Monday, November 08, 2010

Arms and the suit

Like some other special forces around the world, the SAS has aligned itself with top-performing New Zealand organisations to share leadership skills with high-calibre and high-performing New Zealanders who strive for excellence.
It has come to this. I don't mean the misuse of public funds, the possible disclosure of official secrets or allowing management to fire guns. It is the striving for excellence which bothers me. Who would have thought that we would hear this sort of management-bilge spoken by our Defence chaps in connexion with our elite special forces? Aligned itself, top-performing, high-calibre, high-performing striving for excellence; it's like an MBA in Utter Tosh.

It is bad enough that our SAS should be entertaining Darren from Sales, who had an uncle who was in Vietnam, and Keith from Accounts, who would have joined up himself if it were not for his dodgy knee. But to talk about the troopers aligning themselves with top-performing orgainisations is not going to help morale one bit. They join the Special Air Services to do special things, not to be part of New Zealand Limited, to take flabby middle-managers on team-building exercises. What must it have been like?
Direct Capital invests in companies including Rodd & Gunn, Bayleys Real Estate, New Zealand Pharmaceuticals, King Salmon, Triton Hearing Clinics and Go Bus, but the company wouldn't say which businesses sent staff.
The worst part must have been the cocktails. One of the office wallahs would have said something about wanting a slow comfortable screw, and everyone would have to pretend he was funny. Then they would have wheeled in Corporal Apiata, who normally would not be allowed in the Officers' Mess. Poor bloke: one single act of heroism and he is condemned to a life of public relations.
A Defence spokesman said the "interaction" was just a discussion around "enhancement of leadership, culture and team dynamics... the SAS culture, ethos and values".
No the worst part is the after-match pretence, the lying about leadership, culture and team dynamics. And the worst part of the worst part is that this sort of flannel is entirely plausible. All these suits will have read selected parts of The Art of War and maybe even a little Clausewitz before bedtime. They believe themselves to be mighty warriors in the war for increased turnover.

But then, it is all about Leadership, isn't it? Just as an officer can lead his men into a firefight with the طالبان , so can a manager lead his team into a change scenario. There is very little difference. The principles of management are invariable across the broad range of organisational structures, in both horizontal and vertical alignment. To take one paradigmatic exemplar, at Rodd and Gunn they are literally battling to retain their share of the smart-casual male apparel sector. It's war out there, in a very real sense.

So, for a mere $500 each as a contribution to the Widows and Orphans fund, the managers get to learn about the culture, ethos and values of the SAS. And when the boring bit is over, they get to fire some guns.

They don't teach you that at Harvard Business School


Simon said...

I am afraid I must correct you Paul: the preferred term is New Zealand Incorporated.

Uroskin said...

Couldn't the SAS have done us all a favour and shot those bankers on sight?

Paul said...

Simon, yes, I suppose so. But Incorporated is American and also reminds me of Incorporated Societies, of AGMs in draughty halls; limited, though correct for this country, sounds so limiting.

Uroskin, would it make any difference if a few key players were lost in firearms incidents? They all have to be paid small fortunes in compensation because they are said to be so valuable, but really they are expendable: there is no shortage of MBAs.