MOD, Army… Forces communications and values

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CRANBERRY HIGHWAY — The flags around Cape Cod are at half mast. A boy from around here died in Afghanistan last week.

On the way down through New Hampshire last week we shared a dodgy truck stop with a bus full of GIs. All unfailingly polite and… to a 43-year-old like me… young, small and fragile.

A few months ago we were invited out to a briefing by the Army for some work that I think I’m not meant to talk about. For me, that visit was alarming and inspiring in many ways. The forces are probably the most enduring and historical “organisation” that many of our countries have.

We simultaneously hold them close and keep them at a great distance. Most cars in the USA have metallic, symbolic yellow ribbons on them. But only certain families will admit to having people in the forces, or hasten to say that it’s a desirable pursuit… an admirable enterprise.

And there’s no question but that it is.

At the same time, I am convinced that the military has the same communication issues — but more — than the other great organisations we have consulted to. The BPs, HPs, DHL, Rio Tinto, Sony Ericsson, etc. All organisations have difficulties with their communications in the 21st century. The deal has changed. People don’t work for money and the privilege of a weekend every 5 days. They want more.

So, in many respects you could say that the forces have some catching up to do. They are not as sophisticated as many multinationals in their internal communications and big project change management.

However, there is one area (at least) where any publicly listed big business would love to have the clarity of the forces: values.

What are we here for? How do we behave? What makes us special and different?

Values are what hold the forces (army, air force, navy) together and they are awfully good at them.

Businesses are only just catching up.

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