|Let's talk - Military men in parastatals: What is the fuss all about?|
|Saturday, 26 May 2012 21:05|
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By STANFORD CHIWANGA
THE Americans have a long standing tradition of recruiting retired members of the armed forces to be chief executive officers, general managers, and advisors in government institutions and the corporate world.The list of American military men who hold the reins at key institutions that contribute to the performance of the American economy is impressive and almost endless. There is Mr James O’Brien, a former major in the United States army, now the chairman of the board and CEO of Ashland Inc, a New York Stock Exchange- (NYSE) listed transport, construction, chemical, and petroleum company.
There is also James Mulva, a former navy officer, who is now the CEO of ConocoPhilips, a NYSE company, which is the third-largest integrated energy company in the US and the fifth-largest refiner in the world. Frederick Wallace Smith, a former Marines ground officer also deserves mention as he is the founder, chairman, president, and CEO of FedEx, the first overnight express delivery company in the world, and the largest in the United States.
There is also Richard D Kinder of Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI), an energy and pipeline corporation. He was in the US army. Talk of Robert Stevens, a former marine who is the CEO of Lockhead Martin, an American global aerospace, defence, security, and advanced technology company with worldwide interests.
These individuals and others not mentioned are credited with making these companies a success. They used strategic management, a skill acquired in the military which demands that management tools be used for one purpose only: to help an organisation do a better job — to focus its energy, to ensure that members of the organisation are working toward the same goals, to assess and adjust the organisation’s direction in response to a changing environment.
The same strategy is being embraced by European countries as businesses in Britain and the rest of Europe are seeing an increasing number of ex-army, naval and air force officers rubbing shoulders with professionals from more traditional business backgrounds and in some cases taking over from them.
Government institutions and private companies that have lured retired military personnel in these countries have had and are having record successes because the military man or woman brought a military leadership to business that constituted a degree of decisiveness and focus that is rarely seen in business.
Modern businesses and government institutions including those in Cuba and Venezuela have also exploited the expertise of the military to develop their countries. This has cemented the well-documented and historical fact that the relationship between the business world and the military is long and rich. Ambitious executives have long studied Sun Tzu for tips on defeating the competition.
Zimbabwe has adapted the same model in response to economic sanctions that were threatening to have parastatals and State enterprises — institutions which are the foundation of the economy — closed for business. Ex-military men were recruited to arrest the decline of the parastatals because of their willingness to adapt to changing circumstances.
But in Zimbabwe the appointment of retired military men to head parastatals and State enterprises has been met with mixed feelings with critics dismissing the move as an attempt by President Mugabe to cling on to power by all means necessary. They argue that the military has no business in business. The irony of this is that the military have always been in business.