Agility and Change

In his Command Philosophy, version 2, from when he was the Canadian Army Commander, Lieutenant-General Eyre, on agility and change, said we must be swift to adapt or else face defeat. We cannot be wedded to a certain way of doing business, and we must recognize, create and seize opportunity. He says that challenging the status quo is difficult, and so we must encourage and empower at every opportunity.

“Challenging the status quo is difficult.” An understatement, to say the least.

I submitted a redress of grievance around the summer of 2000. It went all the way to the final authority (who denied it), through the grievance board (who found that my grievance had merit). It then went to the Ombudsman (who incidentally also supported my claim). In my very first submission I stated that while the policy had been applied correctly to me, the policy itself was inherently discriminatory and ought to be changed. Seven years later the department’s response to the office of the ombudsman was that the mechanism for changing policy was not a redress, but rather a service paper through the chain of command.

You know what would have been helpful? If anyone within the department, within those 7 years, had said that in the first place. But I digress…

It does lead me to the next logical question however: whose job is it to change policy? Because I get the sense that it is a giant game of hot potato. Nobody wants to tackle the issues. Staff officers, the gatekeepers, often view their job as the policy police. They seek to apply policy to the letter of the law because that is all they are really empowered to do.

Those who are not willing to accept “no” as the answer, may then ask the question well at what level can I get this particular policy waived? Who has the authority to accept some risk on this matter and say yes, as an exception? My experience has been either one or two answers: it cannot be waived, or authority is held at some ridiculously high level which leads to excessive delays or abandonment altogether. 

Or what about the question of can this policy be amended? Revisited? Gaps in policy are experienced when the policy comes into contact with a soldier at the coalface. It is within unit lines where in an effort to train, deploy or administer soldiers, we bump up against a policy issue of some sort and we realize the limitations of it. It may be just a one-of, or it may be a larger systemic issue that warrants another look, but unfortunately what we find is that the chain of command sometimes has other priorities. Commanders have bigger fish to fry, and so it gets shunted aside, and we continue on, status-quo, because changing policy doesn’t neatly fall into a category or force generation or force employment, especially if it isn’t significant enough to impact personnel en masse.

I have been trying, and failing, for 7 months to tackle two policy issues. One is an attempt to change a policy that is derived from a CANLANGEN that is 11 years old. The other, I would be satisfied if even I could get someone willing to accept some risk, and grant an exception to the policy. I have failed on both fronts. I am almost at the point of begging to be empowered. 

This ought to be the relatively easy stuff. You can apply logic and brain power to policy. You can define it, research it, it’s tangible. It’s black and white (-ish). And despite that, it still remains a difficult problem to tackle. 

Is it any wonder that a nebulous issue like sexual misconduct, something we admit as being a wicked problem, still remains a problem?