Rei Tang

From Robert Kaplan’s recent article in the Atlantic Monthly:

The idea is to put the American and Afghan military leaders, as well as low-ranking commanders, down-range together socially, and create a flat, fast organization. As with a similar effort in Iraq, top-down guidance from high-ranking officers gets bottom-up refinement from captains and sergeants. To wit, Rodriguez’s operations center is a vast hangar-like building with no walls or partitions, very much evoking a newsroom environment. “It is an atmosphere in which you error towards sharing what you know,” said Navy Commander Jeff Eggers, a McChrystal adviser.

“I learned at JSOC,” McChrystal explained, “that any complex task is best approached by flattening hierarchies. It gets everybody feeling like they’re in the inner circle, so that they develop a sense of ownership. The more people who believe that they are part of the team and are in the know, the more you don’t have to do it yourself.” As Brigadier General Scott Miller, who runs the Afghanistan-Pakistan Coordination Cell at the Pentagon, told me about McChrystal and Rodriguez’s philosophy: “Decentralize until you’re uncomfortable, then scrutinize, fix, and push down and out even further, to the level of the sergeants.” Precisely because of the commander’s ability to reach down to the junior noncommissioned officers, a flat military organization puts—in the words of one admiral I interviewed—“performance pressure on everybody.”