Archive for category Kaizen

Leadership: General Mattis On ‘Command And Feedback’, And The Use Of ‘Eyes Officers’

From his lead position, Mattis stayed close to the regiments involved in the fiercest fighting and got a good sense for events on the battlefield. The general refused to believe that images on a computer screen in the quiet hum of a command post could tell him what he needed to know about how the battle was progressing and what his subordinates required. Mattis could be ruthless; he would relieve the commander of one of his regiments in the middle of a campaign. In the marines, only performance counts. Mattis picked several officers to act as what he called his “eyes only” representatives. They had no authority but, he said, like “Frederick the Great’s focused telescope or Wellington’s lieutenants in the Peninsula Campaign,” they had the duty of wandering the battlefield to keep him informed of things they thought he needed to know: troops or officers who were exhausted by combat, supplies that were not reaching the front line, and the other human factors that can be crucial in combat. -page 116 and 117 of The Iraq War: A Military History, By Williamson Murray, Robert Scales

The Slate put this out last year, but I just recently stumbled upon it and wanted to share. General Mattis is a Marine’s Marine and he is very much respected. With that said, when I found out that he was implementing some concepts that are familiar here in Jundism and some of my leadership posts, I perked up.

Specifically, the mystery shopper concept or having folks on the inside of your organization to give you some honest feedback about the true health of your company or military unit. With this data, you can actually make adjustments to policy that will better serve the mission or contract.

I also liked the focus on innovation and gaining feedback. Or, command and feedback, which is a play on the phrase command and control. This also led to the best quote in the article below about where that feedback or innovation could come from.

If you are always on the hunt for complacency, argues Mattis, you will reward risk-takers, and people who thrive in uncertainty. “Take the mavericks in your service,” he tells new officers, “the ones that wear rumpled uniforms and look like a bag of mud but whose ideas are so offsetting that they actually upset the people in the bureaucracy. One of your primary jobs is to take the risk and protect these people, because if they are not nurtured in your service, the enemy will bring their contrary ideas to you.”

That is awesome and all companies and military units should learn from this. Leaders should dare to listen and seek feedback from all quarters of their organization, and soldiers/contractors should dare to come forward and disagree, or present the better idea. Any policies and actions within an organization that supports this command and feedback process should be looked at and attempted.

We should constantly be supporting and pushing innovation within the ranks, and constantly seeking feedback and using these innovations in order to continuously improve the organization/mission/contract/war fighting/strategy. Awesome stuff. –Matt



Gen. James Mattis, USMC The general who is fighting a constant battle to keep the military innovating.
By John Dickerson
Aug. 9, 2011
When speaking to rising officers, Marine Gen. James Mattis likes to tell the story of the British Navy. At the turn of the 19th century, it had no rival in the world, but 100 years later it had grown complacent in dominance. Officers amassed rules, ribbons, and rituals that had little to do with the changing nature of war. “They no longer had captains of wars,” he tells them, “but captains of ships.”
As commander of the U.S. Central Command, Mattis oversees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but his career mission has been against complacency. In modern warfare the reliance on better technology and superior firepower deadens the talent for innovation, he argues. This blinds some officers to emerging threats and slows their ability to react to them. The U.S. military, he argues “must avoid becoming dominant and irrelevant.”

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Cool Stuff: TED-Margaret Heffernan: Dare To Disagree

Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but as Margaret Heffernan shows us, good disagreement is central to progress. She illustrates (sometimes counterintuitively) how the best partners aren’t echo chambers — and how great research teams, relationships and businesses allow people to deeply disagree.
The former CEO of five businesses, Margaret Heffernan explores the all-too-human thought patterns — like conflict avoidance and selective blindness — that lead managers and organizations astray.“A fantastic model of collaboration: thinking partners who aren’t echo chambers.” (Margaret Heffernan)”

This TED was fantastic. In the past I have talked about questioning authority, avoiding group think or confirmation bias, and seeking feedback as crucial elements of a company or organization’s health. Especially if you want a thinking or learning organization.

The other point in this TED that was cool was that the answers to your company’s problems are often times right there in the data and feedback from employees/members, but because folks are afraid to bring them up or leaders shun that data because they hate being questioned or challenged (ego), that the data is ignored or is thrown away. A company must find ways of finding this data, and use it effectively for their Kaizen programs.

They must also listen to those who have the courage to disagree or say something, and they must reward these folks–because they cared enough about your company or contract to bring that forward. It is feedback gold, and those leaders who care more about ego, and less about encouraging that process and acting on it, are toxic to a company and that contract. Check it out. –Matt


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Leadership: Fast Company– Design, Teamwork And Leadership Lessons From General Stanley McChrystal

This is an excellent video presentation on McChrystal’s ideas on organizations and leadership (‘It Takes A Network‘), as applied to businesses today. He really dives into the complexities of today’s wars and market place, and talks about his lessons learned at JSOC and with special operations. Of course our industry should pay attention, because we are the ultimate combination of business and war.

One theme that you see with many books on special operations/leadership is how much of an impact Operation Eagle Claw had on the spec ops community. That failure was a hard lesson to swallow, and the leaders of that community at the time had to really dig into what went wrong and how to fix it. This is a starting point with McChrystal’s talk, and it sets the tone perfectly.

McChrystal also delves into the second reshaping of the JSOC organizational structure, and that is modern terrorism and 9/11.  That the problem was very complex, and that there were so many pieces (agencies, units, foreign partners, etc.) to put together in order to be effective, and that they were fighting networks.  The traditional top down management structure was not working, and could not effectively use or control all of these pieces. It couldn’t keep up either, and that is not a good position to be in.

So what happened was a rethinking on how to make this machine called JSOC into a network that could compete with terrorist/enemy networks. Nothing new if you have been following the blog or reading McChrystal’s stuff. Very cool, and watch the video if you want a better picture of what I am talking about.

As to today’s PMSC’s and their organizational structures? Good question, and I have never really dived into that.  It would make for a fantastic thesis or chapter in someone’s book, and authors/researchers might have already touched this issue. Who knows, and maybe some of the readers can present some examples?

With my limited exposure to companies and their organizational structures, most follow a traditional top down approach.  Although what is interesting is that corporate usually has no idea what is going on at the ground level with contracts, and they are highly dependent on the Project Manager to find that out with the leadership out in the field. PM’s are the ones that should be keeping a track of that leadership out in the field as well–but sadly, many companies operate with the PM at the home country office and they lead through emails or video conferencing. They might visit out in the field now and then, but that costs money in the eyes of corporate, so it is one of those deals where some PMs do it more than others based on what corporate will allow.

So companies do put a lot of trust into those leaders out in the field. If anything, companies forget about those leaders or could care less about properly supporting them or listening to their concerns. These leaders out in the field have to interpret emails and policies and directives, while at the same time making sure the troops and the client they are providing a service too is happy.  These guys are where the rubber meets the road with contracts, and they have a lot of impact.

These mid-level field managers might have several site managers under them. Under those site managers, there might be a day shift, mids, and night shift supervisors.  They might have team leaders in charge of PSD details, and PSD teams might be permanently assembled or piecemeal depending on how the organization and man power is set up.  Rotations of folks coming in and out of that country/war zone has an impact on how things are done as well. There are so many organizational models and types of operations that contractors create, that it would be very interesting to try to tap into that and see what works and what doesn’t. Even PMSC’s from Europe and elsewhere bring their own brand of organization structure to the table, and it is fascinating to see that stuff in action.

Companies also lack the proper policies and incentives to grow leaders into those positions. This is a big problem out there, and it is something I have covered before. You will see managers in the field, hand pick whomever they want, and PM’s usually just go with that choice–partly because they really don’t have any guidance or support from corporate. Which is great if that manager knows how to do that, but absolutely sucks when they create really poor teams of leaders that the rest of us have to put up with.

With that said, the really poor teams of leaders are usually defined by guys that are extremely loyal to that manager, and pose no threat to that manager’s position.  Much like how dictators operate. It is how you get teams of yes men that do not question that manager, and it is also how you get group think scenarios.  PM’s would be very wise to pay attention to how and why mid-level managers pick the folks they pick.  Was it based on merit, experience and good leadership skills, or were they chosen based on ‘what’?

Also, if the company has poorly set up the pay and incentives with the idea of hanging on to good people, then growing leaders is damn near impossible. Or if they do not offer a way to advance in the organization that is fair and makes sense, then folks will have no interest in participating in that. We default back to how mid-level managers assemble crap teams, because either they are more concerned with loyalty or they just don’t have a lot to choose from–because the company really doesn’t care about ‘growing leaders’ or seeking good leaders during recruitment.

So why am I adding this to McChrystal’s deal on organizational structures and networks?  Hopefully companies will look at Crosslead and other ideas on how best to manage their folks and organize their companies for success. In a way, incidents that are extremely embarrassing to the industry and companies, are like mini-Operation Eagle Claws, and all companies should be striving to learn from their mistakes/embarrassments and continuously improve (Kaizen). Perhaps there is a better way of structuring your organization, and maybe you can do things that will create the necessary leaders to manage that? –Matt



Design, Teamwork, And Leadership Lessons From Gen. Stanley McChrystal: Must Watch
By Austin Carr
McChrystal shared the lessons he learned as leader of the Joint Special Operations Command and talked about how they translate to business at Fast Company’s recent Innovation Uncensored conference.
For five years, retired General Stanley McChrystal led the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, the branch of the military charged with special operations planning that was responsible for the death of Osama bin Laden one year ago. The successful raid on bin Laden’s compound took place after McChrystal’s tenure, but the crucial lessons he learned during his years commanding JSOC have applications in all industries.

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Jundism: In Praise Of Those Who ‘Do’….

‘Only accurate rifles are interesting.’ -Townsend Whelen

This is a quick post, but important. For Townsend, only accurate rifles are interesting. I like that quote, and I think it works well with what I believe in, and that is ‘only those that do are interesting’. Over the years, I have received numerous emails from readers who had the courage ‘to do’ what is right. To quote Col. John Boyd, they chose the route of ‘to do’ when they came to that great crossroads of life that everyone experiences, and they wanted to share that with me.

These men and women are my heroes, and they are what inspire me every time I work on this blog or think about how to improve this industry and war effort. They are the unsung heroes of every company, military unit or government, that had the courage to stand up and demand excellence or battle with those who are unjust.  They have also done these things at peril to self, all because being righteous sometimes equates to being unpopular or not advancing in an organization. But at least they did not compromise what they believed in, and this is what makes them more interesting and more of a leader than any of those that strive ‘to be’.

There are other moments of jundism that I hear about that motivates me. Those that came up with the better idea, and fought hard for that better idea and won, are also my heroes. They might have built a snowmobile, and created a new idea, which is really awesome. Or they might have lost the battle, all because of someone else’s ego or pride.  Either way, that individual get’s my respect for fighting the good fight.

The other thing I like to focus in on with my exchanges with the readership, either here or at Facebook, is to empower those individuals in their personal battles. To actually give them the means to win those battles through sound strategy and good intelligence. ‘Know yourself, know your enemy’, as Sun Tzu would say.  But most importantly, win without fighting.

That last part is very important.  I want my readership to win their battles, and not face casualty. That is very hard to do though, and even in my personal battles, I have lost. But I have also won some battles, and the key is to learn from those losses and continuously improve upon your ability to win future battles. And of course, the ultimate in war fighting, or the battle of wills and ideas, is to win without fighting at all.

To do this, you must know your adversaries well, and know yourself so you can figure out what ‘winning’ really means. Studying strategy, and borrowing brilliance is crucial. You must also avoid fights that end up in pyrrhic victories. Seek fights where your strength can defeat their weakness, and get that win. I want you to continue working in this industry and become a force of change, or to be the example.  That is winning.  To destroy yourself while destroying your opponent is losing in my book. Remember this when thinking of conducting legal battles, or battles with management and other individuals in your particular occupation.

Finally, it gives me great pleasure to know that jundism and this blog is bringing about a revolution in thought process. I have readers who are now students of good leadership, who are innovators, who are not afraid to do what is right, etc. They are also students of strategy and are continuously improving. These  readers and leaders have embraced these ideas, and have used them to their advantage.  It is a privilege and honor to be a part of that process and serve this family.

For those that fall under the category of ‘to be’, all I have to say is that you do not earn my respect. Although there is something I do like about this loathsome group…..  I like to study you, so I can empower those that aspire ‘to do’, to defeat you. –Matt

“Tiger, one day you will come to a fork in the road,” he said. “And you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.” He raised his hand and pointed. “If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments.”
Then Boyd raised his other hand and pointed another direction. “Or you can go that way and you can do something – something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference.”
He paused and stared into the officer’s eyes and heart. “To be somebody or to do something.” In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do. Which way will you go?”- Col. John Boyd

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Kaizen: The Launch Of A New Feral Jundi Blog Theme And Blog Features

Finally I can get back to the business of blogging.  First off, let me tell the story here about what exactly happened.  Google Adsense shut down my publisher’s account last week because I had a link somewhere on the blog that they did not agree with.  News to me, and yet the owner of that link decided to file a DMCA which Google takes seriously, and they shut down my subscription.  Hence why I do not have Google Adsense on the blog right now.

So the process here is that you send Google a letter explaining that you have removed the link with the hopes that somewhere in the Google machine, someone with some commonsense will actually reinstate my account. I have brought Google a lot of business for their advertisers to say the least, and it is Google’s loss.

In the ad spaces now are Chitika, which is a competitor of Google.  Although they are not on the same scale as Google, and the quality of ads and type of ads are not the same.  I intend to get back my account with Google Adsense, but until then, I will use Chitika or whatever else comes my way.

Now for the ‘Ad Center’ to the right. This is a cool new feature of the blog that I would like to promote.  It rotates all of those affiliates and ads, has plenty of space, and it looks sharp.  If you want to advertise on the blog here that is where I will put your graphic and link to your product/service (for $60 dollars a month of course).

If you want to do some affiliate marketing, that is where I will stick you as well (which does not cost $60 dollars a month, but is purely a profit sharing/promotional mechanism between the two parties). Jake Allen’s Security Contracting eBook and Bill Beaver’s Dangerzone and Oil Jobs ads are both affiliates, and both work through Plimus.  I highly recommend using Plimus as a way to set up an affiliate marketing plan for your product or service because it works. It benefits the author and the the folks willing to promote it (like good ol’ Feral Jundi).

Now on to the new features of the blog that I am pretty excited about.  First of all the blog is much more SEO friendly than the older blog, and I hope to get higher search ranking because of it. It is a Thesis based theme called ‘Arclite’ (I think that is a great theme for a military themed blog like mine-lol) and it is totally modified using modern WordPress plugins.  That means I can insert functionality at the press of button, as opposed to inserting code all the time.

The comments section is powered by Intense Debate. I like this set up because it allows folks to use their Facebook account to login here and make comments.  Or you can still comment the older way by entering your name and email–whichever works for you. I was also able to convert all the older comments into this new comments system.

You can also click on the ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ rating system for posts just to the right of the comment. So if you like what someone has said, definitely voice your opinion by clicking that. Although I still maintain total control of all posts–meaning everything stays civil and profanity free. Also, Akismet is still my primary safety system watching my back when it comes to filtering out spam.

The other features I am excited about is the Facebook like buttons and Twitter/Linkedin buttons.  Please…. pretty please, if you ‘like’ a post here, click that button.  It is such a simple thing to do to show your appreciation for a post and it takes a fraction of a second to do.  If you do not have Facebook, Twitter, or a Linkedin account, disregard. (although I still recommend opening accounts so you can participate in that realm of social media–FJ is very active on Facebook)

The other features are self explanatory.  I still have all the same categories and links, and nothing has changed there. You can still translate the page via Google Translate. You can still donate to the cause.  The Close Protection PSD Jobs and Secure Aspects Job Board widgets are in the ‘Jobs For Security Contractors’ block.  The social media block at the top right hand corner still has my RSS feed/email subscription, Facebook, Twitter, Scribd accounts, etc.

One cool detail that I have added to the blog is a print and PDF file creation button.  When you bring up the full post, and you see that button on the bottom of the post, just hit that and you can have formatted print screen or you can download the item as a PDF file. Hell, you can even send it as an email to someone.  In other words, it is a really handy feature to record and keep in your records, any information that you liked on FJ.

Now onto the artistic side of the blog.  That header image and logo is extremely easy to change out.  Meaning, I am all about changing that stuff from time to time to keep the blog visually interesting.  I like the flames and the big bold white ‘Feral Jundi’, but all of that can change with the click of a button. In the future you might see some interesting custom logo and background imagery that will compliment the blog’s theme.

In true Kaizen fashion, the blog will continue to be improved upon and I am always open to feedback. I think Miyamoto Musashi, Col. John Boyd, Sun Tzu, Buffalo Bill Cody, Frederick Russell Burnham and General George Washington* would all approve. –Matt

*My new Facebook Profile avatar is General George Washington in a Marine uniform. lol

Building Snowmobiles: Man Vs. Machine–Steam Engine, Deep Blue, Ziggy, Watson…..Boyd?

     In The Art of War, Sun Tzu advised that one of the most important rules of warfare is to “know thine enemy.” At the chess table, the more you know about your opponent — how he has played in the past, his favorite moves, his strengths and weaknesses — the more likely you are to defeat him. Knowing these things requires sorting through a wealth of information — and that’s where computers come in…. 

     Kris says today’s chess players have absolutely benefited from the technology: “They are better players because of it, and they’re achieving more at a younger age. Bobby Fischer was considered an anomaly when he earned the grandmaster title at 15. Today, if you aren’t a GM by the age of 14 or 15, you probably won’t go far in chess. Talent will always matter, but technology is helping talented players learn faster and better.”

     What would a war game look like between a Boyd Machine(or just Boyd) and General Petraeus?  Or better yet, a general or political strategist with a Boyd Machine assisting in strategy and planning? These are some interesting concepts to ponder as militaries, companies, and politicians continue to seek that edge that will help them to defeat their opponents.

    If you look at the progression of machine development for Chess playing, Deep Blue was the end result of continuous improvements (kaizen) to the software.  Deep Blue ended up beating the human race’s top chess player and that is significant. It is a key point to remember when conceptualizing the Boyd Machine.

    Furthermore, I believe that Watson will at one point dominate Jeopardy.  It is doing very well now, and the four years of work on the machine is telling. Even if it doesn’t do it now, it will certainly do it in the near future because of Kaizen and because of Moore’s Law.

    So with these two examples of a machine evolution, is it a stretch to envision a computer defeating a top general or a team of generals in a war game? After all, war is the ultimate game of chess.

     I will take this a step further.  If not man versus machine in the endeavor of war, how about cyborg versus cyborg?  The way the human race is interfacing with machines in the present could easily classify us as ‘cyborgs’.  We carry around smart phones or cellphones, we check our computers daily and highly depend on both of these devices. Most humans have a hard time being away from their computer or phone, because they are so important to their lives.  This is reality.

    So with that said, imagine a general with a Boyd machine, versus another general with his machine?  Or a CEO hybrid versus a CEO hybrid.  You get the idea, and this is exactly the point of the various articles below.

     In the world of Chess, this reality has already presented itself. Will we see a similar future where strategists in political campaigns or military campaigns will be assisted by a machine for planning? I think so, because that is the natural progression, and the computing power is there thanks to Moore’s Law and Kaizen.

     Remember the rule of mimicry strategy?  Folks will copy the most successful strategies for winning, and add one little thing to it to give them the edge.  If everyone knows all the strategies and thought processes of all of mankind’s strategists and their opponent’s history, then what would give an edge to one side over the other?  Could a Boyd machine be that edge? Something that can analyze and synthesize faster than an opponent. Or help it’s human counterpart’s decision making cycle and come up with the winning strategies necessary to win that war, campaign, or competition in a market place? Interesting stuff.

    It would also be cool to see how such a Boyd machine would be constructed.  Take all of his theories and papers, as well as all of the material ever created in regards to strategy, and construct a machine that would think like Boyd?  There are plenty of individuals out there that could contribute as advisors to such a project. Best of all, it would be really cool to build a Sun Tzu machine or a Clausewitz  machine, and have cyborg teams war game against one another.  Al Qaeda or Taliban machines could be constructed as well, and I think war gaming in the future will greatly benefit from such efforts.  –Matt

Edit: 02/17/2011- Watson wins in Jeopardy, which to me is incredible because this was it’s first attempt! Watson won $77,147 to Mr. Jennings’s $24,000 and Mr. Rutter’s $21,600. Good job to the crew at IBM for building such an amazing machine.

Watson, the ‘Jeopardy!’ computer, has grander plans

IBM’s Watson Just Latest Edition of Man Vs. Machine Battle

The role of computers in planning chess strategy

The website for IBM’s Watson here.

TED: We Are All Cyborgs Now, Amber Case 

Watson, the ‘Jeopardy!’ computer, has grander plans


By Hayley Tsukayama

Watson, the computer that’s winning hearts and cash on “Jeopardy!” this week, is more than just a pretty interface.

David F. McQueeney, vice president of IBM Research said that Watson’s real applications are far more practical. The computer is actually intended to help users get a handle on unstructured data such as text, e-mails and in-company mail messages.

“We’ve been working for a long time about helping humans navigate a large amount of data, ” McQueeney told Post Tech in an interview. “There’s all kinds of incredibly valuable information about the way an agency runs in unstructured data, and we’ve been working for decades on extracting meaning and structure from it.”

What McQueeney hopes IBM can do by showing Watson off on television is let people know machines have evolved to the point where they can help humans struggle with problems without having to modify all the data for a computer.

“I’m so pleased that the ‘Jeopardy!’ producers agreed to work with us,” he said, “and I’m as pleased as they are that the result was good science and good entertainment.”

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