Artists versus Bureaucrats – WP Lang

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12 Responses to Artists versus Bureaucrats – WP Lang

  1. William R. Cumming says:

    WOW! Pat I can’t imagine the time and effort and value added this piece of yours reflects. Public Administrators have always worried that the Generalist managers will erode the skills and independence of the scientific and technical elite needed to accomplish the goals of the modern organization. Mary Taylor Follette (sic)a noted student of the business process ( a genius) in her writings suggested that authoritarian management would not succeed in the modern business world because of scientific and technical change and the need for knowledge. Basically no one could know everything necessary for a business’ success. She suggested a team approach and the need to unleash the knowledge and competence of the team. Okay so evidence from you paper that the INTEL community really has not developed systems and processes to ensure INTEL competence which exists but is not utilized or might not be developed. I would make your piece required reading top to bottom and new recruit in the INTEL community and have open forum discussion of its merits and the problems that it provides focus for by managment. Could it be that with Congress and the Executive Branch no longer the realm of broad gauge personnel that there is really no hope for reform? Sir John Keegan somewhat dismisses INTEL in his later writings and have never understood how specific knowledge would not assist a decision maker even when perfect knowledge never possible. Congrats Pat on a wonderful insight into the INTEL culture.

  2. frank durkee says:

    Perceptive and in my experience applicable to any organization, from mid-size and up, that deals with fiinding iformation its’ analysis as a core competency. In my direct experienc this applies to main line church organizations, large scale community organizers, federal departments etc.
    when I was tasked with finding ‘new ways’ of doing things, I looked for the small group or individual instances of real objective success and ignored most of the standard, conventional wisdom stuff.

  3. Ken Roberts says:

    Two phrases that come to mind are “skunk works” and “kitchen cabinet”. Tracy Kidder’s book “The Soul of a New Machine” may provide some lateral insights, from another field of endeavour.
    An anecdote from Kidder’s book, that most impressed me, was when the engineering team had a flaky board that they could not diagnose, and the VP engineering came in, flexed the board, and made the problem go hard – now they had something to fix. It is applicable to many contexts, an instance of high managerial art. Not all management of detail guys is pernicious.

  4. arbogast says:

    What are really to be found in the
    upper echelons of the “community” are either people who early in their government
    service became specialized in the generalized management of organizations (often after
    early substantive analytic work) or others who were “staff ” of some kind, (budgetary
    planners, lawyers. liaison staff, etc.) The Directors of the various agencies are naturally
    attracted to such people because they are focused on the administrative functions of the
    agencies and the protection of their ultimate superior, the Director.

    This describes modern academic medicine perfectly. Clinical skills are despised by Department Chairman who pride themselves on their “administrative” skills. This has led to the complete corruption of academic medicine which used to be one of the truly shining lights of America.

  5. Cieran says:

    A magnificent analysis, not only of the woes of the intelligence community, but also of the fundamental problem of a self-perpetuating bureaucracy.
    As far as the term “devil’s advocate”, note that its canon law synonym is “promoter of the faith”. I have found that bureaucrats prefer the former name, where artists prefer the latter.

  6. Fred says:

    Let us see what the administration does with the reform of GM’s burearcracy, then we’ll have a good idea what might be accompleshed with a reform in intellegence agencies.

  7. David Habakkuk says:

    What you say raises a question which puzzles me: how far are the degenerative tendencies which the Colonel identifies peculiarly characteristic of intelligence services, how far of bureaucracies more generally?
    The question seems to me critical, because one cannot look for ways of countering these tendencies, without being clear as to how they have arisen. So it makes a great deal of difference, whether one puts the accent on factors peculiar to intelligence services, or to factors applying to a much wider range of modern bureaucracies.

  8. JP says:

    It’s all too true, I can confirm by direct observation. “Why study that language? It’s really hard. Besides, everything’s translated anyway.” That statement from an otherwise well-educated young man represents the deathknell for analysis that means anything.
    The managers select those like themselves and relegate the “geeks” to clerkship.
    Time for an “artists colony” of some description. We can learn this lesson now, or learn it after.

  9. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Yes indeed…managers, lawyers, and accountants producing cooked etc. product.
    Congress has not only an oversight function, it has the function of making the laws which create, alter, eliminate, reform, and so on the structure of the Federal Government and thus each “Administration.”
    What is an Administration (a President and his White House/Executive Branch etc.) administering? Broadely speaking, the President with his Administration is administering the THE LAWS created under the Constitution by CONGRESS, the laws under which our society and OUR (repeat OUR) republican form of government operate.
    From my decade plus experience in the Senate of the United States I can say what Col. Lang has just laid out for SST readers IMO well reflects the present reality “Inside the Beltway.”
    Congress has the Library of Congress and its analytical staff to provide analysis and information and context on the international situation. And then there is the Executive Branch run “Intelligence Community.”
    Iraq War?…In August and September and October of 2002 in the run up to the Iraq War, it was clear that the Administration was “cooking” intelligence. As I recall, Senator Feinstein even said this in public at that time as did a number of others in government, academia and the like. Her outburst seemed to express the frustration of some members of Congress anent the politicization of intelligence product.
    BUT Congress has utterly failed in its oversight function. “Why?” is the question concerned citizens should be asking themselves as we roll along in our endless (“no-win”) wars. Just precisely WHY? And just precisely WHO is responsible, which elected officials and etc.??
    I have my students in my “American Foreign Relations to 1919” class read the following as well as Washington’s Farewell Address. We will be discussing these in class Tuesday during my Summer Session offering:
    “The Founding Fathers of American Intelligence
    by P.K. Rose
    Authors’s Preface
    In 1997 the CIA opened its new Liaison Conference Center, consisting of three newly refurbished meeting rooms for hosting foreign liaison visitors. Agency officials decided to name the rooms after past practitioners of three key elements of the intelligence discipline–collection of foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, and covert action. Historical research resulted in the selection of three Revolutionary War leaders–all of whom are much more famous for their other exploits and achievements during the revolutionary period than for their impressive intelligence accomplishments.
    George Washington was theobvious choice for acquisition of foreign intelligence. The Father of our Country was an adroit spymaster. Over the course of his long military career, he directed numerous agent networks, provided comprehensive guidance in intelligence tradecraft to his agents, and used their intelligence effectively when planning and conducting military operations. …..”

  10. William P. Fitzgerald III says:

    Pat Lang,
    12 pages of good stuff, where do you find the time? I have a few comments, the first being that if one were to evaluate the CIA and other intelligence gathering organizations on their results in identifying Iraq as a major threat to the U.S., then the grade would have to be one of sheer buffoonery. This assumes a genuine assessment and not an attempt to support an a priori position. That is not, I think most would agree, a valid assumption.
    I wonder if there’s a epistomological divide of sorts in approaching information? On one side would be the senses and experience used in gathering information which leads to conclusions. The other would be conclusions reached through logic and thought, then requiring information to support the conclusions. When those conclusions in the second case are reached as a consequence of political imperatives leading to wishful thinking, then the logic and thought part of the process is certain to be unreliable.
    As for the “Artists”, or “Real Intelligence Officers”, are they not more in the nature of scientists with a streak of artistry? At any rate, we need them. Those films from the 70s, with evil management types betraying their well-intentioned agents in order to further their own agenda, actually make a pretty good metaphor for your division between Real Intelligence Officers (REOs) and Managers.
    If the situation you describe is an inevitable process in the life cycle of organizations, then doesn’t it follow that the cure must be something traumatic. For example, destruction and re-creation which could only happen with a profound failure. The failures thus far havn’t been profound enough for congress to act.
    Posted by: William P. Fitzgerald III |
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  11. markf says:

    It seems, at least at first glance, that the one semi-reliable tool we have for limiting managerial self absorption is some system of institutional checks and balances. Maybe we could have a legislative branch Government Intelligence Office similar to the Government Accounting Office?

  12. Nightsticker says:

    Colonel Lang,
    Bravo Zulu.An excellent paper.
    I observed what you wrote about during my years in the Bu.Interestingly,the Bu’s personnel management system was so broken, and the operational system so unorganized during the 70s, 80s, and 90s that an unintended consequence was that persons who imagined themselves as “Artists” could usually arrange to have a satisfying career, lead more normal family lives and make more money by remaining operational case officers than they could by seeking to become Managers.I have been given to understand that post 911 the system has been “fixed” to the extent that many of the Artists quit. The Managers still remain the same; a bit like you describe in your paper.
    USMC 65-72
    FBI 72-96

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