Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Military management, agency style.
I've often noticed that some of the best books you can read about management are books about the military's creation of high-tech weapons systems. Basically, if you want to run an efficient operation, do the opposite of what the military does.
Right now, I am reading Pulitzer-winner Neil Sheehan's new book "A Fiery Peace in a Cold War. Bernard Schriever and The Ultimate Weapon." This is the story of Schriever's efforts to create an inter-continental ballistic missile before the Soviets were able to do so.
Schriever faced at least three major obstacles. The first was scientific. It's a beast to toss a thousand pound warhead 11,000 miles and put it within a mile of its target. The next two are what's important to us in advertising, though.
Schriever had to stare down the powerful megalomaniac and head of the Air Force, Curtis LeMay. LeMay believed in bombers, not missiles, and did everything he could to keep nuclear-bomb equipped planes as America's weapon of choice. As if LeMay weren't obstacle enough, Schriever also had to cope with the government and military's "bureaucratic octopus." Before a red-cent could be spent, Schriever had to run a gauntlet of 42 potential naysayers.
We deal with that everyday, don't we? The thousand no's on the road to yes. In an era where we are meant to do work more-efficiently, imagine if an agency or agency network said to clients "costs come not from the price of creatives, they come from the 27-weeks it takes to approve a simple print ad that will run twice in Topeka." (I once had an hour argument with a client over a virgule I wanted to use to make a line of type fit better. That argument probably cost the client $5,000.)
Ultimately, President Eisenhower began to understand the importance of Schriever's mission and gave carte blanche to Schriever. It was then Schriever did something revolutionary in the work place. He "pushed authority downward to those who were doing the work."
Can you imagine?
Posted by george tannenbaum at 7:05 AM