VADM Al Konetzni, Jr., (USN-Ret.) is moderating the above-mentioned panel this afternoon. Since many of you are unable to attend this panel, USNI Blog wants to hear from on this important topic. Fire away in the comments section. So, how do we? Inquiring minds want to know…

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Naval Institute, Navy

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Flashman

    I’ll take a shot at this…’s mostly about the mission.

    I’ve spent slightly more than 2 years in my naval career deployed. Slightly less than 2 years has be spent in combat zones – mostly in hot, dusty places. I came into the Navy with the intention of being in combat and I came of age in a time when our nation went to war. So, at every opportunity, I’ve chosen to deploy to combat.

    I will admit, I don’t care for a lot of things about Navy life. As a ‘sandbox sailor’, I feel disconnected from most of my senior leadership. I don’t care much for the bureaucracy, the sense of entitlement that seems to characterize senior enlisted and senior officers in the Navy (I’ll echo the experience of other folks who have dealt with the ‘STFU’ attitude from senior officers and enlisted….frankly, if you’re entitled to not listen to your troops, are you entitled to lead them? I digress…)

    So, what does it take to stick around? Easy — it’s the mission. I’ll keep going out if they let me. I’ll do spookier, harder, dirtier things. It’s not because it’s fun (I have a five year-old son…who likes to fish, play Legos, and throw a frisbee and my definition of fun these days are to do the things he likes to do). I’ll be glad to go. Leading and taking care of troops in war is the reason why we have officers and the reason I wanted to be an officer. It’s still the reason I’ll stay an officer.

  • Flashman

    So, how do we find people? Get back to the basics — it’s about the mission.

    The Navy was attractive to me in the 1990s because of the mission — worldwide deployments and worldwide readiness.

    How do we find people to promote? Get back to evaluating people with regards to the mission. Instill an appropriate yet rigorous qualification process for our warfighting communities, teach and lead people through the process, and separate the wheat from the chaff. But, we also have to first admit that there are chaff. There will always be chaff….

    Finally, quit the egalitarian B.S. I’ve found the military to be extraordinarily egalitarian. How many officer ranking boards are ‘fixed’ on the basis of lineal number and PRD? It’s impossible to recognize merit when we systematically default to an egalitarian sense of evaluation. True – there’s a bell curve and a lot of folks do a satisfactory job. But why are all officers eventually ‘EPs’? I think it’s a misplaced sense of egalitarianism. Take a good hard look at the selection processes of very intense, very successful special operations units such as Delta and SAS. These are not very egalitarian organizations in terms of how they view selection, although they tend to take a comprehensive, ‘whole-person’ view through evaluation of personnel. I think the first step is to get real with ourselves: nothing will ever beat smart hard training, combined with honest evaluations, deliberate feedback, and continual reinforcement of the mission.

  • WTH

    Discalimer: I’m a SWO and this only reflects that side of things.

    I’m with Flashman. We are wasting opportunities based on our arbitrary career time lines. I want to go play in the mud and eat snakes as they say. I can’t do that, I have to go mainstream SWO, 3 out of 4 tours.

    I want to be operational, it’s where I feel valued, the folks doing that are not always mainstream SWOs. Right now, on my shore duty, I don’t matter. Going back to sea from here, my direct contributions will depend on things I have no control over.

    Yes there is a balance to be struck between running people into the ground and allowing people to recharge so they can come back to operate, I won’t deny that. We often do not allow people to go do what they may be best at and still burn them out.

    From my perspective, there is one massive issue we’re missing:
    encourage and listen to feedback from JO’s. JO’s now are some of the most experienced folks in the Navy WRT a lot of issues. Right now JO’s have no real feedback mechanism. We can write Proceedings articles that may or may not be published and then may or may not be listened to, aside from that we can push through our CoC or try to influence the discussion at places like this. Yes a lot of us are young and lack the breadth of experience that our seniors do. That does not mean we do not know anything. We can help the Navy from the ground up if you listen and let us.

    Lots of JO’s see ways ahead and can do nothing about them. The ROI of one Flag engaging JO’s outside the CoC for ideas, and encouraging those ideas, could be massive. There are tons of pent up possibilities.

    Engage these people, and for the title of this post, develop them. Possible future leaders are leaving in droves because they perceive that they can do nothing to change the system.

  • It is hard to be a good leader when you are shackled with nonsense. Many of the traits that make a good leader are traits that will get you fail selected in today’s Navy. Bull Halsey never would have made five stars if we had stayed at peace in the ’40s. Today, he might not have ever made LCDR. In a war, you need Morlocks – right now, we’re promoting Eloi. You want to develop leaders? Give people an actual incentive to be leaders.

  • CF

    How do we find good leaders? Good leadership would recognize future good leaders.

    In my almost 50 years of being involved with the Navy, one thing has become clear to me – bad leadership promotes future bad leaders – and this is especially true on the civilian side of the Navy. Poor leaders (managers, if you will) are threatened by people below them that can actually lead other people forward to a goal by simply being a decent human and making informed, fact based decisions. A threat that could expose your weak leadership skills is to be crushed, not promoted. Management by intimidation may get the job done, but it will only get just get it done. Honest leadership through strong character, and genuinely giving a rat’s rear-end for your people, will get the job done with excellence, and has the added benefit of those you lead wrapping up one assignment asking, “Next job please!”

    Developing leaders takes a couple of things. A leader that can recognize potential for leadership, and is then willing to groom the person in he/she sees the potential. Then, it takes a combination of training and OJT. Put me down in the camp that believes great leaders have a natural bent towards leadership that is educated and refined into excellent leadership ability.

  • Prof Gene

    The CNO’s Guidance for 2009 calls on us to accomplish three things in leader development:
    – Stimulate innovation
    – Encourage confident risk-taking
    – Inculcate the culture of command at sea
    We do all three of these currently through OJT and exposure to more senior Navy leaders. Our general lack of innovative thinking, risk aversion and the issues associated with 15-month command tours indicate that we are not doing well enough in these three critical tasks.

    In addition, we are sending key officers and senior enlisted to “sand Sailor” and non-traditional joint jobs for which we are providing those Sailors little preparation, and for which we have limited means of evaluating their performance. For 200 years we have assumed that lots of operational experience will provide the expertise required to succeed at the next level; that turned out to be true during the Cold War, but is much less likely to be adequate today.

    The Navy remains the only service without any leadership doctrine or service-wide leader development plan. And nobody short of the CNO owns all the pieces of the Navy’s legacy leader development programs (N1 owns a lot, but not Flag development or USNA or the PME Continuum).

    To develop what then-CNO Mullen called “21st Century leaders” we need to consider a 21st Century leader development process – one that defines the required leadership experience at every level, provides a solid educational foundation, supplies valuable mentoring and coaching tools, maximizes the value of OJT, gives useful and unbiased feedback, reinforces strong character and ethical behavior, and which rewards innovation, risk-taking and command. That will require the CNO to put one officer in charge of the entire process with the power to make substantive change.

    Here’s hoping…

  • Alex

    Decision making ability. Early and often. Risk aversion in decision making is corrosive to leadership. Rewarding the risk averse begats poor leaders.

    You have to make a lot of decisions before you learn that sometimes ‘not making a decision’ is the right path. ‘Not making a decision’ should nerver be the default for career advancement.

  • L. David Marquet

    I served as a panel member on VADM Konetzni’s leadership panel at AFCEA/USNI WEST on 12 February. The panel was entitled: “Leaders, How Do We Find, Develop and Promote People with the Right Stuff?”

    In my opening statement, I identified the following as a constraint: the number of officers serving aboard ships is becoming a smaller and smaller proportion of the total officer billets. This is because of the following:
    1. The US Navy ratio of active duty end-strength to ships, which had been relatively stable since WWII at 1000:1 has recently crept up. Today, with 332,000 Sailors and 283 ships, it stands at 1170:1.
    2. Officers manning, as a proportion of total end-strength, has also crept up. This is in response to demands for specialties and joint commands.
    3. Finally, officer billets aboard the ships we have has been trending down. As an example, the Baltimore had 61 officer billets, Leahy 27, Ticonderoga 24, and Burke 23. The trend continues with LCS.

    While I use at-sea billets aboard ships as my metric, the trends are true in aviation as well: 4-seat aircraft are replace with 2-seaters; 2-seaters by single seaters; and single seaters by UAVs.

    Why does this matter? The Navy continues to act as though service at sea is the litmus test for competence as an officer for the unrestricted line. Navy has difficulty properly valuing the contributions of officers in “other” billets. Thus, more and more officers are being passed through fewer billets, resulting in shorter tours, sub-optimization of performance, and execution-based (or worse, presence-based) assessment of capability. Further, the body of operational knowledge among a typical officer dealing with the vagaries and risk that comes with operations at sea, is reduced. [I don’t like using the word experience because that gives credit for simply occupying a billet.]

    I suggest that a coherent Navy strategy needs to:
    1. Embrace the reality of this trend and learn how to value non-seagoing contributions; or
    2. Reverse the trend and return to a more maritime-focused service.

  • L. David Marquet

    I served as a panel member on VADM Konetzni’s leadership panel at AFCEA/USNI WEST on 12 February. The panel was entitled: “Leaders, How Do We Find, Develop and Promote People with the Right Stuff?”

    My second story was an attempt to clarify what, exactly, is the “right stuff.” Although there are several methodologies available, and countless opinions, I offer the following. It is also important to recognize that the “right stuff” is not a point solution that works at all times and all levels in the organization.

    Navy would start with how they plan to fight, the environment within which they are planning on doing it, and deduce the characteristics necessary. The recent Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower and the Naval Operational Concept gives some insight into this. I offer my reduced version below:

    1. Because of the increasing lethality of firepower and expected distribution of the enemy, victory will accrue to the societies and forces that can disperse their own forces, both tactically and strategically, while coordinating their effects.
    2. In response to the challenge of command and control of these widely dispersed forces, we build increasingly necessary communications networks. During most of the time, like peacetime, these networks are so capable they enable centralized decision-making relying on the forces for execution, over-control, and lack of planning.

    With such an architecture, and a network that is by necessity “continuously available,” execution and responsiveness to higher authority are valued. These are the traits described in almost every fitness report and biography – as we extol deployments made, weapons fired, and hours flown. However, this architecture traps us into the following…

    3. The enemy, seeing the critical reliance upon these networks, invests money and energy in attacking them.
    4. We, seeing the enemy plan to attack the network, defend it. The cost of defense, however, is significantly higher than the costs to attack.
    5. The enemy, encouraged by the high return on investment, continues.
    6. Finally, despite vast investments on our best efforts, the network will at some point fail.

    A better approach would be to acknowledge that the network will likely fail, but develop the doctrine, pre-planning, and commanders with the personal attributes to succeed in that environment. The benefit of this approach is that it builds upon a historically powerful characteristic of American armed forces.

    I suggest the traits necessary here would likely value agility over responsiveness and decision-making over execution, and initiative over compliance.

  • Dave Price

    Here here to LDM’s comments. The concept of network-centric warfare has led us to create amazing technological tools for communication and information sharing which could enable better and more rapid decision making on the scene of action. Sadly, we’ve deployed this technology in a hierarchical manner which has better enabled the “8000 mile screwdriver;” allowing upper-echelon staffs to micromanage execution while minimizing confident risk taking by commanders over the horizon who can now ask (and most often must ask) “mother may I” prior to nearly every action. I like to call this ego-centric warfare and one of its key enablers in addition to the technology is the seemingly ever-increasing number of data calls we get from higher echelon staff minions whose job it is to question the real-time decisions of the commanders on the scene of action. The growth of civilian contract support on our shore-based staffs as well as the apparent increase in seniority of staff members (remember when a LT could give the morning brief to the battle group commander?) has continued to undermine the concept of command with a capital C. This tendency towards centralization is completely in line with human nature but 180 out from our historical Navy culture. A return to simple and clear commander’s guidance combined with good training is one place to start. We should still be creating leaders at the O-5 command level who we can give a mission to and send over the horizon with a cheery “let us know what you need and how it turns out.”

  • VADM J. C. Harvey, Jr

    Appropos to David Marquet’s comments on overly centralized C2 and its resultant impact on leadership behaviors and development, this issue is not a new one for our Navy. Indeed, it’s one we’ve been grappling with during any period of extended “peace-time” operations and particularly since the development of long-range, real-time communications via HF.

    Let me quote from a memo ADM Ernest J. King, then Commander Patrol Force (later re-designataed as US Atlantic Fleet on 1 Feb 1941) sent on 21 Jan 1941 to his Flag Officers, DesRon Commanders, SubRon Commanders and Pat Wing Commanders:

    “1. I have been concerned for many years over the increasing tendency – now grown almost to “standard practice” – of flag officers and other group commanders to issue orders and instructions in which their subordinates are told “how” as well as “what” to do to such an extent and in such detail that the “custom of the service” has virtually become the anithesis of that essential element of command – “initiative of the subordinate.”

    King’s memo goes on to discuss the ongoing preparations for “active operations (commonly called war)” that will require the ultimate in the exercise of initiative by subordinates, and how poorly prepared the Navy is to operate under those conditions.

    Sadly, events would prove him correct, as it took from Dec 1941 to about the end of 1943 for the Navy to learn, in virtually every primary and supporting area of warfare, how to fight and win a violent and utterly unforgiving war at sea against a fanatical and skilled enemy (roughly the time from the Battle of Savo Island to the Battle of Cape St George).
    ADM King’s memo was published in the Naval War College Review (Set and Drift) many years ago and has been one of those articles I keep in front of me on my desk as a ready reference.

    The point is that the battle we fight to properly unleash the power of our people is a familiar one – the particular characteristics of the battle change as our technology changes, but the nature of this struggle, as with the unchanging nature of war itself, does not fundamentally change from one generation of Sailors to the next.
    Subordinates must become “habituated to think, to judge, to decide and to act for themselves.”
    ADM King said, “it requires hard work – concentration of powers – to exercise command effectively and, frequently, even harder work to exercise initiative intelligently.”

    Winning this battle to get the most out of our people in a rapidly changing and very complex world (and never forget that the Navy’s battlespace is global) is critical to our future. We must be an extremely flexible and adaptable organization, ready to sense and respond rapidly and decisively in real time to a multitude of potential threats and opportunities.
    And only intelligent, motivated, flexible and adaptable people, at every level in our chain-of-command, will give us the flexible and adaptable Navy this nation needs.

    We cannot be that type of organization without the kind of people who, understanding the Commander’s intent and the assigned mission set, are able to act on their own initiative “only after all their resources in education, training, experience, skill and understanding have been brought to bear on the work in hand.”

    The proper exercise of command is a constant struggle at every level of command, and has been for quite some time. We will need to focus on this struggle just as intensely as ADM King did. JCHjr

  • VADM Harvey,

    Great use of history! Thanks for commenting! v/r Jim

  • >> The CNO’s Guidance for 2009 calls on us to accomplish three things in (Future Thought) leadership learning development:<<

    – Stimulate innovation
    – Encourage confident risk-taking
    – Inculcate the culture of command at sea

    Same game plan but with different timeframe as 1969-71 “Z-Grams” as empowered by VADM David C. Richardson (Deputy CincPacFlt) …

    Shareable “group decision support systems” to facilitate multi-agency “virtual team tactics” were just being incubated at FOCCPAC with CTF 130’s Apollo Command Capsule Recovery mission!

    Now, CincPac’s Pacific Disaster Center uses results of Quick-Response Quality-Results (QR*2) GlobalBrain heuristics to empower DoD’s Disaster Recovery & Humanitarian Assistance joint mission!

    Since 1982, blended visual learning tools augmented ALL-WinWin “knowledge management organizational learning” paradigm shifts via

  • I’m impressed with and enlightened by everyone’s comments, so I will address inclusiveness:

    Recruitment relies heavily upon electronic media, posting boards, word-of-mouth or ‘tapping’ which may not attract or include the most qualified candidates. Historically, the burden of initiative is on the applicant.

    Since many potential applicants never get the memo, a generic questionnaire could be administered to establish a candidacy pool. This places the burden of initiative on the recruiting agency. The simple act of advertising would be insufficient.

    From there, selected respondees would be asked to move forward through the selection process after all possible candidates were contacted. Those who don’t respond are the wrong stuff.

    A review board can then eliminate candidates based upon a criterion hard-wired to organizational imperatives until the best candidate remains. The selection process would also assess physical and endurance requirements.

    Personnel in many facets of government and throughout DoD believe that tapped candidates are pipelined through the promotion process and that job announcements are a legal formality.

    A generic questionnaire would provide affected personnel with an unobstructed opportunity to respond.

    This is not reinventing the wheel, but adding a dynamic to the existing process.