Thursday, February 23, 2017

Generals against Powerpoint

(An occasional series) From Tom Ricks' book "Fiasco" about post-invasion Iraq, an interesting tidbit about incoming national security adviser H.R. McMaster*:
McMaster also challenged U.S. military culture, all but banning the use of PowerPoint briefings by his officers. The Army loves these bulleted briefings, but McMaster had come to believe that the ubiquitous software inhibits clarity in thinking, expression, and planning.
Best wishes to General McMaster in his new endeavor.

*Always another great opportunity to mention the weirdest named battle of the late 20th century, and then Captain McMaster's involvement. 


  1. I'm struggling a bit in my view of presentations at the moment. I feel I'm transitioning into make the words good and worry less about the slides, which is the opposite of the culture I found in academia. It seemed talks that were considered good were the ones where the slides were full of information and colorful pictures but the words were low on intellectual power. Whenever I see Peter Thiel speak, a power player in tech, he doesn't even use slides, but he always gets his point across. I'm about to give an industry talk. I've really toned down my presentation compared to what I usually do (I'm not longer in academia).

  2. After hearing so much I have to reckon that Gen. H. R. McMaster will be an unfit among the "gang of clowns" in DC. For a serious and intellectually minded soldier, Mr. Trump does not deserve him. If anything this administration has demonstrated in a month of ascendency it is that no one is sure what the hell is going on? No coherent "talking points" and above all the lead clown himself is usurping all with his twitter onslaught. Mr. Trump does not trust anyone (a hallmark of paranoid who is also uber narcissist). I predict that this noble General will call it a day and quit sometime later. Never seen so much disarray in such a short period of power!

  3. This is a good opportunity to remind everyone that there are plenty of other places to talk politics on the internet.

  4. This wonderful quote was in the April 18, 2013 post.

    General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

    But that doesn't stop the military from trying. Remember Vietnam?

    1. When I was in the Marines bullets were usually our first choice for solving problems.

    2. That only works (or is only cost-effective) for certain classes of problem, though.

      The problem here is likely to be that PowerPoint is not the only known method for willful delusion. If your superiors consider providing evidence against their beliefs and preferred actions career-limiting moves, then delusion is likely to run free, PowerPoint or no. Actively cultivating dishonesty will get you more dishonesty, at least until the chickens start roosting.

    3. I like that each time this quote has come up on the blog, someone has made the same comment, re: bullets and solving problems:


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20