Case #1747.0

A Go-Getter in DOD

Publication Date: November 01, 2004
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When a newly-appointed Department of Defense official takes her position, she finds that she must decide quickly how to deal with a "cowboy"-style employee who, although arguably getting impressive results, has been working outside established channels and may have alienated key officials, including members of Congress. "Captain Jean Milano," the new acting head of the Office of Humanitarian Assistance (HA)-which had the mission of sending "non-lethal" equipment (such as construction equipment) judged to be government surplus to needy foreign governments or non-governmental organizations-learns that the office has been benefiting from the "lone wolf" style of an employee, "Col. Ken Minor." Minor had been brought in specifically to change the tactics of the office, which had historically not been aggressive in claiming such excess goods, which were also in demand by state and local governments and other domestic US "customers." Milano finds that Minor has employed controversial, though not likely illegal, methods in doing so-in the process sparking resentments and jealousies. Captain Milano now has to decide whether she should press for all parties to honor the arrangements struck by Minor, some of which were little more than informal understandings, or whether she should move the office back toward more traditional ways of going about its business. She would have to make her decision in a political environment (in the Clinton administration) that paid at least lip service to "re-engineering," "re-inventing government," and improving "customer service."

Learning Objective:
This is both a case about how a manager should handle a capable but arguably out-of-control subordinate, as well as a case about the extent to which government employees should see themselves as entrepreneurs, seeking to do whatever it takes to improve the performance or scale of their agency.

Other Details

Case Author:
Dan H. Fenn, Jr.
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States