Leadership: When Bureaucracy Meets the Battlefield


December25, 2006: When bureaucracy meets the battlefield, the results are not pretty. Never have been. War is chaos, and there's a lot of stuff lost or unaccounted for. Makes for great headlines, though, and outraged stories about poor supervision and waste. The problem is that combat zones are all about poor supervision and waste. Ever heard of the "chaos of combat" and "fog of war?" It's real. Ask anyone who's been there.

While it's advantageous to have as much order and control as possible in a combat zone, your efforts are always being disrupted by the enemy (who benefits from your situation being as chaotic as possible.) Calls for, "ending the waste," are long on demands, and short on useful insights on the problem, or possible solutions.

When commanders are ordered to "do something," they know to respond, "yes sir," and then carry on. The military guys know that too strenuous attempts to impose "order" will result in even more tragic stories of lifesaving operations halted because the paperwork was not in order. And so on, as there are an endless number of ways bureaucrats can get you killed in combat. Or tormented after the fact for all those errors you made out there.


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