Battleland

Weeding the Military

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As I was working in my garden today, I was thinking how much like the realities of professional life it is.

You weed out the plants you don’t want; but sometimes if they don’t belong in one place, you can put them in another where they will thrive.

If they don’t, then they are gone. Sometimes, a plant gets too big and you have to cut it down to size and distribute its parts around the garden. The big plant will then continue to thrive, but has spawned many others.

I was also thinking, as I was placing rocks around the flower beds, that even though I put the big rocks in front, perhaps because they looked better than a bunch of little rocks, or because they had better holding power, that they still needed the little rocks to support them in that position. If I had just put the big rocks up there, they would have fallen sooner or later. I told the little rocks: don’t be ashamed of your support position. It is very important. But as time goes on, even the big rocks have to be adjusted, as they are taken over by weeds or just lost in the mud. And depending on their ability to fit in, they either stay or they are moved somewhere else.

Another thing I like about my garden is its diversity.

If the garden consisted of the same plant, or the same color, it would be a very boring place indeed. Plus, some plants do better in the shade, some better in full sun; each has its unique strengths and weaknesses. And individual plants may be beautiful on their own, but the whole is almost always enhanced by different flowers that complement and enhance it. Some being tall, some being short; some bringing one gorgeous flower, others with lots of little ones; some are bushy, some are squat…the goal is to make the entire garden a pleasant experience, where some parts attract butterflies and hummingbirds, while others keep away pests or provide food for the family or flowers for the table.

So it is with people and professional organizations.

Those in charge are supported by others. Those who get too stagnant have to be replaced; those who aren’t doing well in one place may do well in another. Those in charge mentor the support troops, so when it is time, they take over. It takes all kinds of people to make an organization run smoothly, and those who don’t understand the idea of teamwork, goal setting, or the bottom line are going to be weeded out and replaced.

Of course, it has always been this way, but when everyone “looked the same” — that is, they were the same gender, race, religion, or social status — the dynamics were not noted as being bad.

An individual who did not make the grade, just did not make the grade. It was based on merit. Now, it seems the fault is blamed more on a person’s ascribed traits than their achieved traits. In other words, if they fail it is because they were the wrong race, the wrong gender , or the wrong religion;  too young or too old, too poor, not fit enough, not educated enough, or any number of diverse characteristics that if challenged only highlight the way people look, not the way they are as a person.

Our world is constantly changing and we rarely can progress by continuing to do things “the way it has always been done,” or look back with nostalgia at “the way things were” — when women weren’t on ships, when they weren’t defending their troops and country overseas, when a black man wasn’t President.

Recently, a validated and convicted by court martial military officer was cleared of charges by the convening authority. The Uniformed Code of Military Justice allows for this; and in time of war, or in a place where military operations necessitate such leniency, it makes sense. It does not make sense in a time of relative peace when an officer was found guilty of a crime. I have no words to say how anguished I am about this situation.

My empathy in these situations runs too deep to be an objective observer of such a travesty of justice.

So I have decided to take a break from Battleland for the summer.  I need time to rejuvenate and come to grips with an organization that has not come to grips with the need for and the benefits of diversity. Maybe by fall we’ll know how the budget, the war in Afghanistan, the situation in Korea, the war against women, and other issues will play out. I’ll talk to you then.

1 comments
deemery
deemery

The 'garden' analogy is a very interesting one, I think, with respect to officer selection, training and promotion.  While you enjoy your time away, maybe you can fertilize that analogy a bit more.  In particular, what are the values of diversity vs production - if you want protein you'll plant a very different garden than one for flavorings.  There's value to 'groupthink' to support consistent and predictable decision-making in times of stress and uncertainty, as well as risks.

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