what ever happened to accountability

https://hbr.org/2012/10/what-ever-happened-to-acco…(1) IntroductionWhat is the purpose of the book/article? Why was it written?(2) AnalysisWhat are the major points of the book/article?If the article includes a case, what are the major concepts presented?(3) ConclusionWhat are your take a ways? How can these concepts help prepare you to become a bettermanager?Do you see any application of these concepts to your current class project? Explain indetail.(4) Resource listing
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HBR.ORG
PHOTOGRAPHY: STEPHEN WEBSTER
I
f you’re looking for management lessons from outside the halls of
corporations, you could do worse than to study the United States
Army. That master of management teaching Peter Drucker often
turned to the military of his adopted nation for inspiration, especially
on matters of leadership. Take, for example, this advice from his 1967
book The Effective Executive:
It is the duty of the executive to remove ruthlessly anyone—and
especially any manager—who consistently fails to perform with high
distinction. To let such a man stay on corrupts the others. It is grossly
unfair to the whole organization.
It is grossly unfair to his subordinates who are deprived by their
superior’s inadequacy of opportunities for achievement and recognition. Above all, it is senseless cruelty to the man himself. He knows that
he is inadequate whether he admits it to himself or not.
ii
October 2012 Harvard Business Review 93
The first example Drucker cited of such wise
practice came not from the business world of the
1960s but from the army of the 1940s. Its leader, General George C. Marshall, he wrote, “insisted that a
general officer be immediately relieved if found less
than outstanding.”
Ironically, by the time Drucker was writing, the
army had lost the practice of swift relief that Marshall had enforced so vigorously. With regard to talent management, it was already beginning to teach a
different kind of lesson—a cautionary tale. To study
the change in the army across the two decades from
World War II to Vietnam is to learn how a culture of
high standards and accountability can deteriorate.
And to review the extended story of its past six decades is to comprehend an even deeper moral: When
standards are not rigorously upheld and inadequate
performance is allowed to endure in leadership
ranks, the effect is not only to rob an enterprise of
some of its potential. It is to lose the standards themselves and let the most important capabilities of
leadership succumb to atrophy.
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The Right People in the Right Jobs
I
n General Marshall’s day, perhaps it was easier
to agree on a clear notion of what constituted
success in the leadership of the armed forces. It
may have been a more straightforward exercise to
consider whether one general was driving toward
that goal more or less effectively than others. That
may in fact be why a man as understated as Marshall,
reticent to the point of seeming almost colorless,
was able to rise to the level he did. He was a classic
transformational leader—an unlikely figure of quiet
resolve who can reinvigorate and redirect a company or an institution. Consider Marshall’s low-key
demeanor on September 1, 1939, the day that World
War II began in Europe. That same day he formally
ascended to chief of staff of the army—a far more important position then than it is now, partly because
it included the army air force. “Things look very disturbing in the world this morning,” he commented
drily in a note that day to George Patton’s wife. Even
after the war, and his obvious success, he lived on a
modest government salary and turned down lavish
offers from publishers who wanted him to write his
memoirs.
Certainly George Marshall was not a political animal or a Washington courtier. One subordinate, General Albert Wedemeyer, called him “coolly imper94 Harvard Business Review October 2012
In the spring
of 1939,
even before
becoming
chief of sta?,
George C.
Marshall
had devised
a plan to
remove
scores of
o?cers he
considered
deadwood.
sonal.” He was distant even with his commander in
chief, President Franklin Roosevelt. He made a point
of not laughing at the president’s jokes and was clear
that he preferred not to be addressed by his first
name. He didn’t visit Roosevelt’s home in Hyde Park,
New York, until the day of FDR’s funeral.
When Marshall is remembered nowadays, it is
more often for his role in establishing the Marshall
Plan, which revived the economies of post–World
War II Europe, than for his role in the preceding war.
Yet he was unwavering, even fierce, in doing what
needed to be done to win that war. He stands as an
extreme example of leading not by being charming
or charismatic but by setting standards.
Few overhauls are as sweeping as the one Marshall oversaw: the creation of the American superpower military, the globe-spanning mechanized
force that we have come to take for granted over
the past seven decades. On the day in 1939 that he
became chief of staff, the U.S. Army was a small,
weak force of about 190,000 men—“not even a
third-rate military power,” as he later wrote in an
official Pentagon report. Of the nine infantry divisions the army had on paper, only three were at divisional strength, while six were actually weak brigades. Six years later, when he stepped down, the
army numbered almost 8 million soldiers and had
40 divisions in the European theater and another 21
in the Pacific.
As transformational leaders tend to do, Marshall
began by focusing on people. He truly was ruthless
in getting the right people in the right jobs—and the
wrong people out of them. When Brigadier General
Charles Bundel insisted that the army’s training
manuals could not all be updated in three or four
months and instead would require 18, Marshall
twice asked him to reconsider that statement.
“It can’t be done,” Bundel repeated.
“I’m sorry, then you are relieved,” Marshall replied.
In the spring of 1939, even before becoming
chief of staff, Marshall had devised a plan to remove
scores of officers he considered deadwood. By his
estimate, he eliminated some 600 officers before
the United States entered the war, in December 1941.
Another wave of firings came just after the attack on
Pearl Harbor, with the top naval, army, and air commanders for the Pacific removed. A year later the
commander of one of the first divisions to fight the
Japanese was fired. So, too, was the senior tactical
commander of the first American divisions to fight
the Germans in Africa.
ILLUSTRATION: CHRIS PHILPOT
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ACCOUNTABILITY?
HBR.ORG
Idea in Brief
Business leaders often look to the
armed forces for lessons in leadership.
The U.S. Army teaches a big one about
the need to uphold performance standards in an organization’s uppermost
ranks. Unfortunately, it teaches that
lesson in the negative.
Relief of command, commonplace in
the World War II era, is now a rare
event. By failing to ?re generals who
perform without distinction, the army
seriously undermines accountability.
Even worse, its leadership capabilities
seem to have eroded over time.
A great general, like a great CEO,
provides a high-level strategic vision
of what to do as well as tactical guidance on how to do it. Leaders without
that strength fail to appreciate the
distinction between winning battles
and the more di?cult work of winning
wars—a problem that became evident
in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those removed were replaced by younger, more
+ + + + +
vigorous officers, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, who
as late as 1940 was still a lieutenant colonel serving “Can’t Execute My Future
as the executive officer of an infantry regiment. Mar- Plans with Present Leaders”
shall put the new men through a series of tests. At
ust five years after World War II ended, as the
each level those who faltered were shunted aside.
army found itself fighting in Korea, it seemed
First, each man had to be given command of a unit.
to have lost that adaptability. Twice in 1950
The next question was whether he would be allowed, the same force that had taken on the Nazis and the
once the unit was trained, to take it overseas and Japanese empire was driven down the Korean peninto combat. Then, once in the fight, a commander insula by poorly equipped peasant armies. First, in
had a few months in which to succeed, be killed or the summer, it was harried south by North Korean
wounded, or be replaced. Of the 155 officers allowed
forces; then, in late autumn, it was surprised by the
to command army divisions in combat in the war, 16 Chinese army.
were relieved for cause. Yet Marshall’s policy of swift
Lieutenant General Matthew Ridgway, another
relief had a forgiving aspect: The removals were not of Marshall’s protégés, was dispatched at the end of
necessarily career-ending. Indeed, five of the re- 1950 to try to turn the war around. On his first mornlieved division commanders were given other divi- ing in Korea, the hawkeyed Ridgway climbed into the
sions to lead in combat later in the war.
bombardier’s compartment of a B-17 to fly over and
It was a dynamic and hard-nosed system of per- study the rugged terrain of the peninsula. Later that
sonnel management—and it worked. For an army, a day he visited the South Korean president. Next, and
key marker of excellence is adaptability—grasping most important, he spent most of three days visiting
a changing situation and making good decisions in his battlefield commanders. He was shocked to find
response to it. Allies and enemies alike observed
that the quality of leadership of American troops
that the distinctive characteristic of the U.S. forces in was often as poor as their morale. Commanders had
World War II was that given how much they had to
not studied the ground on which they were fighting.
learn, they did so very quickly. Bernard Lewis, later They had kept their troops on the roads instead of
an influential historian of the Middle East, took away putting them up on ridges. And they had failed to cofrom his time as an intelligence officer in the British ordinate with units on their flanks. “The troops were
army two dominant impressions of the Americans. confused,” Ridgway wrote in Military Review in 1990.
“One was that they were unteachable,” he wrote in “They had been badly handled tactically, logistically.”
The Atlantic in 2007. But “what was really new and
How is it that an officer corps known for its exoriginal—and this is my second lasting impression— cellence could be infiltrated so quickly by mediocwas the speed with which they recognized [their]
rity? The focus on one clear goal, and who was best
mistakes, and devised and applied the means to cor- equipped to pursue it, was lost, and the criteria for
rect them. This was beyond anything in our experi- leadership evaluation became muddied by other
ence.” Similarly, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the
considerations. One of the problems in Korea was
most famous German general of the war, found it that the army was trying to give officers who had
“astonishing…the speed with which the Americans
been stuck in staff jobs in World War II a chance to
adapted themselves.”
command in combat, in part out of a sense of fairness,
J
October 2012 Harvard Business Review 95
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ACCOUNTABILITY?
and in part to help season the officer corps in case of
a war with the Soviet Union.
Ridgway acted decisively. Discovering that the
army’s headquarters in Korea was some 180 miles
south of the front lines, he ordered it moved closer to
the fighting. He also decided to remove several of his
senior commanders. “Can’t execute my future plans
with present leaders,” he informed the army chief of
staff in a note. Over the following three months he
would relieve one corps commander, five of his six
division commanders, and 14 of his 19 regimental
commanders. Ridgway shortly succeeded in turning
around the war; it was an episode of transformational
leadership that would be better known had it not occurred in a small, unpopular conflict on the other side
of the earth.
Yet Ridgway could not uphold the Marshall system of managing generals as thoroughly as he wished.
Relieving high-ranking officers of their commands
did not sit as well in a controversial “police action” as
it had in World War II, in part because of the politics
of the war. Ridgway’s first firing of a general set off
alarms at the Pentagon. Soon a senior general was
cabling him that “what has the appearance of wholesale relief of senior commanders…may well result in
congressional investigation.” Ridgway was ordered
to back off a bit and to disguise the moves he made as
part of a normal rotation process.
No one could know it at the time, but this episode
would prove to be the death knell for relieving battlefield generals in the U.S. Army—and the beginning of
a precipitous decline in accountability.
Marshall on Leadership:
The Requirements
S
cholars disagree over whether
General George C. Marshall
actually maintained a “little
black book” of promising young
o?cers to keep in mind for future
promotions. Some say that is just an
army myth. No such booklet or list
has ever been found; neither have
any documents indicating that it
existed.
Yet Marshall did have a very clear
sense of the qualities he looked for
when promoting o?cers. His ideas
about what made a good leader
had a big impact on who became a
general in World War II—and on how
the army thought about generalship
for decades afterward. In a letter
he wrote in November 1920, not
long after he became aide-de-camp
to General John Pershing, chief of
sta? of the army, Marshall listed the
qualities of successful leaders, in
the following order:
1. “good common sense”
2. “have studied your profession”
3. “physically strong”
4. “cheerful and optimistic”
5. “display marked energy”
6. “extreme loyalty”
7. “determined”
At ?rst glance this list might seem
unexceptional, even Boy Scout–ish.
Yet it merits closer examination.
Heeding a lesson he learned in
World War I, Marshall placed a
premium on vigor, implicitly excluding the older o?cer from promotion,
especially the “château general”
who rarely left the comforts of
his headquarters to ?ght in the
trenches with his troops. Marshall
instead valued the man who wanted
to be in the middle of things.
Marshall emphasized character
over intellect in his list. He did so
consciously, tailoring his template
to ?t the particular circumstances
of the United States. The quiet
pessimist might be e?ective in
other militaries, he argued, but
not in a democratic nation that,
protected by the world’s two great
oceans, tended always to pursue
a “policy of unpreparedness” for
war. Given that tendency, which
inevitably meant leading ill-trained
and poorly equipped units into
demoralizing battles, he decided
that the American military needed
the “optimistic and resourceful type,
quick to estimate, with relentless
determination, and who possessed
in addition a fund of sound common
+ + + + +
A Plunge into Institutional
Self-Interest
I
f the focus on choosing leaders who could win
wars was compromised by political considerations
in the Korean conflict, it was thoroughly subverted
in the Vietnam era. After Korea the army as an institution was adrift. Some seriously questioned whether
ground forces even had a role to play in the era of
nuclear weapons, which were revolutionizing the air
force and the navy. The air force was rapidly expanding. Shortly after the Korean War it fielded its first
genuinely intercontinental bomber, the B-52. It was
also moving smartly into space with the first wave of
reconnaissance satellites. The navy introduced the
first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus,
and then developed an intermediate-range nucleartipped missile, the Polaris. By 1959 the army’s alloca-
96 Harvard Business Review October 2012
tion of the Pentagon budget was 23%, exactly half the
air force’s share.
Scrambling to justify its existence, the army came
up with a new role for itself. If the air force and the
navy were focusing on atomic war, at the high end of
the conflict spectrum, the army would move to the
low end, the area historically occupied by the Marine
Corps. General Maxwell Taylor, the army’s chief of
staff during the second half of the 1950s, began a new
emphasis on “brushfire wars.” To prepare for engagement in such small conflicts, he established a “special
warfare school” at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
President Eisenhower had vigorously resisted
becoming involved in clashes on the remote edges
of the communist world, insisting in 1956 that “we
would not…deploy and tie down our forces around
HBR.ORG
He wanted generals
who would ?ght, but
not men who would
command recklessly.
+ + + + +
sense, which operated to prevent
gross errors due to rapidity of decision and action.”
The opposite sort of leader, the
man prone to looking at the negative side, must be excised promptly,
Marshall believed. The units led by
these “calamity howlers,” he wrote
with evident distaste, were “quickly
infected with the same spirit and
grew ine?ective unless a more suitable commander was given charge.”
Marshall’s list is signi?cant for
what it omits. He was ambivalent
about the brawler and the dashing
cavalryman. He wanted generals who
would ?ght, but not men who would
command recklessly or discredit the
military with their personal behavior.
“You can sometimes win a great
victory by a very dashing action,”
he once said. “But often, or most
frequently, the very dashing action
exposes you to a very fatal result if
it is not successful. And you hazard
everything in that way.”
He trusted even less the outlier,
the individualist, the eccentric, and
the dreamer. He wanted steady, levelheaded team players who were both
competent and cooperative.
American commanders in World
War II were a new breed compared
with those of World War I. In the
second war they were adept at
coordinating the e?orts of the
infantry, artillery, armor, and aviation
branches, especially in breaking
through enemy lines and then exploiting that penetration. As Germany’s
Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt put
it after being captured in 1945, “We
cannot understand the di?erence in
your leadership in the last war and
in this. We could understand it if you
had produced one superior corps
commander, but now we ?nd all of
your corps commanders good and of
equal superiority.”
the periphery in small wars.” But his successor, John
F. Kennedy, was intrigued by General Taylor’s ideas
and brought Taylor into the White House, where
one of his first assignments was to consider how to
handle the deteriorating situation in South Vietnam.
If ever there was a case for doing adequate research
before entering a new and strange market, Vietnam
was it—especially because little if any evidence existed that the army would be able to adapt to its markedly different requirements. It is not overstating the
case to say that America’s doomed venture there
grew in part out of the army’s search for a mission in
the mid-1950s.
It is extraordinary to think that the same men we
lionize as part of “the Greatest Generation” we demonize—and rightly so—for their part in the debacle
in Vietnam. These men were not just survivors; they
were winners who had risen quickly in World War II
to become, while still in their twenties and early thirties, commanders of battalions and regiments. In
an army of millions, they had been star performers,
standing astride the globe at the end of the war. Yet it
was not clear that they were the right men to lead the
army in Vietnam.
This generation of officers was led by Taylor, who
had commanded the 101st Airborne Division during
World War II. Though retired, he was named military
adviser (a new and unusual post) to President Kennedy and then, in 1962, recalled to active duty to be
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Taylor would
prove to be almost the opposite of Marshall. Where
the latter had kept his distance from the White House,
Taylor made it his base of power. Marshall had insisted on candor and had given it to the president.
Taylor, by contrast, had a tendency toward mendacity. He played on distrust between generals and
marginalized the members of the …
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