While it is true that Jacques is widely exposed within the military, and
his ideas can be used there, to say that he is actually followed in the
military would be an overstatement.
When I first came across Jacques I thought his use of time span was too
formulaic and over-elaborated, but it kept being useful in explaining why
specific military personnel performed poorly. Many military managers
don't seem to recognize the level of complexity that they are responsible
for, or if they do recognize it, they still want to apply approaches that
worked at lower levels. The result is that a lot of important work
doesn't get done, and a lot of simpler work is redone and undone through
The classic case is of top level officers who think they are responsible
for 'readiness'. (Only recently has anybody pried apart a concept of
strategic readiness.) The typical situation is that somebody labors to
make pretty charts that show everything green except for one yellow. The
generals jump on the yellow item and discover that one unit is unready
(according to dubious data and dubious measures) and in particular because
the unit lacks a wrench. The generals have a big discussion and order a
wrench to be sent immediately. Some generals get a lot of satisfaction
from making such 'decisions' because it allows them to get concrete things
done the way they did when they were batallion commanders, but with more
power. They also like to see perfect green dots. Meanwhile, nobody asks
what the military is ready FOR, what new readiness will be needed, whether
there are better ways to measure it, etc.
This is all work within a stratum of longer time span. In a system as
large as the military, there really is content to long-span strata, but
only a few executives seem to recognize their special responsibility.
Mostly, they use their 'high' position to meddle and test their authority.
The rather large Office of the Secretary of Defense seems to mostly meddle
or be irrelevant, while corporate-level issues remain untouched except by
special panels whose work is carefully sealed off.
The military may be attracted to Jacques because he gives reasons for
hierarchy, but they also seem to be repelled by the intellectualism needed
to fill the high levels. Work in the top strata means acting in highly
abstract terms and beyond the budget.
Whenever I talked about this with colonel-level retired colleagues (the
analyst community), they would salute the concept yet would refuse to
begin thinking like a competent 4-star. 4-stars brought news from on
high, and to think like them would be uppity. Meanwhile, the 4-stars get
little analytic help for the problems they are dealing with. Perhaps not
much is needed, because it is mostly done by politics and principle (and
there are think tanks that don't rely on retired colonels), but I'm still
surprised that colonels almost see it as a duty to not examine why they
are doing things. Hence we have Ollie North, who most colonels seem to
think is great because he acted, and who most top generals seem to think
is terrible because he didn't understand what he was doing.
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