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  • Afghanistan Generals Left Baffled By PowerPoint Slide

    Afghanistan PowerPoint slide: Generals left baffled by PowerPoint slide | Mail Online

    'When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war:' US generals given baffling PowerPoint presentation to try to explain Afghanistan mess

    By Mail Foreign Service
    Last updated at 6:23 PM on 28th April 2010

    Its coloured charts, graphs and bullet-points are supposed to make the most incomprehensible data crystal clear.

    But even the sharpest military minds in American were left baffled by this PowerPoint slide, a mind-boggling attempt to explain the situation in Afghanistan.

    'When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war,' General Stanley McChrystal, the US and NATO force commander, remarked wryly when confronted by the sprawling spaghetti diagram in a briefing.

    Baffling: The PowerPoint slide shown to US commanders shows security, economic and political conditions in Afghanistan. The dark blue arrows represent Afghan National Security Forces with the enemy in red. Other arrows highlight corruption, tribal favouritism and drug trafficking

    PowerPoint has become public enemy number one for many US officers who find themselves battling slide presentations rather than insurgents.

    Some have gone as far as to declare all-out war on the software after the military command was over-run with mind-numbing 30-slide presentations.

    General James N. Mattis, the Joint Forces Commander, isn't taking any prisoners in his approach.

    'PowerPoint makes us stupid,' he growled at a military conference in North Carolina.

    Brigadier General H.R. McMaster went one step further and banned the presentation package when he led an offensive in Tal Afar, Iraq, in 2005.

    'It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,' he told the New York Times. 'Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.'

    There is growing concern about the insiduous spread of PowerPoint which has come to dominate the lives of many junior officers.

    Dubbed the PowerPoint Rangers, they spend hours slaving away on slides to illustrate every Afghan scenario.

    Lieutenant Sam Nuxoll, a platoon leader posted in Iraq, told military website Company Command how he spent most of his time making PowerPoint presentations.

    'I have to make a storyboard complete with digital pictures, diagrams and text summaries on just about anything that happens,' he added.

    'Conduct a key leader engagement? Make a storyboard. Award a microgrant? Make a storyboard.'

    General McChrystal views two PowerPoint presentations a day in Kabul with three more during the course of each week.

    PowerPoint was launched in 1987 and bought by Microsoft shortly afterwards.
    Attached Files
    Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.

    Abusing Yellow is meant to be a labor of love, not something you sell to the highest bidder.

  • #2
    PowerPoint

    And the same from the NYT-

    We Have Met The Enemy And It Is PowerPoint-NYT April 27, 2010

    Same article but expanded and includes links. Elizabeth Bumiller and Helene Cooper are to be commended for unveiling this insidious disease running amuck from the halls of the White House and Pentagon to lowly platoon leaders in Iraq. Both credit Richard Engel of NBC with originally revealing the particularly odious slide-

    So What Is The Actual Surge Strategy-MSNBC Dec. 2, 2009 Richard Engel

    Here's what's on the mind of a reader at SWJ-

    "The term "death by PowerPoint" does not exist for nothing.

    Try to get any military decision maker, DARPA, JIEDDO, Army AAR, CTC AAR reviews, BCT Cmdr, research programs to put together a PowerPoint slide presention of TEN or less slides on the topic!

    Impossible---what happen in the last six years to convinced everyone that MORE is BETTER?

    I use to brief off of three and everyone declared me to be crazy---usually a opening statement, highlights of the total presentation and then take away comments---what more does one need? We have gotten away from being great briefers using the spoken word which actually means one has to understand the subject---PPT just masks non-knowledge."
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

    Comment


    • #3
      Okay, first let me tell you all that I really AM a grey-haired Old Fart(tm) that has a propensity for saying things like, 'In MY day, there weren't so many pvssy airmen!', BUT...

      Briefings delivered in the Old Way, with Mr. Briefer-man standing in front of a wall map with a wooden pointer, and knowing what the hell he (usually I) was talking about imparted MUCH more information to the audience than any ten PowerPoint briefings EVER did.

      I had a simple instruction for my people when they had to do briefings: 'Do NOT break eye contact with the principal while you're indicating a point on the map, and be accurate to within ONE STANDARD ENGLISH INCH of your pointer's tip on the map to the place you're talking about. Mispronounce any Russian/German/Arabic/whatever placename, and my largest NCO will jump up and down on you until your liver comes out of your mouth. Stutter, and I'll have you on extra duty for the remainder of your weekends on this assignment. Fail to answer follow-up questions and your pre-tax income for that week will be donated to Bosnian orphanages. For every 'um' you utter, you owe me six pull-ups. And if you appear before the podium with a wrinkled shirt, unshined shoes, or may God have mercy on your filthy heathen soul, a week-old haircut, I swear that I will give you your next one with a pencil sharpener.'

      My briefings were AWESOME.:))

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Bluesman View Post
        My briefings were AWESOME.:))
        For some unknown reason, I have very little trouble believing that statement.
        “Never let yourself be persuaded that any one Great Man, any one leader, is necessary to the salvation of America. When America consists of one leader and 158 million followers, it will no longer be America.”
        ― Dwight D. Eisenhower

        Comment


        • #5
          And 10 kms for those un warranted paces.
          sigpicAnd on the sixth day, God created the Field Artillery...

          Comment


          • #6
            A PowerPoint Haiku


            Briefer lacks knowledge
            But slide deck looks good
            Has Sound, movement
            Shiny Things!


            I hate PowerPoint.

            GEN McChrystal's response to that slide is vintage Stan the Man.
            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
            Mark Twain

            Comment


            • #7
              keith,

              i forget if you ever cycled through the Pentagram, but you ain't seen death by Powerpoint until ya get here

              my favorite prep ever is a bimonthtly 60-70 page slide monster for the two-star, which was of course preceded by another set of slides for the O-6 first...
              There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by astralis View Post
                keith,

                i forget if you ever cycled through the Pentagram, but you ain't seen death by Powerpoint until ya get here

                my favorite prep ever is a bimonthtly 60-70 page slide monster for the two-star, which was of course preceded by another set of slides for the O-6 first...
                The most screamingest, uptight, detail-crazy staff officer I ever met worked at SOCOM with me, and he was notorious for his extreme briefings. Always over-done and splashy, huge, innovative to the point of being downright alien...had been selected for a JCS assignment, and we were throwing him a goodbye bash at the beach on MacDill. He was a Army Lt Col on the make, and just KNEW he was looking at his bird, coming off his Penta-tour.

                One of my friends was another Army Lt Col, but exactly the opposite: a typical Special Forces outlook, with a relaxed, cool demeanor, and though civil to Lt Col Tripwire (his nickname for the PowerPoint Ranger), had no use for him, and after the handshakes and goodbyes, we were standing there under the picnic pavillion, he said, 'Either that guy is going to make history, or he'll be dead by his own hand in a year.'

                Some places encourage that type of briefing. I hate 'em, and I'm pretty sure the novelty has worn off the kind of brieifing that any savvy general officer can tell took WAY too many man-hours to produce and review for the pay-off to be worth it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bluesman View Post

                  Some places encourage that type of briefing. I hate 'em, and I'm pretty sure the novelty has worn off the kind of brieifing that any savvy general officer can tell took WAY too many man-hours to produce and review for the pay-off to be worth it.
                  18th Fires Brigade is one of those places. Wedneday morning has a "Maintenance meeting" that is PURE death by fecking slide. The worst thing however is the fact that Monday and Tuesay are a total bust trying to get anything accomplished as all anyone is doing is haemoraging time and effort pulling data together for the wednesday meeting!!! Its a joke and I dont even bother to attend anymore.

                  Regards

                  Arty
                  "Admit nothing, deny everything, make counter-accusations".- Motto of the Gun Crew who have just done something incredibly stupid!!!!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ArtyEngineer View Post
                    18th Fires Brigade is one of those places. Wedneday morning has a "Maintenance meeting" that is PURE death by fecking slide. The worst thing however is the fact that Monday and Tuesay are a total bust trying to get anything accomplished as all anyone is doing is haemoraging time and effort pulling data together for the wednesday meeting!!! Its a joke and I dont even bother to attend anymore.

                    Regards

                    Arty
                    Yep; seen that before. CENTCOM has a massive team whose only job is to prep the generals' briefings: daily, weekly, and the granddaddy of 'em all, the Monthly Commander's Information Brief.

                    The reason it's not really funny: Admiral Got-Hisself-Fired actually tried to get that one killed off, and as the dam' four-star of the most important COCOM in the entire galaxy, you'd THINK that would be his call. Nah; he was forced to continue it, unaltered, because so many DC-types were using it to force-feed their own briefings, and they couldn't afford to put a massive staff on just building briefings. Like a goddam' warfightin' HQ apparently can.

                    It continues to this day, and frankly, I think that if the US ever does go Roman Empire and crash, those guys will go right on making a Monthly Monster SEA EYE BEE, until Christ comes back.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by S-2 View Post
                      And the same from the NYT-

                      We Have Met The Enemy And It Is PowerPoint-NYT April 27, 2010

                      Same article but expanded and includes links. Elizabeth Bumiller and Helene Cooper are to be commended for unveiling this insidious disease running amuck from the halls of the White House and Pentagon to lowly platoon leaders in Iraq. Both credit Richard Engel of NBC with originally revealing the particularly odious slide-

                      So What Is The Actual Surge Strategy-MSNBC Dec. 2, 2009 Richard Engel

                      Here's what's on the mind of a reader at SWJ-

                      "The term "death by PowerPoint" does not exist for nothing.

                      Try to get any military decision maker, DARPA, JIEDDO, Army AAR, CTC AAR reviews, BCT Cmdr, research programs to put together a PowerPoint slide presention of TEN or less slides on the topic!

                      Impossible---what happen in the last six years to convinced everyone that MORE is BETTER?

                      I use to brief off of three and everyone declared me to be crazy---usually a opening statement, highlights of the total presentation and then take away comments---what more does one need? We have gotten away from being great briefers using the spoken word which actually means one has to understand the subject---PPT just masks non-knowledge."
                      Heh, I remember that one from last year...

                      The original article by Col. Hammes (ret) on AFJ:
                      Essay: Dumb-dumb bullets - July 2009 - Armed Forces Journal - Military Strategy, Global Defense Strategy

                      The thread on SWJ:
                      The TX Hammes PowerPoint Challenge (Essay Contest) (SWJ Blog)

                      I must say that many of the points raised regarding PPT is not restricted to the military world. The PPT and generally bad presentations can be found in the corporate world and academia. PPTs, like a karaoke machine, allows a bad singer to ruin the day of people within earshot. Unfortunately for the human race, the art of giving a good presentation is rarely practiced.

                      A favourite of mine:
                      The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The slide isn't about PowerPoint. It's about (systemic operational) design, which is similar but different to effects based operations (EBO). All the comments to date about PowerPoint are still valid, but there's a much larger philosophical issue to tackle here about the nature of war and our ability to control it.
                        "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Maeda Toshiie Reply

                          "The PPT and generally bad presentations can be found in the corporate world and academia."

                          This is correct. I alluded to its near-universal penetration within the military from POTUS down to platoon leaders on a battlefield but it obviously extends far beyond that. I've endured innumerable marketing presentations where the medium (PPT) IS the message.

                          PowerPoint is a powerful tool but you don't use a hammer when you need a screwdriver. It's all about the proper application. Xinhui posted this presentation as part of another thread here about Thomas P.M. Barnett.

                          Thomas Barnett Draws A New Map For Peace-TED

                          This is a masterful presentation and Barnett skillfully integrates PowerPoint to accentuate/highlight key points without ever coming remotely close to losing his audience. He clearly is a polished briefer, knows his material intimately, and has mastered his general subject. Further, it's evident that he's invested considerable time rehearsing and refining his presentation.

                          Those are critical and oft-forgotten elements of public speaking. Most of my military experience entailed considerable briefings prior to PowerPoint and I feel fortunate to have learned from very adept public speakers. The fundamentals still reign supreme.
                          Last edited by S2; 30 Apr 10,, 17:46.
                          "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
                          "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Shek Reply

                            "...there's a much larger philosophical issue to tackle here about the nature of war and our ability to control it."

                            You're just the guy to do it and I look forward to you introducing the thread that attempts to corral these kittens. The slide is certainly emblematic of the complexities of modern war. The information within would have presented any briefer with difficulties regardless of how he attempted to convey both the depth and breadth of even this finite (if intricate) issue.
                            "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
                            "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by S-2 View Post
                              "...there's a much larger philosophical issue to tackle here about the nature of war and our ability to control it."

                              You're just the guy to do it and I look forward to you introducing the thread that attempts to corral these kittens. The slide is certainly emblematic of the complexities of modern war. The information within would have presented any briefer with difficulties regardless of how he attempted to convey both the depth and breadth of even this finite (if intricate) issue.
                              Steve,

                              This is another topic where I've got a half-finished paper (guess I've got ADHD - I can't seem to stick with a single paper and just get 'er done!). Once the bathroom is complete I can begin to re-engage on getting this thing written.

                              Here are some quick links to get a feel for the approach to campaign design:

                              EBO

                              http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/C...228_art004.pdf

                              Here is the relevant doctrine:

                              CACD
                              FM 5.0 (see Ch 3)


                              My paper starts out with this, http://www.worldaffairsboard.com/spo...-steroids.html, moves on to this, https://www.cia.gov/library/center-f...ofIntelNew.pdf, and draws from these sources as well in bringing it back to design as a cloud with a silver lining:

                              Amazon.com: Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq (9781586485283): Linda Robinson: Books
                              Friedrich August von Hayek - Prize Lecture
                              Amazon.com: The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies (New Edition) (9780691138541): Scott E. Page: Books
                              Amazon.com: The Wisdom of Crowds (9780385721707): James Surowiecki: Books
                              Amazon.com: Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (9781400067930): Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Books
                              "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

                              Comment

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