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on January 31, 2003
BG Upton Failed, MAJ Vandergriff will not! Great book!11 The pending war, excepting, for Army to take the lead promote Vandergriff-MacGregor (COL-Braeking The Phalanx-at Ndu in D.C.,) now! With their views the army can take over as the premeir fighting force in 21st century-with decisive victories.
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on January 10, 2003
This work is a tour de force, perhaps best shown by Secretary of the Army Tom White's enthusiastic adoption of its ideas. Vandergriff ably identifies the Army's longest-lasting and most serious systemic problem -- human resources mismanagement as it affects training, deployment, cohesion, and effectiveness in battle. Based on extremely extensive research (meticulously documented), he ably describes the evolution of the problem and presents the promised "path to victory."
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?)
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on December 8, 2002
Vandergriff exemplifies what Sec Def Rumsfeld says he wants-innovation & moral courage! I was in from 59 to87-Right on target-cease fire! Great research, little hard to read, I beat Vandy is very intense, intelligent, passionate, but with a temper? I know the type-great troop leader, poor administrater. Anyway-good work Van. They wll force you out-run for office-on the truth ticket. Must buy-shuold be a legacy book.
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on September 26, 2002
An excellent book for even the unmilitary.The research is outstanding and gives the reader a good view of the present military.As a daily reader of current events the book puts the present state of our country in a better position for the reader.
I look forward to the next book by this author.
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on August 7, 2002
Path to Victory is extensively researched, concisely written, and wonderfully appropriate to the current debate over the future transformation of the Army. MAJ Vandergriff has written a book that all senior Army leaders should read, and anyone who follows civil-military relations or current events should own.
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on July 16, 2002
Donald Vandergriff is one of those rare men who live their beliefs. Now, he has written a fine, clear-thinking, heartfelt book detailing the deep flaws in the Army's (and our military's) personnel system. But the book is much broader than that. Although he does not use quite these terms, the text constitutes a demand for a sensible post-modern personnel system that rewards the core military virtues, in place of our current, long-outdated, poorly-performing industrial-age system, a legacy of both Henry Ford's assembly line mentality, in which all parts, even the human ones, are interchangeable, and a bizarre, inchoate conviction within the Army that, really, it's still 1944 and the draft will supply the needed talent to replace that which is squandered. Even now, in 2002, there is a bizarre belief among the Army's hierarchy that every officer (and soldier) is easily replaceable, if not perfectly interchangeable. Well, tell that to corporate America, or the scientific community, or to the arts community. America has achieved its paramount position because we recognize and reward the unique talents of the individual--but our military resists excellence whenever it can (what passes for excellence is a polished conformity to superficial forms). Our broken-down, morally-bankrupt personnel system may be well-suited for the ten-million-man military with which we ended WWII, but it is a travesty when it comes to developing the right Army for the 21st century. Critics may respond that the military is not about individual excellence, but about teamwork--but teamwork based upon excellence is far more impressive than group-think and timid acquiescence based upon lowest-common-denominator professional values. There is not inherent tension between building a team and rewarding talent honestly employed; on the contrary, men and women crave leaders who earn their respect through performance, rather than through currying favor (or simply being born a general's son, the surest path there is to a general's stars). At the very least, we should recognize that a post-modern military does have some different demands placed upon it--a greater requirement for individual initiative and battlefield autonomy--than did our earlier armies of massed infantry divisions. We still need courage and clarity, but the recognition and exploitation of the unique worth of the individual officer may be our greatest potential combat multiplier.
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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on July 1, 2002
A very interesting set of ideas for changing the Army's human resources related systems and process.
Take this book and MacGregor's "Breaking the Phalanx" and you the major parts of a true transformation for the U.S. Army (and less specifically, the other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces).
Perhaps some nice U.S. Citizen should send these both to Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz as a present.
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on June 25, 2002
If you care about real military reform and transformation-this is an absolute must-read book!!
Although this book is primarily written to an Army audience it has applicability to all the Services. No other book has hit the target like this book. Many other books have alluded to problems, but Vandergriff digs deep to find the underlying reasons and causes of this dysfunctional system. He also provides solutions.
"The responsibility for military planning, direction and execution falls most heavily on the officer corps. The officer corps is critical to combat operations. It is the officer corps that reflects the values and characteristics of the military. If the corps is corrupt or incompetent, the whole army [military] will be also." As the Duke of Wellington supposedly remarked: "There are no bad troops--only bad officers." "Military excellence has always depended upon an officer corps which could think creatively about war--one that understood and practiced the art of war." Many of the deficiencies in our defense must be traced to problems in the officer corps.
Although, one can argue that many of the egregious problems of the officer corps in the Vietnam War have been corrected, many of the systemic problems have not. Several surveys done by the Army and the USAF since 1970 indicate there are still significant problems in the officer corps. Certainly, civilians in the Defense Department, the Congress (DOPMA) and the Executive Branch share the responsibility for our defense inadequacies, but a significant portion of these problems must be traceable to deficiencies in the organizational structure and within culture which officers are created, developed, and promoted.
That does NOT mean that most officers are individually to blame. The problems are generally systemic in nature. For the most part, officers in all services are victims of the current system. The problems are rooted in bureaucracy, the officer surplus, how we promote our officers, and in the way we educate them--matters over which only the most senior officers have any significant control. That is why many younger officers are dissatisfied and cynical about the Pentagon and other centers of bureaucracy. They know the shortcomings are NOT due to laziness, disinterest, or lack of dedication on their part. Few other groups put as much effort into their work as our military officers. Physical discomfort and danger, separation from family, and inadequacy of material and authority to do the job are the rule, not the exception. Unfortunately, we have promotion systems that often reward careerism and the courtier--not the truly selfless and those with moral courage
One of the most detrimental aspects of the current military culture is the up-or-out promotion system.
Instead of just analyzing the problem, Vandergriff gives us the foundation for a new system. Vandergriff states that the Army should adopt an up-or-stay (tracked) promotion system.
Vandergriff highlights that the promotion system(s) that drive military culture have a negative effect on our military capabilities. Moreover, some of the effects of the up-or-out system could be described as "corruptio optimi pessima"--the corruption of the best is the worst. As Shakespeare put it, "Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds." We need promotion systems that rewards those of strong and honorable character, people who have the moral courage to speak the truth--not the courtiers who are interested only in self. A promotion system should NOT reinforce the Peter Principle, where every person tends to rise to his level of incompetence.
Instead of using promotion as the sole positive incentive, we should seek alternatives that would link performance with pay and longevity, but reduce the link between rank and pay. Officers performing well should be allowed to stay in positions where they are competent. There would be a tracked system that would allow officers to stay in their main specialty longer. There would not be enough officers to perform all the current jobs, which would be to the good: many make-work jobs would be eliminated. Unit commanders would rotate less frequently, and many decisions made by officers would be delegated to NCOs.

This book is tremdously researched and footnoted. There is no doubt that Vandergriff's "heart and soul" went into this masterpiece. For those hesitant, it will provide cognitive dissonance and more. A great book!
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on June 6, 2002
Don Vandergriff has written the next cult management classic. In the guise of how to transform the Army-... - MAJ Vandergriff displays the results of eighteen years of thinking about, researching, practicing, and writing about how to get groups of ordinary people to perform extraordinary feats in times of crisis and confusion. ...P>"Why did the army leadership," he asked himself as he began to write this book, "preach terms like selfless service', 'decentralization,' and 'trust,' but practice careerism, selfish service, and centralized control?" Who among us has not sat through corporate potentates droning on about "empowerment," " risk-taking,"' and "initiative," while in the real world they promote sycophants, second guess every decision, and personally approve all purchases more expensive than a paper clip?
... ... Readers with an ounce of imagination can easily draw parallels between MAJ Vandergriff's recommendations for strengthening unit cohesion - the prime determinant of how well a group of soldiers does in combat - and how their companies are organized and run. His suggestions for improving the selection, retention, and promotion of officers could also, with just a little wordsmithing, make any corporation more competitive.
People, not technologies and not lines on the org chart, are the first duty of any CEO...
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on June 4, 2002
It takes considerable courage for a serving officer in the U.S. Army to criticize the institution as well as the culture to which he belongs. But that is the very point that Major Vandergriff makes in his book. He loves the Army, but he is compelled to speak out against the personnel management system which is at the heart of the culture of micromanagement, officer retention problems, and overstaffing as well as impacting the operational art. In Major Vandergriff's mind, a professional can do no less than speak out and tell the truth as he sees it. Shades of Sam Dameon! On the other hand, the careerists bred by over three generations of applied personnel management formulae are unlikely to read this book - lest they see themselves in the mirror. Central to Vandergriff's arguments are the personnel management system's focus on issues of "equality", "individual replacement system", and "taylorism" or the science of management -- all counter to good military operational art. He lays out, detail by detail,how the Army has fallen into the hands of the personnel managers - who definitely affect how the Army fights wars. Why is it that not all our professional officers are more critical? As Major Vandergriff explains, criticism and questioning, no matter how limited, is not welcomed within the ranks. Conformity is the value expected, with little interest in honest debate. Major Don Vandergriff has thrown down the gauntlet in this major work, and he does not expect to win any popularity contests. Although this book directly addresses the Army, all military and naval institutions must feel some of his heat. What is most interesting is that there appears to be some recent interest at very high levels in what Major Vandergriff is saying. The Vice Chief of Staff of the Army has noted Major Vandergriff's arguments, and Mr. David Chu, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, spoke to reporters about personnel management reform in May 2002. Whether Mr. Chu read this book or not is not important. The message is getting out, and with men like Major Don Vandergriff in the ranks, it is beginning to get heard. It is unfortunate that it has taken this long. Kudos to Major Don Vandergriff, and read his book!
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