The military had a botched mission in Niger. Four Green Berets were killed. The team had been left in desolate Africa without support and adequate equipment. They were killed by Islamic State fighters. Following an investigation and report, several junior officers were reprimanded. The Defense Department has been at th investigation and discipline for 14 months. When General Mattis was informed of the focus on junior officers, he was angry and sent everyone back to add accountability to the senior levels officers. However, the officers immediately above the junior officers were not reprimanded.
A review found that the senior officers were allowed to investigate themselves. The result was that the problems in Africa Command, including hostilities, lack of communication, warring power fiefdoms, poor planning for the mission, and lack of full disclosure about the nature and risk of the mission. It was labeled as a meeting with tribal leaders. Counterterrorism operations did not make its way into the planning documents.
Following a teleconference about the report, General Mattis ordered everyone back to the drawing board. The result has been that senior leaders have now been reprimanded, and at least one junior officer has had his reprimand lifted. The request by the Green Beret team to return to base because they did not have sufficient intelligence or equipment was ordered to continue. In short, leaders knew of the problems and allowed the operation to continue.
Businesses are like the military. When something goes wrong on the front lines, the manager closest to the employees is disciplined, and often too quickly before understanding what was really going on. They terminate the salesperson and his manager for hacking into a competitor’s website. The failure to ask the question, “What and who motivated that kind of behavior?” leaves the bad actors in place. The root cause of behavior is often well up the chain. Those up the chain sit in judgment and click their tongues at such unethical behavior. They conduct the investigation. But another set of eyes, a CEO with Mattis experience and insight demands something more by asking: Where did we up here in the rarefied air fail?