Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Powerpoint for Generals

My thanks to Clayton Swisher of Al Jazeera English for pointing this one out.

It seems that US Army Colonel Lawrence Sellin was fired from his job with NATO/ISAF HQ in Kabul after he wrote a very frank assessment of the headquarters where he worked.

Having the low opinion of officers in general that I do, and a far lower opinion of senior officers, I found this just delightfully amusing to read; it confirms all my darkest suspicions about headquarters weenies.

The article by Colonel Sellin is entitled "PowerPoints R Us", and begins like this-

I have been assigned as a staff officer to a headquarters in Afghanistan for about two months. During that time, I have not done anything productive. Fortunately little of substance is really done here, but that is a task we do well.

A few select quotes for your amusement-

For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information. Even one tiny flaw in a slide can halt a general's thought processes as abruptly as a computer system's blue screen of death.


The ability to brief well is, therefore, a critical skill. It is important to note that skill in briefing resides in how you say it. It doesn't matter so much what you say or even if you are speaking Klingon.

Random motion, ad hoc processes and an in-depth knowledge of Army minutia and acronyms are also key characteristics of a successful staff officer. Harried movement together with furrowed brows and appropriate expressions of concern a la Clint Eastwood will please the generals. Progress in the war is optional.

I can only congratulate the good Colonel Sellin on his honesty, and wish him all success in his new life as a civilian.

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