Journal of the australian naval

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Post Dibb Computation?

Mr Beazley appointed Mr. Dibb to break Defence out of its mismanagement rut. Recognising the problem and setting up a means to find a solution is highly commendable, and Mr. Beazley deserves credit for that. It was. of course, the classic response to the problem Defence faced, as a paper" on organisational decision-making has noted. This second paper

comments that when an organisation falls into an inspirational decision-making mode the 'situation usually leads to some form of outside intervention. An external agency (the Minister?) may send in a strong man (Mr. Dibb?) to impose direction and order upon the situation. As a crisis measure this often works. The strong man forces the organisation to act AS IF it were in a different condition...'

Mr. Dibb's terms of reference constrained him to the strategic guidance provided by Mr. Beazley, as a basis for determining objectives. And. although Mr. Dibb has made the disclaimer that: Financial considerations have not driven this Review', it is also clear from subsequent remarks made by Mr. Beazley' that a figure of about 3% of GDP was an understood parameter But there were other unstated parameters. Some are obvious. For instance, the juggernaut of the FA 18 project and all that it entails, which will probably end up costing the best part of A$10 Billion could not be cancelled or curtailed. Less obviously, no one wanted to run the political risk of antagonising the Army's large constituency in the RSL and the public generally, by making any reductions in the Army's manpower ceiling of about 32.000. No doubt other parameters could be deduced.

The result of Mr. Dibb's Review, then, was a plan to push Defence's management style from Inspiration' to Computation' — and that is an achievement of sorts. But with resources limited to about 3% of GDP and all the stated and unstated parameters it is a curious coincidence that the objectives proposed neatly accommodate all these factors. The result is tidy, and. for many, it will look very good. What the Report won't stand is too much close scrutiny of the objectives, and the reasons for deriving them. So it has been necessary, it appears, to mount a campaign of intimidation in the media to scare off anyone who might have the temerity to disagree. Potential critics have been described as 'reactionaries', living in the past', noisy warriors whose intellectual capital is built of ideas from the past', loud, emotive and primitive', old and bold', vested interests', cold war warriors (ready) to bellow their opinions'. These are, of course, threats to fnghten children. From a management viewpoint it is probable, in any case, that Ihe AS IF' condition now to be imposed will not survive Mr. Beazley's tenure as Minister. (If. indeed, it survives the 1986 Budget.) The reason is that there is no institutional or organisational change which will acknowledge that the 'pseudo-determinate stipulation of fact and value (i.e. the hypothetical "threats'' which the proposed force structure is supposed to deter or combat) are really highly contingent'. Mr

Pago 18 — November 86. Journal ol the Australian Naval Institute

Dibb's comments on organisational matters are only directed towards centralisation and an imposed rigidity in the decision-making process, reinforcing the 'AS IF' approach. Yet, as the paper on decision-making notes, the AS IF approach imposes important requirements on an organisation' including a large capacity for flexible action and change of direction, and an incentive system which discourages cover-ups'' On past experience this is hardly likely in Canberra's political climate, and the Public Service's need to appear to have an orderly, coherent view of the environment and the organisation's response to it.'1

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