While I enjoy poking fun at the Air Force as much as the next guy, the fact is, they are a military service, and they face many of the same leadership challenges that the other services struggle with.
While this post focuses on the cultural problems of the Air Force, I’d say the lessons, particularly regarding centralized execution, are universal across all services.
Doctrinally, each and every service preaches devolving authority to the lowest possible level. Mission orders describe an end state that a subordinate must achieve, allowing him the flexibility and initiative to achieve that state by the best means.
But in fact, virtually no commander at any level is willing to grant his subordinates the true freedom to execute without micromanagement. No supervision (which is a good thing) but detailed micromanagement. And if you micromanage your troops, they’ll let you assume more and more responsibility for how things are done, and the outcome good or bad (and it’s usually bad).
I’m a “company guy.” I’m not a bold, outside the box thinker. I spent a lot of time reading and understanding doctrine and thoroughly bought into the concepts. I wasn’t going to be the guy that invented a new way of doing things. On the other hand, our Army had a couple centuries of experience, and had bothered to write down what worked in the past, so I saw no sense in reinventing the wheel, or learning the hard way what someone else had already taken the time to write down as “ the right way, AND the Army way.”
But there is a difference between understanding doctrine, policy, management practices and processes, and forgetting that those policies, practices and processes are merely tools to achieve a mission. Following them is not the mission itself.