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Despite the effectiveness and timeliness of this book, it does have a couple of significant (and related) weaknesses. First, despite the meticulous endnoting, it is difficult to sort out which ideas are Vandergriff's own and which derive from his multitude of sources. The sorting can be done, but, if done thoroughly, would require the reader actually to construct an "idea matrix" from the endnotes as he goes along.
Second, this is a work with 796 (!) endnotes -- but with no bibliography at all. All in all, Presidio Press has made the book quite difficult -- unnecessarily difficult -- to use as a reference. This does detract somewhat from its value as a synthesis of ideas and guide for follow-on work. Fortunately, these weaknesses detract very little from the overall message.
Highly recommended. (But if there's a second edition, could we please have a good solid bibliography?)
In our case the U.S. Army has chosen to walk through both and, according to the author, left the Army functioning at less that it is capable of.
Pros: The book covers a topic that I have not seen covered anywhere. He gets 5 stars for starting the conversation. He is pulling from 3 or 4 different areas to synthesize his conclusions. Well researched and his analysis matches what few facts I can find outside of his presentation.
Cons: The ideas are all there, but not as well organized at I would like. I would love to see a rewrite. This book is also dated: 2002(!) is the publication date. The military has been in a massive reorganization effort. I would love to hear what has transpired in the past 15 years, but I can find nothing that come close to the discussion I found in here.
One item that I think he misses, and all of us would pre-Iraq, is counterinsurgency operations. I can extrapolate what the author would likely say, but it would be good to have a few of the more difficult scenarios discussed.
Outside of the military the big use of the book is a discussion, as I touched on before, of aligning the policies and procedure of training, promotion, and retention to support the goals of an organization. A case study, if you will, of an organization that has lost its way.
Of course, it is easy to be too pessimistic. We still have the finest Army--and military--in the world. Not all dissent is suppressed, fine ideas, such as Major Vandergriff's, still emerge, despite institutional resistance (more a matter of defensiveness and mental sloth than of maliciousness), and not every officer promoted is a shallow careerist (indeed, in some military specialties the trends are encouraging). In the end, it is not that we are doing so badly, but that we could do far better. For all our might and virtues, our personnel system remains less than the sum of its often remarkable parts. Major Vandergriff has laid out a worthy road map for building the Army of the future, instead of clinging to the Army of the past. We may not wish to drive down every lane he recommends, but he certainly has signposted the main highway with accuracy and clarity.
In my own military career, I slowly came to the realization that, if I could control the personnel system, I could change any organization, but that if I controlled everything but the personnel system, all meaningful change could still by stymied by the bureaucracy (and our military is, above all, a vast bureaucracy). Donald Vandergriff understands this profoundly. This is a worthy, even heroic book by an officer genuinely dedicated to selfless service. We Americans should be proud that such men remain committed to serving our country in uniform.
I strongly recommend this book to military men and women, but also to policy-makers and to the business community, for which it has especially relevant lessons in these days of Worldcom, Enron and Put-on.
This is the work of an officer with whom any soldier would be honored to serve.
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Although this book is primarily written to an Army audience it has...Read more