Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gen. Stanley McChrystal writes about " The Courage to Change "

As a student of Leadership and a HR Professional, I have spoken to many about " change " and why it is so difficult for people.

WE are creatures of habit....each one of us has our daily routines and we use these to set our schedules on a daily basis. By doing so, we can control our life and try to have an expectation of what to expect.  I try to help others understand that "change" is the one true constant in life. 

Here, General Stanley McChrystal talks about how he had to come to grips with change to make sure his efforts and the efforts of his troops were effective.

This is part one of his posting and I will follow-up with part two when it is published.

The Courage to Change

By General Stanley McChrystal

At 49 years old, I was a two-star general, and less than a year into what would ultimately be an almost five-year tour as the Commanding General of the Joint Special Operations Command. Within two years I would be wearing a third star, and would ultimately spend almost the entire command tour forward deployed in combat zones. My position placed me in charge of thousands of the United States’ most elite service-members, men and women who had been screened and tested at multiple levels throughout their careers to make it into the military’s most demanding units. I commanded Army Rangers and special operators; the most highly-selected Navy SEALs; the best helicopter pilots in the world; the Air Force’s finest medics and communicator;, and a host of brilliant specialists whose diverse expertise was required to keep our organization moving. We were thousands strong, dispersed around the globe, and by any measurable standard the best trained and most rigorously selected organization that the battlefield had ever seen. My force comprised people selected (amongst other qualities) for their inability to accept anything but victory: We were hard-wired to win.

All of this made my revelation that spring all the more difficult. We were losing. There were no front lines to measure, no enemy higher-headquarters to spy on. This type of conflict was new to us. My units were nightly engaging Al Qaeda in Iraq’s fighters, but our enemy’s influence continued to spread. We were pushing ourselves to our physical and mental edge, but the enemy network was expanding faster than we could move. Most importantly, every metric I could think of was trending negative: al Qaeda acts of violence were on the rise, shadow governments were surpassing the influence of local authorities, civilian casualties were steadily rising, car bombs were exploding every day in Baghdad. Meanwhile, my organization simply had no more capacity, human or technical. Like most soldiers, I’d never contemplated finding myself on the losing side in a war, but I was increasingly convinced that this was what if felt like.

The word—losing—pounded in my head as the hot desert air whipped through the helicopter. I had felt it in my gut for several months, and my visit that night had confirmed it for me intellectually.

But the challenge was this. Our people weren’t losing: They won all their fights. Our units weren’t losing: They could point to their progress. Every element of my several-thousand-strong task force was effectively and steadily winning when it came to their area and their problem set. Yet, collectively, we were still losing. The challenge we faced, I was beginning to realize, was unlike anything we’d ever encountered—or, worse, anticipated—as a possibility.

The members of our force in Anbar were risking their lives every night to address the problem they faced. But did we have the right solution? More important, did we understand the real problem? It was hard for anyone in our force to truly articulate how their actions, effective as they were, tied to the larger effort across the battlefield to debilitate Al Qaeda’s insurgency. At best, I sensed, we were winning in small pockets—capturing enemy leaders and weapons—and hoping that this somehow supported an overarching strategy. At worst, we were risking, losing, and taking lives without knowing that those sacrifices were getting us any closer to ending the war.

At that point, on that night, I had more questions than answers. But I’d begun to understand what needed to be done. As the leader of this organization, I knew the first step would be significant, and it was one that only I could take. We needed to fundamentally change our organization, and that change would need to start with me. I knew, too, that I was entering what would be one of the most challenging periods of my career. I did so with a message that I and I alone could deliver to the Task Force. It went something like this:
You are the finest force the world has ever known, and I’m proud of everything you’re doing. You go out, night after night, into harm’s way—and do incredible things. As individual units, you're winning every time. I recognize and appreciate that. But I’m here to tell you we are losing this war. I know each of you is doing everything you can, and doing it better than history has ever seen. I also know that your families at home make sacrifices every day to support you, our mission, and our nation. I recognize and appreciate that.

So we need to make a choice. We can continue on this road, and all go home with medals and war stories, but those stories will all end with the fact that we, collectively, lost the war. Or, we can change how we operate. If we don’t, we will lose—of that I have no doubt. Changing will be a painful process, but the road we're on is destined for failure. So we start now. I will be here with you, every step of the way.

Thus began our journey

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