The last decade of the 20th century was a turning point for the US Military as they passed through some precarious internal challenges within the organization. The standard practice of core values of the military got down from the expected level. To protect their core interests, US Military conducted an extensive study on the impacts of rapid social changes over the organizational environment. The conclusions they found are probably a very precious lesson for many nations, societies, organizations, or even people in business. The most advanced country holding the flag of the highest credible military on the planet accepted the necessity to re-invest and re-structure their organizational spirit to match the need of time. General Gordon R. Sullivan narrated:
“The year 1992 was especially traumatic for America’s Army. There were many internal challenges among service personnel due to social adaptation. The Army’s first post-Vietnam Chief of Staff, General Creighton Abrams, studied the psychological transformation of service personnel. The result of the study revealed deep-seated cynicism, a perception of widespread dishonesty, excessive favoritism, and self-serving behavior on the part of many officers, noncommissioned officers, and soldiers. Many would have preferred to avoid the unpleasantness of confronting problems and making decisions. The study pointed out that the Army needed to reinvest in its deep sense of values by emphasizing people and commitment to a solid ethical foundation. That study and similar efforts gave Abrams and those who followed him the basis for tackling this complex issue. Ultimately, it led to much stronger individuals and institutions…
There were many concrete examples of the resulting shift in emphasis of leaders taking units back to values. The Army’s core values of courage, candor, commitment, and competence were placed in both the doctrinal literature and Army Regulations. Senior officers shared their values with their subordinates in writing and in seminars to help provide junior leaders with a moral foundation for their actions. That was carried out in our schools, in our units, and in our literature. Efficiency reports, our periodic performance appraisals began to emphasize assessing such professional ethics as integrity, selflessness, and moral courage…”
Generals of the US Army emphasized the continuity of the sense of enduring values to mitigate the compulsion of a new era. They brought back the organizational culture through their speeches, articles, informal talks, and all available communications using symbols to capture the essence of shared values. Re-founding a firm conviction on essential virtues became the priority agenda among the service personnel and their families. They re-invested for emotional development to get back to commitment, sense of duty, and service for the nation. The military took it as a priority campaign to reinstall values by bringing forward the glorious sacrifice of their soldiers. They re-established institutional values by carefully separating all improper ways of doing work.
They organized and maintained their effort to the ethical base so that men accomplish their duties not as a service responsibility but as an emotional attachment to their work. Unit commanders attained it by enhancing their men’s dignity in and outside the barrack. Leaders could rebuild the organization’s ethical climate by generating emotional attachments among the soldiers for their squad. Officers took practical steps of recharging peoples’ emotions that encouraged even the wounded sacrifice much more. They studied all in-depth aspects of their men’s beliefs, behavior, and motivation of their people. Leaders of the US Military researched their men’s emotions, abilities, and limitations and found out the potential areas of investment. Based on the study report, they placed priority on practicing core values of honesty and justice within them. They did not deny materialism, but they negated the focus. Leaders worked to bring back the value-based ethical climate and quality character-building process as the top priority of the organizational development plan. Leaders of the US military accepted and believed:
“Shared values are the foundation of today’s Army. Now our people and units know what to expect and what they can count on one another. Now, each soldier can see him or herself not only as individually important and responsible but also as part of a much more significant. Leadership begins with shared values. Values give an institute a self-ordering quality, a kind of ballast, which provides direction and stability in periods of turmoil, stress, and change. It provides both leaders and followers with a basis for looking more confidently beyond the issues of the day. Shared values express the essence of an organization. They bind expectations, provide alignment and establish a foundation for transformation and growth. By emphasizing values, the leader signals what must not be compromised, providing an anchor for people drifting in the sea of uncertainty.”
This write-up is based on “Hope is not a Method,” written by former Army Chief of Staff, US Army General Gordon R. Sullivan & Michael V. Harper.