Raising the Bar: Creating Adaptive Leaders to Deal With The Changing Face of War

Major Don Vandergriff, US Army
Biography of MAJ Vandergriff

Seventh Edition
DRAFT of 21 March 2005
Reposted 17 April 2005

Major Don Vandergriff follows his groundbreaking book, The Path to Victory, with a detailed look at how the Army acquires the majority of its officers - the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC.)  One might think that such an arcane topic would be of only limited interest to anyone not concerned with the program itself.  Those familiar with MAJ Vandergriff's earlier work, however, know better.  He takes on the entire question of what an officer should be in the post-Soviet world, and in particular, how he or she should be trained and educated to operate effectively in a world where violent, transnational groups such as al-Qa'ida and brutal insurgencies in failed states may be typical of the enemies they have to face.

On a more general level, MAJ Vandergriff examines how to train leaders in any organization.  Some corporate executives and HR departments still treat expenses associated with the development of leaders as costs, rather than as the investments they are.  A company, after all, is its people.  They use tools, and they execute strategies, but without people who will seek out and exploit opportunities, it's all just a pile of bricks, silicon, and paper.  People, ideas, and hardwarein that order!—as much in the commercial world as in the military.

Successful enterprises base their grand strategy on knowledge, that is, they recognize that what they know how to do as individuals, as well as in and among the various groups within the company, represents their competitive power. With these skills, they can develop, acquire or partner with the other elements they need.  They put their focusSchwerpunkt—on continually improving technical and leadership skills, again, both as individuals and as a complex collection of teams and groups.  And they can prove it by documenting the resources they spend, including executive attention, on improving the acquisition and flow of knowledge.  We are not living in an information age. Information by itself is useless: sometimes wrong, often misleading, and always expensive to acquire and store.  Knowledge, or better yet, wisdom is what's important.

What MAJ Vandergriff is describing in these briefings is a significant step towards remaking the Army as a knowledge-based organization. Corporate leaders might compare their efforts with the depth of preparation he recommends, and remember that all of the training and education that he prescribes are just the beginningbefore the cadets pin on their bars and become members of the organization. [Disclaimer - the editor of DNI is a 1969 graduate of the University of Mississippi Army ROTC program.]

All files are MS PowerPoint presentations with extensive notes.  Non-military readers may want to skim Part 1 and its expansions in Parts 11, 12, & 13, then move to Part 4.  Don't worry about the technical jargon.  [MAJ Vandergriff's note: These are drafts and some will probably change.  So please don't quote or cite without checking with me first.]

Executive summary. (1.7MB) Overview of the purpose and themes of the study. Posted 7 May 2005.

Part 1:  Parallel evolution.  (1.9 MB) Introduction: Defines a strategic model for change, using the people-ideas-hardware (in that order) framework.

Part 2:   Historical traditions. Are we trapped by out of date assumptions? This part says yes! (2.2 MB)

Part 3:  Why is change hard?  We are also trapped, ironically, by the U.S. society’s success as well as its isolation. (3 MB)

Part 4:  New POI.  Parts 1-3 taken together point to a revolutionary way to create officers. (6 MB)

Part 5:  Need some help?  To do this, we are going to need the U.S. Congress and the Army to do some things—at least address them and understand that it needs a new leader development paradigm (1.8 MB)

For a description of how knowledge-based organizations work, and how they differ in every important way from structure/process/task-based organizations, I recommend Product Development for the Lean Enterprise: Why Toyota's System Is Four Times More Productive and How You Can Implement It by Michael N. Kennedy.  Despite its formidable title, it is an entertaining look at how, in the words of guru Allen Ward, delaying decisions can make better products faster.  I think you'll find it most stimulating.