A problem with hierarchy is that there’s no particular guarantee that the people at the top of the hierarchy, the “Deciders,” if you will, are the ones that could make intelligent decisions. In fact they usually can’t because it is the nature of hierarchy to isolate them from the day to day realities faced by the people on the bottom. Often they can make decisions which are intelligent relative to the limited portion of the hierarchy’s reality which is directly relevant, perceptible, and manipulable to the guys at the top — such as in the case of a politician, the machinery of elections, or in the case of a CEO, the machinery of looking good to the board and stockholders and thereby keeping his job (or prepping for a jump to a new job when the company tanks shortly after he’s unloaded his stock options, you know the drill).
There have been many attempts to remedy this problem — W. Edwards Deming’s work on management, so I understand, attempts to address this issue comprehensively, but because actually putting his ideas thoroughly into practice deeply challenges the social hierarchy built into the American corporation, rather than actually putting Deming’s work into practice most corporations have just sort of blathered about the word “quality” and moved on to the next management fad.
What I’ve been leading up to in all this is the fact that the only coherent ideas about how we could, or perhaps could have, brought peace to Iraq, were put together not by some political snake holed up in the Green Zone making up propaganda about how well the war is going, but by a 32 year old Army captain on the ground in Al Anbar province, who was recently killed by an IED there. He put together a little powerpoint presentation on what changes might actually make a difference in that area.
The Washington Wire blog at the Wall Street Journal Online tells the sad story and links to the presentation.
(Disclaimer — I have no idea whether Capt. “CPT Trav” Patriquin’s plan is a good one or not, or whether any plan can rescue Iraq at this point. But it’s a plan that’s obviously been made out of a real person’s real knowledge of other real people, a person who cares, most of all, about the well being of everyone involved. That matters.)