Today’s news peg is purely personal, and I mention it only to make a larger point. I’m in Washington and in a few hours will be in a K Street conference room talking with 14 U.S. military officers. They’re this year’s class in the Secretary of Defense Corporate Fellows Program, which means each of them is about to spend 11 months inside a big company—Amazon, Boeing, Caterpillar, and Deutsche Bank are a few. Why? To learn.
All these officers are at about the same stage in their careers: lieutenant colonels or colonels in the Army, Air Force, and Marines; captains or commanders in the Navy. They’ve been chosen in part because each has shown potential to become a general or admiral. I’ve spoken to the new class every year for the past several years, and every time I am bowled over by how sharp, knowledgeable, insightful, and candid these officers are. In my usual world of corporate executives, every one of them would be a star.
And then I’m bowled over again when I reflect on what they’re doing. Remember that the American public has for years deemed the military the most trusted institution in the country, above the Supreme Court, organized religion, or anything else. Nonetheless, these high-performing officers are assigned to learn from companies how to make the military better.
The Pentagon makes a strong case for learning from business. Successful companies focus on value, while the Department of Defense focuses on cost. Companies incentivize efficiency, while the DoD incentivizes obligating all of this year’s budget before year-end. Companies take risks to innovate, while the DoD, despite developing some historic innovations, is mostly slow, risk-averse, and reactive.
Most strikingly, the Pentagon even believes it can learn about leadership development from companies. Like many others, I’d say today’s military is extraordinarily adept at developing leaders. Yet here too, the DoD has a point. Service members are diverse demographically but not sufficiently diverse in thought or background. They’re promoted and paid more on the basis of time served, not enough on performance. The culture, though transformed in recent decades, still rewards process too much, problem-solving not enough.
How many companies that you know would send a group of high-potential executives away from the organization for a year to learn from a completely different type of institution? How many would, while knowing they were the most trusted organization in the country, analyze their deficiencies in detail and seek help elsewhere?
I’ve given up trying to praise the military or the officers when I talk with them. They’re not interested. They are there to learn. Their determination to do that, institutionally and individually, is what we should learn from them.
What We’re Reading Today
Insider trading investigators probe former chairman of Dean Foods
The SEC and the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office are investigating Thomas Davis, who stepped down from the milk producer without explanation earlier this week. Authorities question whether Davis provided information about a 2012 spinoff of White Wave Foods to a famous gambler, William Walters, who is suspected of tipping off golfer Phil Mickelson. WSJ
Both Roger Goodell, Tom Brady deflated in court
The federal case between NFL Commissioner Goodell and New England Patriots quarterback Brady began yesterday. The judge has urged the two sides to come to an agreement, while not yet ready to pick a winner. But it’s really about power in the NFL. Yahoo Sports
Carly Fiorina is emerging as GOP’s anti-Trump
Her standing among the GOP hopefuls rocketed following her performance in the non-primetime debate last week. Some within the Republican party view Fiorina as an answer to the rhetoric coming from the Trump campaign. NYT
Former President Jimmy Carter has cancer
Doctors discovered the cancer when Carter, 90, went in for surgery on his liver. The humanitarian will rearrange his schedule as needed but said his doctors gave him a positive prognosis for a full recovery. Reuters
Kraft Heinz to cut 2,500 jobs
That’s 5% of the company’s workforce. The cuts were widely expected following the completed merger between the two food manufacturers in July. CNNMoney
Comcast goes big into Vox Media with $200 million investment
The buy-in, which values the new media company at $1 billion, is an effort to boost a struggling NBCUniversal online. Vox chief executive Jim Bankoff says it will use the funds to increase video capabilities and distribution channels. Ars Technica
Building a Better Leader
This airline arrives on time more often than any other
Hawaii Airlines. That might not help you much, but of the major airlines, Delta ranks No. 1 with 82% of flights touching ground on time, according to a DOT report. Just watch out if you’re flying Spirit. Fortune
Feeling fatigued and uncreative?
It may be time for a brain dump. Fast Company
Turning your rising stars into leaders
Make sure you have a way they can gain experience by encouraging them to coach their peers. SmartBlog
Putting Out Fires
GlaxoSmithKline shuts plant on Legionnaires’ concerns
Legionnaires’ disease has spread in the Bronx, causing 113 illnesses and 12 deaths since July. Glaxo discovered the bacterium that causes it at a North Carolina manufacturing plant. There’s no indication anyone has become sick or products from the factory had been contaminated by the bacteria. NYT
Oracle CSO’s blog post causes uproar
In the post, Mary Ann Davidson asked customers to stop reverse engineering Oracle code in order to find security holes. The security research industry and community expressed their ardent disapproval. Oracle has since removed the piece and apologized for the contents, saying it did not match company policy. Wired
Fiber cable vandal cutting cords in California
More than a dozen separate cases have been reported, disrupting financial transactions, cell phone service, and Internet service generally. The FBI is investigating but has not found a motive. WSJ
Up or Out
Target Corp. has added former Clorox CEO Donald Knauss and former Safeway CEO Robert Edwards to its board of directors. Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal
Former Dr Pepper/Seven Up Bottling Group CEO Jim L. Turner will replace Thomas Davis as Dean Foods chairman. Dallas Business Journal
The Coca-Cola Co. has named James Quincey as its new president and COO. CNBC
Jeffrey Schwaneke will become health insurer Centene Corp.’s CFO in early 2016, replacing current CFO William N. Scheffel. Press Release
Fortune Reads and Videos
Tinder breaks up with new CEO
After only a few months on the job, Tinder CEO Chris Payne got swiped left. Co-founder and president Sean Rad will return to the top job. Fortune
New idea could push electric cars into the mainstream
The UK has begun testing an under-the-highway charging system that pumps cars with energy while you drive. Fortune
Cisco CEO’s smooth start
In its first earnings release under new CEO Chuck Robbins, who started three weeks ago, Cisco reported a profit jump. Fortune
PGA to continue using Donald Trump golf courses
The PGA Championship, which starts today, isn’t being played on a Trump course this year, but the PGA has announced that Trump’s presidential candidacy won’t disqualify his courses from being used for PGA Tour events in years to come. Fortune
Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, turns 69 today. Biography
Former Cuban president Fidel Castro celebrates his 89th birthday. Biography
|Produced by Ryan Derousseau|