Is the Organizational Culture of the U.S. Army Congruent with the Professional Development of Its Senior Level Officer Corps?

  • September 01, 2010
  • Dr James G Pierce

In the present study, Dr. Pierce postulates that the ability of a professional organization to develop future leaders in a manner that perpetuates readiness to cope with future environmental and internal uncertainty depends on organizational culture. Specifically, the purpose of his study is to explore the relationship between the Army’s organizational culture and professional development. He examines the degree of congruence between the Army’s organizational culture and the leadership and managerial skills of its officer corps senior leaders. He uses data from a representative sample of such leaders while they were students at the Army War College, Classes of 2003 and 2004. At the macro level, the results of his research strongly suggest a significant lack of congruence between the U.S. Army’s organizational culture and the results of its professional development programs for its future strategic leaders. He bases his conclusion on empirical data that indicate that the future strategic leaders of the Army believe that they operate on a day-to-day basis in an organization whose culture is characterized by: • an overarching desire for stability and control, • formal rules and policies, • coordination and efficiency, • goal and results oriented, and • hard-driving competitiveness. Dr. Pierce recommends that the leaders of the Army profession initiate an organizational culture change effort. Specifically, he recommends changes to the more informal aspects of the professional development program, such as the less than lifelong commitment to the Army profession, the “up or out” personnel policy, and the officer evaluation system which may be creating an underlying assumption that failure will not be tolerated regardless of the circumstances. Those conditions all are representative of “theories-in-use” that are incongruent with the concept of professionalism. As a result of the current culture, senior leaders may be exercising an excessive degree of structured supervision which reinforces the culture of stability and control despite, the formal education system which attempts to teach the opposite. Therefore, it is not surprising that junior professionals learn to distrust their senior leaders and to then subsequently perpetuate the cycle of over-control, or depart the profession altogether.