Let’s Stop the 100-Hour Work Week: Letting the Horses Go


“The secret of concentration is elimination”
                                -Dr. Howard Hendricks


The Problem of Letting Go

In the opening of Elting Morison’s Men, Machines, and Modern Times, he recounts the story of a British officer who, in the early 1940s, had a time motion expert study pictures of a light artillery crew going through their firing drills for coastal defense in an attempt to find procedures to cut in order to reduce firing times. The cannons, previously pulled by horses during the Boer War, had been repurposed for a stationary defense at coastal fortifications. Morison writes:

When he ran the pictures over once or twice, he noticed something that appeared odd to him. A moment before the firing, two members of the gun crew ceased all activity and came to attention for a three-second interval extending throughout the discharge of the gun. He summoned an old colonel of artillery, showed him the pictures and, and pointed out this strange behavior. What, he asked the colonel, did it mean. The colonel, too, was puzzled. He asked to see the pictures again, “Ah,” he said when the performance was over, “I have it. They are holding the horses.”

Take a second to reflect on that last line. Even though they no longer had horses pulling their cannons, they were unable to divest of what was no longer necessary; they continued the practice long after the horses were gone. This short vignette points out a problem that most military organizations still struggle with today.

We jump on the “priority of the week” or the latest commander’s focus without looking across the organization to see what we need to stop doing. We try to do it all, even those things no one really cares about anymore. I struggled with this while I was an operations officer and an executive officer. No one wants to be the leader who says, “We can’t do it!” because we all know that, inevitably, if you can’t do it, there is someone else who will. But there are some repercussions to overloading our organizations.  

When we fail to let go of procedures and practices, even while we take on new ones, we spread our organizations thin. The penalties for continuing to “hold the horses” aren’t added seconds on firing drills; they are 100-hour workweeks, strained marriages, failed missions, or the loss of integrity.

Letting Go of the Horses

So what can we do a about it? Andy Stanley, a pastor and leadership author, says that organizations should continually ask the following question: Where are we manufacturing energy?

He believes that most organizations have trouble divesting, and thus people begin to manufacture energy to keep up a practice that is no longer valid. We have to deliberately look at the requirements, practices, and processes to see what is no longer necessary for the organization to excel. In doing so, he says, we can reinvest our time, resources, and money into those things we need to be doing.

For military leaders, a good time to do this would be while doing mission analysis on quarterly and annual Unit Training Plans (UTPs). As units prioritize their training and focus areas, they should look at what practices are no longer necessary to achieve the desired end-state. The commander can then formalize their cancellation in a portion of the published guidance titled “Things We Will No Longer Do.”

Also, when those “priorities of the week” come up, staffs should look at their running estimates and present the commander with recommendations for divestments so the organization can actually prioritize for that week instead of putting in 100-hour workweeks.

Taking It a Step Further

A 2008 HBR article recommends that leaders invest the same amount of energy in divestiture as they do investments. The authors argue that creating a team of people in the organization focused on divestiture will ensure that the process receives the same effort as other initiatives (which usually equate to taking on more).

A commander could establish a short-term operational planning team to review multiple aspects of the organization and continually assess the return on investment of various practices.

And When You Do

When you finally let go of the horses and divest, you will find that your organization is in a better position to accomplish those tasks that actually matter. Leaders won’t feel the burnout that comes with 100-hour workweeks, subordinates will see that the organization cares, and productivity will actually increase.


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The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence


I recently picked up a copy of Amir Husain’s The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence. The book reminds me of Bill Gates’ The Road Ahead, published in 1997 when VHS was king, everyone went to Blockbuster, and the Sony Discman finally had skip protection. Gates’ described a future of Netflixesque streaming, Google-like searches, and Apple Pay-like transactions; all things that are common place today. Amir takes a similar approach and the future he paints has artificial intelligence taking center stage. I recently caught up with Amir and asked him about his book, the future of warfare, and for some further reading on the topic.

Joe: Can you tell readers a little bit about your book?

Amir: The Sentient Machine is a book that explores the answers to existential questions in the age of Artificial Intelligence. It asks whether, faced with an unknown future, we should still forge ahead with the development of artificial intelligence. The book is written for a general audience but also presents a personal account and contains vignettes from decades of my thinking on the nature of reality, the intrinsic value of humans in an age where machines out-work and out-think us, and the value of computational science as a way to think about the universe and the processes we see unfolding around us. To make the philosophy a bit more concrete, the book contains several chapters that explore the applications of AI we see now and those we can expect to see in the near future. I explore AI on the battlefield – what Gen. Allen and I refer to as Hyperwar – as well as the use of Artificial Intelligence to build cities of the future, advance healthcare, hack (or protect) an election and much more.


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Our Year of War: An Interview with Lieutenant General (RET.) Daniel Bolger


Last month I had the privilege of reading LTG (RET.) Bolger’s latest book Our Year of War: Two Brothers, Vietnam, and a Nation Divided and it quickly became a page turner. The book not only tells the story of Chuck and Tom Hagel and their experiences in Vietnam, but of the country they defended, and the leaders who led the war effort. I recently caught up with him to discuss his book, military service, and the importance of writing for the Profession.

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The Janitor Who Help Put a Man on the Moon


In 1962, President John F. Kennedy visited NASA for the first time. During his tour of the facility, he met a janitor who was carrying a broom down the hallway. The President then casually asked the janitor what he did for NASA, and the janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

Take a moment, and reflect on this idea. The janitor knew something that most of us struggle with, the purpose of his work. He kept the building clean so that the scientists, engineers, and astronauts could focus on their mission of putting “man on the moon”. They did not have to worry about spending their time on trashcans, bathrooms, or hallways. He did that for them. He saw where his contribution fit in the organization. He connected his purpose with theirs.

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What Are you Reading?


Are you looking for something to read for professional development?

If you have been following this site for awhile, you know that I like to read. Matter of fact, I like to read ALOT. And at any give time, I’m reading between 3-5 books. They range from history to science fiction and everything in between. Regardless of the genre, I’m always doing it with professional growth in mind. For example, here’s what I’m currently reading:

Artemis: A Novel by Andy Weir, author of The Martian (Available November 14th)

Our Year of War: Two Brothers, Vietnam, and a Nation Divided (Available November 9th)

Clausewitz’s On War: A Biography by Sir Hew Strachan

Preparing for War: The Emergence of the Modern U.S. Army 1815-1917 by JP Clark

Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obssessed World by Mitch Prinstein

If you’re looking for something to read, I think you will enjoy my new monthly email, The ROM (Reading of the Month) will feature:

  • A recommended book
  • Brief summary
  • 3-5 lessons or insights I pulled from the book

Click here to sign up!

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Why Every Leader Should Carry a (Green) Notebook


By Joe Byerly

There are several great articles (here, here, or here) about the importance of writing for publication, but what about the importance of writing for yourself? From Marcus Aurelius to George Patton and Leonardo da Vinci to Bill Gates, these leaders and inventors kept personal notebooks or notecards where they captured quotes, maxims, ideas, or anything else they found of interest. As we look back now into their private writings, we find evidence of the intellectual growth that made them successful. For instance, Patton copied down insights at West Point that would eventually become his fighting style decades later. So let’s explore why keeping a notebook is so important to our personal growth.

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Introducing Legacy Magazine

Legacy Magazine-6109-2

While the content of From the Green Notebook is focused on the professional growth of service members, I love supporting those connected to the military who venture out to launch noteworthy initiatives. In this case, a group of spouses came together two years ago after seeing a need for a high-end publication focused on the lifestyle of military families. And from there, Legacy was born. The inaugural issue will be available in November, and after seeing this preview from military spouse, Stephanie Howell, I think it’s going to be a successful magazine and a great resource for families.

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The Opposite of Fear is Love


The Opposite of Fear is Love is from Chapter 13 of Steven Pressfield’s The Warrior Ethos published by Black Irish Books. 

The greatest counterpoise to fear, the ancients believed, is love—the love of the individual warrior for his brothers in arms. At Thermopylae on the final morning, when the last surviving Spartans knew they were all going to die, they turned to one of their leaders, the platoon commander Dienekes, and asked him what thoughts they should hold in their minds in this final hour to keep their courage strong. Dienekes instructed his comrades to fight not in the name of such lofty concepts as patriotism, honor, duty or glory. Don’t even fight, he said, to protect your family or your home.

Fight for this alone: the man who stands at your shoulder. He is everything, and everything is contained within him.

The soldier’s prayer today on the eve of battle remains not “Lord, spare me,” but “Lord, let me not prove unworthy of my brothers.”

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#AUSADIGITAL: Social Media and the Future of Leader Development


Digital Learning Flyer_AUSA-2

By Joe Byerly

In 1920, as commander of 3rd Squadron, 3d Cavalry, then Colonel George S. Patton Jr. held a series of sixteen lectures in which we he imparted the lessons he had learned from a mixture of self study and his own experiences in World War I to the junior officers in his formation. When I think about these professional development sessions, I imagine Patton standing in front of a room full of officers with his notecards in hand, and the young captains and lieutenants scribbling furiously in their notebooks. Almost 100 years later, this method of imparting knowledge to the next generation of military leaders hasn’t changed much in our organizations.

While face-to-face professional development sessions are still a critical component of leader development, the social media platforms of today allow us to move beyond the Pattonesque sessions of the 1920s, and expand our leader development programs. We no longer have to get everyone in the same room at the same time to have a professional discussion.

On October 9th at AUSA’s National Meeting and Exposition, I will join a  panel of talented professionals to discuss the role that social media can and will play in developing leaders for the 21st Century. If you attended last year, our panel drew a full house and we had some great discussion! This year is no different.

I will be flanked by an all star panel of experts. Dr. Jim Greer, a retired U.S. Army Colonel brings an amazing career along with his PhD research on self development and personal learning networks to the discussion. Dr. Rebecca Johnson, of Marine Corps University, made waves in 2013 when she brought her ethics class onto Twitter, hosting what was probably the first professional military discussion on social media. And finally,  Captain Doug Meyer, who runs the popular leader development social media feed, Hay in the Barn Leader, and recently completed company command, understands the day to demands that we put on our company grade officers and where social media can fit into leader development.

If the topic interests you, but you don’t even now how to use Twitter, we are also running a workshop following the discussion on how Twitter works. You can even walk out of this year’s event with a “first tweet” under your belt!

It has been almost a hundred years since George Patton delivered his lectures from hand written notecards. Can we leverage social media to achieve the same end state? Can social media help to fill the gap that exists between leader attendance in professional military education? Whether you are a senior leader, company grade officer, a DA civilian, or in academia, we think this panel and our workshop will help you think differently about how you develop yourself, your team, and your organization.  And if you can’t make it out to the event, follow us on Twitter using the hashtag #AUSADIGITAL







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The Power of Informal Leader Development


By Scott Nusom 


Leader professional development (LPD) is a critical component for growing and progressing the Profession of Arms. Army Doctrinal Reference Publication 6-22, Army Leadership binds leader development into the Army leadership requirements model and Field Manual (FM) 6-22, Leader Development specifies the Army’s comprehensive framework for holistic development. Outside doctrine, professional articles addressing the benefits of professional development abound (here, here, and here). While structured LPD is critical to leader evolution, the less structured characteristics of informal leader development offers a viable second avenue for professional growth and can have a lasting impact on junior leaders as they progress through the military.

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