Archive for the ‘organization theory’ Category

USSOCOM and USSTRATCOM as Synchronizers

July 20, 2007

The reorganization that made the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) synchronizers and supported commands for the global war on terror (GWOT) and combating weapons of mass destruction (CWMD) missions, respectively, has advantages and disadvantages. Tension between functionally and regionally structured organizations has been a long standing issue. For the unified commands, a better model may have been developed by applying some fresher perspectives taken from organization theory and modern global business practices. Particularly important is a dynamic and networked structure that utilizes information technology to help knit the entire enterprise together.

For example, the current model assumes a single synchronizer is needed to centralize and synchronize a mission or function such as GWOT. However, it may have been better to give the geographic combatant commanders dual-hats for executing this mission and make them mutually responsible for executing global GWOT operations with the functional commands supporting them. This way, the authorities are there for mutual responsibility and accountability, and action to degrade the network as a cohesive network. If operating off the same information networks, the planners, analysts and operators across the commands and organizations could self-synchronize at the global network level. But this would require these teams to all be operating off the same picture and interlinking and integrating their information with the same same networks and tools. Additional simple tools such as blogs, wikis, and tags could go a long way toward knitting the unified commands together.

This does not mean, however, that USSOCOM would not take a lead role in synchronizing the GWOT. In reality, the supported-supporting model needs to be abandoned in its current form and, instead, needs to imitate many-to-many and joint relationships that better reflect reality. Nevertheless, the real question is how do we enable the entire national security apparatus – the interagency – to rapidly and effectively integrate and synchronize their activity. In the future, it may be wise to consider creating interagency constructs which are networked and that can integrate, synchronize, and task across all organizational lines at the strategic-operational level.

For now, it may be prudent to begin taking a closer look at the current relationship structure of the commands. In doing so we should abandon old organizational assumptions and enable the development of a flexible enterprise fit for today’s age by applying new forms of interorganizational linkages and collaboration tools. Obviously, other elements will need to be addressed beyond structure such as technology, culture and performance.

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My Collaboration Journey

July 16, 2007

For nearly a year now, I have been trying to help the U.S. government make information sharing and collaboration a reality among the national security community. I have been studying this topic and pursuing this goal since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. However, counter to what one might think, my social software skills are minimal (except for wikis). As a matter of fact, besides at my work, I have only blogged a handful of times on the open internet.

From a research perspective, however, I have lightly perused the topic of information sharing the last five years beginning with my interest in the U.S. Department of Defense’s proposed theory called network-centric warfare (see Alberts and Garstka, 2001). It was not until a year ago, however, that I began to take interest in interorganizational collaboration from an academic perspective, studying the various theoretical concepts associated with organization and management science.

My more scholarly journey began after I drafted a paper on the United States Strategic Command’s (USSTRATCOM) use of SKI-Web, a blog-like tool advocated by the Commander, General James Cartwright. In this paper I argued the U.S. Intelligence Community and national security community at large could learn from USSTRATCOM’S use of blogs and decentralized organizational design. I sent this paper for review to my former boss and friend at the Pentagon that I had worked with as a summer intern in 2005. After reading the paper, he wrote back a scathing critique of my utter lack of knowledge on organization theory and various theoretical concepts. At the time, I was really angered by this. But the truth was my friend was right. While I had perused literature on the internet, I had no foundation in organizational studies from a scholarly perspective. At the time I was just graduating with a degree in political science. Following my friend’s critique, which I am now very thankful for, I began researching, from a scholarly perspective, how the U.S. intelligence and national security community could foster an environment of information sharing and collaboration. This research interest also includes studying the private and other sectors.

I am now a graduate student studying Management at the University of South Florida and am an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense where I am continuing this journey. And for the first time, I have a high degree of confidence that the U.S. government is making significant progress in its desire to foster a collaborative community, particularly under the recent leadership of Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence. I hope to continue to help in this effort and apply my knowledge from my studies in organization theory and collaboration.