'Bottom up' concept does not work in civilian life

I discovered something about myself the other day that I had never realized before. While serving in the Army, as I moved up in rank, I was subjected to meetings that had no relevant outcome. You may have heard the phrase, "If you're lonely, call a meeting." In most cases you would take the information that affected your section and apply it to some form of work detail that did not really have an effect on the mission. It is hard to motivate people when you are doing busy work. This is not to say that all the meetings were unproductive. Those that were specific to your mission were very important and provided direction and focus. The soldier could concentrate on his job performance and I could focus on providing what was needed for them to accomplish the tasks.

I often thought the Army and its systems were really screwed up until I started working in the civilian sector. I quickly learned that the concept of "from the bottom up" does not work in most civilian work places. The reason: there is always one person in the administration that likes things done their way. No matter if there is a better way to do things to save time (efficiency) and money, it usually meets with opposition. Each and every one of us out there working has run into this situation at one time or another.

There are many out there who remember when Japanese manufactured products first came to the United States. It was after World War II and General Douglas MacArthur was charged with helping rebuild the Japanese infrastructure and manufacturing. By the start of the 1950s the U.S. market was flooded with everything from silverware to tools and by the 1960s the first Japanese automobiles were introduced to America. It was at this time that the U.S. economy started to falter and by the 1970s the American automobile manufacturers were trying to play catch up in providing the American consumer with fuel-efficient cars, that all failed badly. Look at the German economy after WWII and you see the same thing happening. Why is that? The concept of "from the bottom up" works.

In my opinion, Americans have a paradigm that is deeply rooted in our society. "It has always been done; we have always done it this way; there is no other way; my way or the highway" are concepts that diminish the worker.

Case in point - The Montezuma County Veterans Service Officer is to be reappointed for the next two years upon agreement of all the commanders of the veterans' organizations in the county, and submitted to the Montezuma County Commissioners for their approval. This is governed by the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.). There is a group of veterans from the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars that has been working to assure that the newly elected County Commissioners have all the information to make a good selection to fill the position.

In the past the County Administrator has usurped his authority and made the recommendations for appointment of the Service Officer himself without the recommendations of the commanders of the veterans organizations - in which case, the past commissioners rubber-stamped the present Service Officer based on the administrator's recommendation. This is a direct violation of the C.R.S. 28-5-802 (1), (2).

In the past I have heard many times, "It's business as usual" about the County Commission. I assure you this is not the case and the paradigm concerning the Service Officer has been addressed; there is enough interest by this group of veterans that the problem should be corrected. If there is a fault in what has happened in the past, there is enough fault to be passed along to everyone involved. The veteran in this county is the one who has suffered the most and it is time to get back on track.

Rumors have been flying around about the process of who, or who may not apply or be selected to fill this position. These are not the only rumors and talk coming from the veteran community; it is a cancer that is detrimental to all the organizations. Do you want to know why veterans do not want to join our posts or auxiliaries? Curb your tongues! We are supposed to be working for the veterans.

What I realize is this. The military's system for doing business is not a bad system at all and the concept of "from the bottom up" worked well for me as a platoon sergeant. I do believe that there are those people that will try and influence others for their own purpose even if it causes declension or deterioration of the purpose, membership or organization.

Robert Valencia is a retired Army Sergeant First Class, a member of the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He can be reached at 560-1891. Please tune in to Veterans Forum at 8:30 a.m. the last Friday of the month on KSJD 90.5 FM radio.

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