Building the Perfect Yesterday


I have been reading an excellent book by the the US General Gordon R Sullivan called Hope is Not a Method in which he writes about change.

It is a fascinating look at how the US Army transformed in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War and I think it is a bit of a forgotten gem, plus you can get a second hand copy from Amazon for a couple of quid!

The five key challenges the US Army faced in the nineties were;

  • The environment was changing rapidly
  • Emerging technology posed new opportunities and difficulties
  • Technical skills and teamwork abilities of people had to be continually upgraded
  • Increasingly demanding stakeholders were assigning them new or unexpected tasks
  • Financial pressures forced massive cost cutting and downsizing

He came to the conclusion that the US Army must not only change, but change the way it changed.

Wonder how many parallels there are with today?

I suspect, the challenges are much the same and much different

Am not going to summarise the book but one part really struck me was about how one of the leadership traps that must be avoided at all costs was ‘Making Yesterday Perfect’ or the understandable comfort blanket of fighting the last war, but better.

SDR98 did not fall into this trap, it looked at a changing world and decided to do something different. Now we all know it was never funded correctly and kind of fell apart but since then, have we really had a defence and security review that recognised the changing world and the necessity of not meeting yesterdays challenges?

SDSR2015, I think we all agree, will not have many surprises and will be a steady as she goes exercise with a few shiny baubles to keep everyone happy but is this the right path.

The world is changing rapidly, is Future Force 2020 falling into the trap of making yesterday perfect?

Has the British armed forces change the way they change?

Aircraft carriers, tanks and fast jets, are they the answer to tomorrows defence and security challenges?



One last question, where are books like this from British senior officers?

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