In The Navy
But the real reason the article struck me was that it reminded me of my many years with yet another company that no longer exists, where I spent the better part of a decade. Softbridge was full of very brainy techies with great ideas, but for years we stayed afloat largely through tin-cupping our investors for what turned out to be pretty something akin to a McArthur Foundation Genius Grant for all of us. At one point, the someone (investors? management?) decided that we needed to get a little more rigorous and business like, so Softbridge imported a real-live, just retired admiral in the US Navy to become our COO. Jim seemed like a very nice guy, and I recall him quite fondly, but did he ever meet his match at Softbridge. I'm sure there were others, but the one accomplishment of his regime that I remember was an elaborate process for ordering supplies (complete with flow charts). Everyone ignored it.
So, let all the Babson Admirals beware: if they do leave the Navy and take up employment in a business, make sure that it's one with some semblance of lines of authority and accountability to begin with. It's really not all that easy to make order out of chaos when chaos is the organization's lifeblood. (As was once observed to Softbridge's Admiral: if you had 17 legs your couldn't kick ass fast enough and hard enough to get anything done around here. And the Admiral agreed.)
A third note on the Globe article: if we want admirals to "think like executives" let's make sure we pick the right executives as models!