Saturday, June 30, 2007

'Blogger' Marine General James "Hoss" Cartwright " Next Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs

The first post I had on Marine General Cartwright was two years ago March 2005 when I included his requirements for officers and enlisted posting to his blog. Apparently, the general was upset that he had too many minders weeding out the "appropriate" questions/answers. I read his explanation of what he wanted at Winds:

“The metric is what the person has to contribute, not the person’s rank, age, or level of experience. If they have the answer, I want the answer. When I post a question on my blog, I expect the person with the answer to post back. I do not expect the person with the answer to run it through you, your OIC, the branch chief, the exec, the Division Chief and then get the garbled answer back before he or she posts it for me. The Napoleonic Code and Netcentric Collaboration cannot exist in the same space and time. It’s YOUR job to make sure I get my answers and then if they get it wrong or they could have got it righter, then you guide them toward a better way…but do not get in their way.”

General, USMC

I thought the idea of a blogging general "Awesome" and pretty cool. Impressive. Especially the "do not get in their way." part. You really begin to understand resistance trying to convince others that round wheels work better than square ones. Now that the blogging general is going to be the next Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs more info (Arms Control Wonk) and In From the Cold is coming out on the nuts and bolts of blogging. Not quite as simple as you might think for those of us who just need a gmail account. For example, for a four star Marine you might think the process of integrating a new blog would be an order of "let it so be written--let it so be done". However, from STRATCOM a link to General James Cartwright answers to questions at the IFPA Fletcher Conference - Washington, DC on December 15, 2005 comes quite another perspective:

QUESTION: The question is, how do we pick up the pace? What are you doing in the command to get that message down through frankly a bureaucracy that doesn't want to understand it?

If I could just add something else, and this is really a personal note. I do a lot of work in the technical community. I know that we're getting information on something happening in Iraq that's not going to be down to the people that can do something about it and we're losing [inaudible] because of it.

So I commend what you're doing and honestly, I think it's one of the most important things that we can be talking about this morning.

General Cartwright: Thank you.

Trying to push this down so that every individual in the organization and every individual associated with the organization has the opportunity to contribute is a challenge that culturally certainly gains the most resistance.

We have a very disciplined approach necessary for military operations so the transition difference between military operations and business operations -- You can move the information, but then the authorities associated with the information becomes problematic.

I'll give you an example, and I've used this several times.

But when we started the activity with blogging, the first thing that I got was nobody would blog except for the very senior people. I wondered why not? Well, they had basically ordered their people not to blog.


I said, well your choice is to be fired or get them to blog.


Then what I got was a period of what I'll call tethered goats. Lance Corporal Cartwright answered all of General Cartwright's mail to make it look like Lance Corporate Cartwright was doing something. That has eroded over time, and now people are becoming more and more comfortable.

But in that sphere you also see the crossing of the military dynamic, command and who's in charge in an environment where it's kind of free-wheeling. People worry, oh gosh, what if somebody says something bad? What if somebody says something bad about the boss? Will I get fired over that? How will it play in Washington, so to speak?

The reality is this is a very quickly self-policing environment. If you say something stupid in a blog, it's global, and there's no hiding it, A.

B, the way we do it anyway, it is associated with your IP and you're not going to say that I'm Fred and then log on as somebody else. We know who's blogging and who isn't. That's part of it.

But what we have also done in the tools that are out there, and I got this, I guess it's okay to say this in this room, but Union Pacific and the insurance companies gave me an idea about how you can take some tools and you can understand who's contributing in your dialogue.

So that if you run into a problem say in a particular sensor and you're trying to figure out who's really talking about this? If I ask my staff to give me an answer, what I get is the senior person.

The reality is, it's not the senior person that's day in and day out working that sensor and trying to understand it. You can within a millisecond find who's really talking about this and who's really involved in it, and go straight to them.

That cuts out an awful lot of the chain of command. It's fast, but the comfort zone that you have just entered is very nervous.

The more we do that, though, and the more people see success associated with that, the more compelling it becomes to allow people to contribute.

So there's a little bit of trying to show where there is opportunity to be successful and contribute, and showing that value as quickly as you can so that you get the culture to move in the direction.

It's more art than science, but it is effective. And trying to find where you can gain the leverage and show people opportunity that they really feel like they can go after, rather than risk that they're worried about, you really start to change the dynamic.