Research Project LO27385

From: Sandy Wells (
Date: 10/11/01

Replying to LO27368 --


The US Army has been practicing the principles of Learning Organizations
for years. Most folks really know very little about the Army unless
you've been a soldier--those stereotypical Hollywood things aren't exactly
the way the Army is.

In garrison, the staff study process is used in most decision-making
processes (use of critique and lessons learned), development of leaders to
include new and innovative processes (West Point has been recognized as
one of the world's premier leadership training institutions--I'll see if I
can dig out both a Fast Company, NYTimes and WSJ article on the ways that
leaders are trained there), and the Army was way ahead (early 70's) in the
use of Organization Development technologies having instituted the
Organizational Effectiveness Staff Officer as an integral member of the
senior staff at Dept of Army and at posts throughout the world.
(Unfortunately, just like civilian counterparts, the Army eliminated those
positions when it was determined that the OD function wasn't working as
well as they wanted--but that's another story and pretty complex.)

As an Army Organizational Effectiveness staff officer, I not only learned
how to use Large-Scale Design before its current vogue but we also used
learning labs, systems thinking concepts/models, strategic visioning, and
team learning. Additionally, in '83, when I went through my training, I
learned ROI (return on investment--quantifying organizational learning).

Having been in corporate America for over twenty years, one thing that I
see as truly deficient in our corporations: the emphasis on training
leaders diminishes the further up you go in the organization. Case in
point: I asked a group of Senior VP's in a company, which espouses
"Development of People" as the second corporate objective, how many of
them had been to training or lifelong learning experience of any type in
the last year? Not one. "Last two years?" Again not one. Asked about
personal readings? Nothing that could be remembered. Now, go ask any
soldier--officer or enlisted--at any rank--what they have done for
professional development in the last two years . . . you'll get a
different answer. Just routine "work" in the military is training, putting
into place scenario (scenario planning--thinking contingencies,
challenging current mental models).

As full Colonels put on General's stars, they are required to attend a
personal development session with self-awareness feedback built
it--mandatory. (They go to either Greensboro or a satellite of the famous
leadership program in NC). You can't be as effective a leader unless you
know yourself. Most of the VP's I've worked with, from high tech to
healthcare to service industries to aerospace--hard to break away for any
learning except for a few rounds of golf.

So, hope that at least provides a different perspective than MASH!



Sandy Wells
Wells & Associates
Austin, TX
512 327 8095


"Sandy Wells" <>

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