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    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Default Zero-Defects Mentality

    From a statement by Cavguy in the Afghanistan ROE thread:

    In an odd way, this turns back to the discussion I have had with COL Gentile over "dogma" and doctrine. We seem to have a recurring pattern of commanders following "letter of the law" in risk adverse fashions rather than tailoring to each situation. Yingling has offered one reason why. I believe it goes back to the late 90s zero-defect checklist approach to training mentality. I don't believe it's the doctrine's fault, it's a sign of a massive failure in our Leader Development and Education System, and our inability to develop individual leaders and hold individuals responsible for their actions. We see every problem as a fault of the system, and issue blanket one size fits all policies as a result.
    By Ken White in the same thread:

    THAT / those are the problem. Not tactical level training but the mentality we have developed over the last 30 years or so. That, I contend is inculcated by trying to define 'training' down to the lowest possible level and it is exacerbated by a culture that treats minor foul ups as major crimes while ignoring major crimes as non events. We have a minor tactical training problem -- we have major personnel management, integrity and military professional education problems.
    I've noticed a number a number of guys mentioning a "zero defects" atmosphere in the 1990s Army. Please forgive me if I'm wrong, but I thought zero defects was a manufacturing quality control initiative adopted by DoD in the middle-1960s that eventually crossed over from the R & D community into troop units. Zero defects was eventually repudiated, at least outside of the engineering and manufacturing community.

    A master sergeant told me his division in Germany wore pillow cases over their spit-shined boots when they marched to where JFK was going to review them so they wouldn't scuff their boots. A guy who had been in the 82nd told me that in the 1960s the way to prepare for an in-ranks inspection in fatigues was to have a friend hold your trousers while you jumped into them from the top bunk so they wouldn't wrinkle behind the knee. (No sitting down allowed.) When I served in '77-'84 we had spit-shined Corcorans and starched fatigues but nothing quite like that. By that time zero defects was a discredited philosophy.

    Was the zero defects of the 1990s merely the unofficial resurrection of an old term?
    Last edited by Pete; 01-13-2010 at 03:12 AM.

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Numerous industrial technology forms were adapted in the 1980s and 1990s into management practices. (e.g.) McDonalds using six sigma on the management of drive thru order accuracy; Assessment of lawyers using total quality management on time sheet billing; the aforementioned zero defect for training.
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    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Thanks. If that's true I'm surprised that the Army recycled a previously-discredited buzzword. I've heard of TQM and ISO 9000, which the 1960s zero defects preceeded by several decades.

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    Pete,

    It was unofficial and I think the use of the "zero-defects" term refers to the non-technical meaning.

    Much of training and operations in the late 90s and early 00s was based upon quantifiable measures (such as: number of Soldiers who qualify "expert" on a course that has prescribed time limits, specific target sequences at prescribed ranges, with a given weapon and certain number of rounds, etc, etc). There are many downsides to trying to measure everything and standardize everything to make measurements more easily comparable. The two big ones are...

    1) You inevitably create a system where the participants focus on meeting the measured criteria.

    "If all the boss cares about is APFT average and DUI's then we'll just PT all day and threaten fire and brimstone upon anyone who has a sip of beer!"


    Meanwhile, how much emphasis is placed upon dry-fire drills and rehearsing vehicle egress? Here's a hint: how do you quantify those things?

    2) You inevitably create a system where defects stick out on the scorecard like the running tally of errors on the scoreboard at a baseball game. That is the unofficial zero-defect mentality that arose in the 1990s. Risk averse leaders and a risk averse homefront resulted in heavy emphasis upon the error column.

    When I was in Bosnia, I did not earn many kudos for facilitating what began as a trickle, and then a stream of families to their pre-war homes in one particular valley, for cracking down on a corrupt and lazy municipal employee who was stealing money intended for refugee camps, or for helping to reveal questionable NGO behavior in my sector (none of those were even mentioned on my OER). No, my kudos were earned by my unit's performance in the Brigade's "BCAT" Safety Assessment (I was the company safety officer). That was the big event that defined the rotation. It was also the most glowing line in both my rater and senior rater comments on the OER for that deployment. Why? Because I helped us to avoid a bunch of negative marks in the error column. Contrast this with my OIF OERs that had almost no mention of anything quantifiable with numbers.

    Who cares about accomplishments? Risk-aversion, coupled with an obsession with measuring everything, and a professional education which (then) taught "what" rather than "why" resulted in a lot of leaders who were equipped to do little more than figure out what errors would be held against them, and then try like hell to avoid them.

    That is my understanding of what "zero defects" refers to, as well as my understanding of where it came from, and why.

    I need a drink and shower.
    Last edited by Schmedlap; 01-13-2010 at 05:23 AM.

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post

    Was the zero defects of the 1990s merely the unofficial resurrection of an old term?
    Pete,

    "Zero defects" was in colloquial use when I entered service in 1997 to describe the post-drawdown culture. It was an unofficial term to describe the perfection field grade officers felt was expected in order for promotion to higher grade. It grew to greater levels of absurdity resulting in a pre-9/11 attrition crisis among junior officers fed up with the army's culture. A good overview of the problem is the Army's own report on the problem from 2001 here:

    WHAT THE FIELD TOLD US
    OS-5. The soldiers interviewed in the field transmitted their thoughts in clear text and with passion. They
    communicated the same passion and dedication for selfless service to the Nation and the Army as any
    generation before them. Pride in the Army, service to the Nation, camaraderie, and Army values continue to
    strongly influence the decisions of officers and their spouses to make the Army a career. However, they see
    Army practices as being out of balance with Army beliefs. Below is a summation of what they said:
    • While fully recognizing the requirements associated with a career in the Army, officers consistently made
    comments that indicate the Army Culture is out of balance and outside their Band of Tolerance. They cited
    the following examples:

     There is an undisciplined operational pace that affects every facet of Army life. Officers characterize it
    as too many short-term, back-to-back deployments and exercises, trying to do too much with available
    resources, too many non-mission and late taskings, too many directed training events, and senior leader
    “can do” attitudes that put too much on the plate. This impacts predictability in their professional and
    personal lives and the lives of their families.

     The Army expects more commitment from officers and their families than it currently provides.

     The Army is not meeting the expectations of officer cohorts. Junior officers are not receiving adequate
    leader development experiences. Many captains and majors do not perceive a reasonable assurance of a
    future because of the Army’s CGSOC selection policy. Many retirement eligible lieutenant colonels and
    colonels do not feel valued for their experience and expertise.

     Top-down training directives and strategies combined with brief leader development experiences for
    junior officers leads to a perception that micromanagement is pervasive. They do not believe they are being
    afforded sufficient opportunity to learn from the results of their own decisions and actions.

     There is diminishing, direct contact between seniors and subordinates. This is evidenced by unit
    leaders who are often not the primary trainers, leaders who are often not present during training, leaders
    who are focused up rather than down, and leaders who are unwilling to turn down excessive and late
    taskings. This diminishing contact does not promote cohesion and inhibits trust.

     Most officers have not fully embraced the current officer efficiency report. They do not like the term
    center of mass, forced distribution, and senior rater profile management strategies.

    • In the area of leader development, the field raised the following issues:

     Personnel management requirements drive operational assignments at the expense of quality
    developmental experiences.

     Officers are concerned that the officer education system (OES) does not provide them the skills for
    success in full spectrum operations.

    • In the area of training, officers said:

     The CTCs are a great training and leader development experience, one the Army must sustain.

     Army training doctrine is fundamentally sound, but must be adapted to reflect the operational
    environment and the tools required to train in that environment.

     Units cannot execute home station training in accordance with Army training doctrine because of the
    undisciplined application of that doctrine, resource shortages, and limited training aids, devices, simulators,
    and simulations (TADSS).
    OEF/OIF has temporarily forestalled the deep cultural issues the report highlights. Much debate @ CGSC centers over when/whether the late 90s zero-defect culture will return to the Army.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
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    Just to add to Cavguy's excellent comment, the same zero defect mentality existed in the other services during the 1990's drawdown and, at least in the Air Force, it's continued to an extent in recent years with additional manpower cuts.

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    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Thanks. I remember reading a newspaper report about that study at the time it came out. In 1994-95 as a DoD contractor I went to the Persian Gulf three times with medical logistics soldiers--they were good people, but all the stuff about their "excellence" and how "outstanding" they were seemed pretty overdrawn. It seemed pretty much like the same Army I had been in, even though I had been field artillery.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Zero defects was introduced to the Army during the Carter years.

    A civilian management trainer, Phillip Crosby, is credited with coining the term and IIRC, Donn Starry as CG TRADOC was a proponent in between bouts of developing Air Land Battle doctrine.

    The concept but not the phrase existed in the 1960s as a result of Robert Strange McNamara and his Whiz Kid systems analysis and operational research guys; they tended to ask for '...results, not reasons...' Same basic idea. "Engineering success' is another euphemism -- all mean the same thing, micromanagement.
    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    I've noticed a number a number of guys mentioning a "zero defects" atmosphere in the 1990s Army... Zero defects was eventually repudiated, at least outside of the engineering and manufacturing community.
    Yep but it endures in heirarchial organizations like Armies.
    A guy who had been in the 82nd told me that in the 1960s the way to prepare for an in-ranks inspection in fatigues was to have a friend hold your trousers while you jumped into them from the top bunk so they wouldn't wrinkle behind the knee. (No sitting down allowed.)
    Well that's true -- and the Old Guard honor guard folks going to ceremonies in the DC area go in buses with all the passenger seats removed for the same reason...

    More than one Squad Bay was waxed with illegal paste wax (which the PX obligingly sold) and the Troops were forbidden form walking in the center of the bay, they had to go behind the bunks.
    Was the zero defects of the 1990s merely the unofficial resurrection of an old term?
    I'd also bet the Pharaoh's Army had similar programs. So, allegedly, did a guy named Jean Martinet. I suspect the idea will be around far into the future -- even though it does not work and is counterproductive. Stupid, even.....

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    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    I believe zero defects was over and done with when Don Starry was at TRADOC--my recollection of circa 1980 is that it was a thing of the past and an example of how not to do things. At about the same time in Germany I was told that the Bad Tolz NCO academy had a paste-waxed floor that nobody was allowed to walk on.

    Edit:

    Found the following on the National Archives website under Records of the Army Staff, so the zero defects term has been around for a while.

    Records of the Director of Review and Analysis, consisting of records relating to the zero defects program, 1965-74; command analysis reports, 1963- 67; army program reviews and summaries, 1951-68; reports and management control records, 1962-68 ...
    Last edited by Pete; 01-13-2010 at 06:25 AM.

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    To caveat what Cavguy and Schmed said, there is one more aspect of ZD that I personally saw during deployments that really shook me to my core about WHAT it is that some leaders care about, operationally. I have to give an example to explain this better.

    Let's say a platoon is conducting a routine patrol. One vehicle is hit by an IED and there are no KIA, but some injuries that required evac.

    Upon return to base, the PL briefs the BN leadership on what happened.

    The BN CDR chooses to mention this incident to all officers in the battalion at a meeting. He is proud of the fact that the Soldiers in the aforementioned patrol were all:

    -Wearing their seatbelt
    -Had their doors combat locked
    -Were wearing all the proper PPE
    -Were able to remove the sensitive items prior to the vehicle burning

    The tone of the speech was one of victory, because they "did everything right", which apparently validated our collective performance as a Battalion.

    I take several issues with this. First, there was no mention of what the platoon's actions on contact were. Second, there was no mention of WHY or HOW the IED got there in the first place. It was our battlespace. The fact that the IED was even there should not be overlooked and should be treated as being "beaten" by the enemy on that day; as opposed to ONLY our preparedness for the IED being considered a victory.

    It made me think that our BN CDR, who was a great man that I really like, didn't consider the attack as a defeat; instead he was "institutionalized" to react only to the myriad of things that could have gotten him in trouble with the BDE Commander, i.e., Soldiers not wearing seatbelts, eyepro, etc. If that was his first concern, then obviously our success (defined in terms of quelling violence in our geographically assigned area) wasn't top priority. It seemed that he was more concerned about Force Pro and not mission success. And from my observation, this is not unique. It seemed very common.

    So, we had a clash of cultures. LTs and CPTs were concerned primarily with mission success. The leaders were concerned with Force Pro and not getting into any "trouble". I can only attribute this to the way people "grew up" in the Army and what they were taught about priorities. I don't think it's fair to stereotype all folks this way, but I can only speak from what I've seen.

    From all of my friends that chose to leave the Army, their number one beef was with leadership. Specifically that they didn't believe their leadership really cared how the unit performed in combat, but only that we didn't make any egregious errors during the process.
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkm_101_fso View Post
    It made me think that our BN CDR, who was a great man that I really like, didn't consider the attack as a defeat; instead he was "institutionalized" to react only to the myriad of things that could have gotten him in trouble with the BDE Commander, i.e., Soldiers not wearing seatbelts, eyepro, etc. If that was his first concern, then obviously our success (defined in terms of quelling violence in our geographically assigned area) wasn't top priority. It seemed that he was more concerned about Force Pro and not mission success. And from my observation, this is not unique. It seemed very common.

    So, we had a clash of cultures. LTs and CPTs were concerned primarily with mission success. The leaders were concerned with Force Pro and not getting into any "trouble."
    I've gotten the impression that the emphasis on Force Protection is something that sneaked into TTPs from peacekeeping in the Balkans in the 1990s and safety during peacetime field exercises--somehow it became "the way we've always done things." I really doubt that was something that was promoted at Fort Benning as a central tenet of infantry operations. In around 2000 I was at a meeting at Fort Detrick on the development of a vaccine where a female O-5 in the Medical Service Corps explained in all seriousness how a Risk Analysis is conducted for everything the Army plans to do, with emphasis put upon developing measures to minimize identified risks. Offhand I can think of few things that are more risky than infantry combat.
    Last edited by Pete; 01-13-2010 at 09:16 PM. Reason: Replace the word less with more, more or less

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    Offhand I can think of few things that are less risky than infantry combat.
    What about venturing into a chow hall without a reflective belt or daring to move a HMMWV on a military base without a ground guide? C'mon now.

    Here is a great article published in October 2001, but with much of the interviews and observations made prior to 9/11. This really captures the insanity of the Army before reality was thrust upon us.

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    Default Jimmy Didn't Do It

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    A civilian management trainer, Phillip Crosby, is credited with coining the term and IIRC, Donn Starry as CG TRADOC was a proponent in between bouts of developing Air Land Battle doctrine.

    The concept but not the phrase existed in the 1960s as a result of Robert Strange McNamara and his Whiz Kid systems analysis and operational research guys; they tended to ask for '...results, not reasons...' Same basic idea. "Engineering success' is another euphemism -- all mean the same thing, micromanagement.Yep but it endures in heirarchial organizations like Armies.Well that's true -- and the Old Guard honor guard folks going to ceremonies in the DC area go in buses with all the passenger seats removed for the same reason...

    More than one Squad Bay was waxed with illegal paste wax (which the PX obligingly sold) and the Troops were forbidden form walking in the center of the bay, they had to go behind the bunks.I'd also bet the Pharaoh's Army had similar programs. So, allegedly, did a guy named Jean Martinet. I suspect the idea will be around far into the future -- even though it does not work and is counterproductive. Stupid, even.....
    Ken,

    1-In the late 60's as you left the Martin Company main complex on Sandlake Rd. in Orlando they used to have a sign saying "Have A Zero Defects Day". Saw it many times as a kid. Yes the concept had been around probably since the late 50's........NASA and the SAC Bomber wing (also in Orlando) had a big part in it also.

    2-My mom helped train Phillip Crosby when he was in the engineer training program, he didn't invent anything he just packaged concepts that had been at Martin Company for some time and made a lot of money on it.

    3-Zero Defects was meant to be applied to Hardware.......not peopleware which is where it all started to go wrong.

    4-Yes some people stood on their bunks to get into their starched GREEN Army men uniforms when we stood Guard Mount......sharpest looking didn't have to pull Guard Duty. Zero defects has some benefits. We used to call it "Making The Man". Not sue why the phrase came about but that is what we called it.

    5-Zero Defects was competing with The General Systems Theory which was also coming on strong at the same time and both views were heavily taught in the Orlando school system at the time. This started to come apart as I entered High School......Damn Hippies started calling it Ecology.

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    in every QTB I attended in the late 90s had a slide on Dental Cat IV's (Cat IV meant you were non-deployable until the issue was cleared up - usually just behind on annual screenings). If there was a Cat IV, the O-6 would grill you on why guys were Cat IV and what you were doing to fix them. He wouldn't worry about why your METL was assessed at the level it was, or what exercises were coming up to improve the METL, he wanted to know why your soldiers weren't - in his words - "ready to go to war."

    Did I mention we were a non-deployable TDA unit?

    It quickly became clear that the priorities were Dental Cat IVs, no one on the police blotter, high PT scores, and civilian education. MOS-related training be damned - our guys needed to be "ready to go to war" and "challenged as leaders".
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    JKM,

    That was the best example that I've ever read. You nailed it.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default No defects are zeroized but some are Supersized...

    Pete: Now that I think a bit, you're probably correct on Starry -- I believe it was one of the TRADOC deputies who pushed it and I know it was in the 74-75 (± a couple of years) period that it held sway. I can distinctly recall the ZD stickers Eighth Army put out last time I was in Korea, 75-76. Starry didn't get to TRADOC until after I retired in 77. Also agree that it was being derided by the early 80s. Shy Meyer hated the idea...

    The term was used off and on for years in Army (and other) management circles but it didn't really get applied to operations in troop units until the mid-70s as I recall. That's the usage to which I thought you were referring and to which I referred though I didn't make that clear.

    Slap: One of my wife's Uncles worked at MM Orlando for about 25 years including in that time frame. Agree that ZD in this respect started at Martin and that it preceded Crosby but it didn't hit Army units until the mid-70s -- and that was before Crosby is alleged to have introduced the phrase.

    All those management Gurus essentially steal and package ideas...

    jkm 101 fso and you have it right. It was and is to be applied to technical processes, not to things people do -- that vignette he cited displays exactly the mentality that was fostered by the 'concept' in the mid 70s. The Army picked up a lot of bad habits in Viet Nam and immediately thereafter. Too many of them are still with us.

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    Other ways of understanding the "zero defects" concept are the phrases "practiced infantryman's eye" and "attention to detail."

    The focus on these "details" happens to come about, I think, because resources may not be available to assess whether a unit is able to accomplish its mission. As a result, indicators are used instead. This line of reasoning is based on the fallacious presumption that your attention to detail, like keeping that "autobahn" in the barracks at the 7th Army NCO Academy spit shined, indicates that you will be able to get the big things right too.
    Even if the extrapolation from detail to big picture achievement is correct, the big picture may vary as well. The meaning of mission accomplishment changes depending on time and place. What indicators one uses will probably change as a result.

    Leaders accustomed to peacetime will use different indicators than leaders used to combat.
    --It's pretty unlikely that a soldier will get blown up by an IED on Fort Bragg's Sicily Drop Zone, but that soldier may well have a parachute malfunction during a practice drop.
    --A units' billets on Fort Benning will probably not be overrun by the irate citizens of Columbus, but add a little alcohol and some of those citizens may get in a fight with a group of troops at a Redsticks game.
    --A Fobbit SGM may look at whether/how you wear your reflective belt; a PSG in a COP perimeter is more likely to look at whether/how you put out your aiming stakes for the machine gun. But at some level they both are trying to "conserve the fighting force" AKA keep troops safe (I hope).

    Good leadership entails being able to distinguish what kinds of things "count" when assessing what really matters and applying that based on when and where one is.
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    Default Army Missile Command = Zero Defects

    1964 US Army Missile Command
    Title: Zero Defects


    http://www.monmouth.army.mil/histori...e=Audio_Visual

    Cain't watch on computer.....have to order it

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    The following is from a chronology of major events for the year 1964 on the Redstone Arsenal website. Gosh, mention of 1964 is enough to make a guy nostalgic for the Tonkin Gulf Resolution :

    23 June 64 MICOM spearheaded DOD's massive drive, known as Zero Defects, to re-emphasize pride in workmanship and to bolster quality achievements throughout American industry. The command hosted a special seminar on its Zero Defects program to provide a pattern for implementing a DOD-wide prevention program which could be used by all military and industrial organizations. This conference was the first such event ever held by a DOD agency.

    25 June 64 The REDSTONE missile, replaced by the PERSHING I, was classified obsolete.

    25 June 64 The last CORPORAL artillery unit was inactivated.

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