Thursday, February 06, 2014

War and Organizational Change

In yet another odd intersection of the two worlds I've worked in, covering war and Agile transformation, I recently came across the Michael Horowitz book, The Diffusion of Military Power (via Tom Ricks’ excellent blog at Foreign Policy The Best Defense). Horowitz theorizes that relative military power and dominance are driven by a state’s ability to incorporate innovation. He says "adoption capacity, the combination of financial intensity and organizational capital possessed by a state, influences the way states respond to major military innovations."

Here's something that leapt out at me. Great powers are willing to spend inordinate amounts of money on innovations that don't require them to re-think what they do. But, "innovations requiring disruptive organizational transformations but relatively reasonable financial investments, like blitzkrieg...will spread haltingly.” Basically, if an innovation challenges the status quo power dynamic within an army it won’t be adopted. Even if it means the Nazi’s take Paris. Status and prestige are far more important than actually winning wars. Until you start losing them

Sound like Scrum? Here's the kicker: "New powers that master the necessary organizational changes can gain advantage over the potentially bigger though less nimble major power opponents."

That could describe Silicon Valley.

Horowitz also points out: "Information technology has generally been employed in a sustaining rather than a disruptive fashion. It has not yet led to large-scale organizational changes or major shifts in thinking about the situations in which force deployments are possible." In other words, they've adopted the tools, but not the organizational change needed to use them to their fullest potential. The forces that do so may make a modern military force as relevant as one of DEC’s minicomputers. Which is exactly the comparison he uses for the American military.

-- JJ Sutherland

1 comment:

Jeff Sutherland said...

Status and prestige are often more important than winning as evidenced by General Motors and many other companies that have been forced into bankruptcy for refusing to change. An interesting current example is defense contractors that are telling me no software contract will be successful today unless it is half the price of previous waterfall bids. Faced with zero business, they are furiously adopting Scrum.