Game of telephone and technology-enhanced indecision

Cumulative errors.

Compounded errors.

It’s frustrating enough to watch a message between peers work like a game of telephone, in which a message starts one way and after just a few persons along the way, turns into something different.

But, messages that go up the chain of command are reports.; messages that go down, orders.

When the telephone game plays up and down the chain of command, coupled with an apathetic adherence to following orders? Misinformation becomes activity – the kind of activity that maybe achieves something productive, if we’re lucky.

Add to that, technology today makes it that much easier for persons in leadership positions to be indecisive. Apple introduced the iPhone in 2008.

I served as a Platoon Sergeant 2006–2009. At the end of the workday, I held a formation. There, once I issued the word at the end of the workday – when, where, what uniform next – it proved much harder to change my mind later in the evening that to simply to stick to my decision. Today? I get texts sometimes past midnight with last-minute changes about the start of the next workday.

In a top-down hierarchy, indecisiveness compounds as time passes, since people get spun up in preparation for one particular course of action.

The cumulative errors of telephone x the compounding errors of indecision = extreme frustration… or hilarity.


I got a call recently from a contractor about a purchase request for gravel and sand. I needed to set the frame.

I opened that I’m only one wheel in the cog of military bureaucracy. Lower sends me a request. It’s never complete enough for the miles of red tape that ensue. Urgency outweighs iteration. Lower exercises its ninja skills in becoming unavailable or else it develops amnesia (remembering only rank, name, and serial number). Which leads to some degree of making-shit-up. Then, I send it up to someone who repeats this procedure of bullshit-ass-confusion.

By the time the request gets decided, some 20+ documents and 1+ month later, it looks different from what the mysterious requestor had imagined. Since it’s too late to change the purchase request, my only response to lower remains, “Suck it the fuck up. You’re getting whatever the fuck we’re giving. Be lucky you’re getting that much.”

Okay, I didn’t really say all that to him. It came out more like, “This happens all the time. The approved requests looks different from the original request. I’ll see to it that our Soldiers find a way to work with what’s available. Thank you.”


We’re closing our chow hall on Thursdays. At least, that was the word from higher. I wasn’t part of the planning. I can’t really say for sure if it came from higher. But I can say it came from the mysterious “Them,” also known as, “They.” They said we’re closing our chow hall on Thursdays.

Initial planning was that it would begin tomorrow. Now? Who the fuck knows. Why? To confuse the enemy… Seriously, no fucking clue.

Well, since the initial planning, of which I wasn’t apart, one of my colleagues acted with extreme violence on the objective. He requested buses right away.

I just received today the signed memo approving the request, requiring that we pick them up today by close of business. Like, in a few hours. My office requests the buses. Another office, the BN S3, issues the order to lower to provide drivers

It looks like someone dropped the metaphorical ball…

I quickly draft the order, to spare BN S3 from having to puzzle over it and instead just forward it to lower (the companies). I also CC the companies, as a warning order (WARNO) (a heads-up). BN S3 says that he already checked. No one has drivers to spare. I hurry to the Sergeant Major.

Along the way, I inform my boss (immediate supervisor). My boss says it changed. Doesn’t start until March.

Well, when was the rest of the team getting informed?

I got people spun up for nothing. Do you know what that does? That burns bridges. It’ll now be that much harder to work with them.