Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Battle of Midway - history down the memory hole

When reader The-Other-Jeff (as I know him) emailed me about this, to be honest, I didn't believe it. To quote TOJ;
... the word "Japanese" or "Imperial
Japanese Navy" were never uttered at the Midway Commemoration last Thursday at the Navy Memorial.
Sorry TOJ, you were exactly right; I'll never doubt you again.

This wasn't just any speech for any commemorative event by any schmo; this was the speech by the Chief of Naval Operations at the Navy Memorial in Washington DC to recognize the Battle of Midway. Read the whole speech here and come back. As for The Commandant's speech, I'll let the Marines deal with it - the CNO's speech starts about half way through after the Commandant's.

Not even a hint of anything "Japan" at all. Can we as an institution at least grow up and do honor to our history - and that of our once opponents and now friends? Can we stop patronizingly insulting the intelligence and professionalism of our Japanese allies?

The first four paragraphs are fine, but it went south after this line.
The Battle of Midway is the ultimate statement of our Navy Ethos and character.
It just wanders in a context-free haze it never seems to come out of. If we want to use The Battle of Midway as the USN Trafalgar, then we are not even close to leveraging it as we should.
Is this it?
...the strength of their character and firmness of their resolve- is why this battle is so significant in our history and why we commemorate it today.

... these pages tell the continuing story of extraordinary men and women whose honor, courage, and commitment created a true and proven hybrid force ready to meet any challenge to our nation’s security.
Weak horse. Yes, the earlier Ensign Evans quote is nice - but the Battle of Midway is so much larger than that. In para's 9 through 12 you can see a core of a speech that could be, but it is lost in the muddle that seems to drift in and out of other speeches in other venues - and in the process we lose the focus on The Battle of Midway and what it tells us.

Good googly moogly - give CDR Hendrix the charter to write that speech next year. Eeeekkkk, that vein on my forehead is going again.

For those who have had the pleasure of doing a tour with the Royal Navy or in close proximity to a critical mass of Royal Navy officers, then you know what Trafalgar Night is all about. You also know that there is no problem mentioning France and Spain - and the French and Spanish Navy officers in attendance have no issue with it.

This is not the time to use a pain-by-numbers method to have a speech written for the CNO to be delivered in the same tone and manner all other speeches are.

In another case of bad staff work, his staff did not change the title of the file they uploaded to the CNO's page to something that is even close to industry standards for the head of a serious organization. Here is the title of the speech. From that, I think we know who the author is. If the LT in the title isn't the author, then poor staff work having her name in the file. If the LT in the title is who wrote the speech we have an even larger vision problem than I think. A little time in Google will tell you all you need to know.

The LT is a fine person and officer, but for The Battle of Midway couldn't we get someone from the
Navy Historical and Heritage Command to write the speech at a minimum? Someone with at PhD in history at least? The Navy has spent a lot of money to give warfare qualified officers a PhD in history. We all know who they are and how to get in touch with them. All we needed to do is say, "We are looking for a good Battle of Midway commemoration speech for the CNO. Please submit a proposal by next month and we will let you know if yours is selected." You will have the biggest geek slap-fight since the iPhone came out just to see who would get the honor of having the CNO read that speech. (noth'n but love, my geeky Shipmates)

Those officers would produce a speech that was focused and in context ... and the Navy would utilize a vastly under utilized asset.

The Battle of Midway deserves more. If we continue to fumble this opportunity to reset our cultural mindset, The Battle of Midway might as well be the week everyone hands out the CFC paperwork, and about as relevant.
If you would rather hear it, go to the approx. 26:30 mark.

Next year let's give the CNO something to work with.
Speaking of writing for the CNO - who fed him this?
"To me the biggest challenge is to make the young people of our country aware of the opportunities and the excitement that exists in the United States Navy. The term that I use is that we have to make it possible for young people, diverse young people, to find the Navy. Because once you find the Navy, the future explodes."
Just for the enemy - I hope. The CNO is a serious man in a very serious position. Are we manning his Staff the way we should - so he as the very best support for the most important areas?

Anon gave us some more quotes from Collin's book
How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In that we talked about earlier this week. Might be worth a ponder for everyone, me included.
Some of the characteristics of leadership on the way down:
· People shield those in power from grim facts, fearful of penalty and criticism for shining light on the harsh realities.
· People assert strong opinions without providing data, evidence, or a solid argument.
· The team leader has a very low questions-to-statements ratio, avoiding critical input and/or allowing sloppy reasoning and unsupported opinions.
· Team members seek as much credit for themselves.
· Team members argue to look smart.
· Team members seek to blame.
· Team members often fail to deliver exceptional results.

Some of the characteristics of leadership on the way up:
· Bring forth unpleasant facts, no matter how ugly.
· People bring forth data, evidence, and logic.
· Employs high question-to-statement ratio, challenges people.
· Team members will credit others for success.
· Team members argue and debate not to improve personal position, but to find the best answer to support the overall cause.
· Each team member delivers exceptional results.

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