Monday, June 6, 2016

Humor in Uniform – Micromanagement


I can never forget this anecdote narrated by General Eric Vas [Lt Gen EA Vas (15 May 1923 – 18 Aug 2009)] – he narrated this story during a lecture he delivered at the Institute of Armament Technology (IAT) Girinagar Pune on “Leadership” more than 30 years ago – in the mid-1980s.

In the early years of his military career as an Army Officer 
– when he was a Company Commander in an infantry battalion – while taking rounds of his battalion deployed in mountainous terrain  he found that a post was dangerously sited – it was directly in the enemy line of fire.

He told the post commander  an NCO  to move the post to a safer location which he indicated.

During his next rounds a few days later  he found the post at the same location.

When he angrily asked the NCO why they had not relocated the post  the NCO said that the men were happy in the present location.

Seeing the reluctance of the men to relocate the post  he gave express orders that the post was to be moved immediately  and  he personally supervised the relocation of the post to a new safer location.

One week later  when he paid a surprise visit  he found that the post was back at the previous dangerous location.

He asked the JCO why his orders were not being obeyed.

He told the JCO to explain to the NCO and soldiers that the present location was dangerous 
– and  all of them would die the moment the first shot was fired.

The JCO spoke to the NCO and soldiers for some time.

Then  the JCO came back to Eric Vas and said in Hindi: 

“ साहब  वोह बोल रहे हैं कि वोह यहाँ खुश हैं  

“ Sahab  woh bol rahe hain ki woh yahan khush hai 

(Sir  they are saying that they are happy here at this location)

“But please tell them that this place is dangerous 
 and  they will all die –  वोह मरेंगे exasperated Eric Vas said to the JCO.

The JCO replied: 

 साहब – अगर वोह खुश हैं – तो रहने दो – वोह मरेंगे – लेकिन खुशी से मरेंगे  

Sahab – agar woh yahan khush hain to rehene do – woh marenge – lekin khushi se marenge 

(Sir – if they are happy here – let them be – they will die – but they will die happily)

Moral of the Story: 
In the Military – as an Officer – Never Try to Micromanage 

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This anecdote was posted online by me earlier at urls:  and etc

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