Is the culture killing you?

In her book review at the New York Times of  Sebastian Junger’s “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging”,  which addressed the  assimilation of veterans back into society, Jennifer Senior highlights Junger’s observation that the American culture may have adverse impacts on health:

“But Mr. Junger’s most powerful — and surprising — argument is the one he makes about the military’s epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder, which in many cases he suspects may not be PTSD at all.”

“Why, if you think about it, would roughly 50 percent of our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans apply for permanent PTSD disability when only 10 percent of them saw combat?”

“The problem doesn’t seem to be trauma on the battlefield,” he concludes, “so much as re-entry into society.” And, he suggests, this problem might deserve its own diagnostic term.”

PTSD has been cited as a contributing factor in many suicides ( Reserve suicides up 23 percent — active-duty count remains steady).

The term “Tribe” in a military context, describes that soldiers work within a cultural hierarchy of shared values that optimizes their respective power  in pursuit of the common aim to protect and defend the United States.   In a  combat zone, when making and supporting the decisions that have life or death consequences, the focus shifts to supporting your fellow soldiers.  As Junger reinforces:

“After months of combat, during which “soldiers all but ignore differences of race, religion and politics within their platoon,” they return to the United States to find  a society that is basically at war with itself.”

“It’s a formula for deep despair. “Today’s veterans often come home to find that, although they’re willing to die for their country,” he writes, “they’re not sure how to live with it.”

Society, Culture, and The Prevailing Style of Management (TPSM)

The contributions of W. Edwards Deming in the application of a new philosophy and methods for improving leadership and management within an organization were recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nine hidden turning points in world history and by FORTUNE Magazine as among the greatest contributions in business history.

I suggest that Deming’s “diagnostic term” for the condition that links poor health to culture could be referred to as “The Prevailing Style of Management (TPSM).”

Deming’s analysis on TPSM in America supports the conclusion that organizations, as well as the society, were at war with itself.   He remarked:

“What is the world’s most underdeveloped nation? With the storehouse of skills and knowledge contained in its millions of unemployed, and with the even more appalling underuse, misuse, and abuse of skills and knowledge in the army of employed people in all ranks in all industries, the United States may be today the most underdeveloped nation in the world.”

As an Army reservist, I served two and a half years on active duty from 2001-2004 supporting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the 2009-2010 timeframe, I served a tour in South Korea where I supported the transformation of the 8th Army to an operational-level Field Army.

Although I did not serve in a designated combat zone and I do not suffer from PTSD, I can certainly relate to the stress of transitioning from a high performing culture dedicated to protecting and defending the country back to an organization and “a society that is basically at war with itself.”

In order to raise awareness within the civil service and society on the need for transformation from the prevailing style of management to the better methods for improving quality and productivity, I started writing articles at FedSmith.com.  I recently developed a blog – QualityLeadershipBlog.com to help  raise awareness on the importance of applying a new standard for Quality Leadership.

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