Earlier this year, I read The Machine That Changed The World, by Womack, Jones and Roos. It’s the ground-breaking book which introduced the Western world to lean production, the industrial management philosophy which was pioneered by Toyota, and is now well on the way to replacing the previous paradigm, Fordist mass production, in all kinds of businesses and organisations around the world. For an academic tract about factory management, it was a surprisingly gripping read, and got me thinking about the parallels between lean and my experience in the British Army.
I love it when Private Eye introduces a new feature and skewers something which has been annoying me too.
I first encountered this metaphorical use of the term ‘DNA’ in Army recruiting, when Capita were talking about their strategy for finding ‘the right candidate DNA’. What they meant was defining a set of characteristics that a candidate must possess to be suitable for the Army. It was obvious why they were using the term – the same reason anyone uses corporate buzzwords – to make it sound like what they were doing was much more complicated and skilled than it actually was, a facade which it was especially important to maintain in front of their client, the Army. Judging by Private Eye’s new feature, the DNA metaphor is currently the trendiest bit of corporate jargon and journalese nonsense doing the rounds.
Wagah is a village 30km west of Amritsar, straddling the border between India and Pakistan. It’s the only open road crossing between the two countries. Every evening, the armed forces on both sides simultaneously perform an elaborate gate-closing and flag-lowering ceremony, which has become something of a spectacle for both Indians and tourists.
I arrive there at about 4.30pm, after the experience in the spiritual obstacle course that is the Mata Temple. I am directed by the guards to bypass the long Indian queue and go straight into the VIPs’ and foreigners’ stand, which is supposed to provide a better view. Except that, in the foreigners’ stand, a number of men – all of whom are tall enough to see everything from a seated position – seem intent on standing, so that they can record useless, unwatchable videos of everything, ensuring meanwhile that neither they, nor anyone behind them, sees any of the proceedings with their own eyes.
A story is currently doing the rounds that the Globe, a pub in Leicester, has banned all British soldiers out of respect for the local Islamic community.
I first saw it shared on Facebook via a post [no link, I don’t want to support it] on a blog called the Daily Bale.
That the story is completely spurious should be obvious with half a second’s thought: how many teetotal Muslim customers is the Globe likely to have, causing tensions with others?
It takes less than 10 seconds of investigation to confirm that it’s complete rubbish, via an announcement on the Globe’s Twitter feed.
Still, it’s not all bad. The Health and Safety course I’m on is taught by an ex-military man, who retains the forces ethos of knocking off early as long as the work is done. We’re finished by 3.00 pm each day, so by 3.30 I’m enjoying the sunshine and a pint of Wensleydale Brewery‘s Semer Water ale at the Bolton Arms, Leyburn, in the gorgeous Yorkshire Dales.
I’m sorry, but it’s time for a personal whinge. I’m going to tell you the story of a particularly painful and ludicrous Army admin procedure.
I’m currently staying in Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire for my final resettlement training course before leaving the Army. When I booked myself on the course, I also had to arrange for some accommodation. I wasn’t looking forward to it, as I’d had dealings with Catterick accommodation before…
The success of the expanded TA is crucial to the overall changes in the Army. The new size of the TA, increasing by 20,000 from its current 10,000 to 30,000, is supposed to counter the reduction in the regular force from 102,000 to 82,000. On paper, the total number of regulars and reservists remains the same, so that the United Kingdom maintains the same military capability while reducing costs.