Organizational Resilience in a Quasi-Total Institution: The U.S. Army Engages the Millennial Generation
Committee memberDi Benedetto, C. Anthony
Andersson, Lynne Mary
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/3024
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AbstractThis research examines the United States Army’s adaptation and organizational resilience as it faces the phenomenon of what is commonly assumed to be the drastically different millennial generation of potential recruits, soldiers, and future leaders. Millennials are arguably the most unique generation to date when compared to their predecessors, mainly due to the significant technological advances of the past few decades and their ubiquitous use of technology. This study is distinctive because it addresses organizational resilience and generational gap issues from a cultural maintenance versus an adaptation and resilience viewpoint within what the author argues is presently a quasi-total, rather than total, institution. The study results refute important claims in the existing literature, which label the U.S. Army a total institution. That designation is no longer accurate because the modern U.S. Army has changed drastically. The ‘total institution’ label for the modern U.S. Army is only true during certain periods of the soldier’s experience, such as during onboarding or deployment. Thus, the label quasi-total is a better descriptor of the modern U.S. Army. Still, the U.S. Army’s need to change, so that it can recruit, train, accommodate, and retain this younger generation as an employer, must be balanced with preserving the organizational ability, culture and identity essential for the U.S. Army to function. That constant need for balance between accommodation and maintenance of core values and processes has mitigated the ‘total institution’ mindset of old. That is a major finding of this study. This study is an exploratory investigation using formal theme statements in an interview format given to the top 1% of the 1% of the U.S. Army’s leadership, as well as to lower ranking millennial soldiers. In this it is rare, if not unique. It is a problem-solving exploratory effort. In addition to a review of existing literature on related interdisciplinary topics, the study collected and analyzed empirical data in the forms of semi-structured interviews of senior grade non-millennial officers in Part 2, and, in Part 3, interviews of junior grade millennial generation soldiers who are currently serving. The study took a holistic approach to understand relevant views of different generations presently in the service and harvested the experiences and perspectives of senior leaders who have witnessed the U.S. Army’s transition firsthand. The findings indicate that several junior millennial respondents had contrary views and values to the assumptions society makes about them. Nor did they identify with the stereotypes of common views and biases about their generation. Amid signifying that not all millennials are alike, this discovery more importantly implies that assimilation to a strong organizational culture can transcend and/or alter presumed generational characteristics and norms, thereby demonstrating the U.S. Army’s resilience at the organizational level. The study showcases the uniqueness of the U.S. Army: as a ‘quasi-total institution’ it differs from others so labeled because it becomes much less total as the member spends more time in it. As an organization, the U.S. Army is different from most others because it must retain its talent since it has to grow leadership internally. Finally, its strong culture is essential to daily operations. Despite those facts that make the subject organization unique, parts of the study are relevant to many businesses globally which face similar issues of organizational adaptation versus resilience enfolding their multi-generational millennial versus non-millennial workforce.
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