The rocky road to learning


Continuing on the ‘learning’ theme from yesterday, I’m sure that we have all had at least one ohnosecond experience in our professional lives…now that I am older and wiser (apparently) I have given up on sending strongly-worded but incredibly witty and insightful emails to senior staff detailing the errors inherent in current and proposed plans and strategies. I do however still have one minor foible (yes, that’s correct, just one!) that causes me to still have reason to occasionally curse the response times of the Outlook ‘recall’ facility. On occasion, normally only when the context is important, I transpose the words ‘not‘ and ‘now‘ i.e. when I mean ‘not‘, I will write ‘now‘ and vice versa. Hands up everyone who can see some potential for humour and general chaos in that…it’s just one of those things and the more that I am conscious of it and try to avoid it, the more likely it is that at least instance of this foible will slip through. It’s not even like ‘w‘ and ‘t‘ are immediately adjacent or that it is one of the unfortunate quirks of the demon the reside within the spellcheck tool…it just is…

Some mistakes may be career-ending and some potential contenders are listed in this link to InfoWorld’s annual roasting that a friend posted a link on Facebook this morning:

It’s time again for that beloved holiday tradition in Cringeville known as the Golden Gobblers. These awards were created to honor individuals in the world of technology whose giblets we’d be happy to see roasted and served on a platter.

But other mistakes, no matter how face-reddening, should be more opportunities for teach and learning…

Does anyone ever query why an individual acted in a certain manner?

Could it be a result of inadequate or incorrect training, the absence of good role models and mentors?

What is the work environment and its general culture and ethos – if any?

Has the individual been honestly reported on – or have superiors failed to confront  and address issues with whitewash reports that make themselves look good (‘There’s no problems in MY organisation!“)?

And for the offended party…

Has an actual crime been committed or perhaps did you dress from the Emperor’s wardrobe this morning?

Is a wounded (slightly dented?) ego more important than developing and growing your people and your part of the organisation?

Even, could it be possible that you and some of your approaches and methods are contributing more to the problems than to the solution?

Are you contributing to the development and growth of the broader organisation or more aligned with maintaining a status quo, like the reed that refuses to bend…?

Without advocating rabid workers’ rights or the introduction of total workplace socialism, and noting that there are definitely people who need to move on or be moved on from an organisation, score-settling and retribution are not the best rationales for doing so… “I’ll teach them a lesson they never forget!” is NOT the mantra of a for-real learning organisation nor one that expects to continue to deliver credible and useful outputs (as opposed to just meeting its metrics)…And this brings us back to the three qualities discussed yesterday…leadership…initiative…balance…

On Petraeus

Frederick Humphries. The FBI agent who launched the investigation into Paula Broadwell’s email accounts did it as a favour [corrected US to real English!]  for gal pal and wannabe-Kardashian Jill Kelley. He then leaked news of the probe to two right-wing congressmen, igniting one of the biggest scandals in CIA history and bringing down its director, General David Petraeus. Somewhere along the line he generously shared a pic of his pecs with Kelley, launching an FBI investigation into his own conduct.

This quote is from the InfoWorld Golden Gobblers mentioned above. Yes, note the irony that the agent who’s actions led to the resignation of the Director of the CIA for inappropriate behaviour appears to be guilt of the same offence himself. Under the incredibly wonky US justice system, doesn’t that automatically discredit the case against David Petraeus, noting that he doesn’t actually appear to have committed any criminal offence himself?

I hadn’t wanted to comment on this affair (no pun intended – OK, maybe just a little…) until the smoke had cleared somewhat in the wake of the Benghazi attack…and it now seems possible to derive a few insights from what’s been released…

Senior staff can have just the same sort of weak moments as normal people.

Said weaknesses do not necessarily affect their ability to do their jobs. This, of course, does not apply to those senior moments involving fraud or sexual (or any other form of) assault but then these are open and shut criminal offences.

The moral minority that screams for blood at every perceived wrong-doing may do well to wonder if militaries would be any better as organisations if the Dalai Lama was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Chief of the Defence Staff or Chief of the Defence Force. Probably not…the love-ins and chanting would be pretty cool for a while but I would have to at some point question their deterrent value or usefulness next time there’s a need to respond to an unplanned contingency.

The organisation is unlikely to be a better place for losing the likes of David Petraeus and potentially John Allen – the mob once sated will put away their pitch-forks and torches secure in the knowledge that they are protected by the mantle of national security that they continue to erode.

I’ve watched some of the current and historical coverage of Paula Broadwell and the strongest message that comes across is that “It’s all about ME, ME and ME!!!” and my take is that she is a selfish and self-seeking individual who has abused the privilege of access and taken it as a right. I’m wondering if the oxymoronic joke about Army Intelligence applies to Ms Broadwell and whether this is something that the former general could have borne in mind from the first time he met her? While not excusing David Petraeus’ actions in the affair,  those are really a matter between him and Mrs Petraeus. Jill Kelley strikes me in the same way, twisting the privilege if access as a Friend of MacDill into a perceived right of access to senior leaders who in all fairness may have been totally unaware of what was going on behind the scenes.

So what could have happened in a smart learning community? Ummm…

The FBI might learn from its part in the affair and ensure that its agents follow set protocols and procedures, certainly in regard to the triggers for taking an issue out of the organisation to Congress or the Senate.

The Friends of MacDill programme is reviewed to ensure that the definitions of privilege and right and well understood by all. My understanding is that this is a useful and beneficial support mechanism for the base that probably does not warrant threats of closure because of the actions of one or two individual.

The Director of the CIA is given some time off to sort his personal life out before returning to the job.

Commander ISAF is left alone to focus on a particular difficult period in the force’s existence i.e. is this really stuff that you want to be bothering your senior commander in your second most costly campaign in the last decade?

Ms Broadwell (it’s unclear whether she remains a Mrs) is encouraged to take some time out, sort her own personal life and stay away from the media where she is not doing herself any favours.

The moral minority have a fire sale on pitch forks and torches, all slightly used…or maybe just have a fire…

Leadership – initiative – balance

 

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