


Two weeks ago, Kings of War joined the Professional Discussion of military affairs on Twitter. We are quite pleased to continue our participation in this endeavour, sparking and helping to moderate discourse on important topics and issues to defense and national security. We have begun well with participation on both sides of the Atlantic, primarily representing the Anglo-American armies and their interested scholaras. This is a great start, but we do wish to invite and welcome professional officers (active duty or retired but still concerned) and scholars from other services and nations to join the conversation. Finally, as for today’s post, I am very happy to introduce Dr. Huw Davies from KCL Defence Studies to Kings of War, particularly as he is bringing us back to the French and Indian, Peninsular, and Crimean Wars with timely and relevant cases and questions. — JSR
. . .
Continuing the Twitter-based Professional Discussion on military affairs and education, I’m this week suggesting we explore the relationship between the political and military levels, and how this impacts on command and priorities in war.
‘Tactics make the steps from which operational leaps are assembled: strategy points out the path’. Aleksandr Svechin (1878-1938) This is a phrase commonly used to encapsulate the relationship between the different levels of war. But in practice, it rarely appears this simple.
Through my own research, discussions at the UK’s Staff College and on Staff Rides with the British Army, I am constantly reminded that military commanders are frequently presented with vague or (sometimes and) contradictory objectives, that serve different political ends. To explore this in more detail, I will briefly describe three case studies from the century between c.1750 and c.1850. They’re all British (I’m a British military historian), but they all occur in different parts of the world, in somewhat different geo-strategic circumstances, and present commanders with different decisions and operational challenges.
1. British Strategy in the French & Indian War (1754-63)
This was in many ways an accidental war. It broke out as mutual fears over British and French expansion in North America spiralled out of control. The initial British war aims focussed on preventing French control of the Ohio Valley, and therefore establishing riverine access between Canada and Louisiana.
Within 3 years, the British war aim had clearly evolved from containing French expansionism, to eliminating the French imperial presence in North America. This was largely a response to the tactical and operational problems the British faced in North America: unable to defeat the French outright because of the logistical difficulties presented by the wilderness terrain in the Virginia and Pennsylvania back-country, they engaged in parallel tactical and strategic transformation.
At the tactical level, the British developed and refined the use of Light Infantry, and logistical depots to counteract the irregular threat posed by France’s Native American allies and the terrain. At the strategic level, the government drastically expanded the war effort to isolate French power and set the conditions for a three-pronged dismantlement of the French position in North America. Operations were launched against French strongholds in the Ohio Valley (1758), the Great Lakes region (1758-9), and the St Lawrence (1758-60).
The British commander on the ground, John Campbell, the Fourth Earl of Loudoun, made tremendous advances in transforming the British Army at the tactical level, but he could not keep-pace with the transforming strategic picture. Sacked in 1757, he was succeeded by his second in command, who was in turn replaced with General Jeffrey Amherst, who went on to achieve great strategic success with the army Loudoun had painstakingly reformed.
2. The Peninsular War (1808-14)
Commonly seen as a sideshow to the main party happening in Central Europe, the Peninsular War was nevertheless a huge strategic commitment for the British. Politically, the deployment of Wellington’s 40,000 British troops to the Iberian Peninsula absolved the government of its common characterisation as ‘Perfidious Albion’. Britain was no longer paying others to do its bidding in Europe, but was shedding her own blood in the fight against Napoleon.
But the deployment carried enormous risk. This was Britain’s only deployable field army, and if it was lost, British participation in the war against Napoleon would end. Therefore, Wellington was presented with four contradictory priorities. The first was the security of the British Army itself; second, the successful defence of Portugal; third, this invasion of Spain; and fourth (and only fourth), the outright defeat of France. Yet for the continued smooth-running of the campaign in political terms, all of these objectives had to be satisfied – a difficult prospect when the French army in Spain numbered in 1810 nearly 300,000, compared to the comparably meagre 80,000 Anglo-Portuguese troops Wellington had under his command.
Wellington adopted a long-term strategy, designed to weaken French strength by attriting his enemy whilst preserving his own force. Such a strategy sacrificed crowd-pleasing battles in favour of prolonged campaigns of attrition, a strategy that did not play well in results-focussed Whitehall. Similar concerns existed in the Spanish and Portuguese governments, whose countries were being laid waste to by occupying French forces. Only after four years (1808-12), was Wellington able to go decisively on the offensive, and brought his enemy to battle at Salamanca in July 1812, commencing a process that would result in the liberation of Spain by the end of 1813, and the defeat of France in 1814.
3. The Crimean War (1854-56)
Ostensibly a European War over the independence of the Ottoman Empire, this was in reality a conflict generated by British politicians with the aim of humiliating Russia, whom Britain had come to regard as a threat to her imperial possessions in South Asia. Central to the war effort, and frequently forgotten, was the destruction of Russian naval power in the Black Sea.
This is an example of a war where the commander was unable to translate strategic objectives into realisable operational and tactical goals. The British were in alliance with France and Austria, and when it came to attacking the Crimean Peninsula, Lord Raglan found it difficult to come to a sensible compromise with his French counterpart, Marshal Saint-Arnaud.
Raglan became bogged down in a lengthy and costly siege at Sebastopol, while the campaign as a whole cost the British 16,000 casualties (including Raglan himself). The French lost 75,000, mostly to disease. In strategic terms, the Crimean War was a success – Russian naval power in the Black Sea, and therefore the Mediterranean, was paralysed. Raglan’s main problem was that he lacked the political and strategic understanding that would have enabled him to explain to his political masters what an army, primarily interested until that point in colonial punitive operations, was capable of achieving.

Some questions for the professional discussion then:
How can military commanders anticipate changing strategic goals?
How can military commanders operationalize contrary strategic objectives?
Turn this around: how can military commanders successfully influence the strategic priorities of government?

Join the discussion at #CCLKOW


Monday, May 26, 2014

#ProChat Twitter Chat: Eureka moments


This weeks #Prochat is on Eureka moments. Regardless of the environment, for leaders who must regularly be "creative on demand", eureka moments are critical to being able to solve both complicated and complex problem sets.

For me personally, eureka moments have played an instrument role in my success in a myriad of positions: As Cavalry Scout platoon Leader in Iraq


As a Cavalry Scout Platoon Leader in Iraq

As an MBA candidate
As a Tank Company Commander in Korea working with South Korean forces
Analyzing data for a research project in graduate school
As an advisor to the Afghan National Police

However there are challenges to achieving "Eureka" moments. Some examples of these challenges include, working for or with leaders who aren’t open to outside the box thinking,  or trying to solve problems with rigid problem-solving processes.

"When you work on a problem continuously, you can become fixated on previous solutions. You will just keep thinking of the same uses for that piece of paper instead of finding new possibilities. "

Read this short (5 minute read) Harvard  Business Review blog post by David Burkus: @davidburkus on "How to Have a Eureka Moment" http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/03/how-to-have-a-eureka-moment/

Below are some questions for consideration to start the conversation:



What do you do to solve a problem in need of a eureka moment?

How do you lead your organization to practice divergent thinking to generate more ideas to solve critical problems?

 
Use the hashtag #Prochat to join the conversation (For previous Twitter chats read here and here)

Giddyup!!!!



Jonathan Silk is a Major in the U.S. Army. He has served as a Cavalry Scout platoon leader , and has commanded both a Tank Company and an Infantry Company. He is currently an Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at the United States Army Military Academy, West Point, NY. He was a recipient of the calendar year 2009 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kings of War and Francis Marion


Last week we had a Twitter chat on “Engineered Serendipity” and this week it was on how to defeat General Francis Marion in the American Revolution. We had fellow profesisonals from the British Army involved as well:
@DefenceResearch


The conversation started with a tweet linking to this post at the “Kings of War” blog at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London ( @KingsofWar  )  Read here: 



  and then the question How do you solve a problem like Francis Marion?

Several followers jumped into chat with @jsargentr facilitating the conversations and pressing participants for details on their answers.



I gave a couple of vague answers and got some great push back from @jsargentr (see picture below)

 
Overall it was a great professional conversation that challenged me to think how I would solve a counterinsurgency problem from the revolutionary war. The lessons from that war are relevant today and it is important we have professional dialogue about the study of war and warfare.

In the words of  @jsargentr "I like the idea that Americans are thinking about how to defeat a hero and Brits are revisiting a loss." 

So how would you defeat  General Francis “Zarqawi” Marion? Join the discussion on Twitter.  Search for hashtag #ProDiscussion

 Jonathan Silk is a Major in the U.S. Army. He has served as a Cavalry Scout platoon leader , and has commanded both a Tank Company and an Infantry Company. He is currently an Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at the United States Army Military Academy, West Point, NY. He was a recipient of the calendar year 2009 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.