Throughout history, culture has affected military effectiveness and innovation. Yet today, modifying culture is not a line of effort for addressing the challenges of great power competition. It takes a back seat to modernizing and growing the force to outpace emerging threats. The Navy has emphasized people, platforms, programs, and technology to drive innovation, but it has not addressed how its culture must change to successfully compete in the 21st century.
Effective commanders create an environment that guides, shapes, and influences culture to prevent undesirable behaviors and encourage others. The response to the 2017 collisions between U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyers and civilian merchant ships involved well-deserved scrutiny of the culture on those ships and the entire naval force.1 It is just as important to consider culture in setting the Navy’s future course as it is to consider it as a contributing factor in past events.
1. LCDR Erin Patterson, USNR, “Ship Collisions: Address the Underlying Causes, Including Culture,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 143, no. 6 (August 2017).
2. Edward N. Luttwak, Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001), 100; Elizabeth Kier, “Culture and Military Doctrine: France between the Wars,” International Security 19, no. 4 (Spring 1995): 65–93; Theo Farrell, “Culture and Military Power,” Review of International Studies 24 (1998): 407–16; Carl Boyd, “Japanese Military Effectiveness: The Interwar Period,” in Military Effectiveness, vol. 2, The Interwar Period, Allan R. Millett and Williamson Murray, eds. (Boston: Allen & Unwin Inc., 1988), 131–68.
3. Dima Adamsky, The Culture of Military Innovation: The Impact of Cultural Factors on the Revolution in Military Affairs in Russia, the U.S., and Israel (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014).
4. Carl H. Builder, The Masks of War (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989).
5. Elting Morison, Men, Machines, and Modern Times (Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T. Press, 1966).
6. Ash Carter, “Remarks at the Military Child Education Coalition Training Seminar,” Washington, DC, 31 July 2015.
7. Robert Work, speech delivered at CNAS Defense Forum, Washington, DC, 14 December 2015.
8. Williamson Murray, “Does Military Culture Matter?” Orbis 43, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 27–43.
9. Murray, “Does Military Culture Matter?” See also Thomas P. Ehrhard, “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in the United States Armed Services: A Comparative Study of Weapon System Innovation,” PhD dissertation (Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC, 2000); and Greg Smith, “Organization and Innovation: Integrating Carrier-launched UAVs,” Naval War College Review 43, no. 3 (Summer 2017): 79–100.
10. George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2014).
11. Eric Ries, The Startup Way (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2017).
12. Salim Ismail, Michael Malone, and Yuri Van Geest, “Exponential Organizations: Why New Organizations Are Ten Times Better, Faster and Cheaper Than Yours (And What You Can Do About It),” Singularity University (2014).
13. ADM John M. Richardson, USN, “The Future Navy,” 27 May 2017.
14. Julie Goran, Laura LaBerge, and Ramesh Srinivasan, “Culture for a Digital Age,” McKinsey Quarterly, no. 3 (2017), 57–67.
15. Torbin Rick, “Organisational Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner,” Meliorate, 11 June 2014.
16. John Kotter, Leading Change (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1996); Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (New York: Portfolio, 2011).