Thursday, October 23, 2003
On the Rummygram:
I remember very little of the history of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. That being said, I do remember one bit of information about Cesar. It is said that when Cesar would ride down the streets of Rome, looking over the greatness and glory of the seemingly invincible institution that was the Roman Empire, a servant/slave would sit next to him.
The job of this servant was simple. While Cesar looked out upon his success, the servant was to whisper in his ear the following phrase:
All honor is fleeting.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (hereafter referred to respectfully as “Rummy”) has come under scrutiny in the past few days regarding a memo he sent to four members of his team. The memo was not for public airing and, having seen the way Rummy casually eviscerates hapless members of the DoD press corps I feel sorry for the sap who leaked the memo.
The memo, or Rummygrams as they are known inside the Pentagon, contained several questions Rummy asked about the ongoing war on terror. The press spins this as evidence the Bushies have no compass when it comes to conducting the war on terror. As usual, I find myself in diametric opposition to the press filter.
Rummy’s comments in this memo actually make me admire the man. He has the intestinal fortitude to continually reexamine this war and the means used by the US to prosecute it. He thinks outside the box – a rarity among Washington insiders. He is not afraid to raise issues in a forum where everyone else might not have the courage to do so.
One of the most important lessons I learned in business school was the Abilene Paradox. The inability for an organization to disagree with its current course and consider new and innovative options can and often is the downfall of that same organization or the failure of the overall mission. With due respect and reverence to the current and former leaders of the US Military, the Abilene Paradox was painfully evident in Vietnam.
Rummy’s job is to effectively follow the orders of the Commander in Chief. Last I checked, those orders were to prosecute the War on Terror and defend the United States from terrorist attacks. Any leader that is not open to new options, tactics, and polices should not wear the SecDef hat. The fact that Rummy encourages his people to constantly search for new, more effective, and better ways of fulfilling their mission just shows me his head is screwed on just right.
Here endeth the lesson.