Chapter 9 Reading – Iraq Groupthink Article

October 20, 2009

As this article details, it seems like pretty much everything that could go wrong in the operation and management of the intelligent community did go wrong. You had people operating with a presumed conclusion looking for and identifying evidence that they could construe in a way to support that conclusion, supervisory failures, and a lack of appropriate sources. When you have a failure of this magnitude on a number of different levels, the result is what you have here, a major disaster and a huge embarrassment.

Reading this article makes me think of the different consequences this type of behavior would have if it had taken place in a private business instead of the government. Unlike a corporation, when a government entity like the CIA fails in such a huge way, you have time to fix the problem by cleaning house, replacing management and the head of the organization, and doing what is necessary to fix the problem. The government will continue to fund the CIA until it gets things worked out, so the CIA is not going to cease to exist because of this—it just gets a major overhaul in hopes of fixing the problem. But the CIA will continue on, and eventually will probably repair the damage to its reputation caused by these problems.

For a corporation, however, a major meltdown like what the intelligence community experienced could be fatal. In a private company, this kind of public failure of operations drives customers away. And, unlike government entities, there is no guaranteed stream of revenue to keep the company afloat. So, if I am the head of a company, or even a middle manager, I am going to be on the look out for groupthink, systemic failures, and management failures, to make sure my company does not suffer a major blunder that damagers its reputation like the intelligence community’s reputation was damaged here, because, unlike the CIA, my company probably will not recover.

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