The military must foster partnerships as it focuses on stability operations.
A potentially monumental change, from a management standpoint, took place at the Defense Department in November. It came in the form of a directive-a memo, really-bureaucratically titled Directive Number 3000.05.
The 11-page directive, issued by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, puts stability operations on a par with combat, which has been the primary mission of the American military since the dawn of the Republic. Usually someone else does the stabilizing after the military does the fighting. But the directive requires the military to treat stabilization of troubled nations as a primary mission as well.
In carrying out combat operations, the American military acts alone or with other militaries. Stability missions are different, as is obvious to military leaders attempting them in Afghanistan and Iraq. The directive says military leaders will have to learn how to work hand in hand with other federal leaders, foreign governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations and private sector leaders in a more integrated way than ever before.
Put another way, the military can function as its own network in combat, but to carry out stability missions, it is only one node in a network of organizations. The military, the State Department, other agencies and outside organizations must work together to turn troubled nations into democratic participants in the global economy.
This kind of change for an institution as large as the military is not easy. Long-standing protocols, habits, procedures, and physical and technological barriers have to be reconsidered. Leaders will have to work out new traditions and practices with new partners.
Managerially, a major job will be to build relationships with all the people and groups they will have to work with so closely for years to come. Another huge task will be reconfiguring training for military personnel that now is focused on combat. It likely will take years to develop the connections, systems and leadership programs to make all this happen.
Directive 3000.05 is just a piece of paper. Much of the partnering and stability-focused work it purports to create already has been going on for years. Military leaders have adapted as their missions on the ground have shifted, whether or not the Pentagon issued a directive. Stability missions are nothing new to military personnel across the globe.
But now that they're official, it's clear that the military is not just a fighting machine. It's a fixing machine now, too. For managers who like challenges, putting both machines together will be one of the biggest ones of their working lives. It also could bring some of the biggest rewards: more people living in peace around the world.