This morning, I found myself reflecting once more on the use of military language in corporations. All day, I hear about strategy, tactics and operations. We “attack” things, usually costs or inefficiencies. And now software is to be a “weapon”. The duty manager has a “second in command”.

I wonder who among the people promoting this language could understand or perhaps be moved by General Sir Mike Jackson’s comments in his Dimbleby lecture:

The role of the MoD is to translate the Government’s political objectives into military capabilities and military operations; it’s therefore both a Department of State and the supreme headquarters of the Armed Forces. These two roles can be uneasy bedfellows, and that unease can be to the detriment of the Armed Forces. The Department of State appears to assume that commercial so-called “best practice”, with its proliferation of performance indicators and targets, transfers seemingly without question to defence in general, and to the Armed Forces in particular; I find such an assumption to be without foundation. Incidentally, who judges best practice? And this obsessive measurement which goes on is often against plans, not actually against real-world requirement. So we get the Kafka-esque situation whereby the MoD congratulates itself on improving accommodation according to a plan based on what it calls affordability, but which is far from what is defined by the needs of soldiers and their families. In stark contrast to all of this – operations, fighting, are demonstrably not commercial activities. I am very clear about the only performance indicator which really matters to the Armed Forces – to achieve whatever objectives are set to us; that is, to win.

It’s worth watching the speech – the video is linked from this page – and particularly how he delivers the text above, from 5:30 to the end of the video. The General makes a couple of grammatical errors: he’s not using a teleprompter or a script, just notes.

Good leaders should know what they want to say and say it simply.

Comments are closed.