Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Getting It Done

U.S. Military in Action

In the business world, when a staff manager from corporate visits the field to suggest changes that he won’t be held accountable for, the field line managers typically nod, smile, and humor the corporate representative until they leave. When it comes to delivering disaster aid, U.S. and Australia military personnel simply go about their business flying helicopters to far flung villages round the clock while U.N. high commissioners work on their travel plans. No need to even nod and smile.

From the National Business Review:

“As news media are increasingly dominated by footage of US, Australian and regional military forces actually delivering aid to stricken survivors of the Boxing Day tsunami, UN officials are carping about housing in major cities far removed from the front lines and passing around elaborate business cards.”

And this:

“. . . detailed daily reports of activity in the affected regions also reveals that UN officials are working hard at planning to work -- and estimating the need for work -- rather than actually delivering aid on the ground. . . And their number one concern, even before phones, fax and copy machines? Arranging for the hotel to provide 24 hr catering service. ”

And this gem from Diplomad:

"this (most recent U.N.) assessment team will coordinate all the other assessment teams." In addition, the UN will set up a "Civil-Military Coordination Office to coordinate all military assistance because the military do not have experience in disaster relief "

Planning and coordinating for activities that are already getting done. That's what unaccountable managers without line authority do while the field focuses on execution. The U.N. has a role to play, it's just not in jobs that require results, quickly. Or results, slowly.