Tuesday, 11 June 2013

...of military, and systems that work

Recently my brother and I were discussing childhood (career) dreams. He recalled how as a little child wanted to become an ambassador. Later he wanted to be a lawyer. Now he is a brand management expert. My earliest career dream was to be an architect as my father (probably all male children at one time in their lives wanted to do want their father did). Later in my late teens I wanted a career in the military. I fell in love with the order and the chain of command of the military. Of course as a young lad I also liked the power that military personnel exude. Some years later, I no longer wanted a military career because I considered the military life to be too rigid for me—a firm believer in creativity and diversity of ideas. Now my career is in organization development.
However, as we discussed I found that my initial interest in the military was because I found in the military a system that works. Even in the midst of the corruption that eats away at every institution in Nigeria I found the military retaining some form of effectiveness. I am not saying in any way that they were spared the assault of corruption however they retained a level of effectiveness that was not found in institutions like the Police. Looking beyond Nigeria, we find a similar scenario of the military. (The military worldwide have been responsible for many important inventions from the internet to GPS and so on.) This reality is what drew my young mind to the military. What was it that gave the military that edge of effectiveness? It is the unique culture of the military—a culture that ensures that missions are accomplished despite challenges. It also ensures that there is unity of command and that everyone is working towards some set objectives. That harmony, be it coerced or not, is essential to the military’s effectiveness. The culture emphasizes discipline and respect of authority. One of the reasons the military is effective is because it requires few persons to do the strategic planning while others carry it out with energy and doggedness. It does not generally tolerate dissent—even if the subordinate’s view can accomplish the task better. The rich pool of ideas that a more liberal system allows is lost. Had I been conscripted into the military my unwillingness to ‘follow-follow’ would be my greatest problem. I would have loved to have our missions and the strategy justified as much as possible.
A very effective organization, therefore, is one that embraces, on one hand, the strength of the military (cohesion and order) and on the other hand, openness of ideas and views of a civilian life. The synthesis will result in an organization that is both progressive and effective.


  1. True and profound! I agree with the antithesis of the military-order and the civilian-liberalism. These are the 2 forces that shape existence, the order to be the foundation and the freedom to be the application. Where these 2 co-exist, there subsist growth, progress and innovation. However, where they are mismanaged, there would be chaos, collapse and anarchy.