Traditionally, the Marines are known for their rapid, hit hard capabilities. They are a highly mobile force trained to transport quickly on naval vessels and literally “take the beachhead.” However, with the war in Iraq, the Marines have assumed a more non-offensive deployment posture in “conducting patrols.”.
The Wall Street Journal, 12-13 January 2008, provides an interview with the Commandant of the Marines, General James T. Conway about the need for “the Corps to preserve its agility and its speed.”
“It’s the future of the Corps not its past that dominates Gen. Conway’s thoughts…that in order to fight this war, his Corps could be transformed into just another ‘land army’; and if that should happen, that it would lost the flexibility and expeditionary culture that has made it a powerful military force. The corps was built originally to live aboard ships and wade ashore to confront emerging threats far from home. It has long prided itself in being ‘first to the fight’ relying on speed, agility, and tenacity to win battles. It’s a small, offensive outfit that has its own attack aircraft.” However, in Iraq, the Marines are performing in a “static environment where there is no forward movement” Additionally, there is a feared culture change taking place, the marines “losing their connection to the sea while fighting in the desert” over an extended period of time.
When we think about enterprise architecture, most people in IT think about technology planning and transformation. However, EA is about both the business and technology sides of the enterprise. Change, process reengineering, and retooling can take place in either or both domains (business and technology). In terms of the Marines, we have altered their business side of the enterprise architecture roadmap. We have radically changed their business/mission functions and activities. They have gone from service and alignment to the long term mission needs of this nation for a rapid, mobile, offensive fighting force to accommodate the short term needs for additional troops to stabilize and conduct counter-insurgency and peace-keeping operations in Iraq. Whether the business functional change ends up hurting the culture and offensive capabilities of the Marines remains to be seen. However, it does raise the interesting question of how organizations should react and change their functions and processes in reaction to short term needs versus keeping to their long term roadmap and core competencies.
Of course, when it comes to the Marines, they must adapt and serve whatever the mission need and they have done so with distinction.
In regards to the long term affects, General Conway states: “Now, it is necessitated that we undergo these changes to the way we are constituted. But that’s OK. We made those adjustments. We’ll adjust back when the threat is different. But that’s adaptability…You create a force that you have to have at the time. But you don’t accept that as the new norm.”
As we know, in EA and other planning and transformation efforts, change for an organization—even the Marines—is not easy and resistances abound all around. How easy will it be for the Marines to return to their long term mission capabilities? And how should EA deal with short term business needs when they conflict with long term strategy for success?