Change the Pentagon Culture – McNamara Style

Robert McNamara, 22 Nov 1967The Pentagon desperately needs to change its culture to transform operations, business practices, and achieve hundreds of billions in savings.  Steve Denning has another great post, How Do You Change An Organizational Culture?, with sage advice for Pentagon leadership.

In general, the most fruitful success strategy is to begin with leadership tools, including a vision or story of the future, cement the change in place with management tools, such as role definitions, measurement and control systems, and use the pure power tools of coercion and punishments as a last resort, when all else fails.

In the post, he describes Robert McNamara’s success, not at the Pentagon, but at the World Bank and key lessons for the next World Bank President.

  • Do come with a clear vision of where you want the organization to go and promulgate that vision rapidly and forcefully with leadership storytelling.
  • Do identify the core stakeholders of the new vision and drive the organization to be continuously and systematically responsive to those stakeholders.
  • Do define the role of managers as enablers of self-organizing teams and draw on the full capabilities of the talented staff.
  • Do quickly develop and put in place new systems and processes that support and reinforce this vision of the future, drawing on the practices of dynamic linking.
  • Do introduce and consistently reinforce the values of radical transparency and continuous improvement.
  • Do communicate horizontally in conversations and stories, not through top-down commands.
  • Don’t start by reorganizing. First clarify the vision and put in place the management roles and systems that will reinforce the vision.
  • Don’t parachute in a new team of top managers. Work with the existing managers and draw on people who share your vision.
Read Steve Denning’s full post here.