Daily Archives: August 20, 2020

Why the Armed Forces of Europe isn’t possible

By Timothy Ogden – In many ways, it sounds like a wonderful idea – one army, one continent, one unified command structure. But like most things which are advertised as all-encompassing solutions to a many-faceted beast, implementing the creation of a European Army would be complicated, expensive, time-consuming, and ultimately pointless.

To begin with, there is the fact that collective defence in Europe already exists, since the majority of countries on the continent are NATO members. Interoperability between the armies of different member states is achieved through frequent joint exercises and cross-training; in recent years these activities have mostly taken place in the Baltic countries and Poland, to the continued ire of Moscow.

Should Russian aggression take on a tangible military form against any of NATO’s eastern members, it is, of course, debatable whether Western European countries would be willing to go to war on their behalf – obligated to defend Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia though they are, if the choice was between quietly letting the Kremlin occupy its former Soviet satellites or risk a potentially nuclear conflict, it is by no means certain that the West would stand firm on its NATO commitments and gamble on Paris, Rome, and Berlin not going the way of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The creation of a European Army would do nothing to alleviate any possible hesitancy over protecting all European territory against outside aggression. Whether or not a collective defense is (on paper) guaranteed by NATO or a hypothetical European Army, a reluctance to defend territory that only ceased to be controlled by Moscow in 1991 would remain. As long as there are national interests and divergent political objectives, there can be no European Army. In other words, before there can be a European Army, there would have to be a supranational European state.

This, of course, looks to be unlikely – nationalist sentiment has risen in recent years rather than fallen, particularly in the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election in the US. Then there is the fact that Europe’s differing political objectives come with different military commitments and differing levels of willingness to fight. The aforementioned scenario of Western European countries being reluctant to defend former Soviet states is equally applicable to ongoing post-colonial deployments. For instance, it is questionable whether the governments of other European countries would be glad to send their soldiers to help France fight its running conflicts in Africa. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Delighting in the possible
In an unpredictable world, executives should stretch beyond managing the probable.
By Zafer Achi and Jennifer Garvey Berger – It’s only natural to seek certainty, especially in the face of the unknown. Long ago, shamans performed intricate dances to summon rain. It didn’t matter that any success they enjoyed was random, as long as the tribe felt that its water supply was in capable hands. Nowadays, late nights of number crunching, feasts of modeling, and the familiar rituals of presentations have replaced the rain dances of old. But often, the odds of generating reliable insights are not much better

Perhaps that’s because our approach to the hardest problems—and the anxiety those problems create—is fundamentally misdirected. When most of us face a challenge, we typically fall back on our standard operating procedures. Call this “managing the probable.” In much of our education, and in many of our formative experiences, we’ve learned that some simple problems have one right answer. For more complicated problems, accepted algorithms can help us work out the best answer from among available options. We respond to uncertainty with analysis or leave that analysis to the experienced hands of others. We look for leaders who know the way forward and offer some assurance of predictability.

This way of approaching situations involves a whole suite of routines grounded in a mind-set of clarity if not outright certainty. To that end, they are characterized by sharp-edged questions intended to narrow our focus: What is the expected return on this investment? What is the three-year plan for this venture? At what cost are they willing to settle? But asking these kinds of questions, very often legitimate in business-as-usual settings, may constrain management teams in atypical, complex situations, such as responding to a quickly changing market or revitalizing a privatized utility’s culture. Our tendency to place one perspective above all others—the proverbial “fact-based view” or “maximizing key stakeholders’ alignment”—can be dangerous. All too often, we operate with an excessively simple model in enormously messy circumstances. We fail to perceive how different pieces of reality interact and how to foster better outcomes.

Moving from “managing the probable” to “leading the possible” requires us to address challenges in a fundamentally different way. more>

3 Mistakes Businesses Make During a Crisis

No business is immune to a crisis, but some recover better than others by avoiding these business mistakes.
By Jacob Beningo – Throughout the course of any technology business–from start-ups to established businesses–periodically, crisis hits. These crises could be related to finances, a key employee leaving, industry changes, and so on. There are three mistakes that most often affect a company’s ability to cope with and recover from a crisis

Mistake #1 – Dissemination of Information

When things go south, there are often two information-related mistakes management makes. First, they ignore sharing information with employees, which churns the rumor mill. In many cases, the rumors that come about are far worse than reality and can lead to poor decision-making further down in the business structure. It is incredibly important to share information as quickly as possible, even if that is simply to state that you have no further information.

Second, when management does decide to tell employees what is going on, they often do not have a plan or strategy in place. These meetings might communicate that the business is trouble and people will be laid off, but they do not know who, timing is uncertain, etc. While sharing information can be critical, providing half-baked information can make matters worse. At this point, it can unnecessarily decrease productivity, increase stress, and cause emotional distress.

Mistake #2 – Unilateral Cuts Without Considering ROI

When things get tight financially, businesses often make across the board budget cuts–including those designed to generate revenue. Businesses become so budget-focused that they are unable to look at the opportunities in front of them and evaluate the return on investment. Instead, they look at a price tag and say, “We can’t spend $5,000 to make $50,000 because it’s not in the budget.”

Mistake #3 – Try to Maintain and Return to Business as Usual

When markets and industries shift, or major world events occur, companies try to hunker down for the storm, believing that if they can just get through the next quarter or the following one, everything will be fine, and they can return to business as usual. The problem with this line of thinking is that there is no such thing as business as usual. The environments in which engineers operate are constantly changing and shifting. The attempt to get back to normal is most likely folly. more>

The 19th Amendment didn’t give women the right to vote

Its language — and effects — were much narrower.
By Anna North – The passage of the 19th Amendment has long been heralded as the turning point for women’s voting rights in America.

Textbooks and teaching materials hail the amendment, ratified on August 18, 1920, as a “milestone” guaranteeing voting rights to all women. In 1973, Congress designated August 26, the date the amendment was officially certified, as Women’s Equality Day — honoring, in the words of then-President Richard Nixon, “the first step toward full and equal participation of women in our Nation’s life.” This year, celebrations around the country mark the amendment’s 100th anniversary. You can buy “nasty woman” T-shirts commemorating the centennial of women voting.

But in reality, the 19th Amendment did not affirmatively grant the vote to all women — or even to any women in particular. All the text says is: “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

In other words, after its ratification, states were no longer allowed to keep people from the polls just because they were women. But officials who wanted to stop people from voting had plenty of other tools with which to do so.

States could use poll taxes and other voter suppression tactics — already used across the country to deny voting rights to Black men — to keep Black women from voting. They could, and did, use those same tactics against Latina women. Indigenous women and many Asian American women lacked citizenship in 1920, meaning they couldn’t vote in the first place. All in all, the 19th Amendment was essentially for one group of women and one group only: white women.

That was by design. White suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton may have championed equality for women, but in practice, they often meant women like themselves. more>