Complex institutions: Too big to manage?
The Washington Post's On Leadership forum this week asked participants to consider the findings of the "Top Secret America" series and asked, "Can an organization get so big and so complex that it just can't be managed effectively? Or is 'too-big-to-manage' just a cop-out for flawed structure and lack of leadership?"
Army Col. (Ret.) Charles D. Allen, a professor of cultural science at the U.S. Army War College, said that the concept of a military or intelligence infrastructure that is too big to manage is one that is frightening -- and that a new mode of leadership is required to cope with the complexity and size of today's intelligence-gathering world.
"I have to wonder what we are thinking with expressions such as 'too big to manage' or 'too big to lead.' Frankly, it scares me," he wrote. "I have been associated with the uniformed side of the Department of Defense for the past four decades. While DOD is smaller in sheer numbers than when I entered an Army ROTC program in 1973, it is still massive by any measure."
And if the military can find a way to manage its enormous size and complexity, why can't the intelligence community, too?
"Organizations that may be considered 'too big to lead' require leaders who are big enough to lead with others," Allen wrote. "Such organizations need leaders who are temperamentally suited to handle complexity and, more importantly, who can develop teams of capable individuals to pull and push constituents towards their vision."
July 22, 2010; 1:05 PM ET
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