Sunday, December 18, 2016

The 38th Parallel of Organizations

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Every organization has an organizational structure. The formal structure, often represented in an 'organization chart' displays names, titles and reporting responsibilities.  Paralleling that is the informal structure of how organizations actually work.  Often titled staff "make things happen" beyond the representation of the organization chart and it's accompanying catalog of formal job descriptions.  The "informal organization chart" lacks documentation other than informal but established and historical knowledge, experience and perspectives.  The lack of formal organization charts and documented processes can be a challenge to new incoming staff members.  Entry level staff struggle to understand how the processes work.  Incoming senior staff often stumble when attempting to formalize or change informal processes that already work fine.

Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
It's a challenge.  The junior person needs to "get up to speed" and "show their worth" in the first year. The new senior person needs to "straighten things up"  and "make the changes that need changing." The counterpoint is for all new people to understand an organizations culture.  Strangely, the challenge is to create a formal process of education and communication that transfers knowledge of the informal processes.

Zappos, the online shoe retailer, does a great job of educating new employees on Zappos culture.  A lengthy, mandatory training session on company culture is followed by the offer to leave the company, with a cash offer, if the employee is uncomfortable in any sense with the culture.

Notes to incoming junior staff:
  • listen more than you talk
  • request a peer mentor
  • request a mentor at a more senior position
  • develop a mentor at a comparable organization
  • network
  • be good in your discipline and another
  • plan your future leadership
Notes to incoming senior staff:
  • listen more than you talk
  • request a peer mentor
  • request a mentor at a lessor non-reporting position
  • develop a mentor at a comparable organization
  • network
  • be good in your discipline and another
  • lead based on your experience as a follower
Now for the political commentary...
The President-elect has offered complementary statements about his military hero, Douglas MacArthur:

Regarding Hillary Clinton's website:
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is helping ISIS by putting her plan to fight the extremist group on her website, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump argued in Monday night’s presidential debate.
“General Douglas MacArthur wouldn’t like that,” Trump said.
My comment:  Donald Trump has frequently mentioned and idolized General MacArthur (and General Patton to a lesser degree).  He's possibly cherry-picked those references.  We all do that to a degree.  
The media and the generals:
Trump:  "I don't want my generals being interviewed."
My comment:  Patton and MacArthur, two egotistic WWII generals are often referenced by Donald Trump.  Each was criticized and censured by sitting Presidents for their public commentary.  MacArthur was removed as commander of US forces in Korea for his commentary.  Historians regard both MacArthur and Patton as leading media whores of their era, successful yet controversial in the field.
Fox News:
Trump commentary: As Donald Trump, our new president-elect, starts to plan for the future, the man he should turn to for advice may have died more than fifty years ago, but his words and deeds live on. He’s General Douglas MacArthur, who actually has a lot in common with Donald Trump—and should be one of his role models as president.    
Like Trump, MacArthur was a maverick, an anti-establishment figure.
Truman: "I fired him (MacArthur) because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the president," Truman later explained. "I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the laws for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail."
Trump reference: Nothing else Trump has said—about Muslims, women, protesters, immigrants and so on—has chilled the political, military and media establishment more than his glib pronouncements on nuclear weapons. If we’re not going to use them, Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in a typical remark last March, “then why are we making them?” He said he might drop one on the Islamic State group, known as ISIS, or Europe. “You want to be unpredictable,” he said.
MacArthur:  (from "American Caesar" by William Manchester)
On the second anniversary of Hiroshima, when a bell of peace was rung at the very spot where the bomb had exploded, he asked that "the agonies of that fateful day serve as a warning to all men of all races" that nuclear weapons "challenge the reason and the logic and the purpose of man....This," he said, "is the lesson of Hiroshima.  God grant that it not be ignored."
My comment:  MacArthur was also not in favor of the use of nuclear weapons on Japan.  He was a great general, more knowing of his opponent's intentions that they were themselves and believe Japan to be within days of surrender.  This is what differentiates leaders (good executives); understand your staff, your peers and your competition as well or better than they understand themselves.  It's a big job.  Listen.  Read. Plan.
MacArthur now resides in history as a great strategist particularly in his role in the Pacific in WWII.  Unfortunately, ego, his major strength and major flaw undermined his place in history.  

Donald Trump has surrounded himself with people of extreme partisan positions and experience, some with no experience.  His challenge will be to afford  the "MacArthurs" of his appointees to succeed yet remember for whom they work, and to ensure his own MacArthur traits include the ego to define, prioritize and strategize but remain a humanitarian.

Humility has a place in leadership. Good business leaders have followed before they led. 

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