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The Military and Design Changes February 13, 2007

Posted by Charley S in Military, Organizational Design.
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While reading through chapter 6, I came to realize that the Army is a great example of a very large organization completely changing from a functional design to more of a matrix structure. I will elaborate. Back in the day, meaning more than a decade ago, the Army was organized primarily in a functional system. There are about 16 different functions that the military is broken up into, including everything from Infantry, Armor, Aviation, Finance, and the Judge Advocate General. For simplicities sake, lets say that on each military base there was 1 regiment of each function. Everyday when you went to work you would go and report to your regiment and work around people that all do the same things as you. So if you were Infantry you would go report to an Infantry boss, if you were in Finance you would go and report to the Finance boss.

Today what is happening is quite different. The Army is organized around Brigade Combat Teams. What these teams do is to integrate all of the different regiments (or functions) into 1 unified chain of command. So now when you go to work as an Engineer for example, instead of working alongside all of your Engineer buds, you go and work with Infantry guys and every other type of person in the Army. The reasoning behind this kind of arrangement is that since when you are deployed to combat you have to work together anyway, you might as well get used to working together now. Now there are positive and negative aspects of this. Some positive aspects that result are that yes, people are more familiar with each other and inter-branch rivalries are more subdued. The negative aspects however are that some technical expertise goes down the drain. While in the previous system you were around similar people who did your job and you could learn from them and figure out the best ways to do stuff together, now each individual is more or less isolated from those people and learning is stifled.

The entire military, not just the Army, is also moving towards a more integrated system as a whole. Current Army doctrine is what is called Joint Doctrine. It emphasizes that all the different branches (including Air Force, Marines, Army) must work together to solve problems. What this is starting is a reintegration of all the different branches of the military back under 1 office. I havn’t heard anything official, but people I talk to in the military all have the feeling that within 1 or 2 decades the entire military will be reintegrated.

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1. Stacey Swift - February 13, 2007

The idea of integrating the army sounds practical if they will face those types of integrated conditions in the field. It would be difficult to work with other people from other focuses under pressure if you were not accustomed to it. However, I agree that it would be very important to have ways to keep, for example, the engineers together so they can learn from each other. Maybe conferences? Or possible even Blogs?

2. Jordi - April 10, 2007

Charley,

I ma glad you discussed this. You do a good job of pointing out some of the pros and cons of this change. Why change now? Is business thinking about cross-functionality penetrating military thinking? The other way around? Is it driven by environmental factors?


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