Read Case 4.1: Differences in Organizational Culture: Is the FBI from Mars and the CIA from Venus?

Review the FBI website and the CIA website to see what can be gleaned about the culture of each organization.

Write a 900-word paper that addresses each of the following questions:

  1. What are the roots of the different organizational and behavioral cultures in the FBI and the CIA? How do these cultures affect their work? In both good and bad ways?
  2. How likely is it that the two agencies will be able to change their cultures and develop effective communication strategies among the two agencies?
  3. Do you think that changes in the organizational structure can produce changes in the organizational and behavioral culture? Is the 9/11 Commission’s proposal a good idea? Why or why not? How else might an organization’s culture change, if not by changes to its structure?
  4. Based upon your review of both websites, what can you say about the leadership culture of each organization? Provide examples that support your findings.
  5. Which leadership, communication, organizational, and behavioral theories and concepts are represented? Explain your answer.

Case 4.1: Differences in Organizational Culture: Is the FBI from Mars and the CIA from Venus? Author John Gray has made a global reputation with his best-seller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. His argument: that men expect women to think and talk like men, that women expect men to think and talk like women, and that “our relationships are filled with unnecessary friction and conflict.”1Gray must be on to something. His Mars/Venus books have sold more than 30 million copies in forty languages. In fact, thanks to appearances on Oprah and Live with Regis, his first book was the best-selling book of the 1990s.Some people think Gray’s guide to male-female relationships helps explain the tensions between governments as well. Journalist Siobhan Gorman thinks so. She writes that the key agencies responsible for protecting the United States from terrorist attacks, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), “have such different approaches to life that they remain worlds apart,” and even White House—ordered relationship counseling might not be enough to bring them together.2Prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks, U.S. government intelligence agencies spread across the nation and around the world had collected fragments of information, hints, and warnings about the potential attacks from numerous disparate sources. But the information never came together as a picture of the impending disaster. Even in retrospect, it isn’t certain that the picture would ever have been clear enough for the government to stop the attacks. However, the country never found that out because high bureaucratic barriers prevented the flow of information. In the months after the attacks, critics and reformers universally called on government to “connect the dots”—to do a much better job of interpreting the information collected by the various intelligence agencies. That process, they all concluded, would make America safer by helping top officials identify the greatest threats. Everyone agreed that the intelligence system needed better coordination and reached consensus that bureaucratic battles between the intelligence agencies were undermining the nation’s security. The national commission investigating the September 11, 2001, attacks confirmed that deep divisions between the nation’s intelligence agencies had frustrated the government’s ability to uncover valuable clues and, perhaps, take steps to prevent the attacks. Commission chairman Thomas Kean declared that the government had not been able to protect its citizens from attack because of “a failure of policy, management, capability and, above all, a failure of imagination.” Who or what was to blame? Kean’s commission answered, “There’s no single individual who is responsible for our failures.” The commission’s recommendation? Create a new cabinet-level national intelligence director to oversee the nation’s network of fifteen different intelligence agencies.3 A single head of intelligence, the commission argued, would improve coordination and break down the barriers that had prevented the sharing of intelligence before the attacks. This national intelligence director needed to be able to steer the agencies’ investigations, coordinate the information they collected, and provide clear advice to the president. That complex assignment, the commission concluded, required a new position at the highest level of the federal government—with the power to hire and fire employees and to control the intelligence budget. At the center of the organizational battle was a decades-old struggle between the CIA and the FBI. “It’s not that [FBI agents and CIA officers] don’t like each other, but they’re really different people,” explained Jim Simon, who had worked as an analyst in the CIA. “They have a hard time communicating.”4For years, the two agencies had coexisted uneasily: the CIA focused on digging out information abroad on threats to the United States, while the FBI concentrated on dangers inside the country. A tidy boundary, perhaps, but not one that the nation’s enemies respected. In fact, it was one they were able to exploit in carrying out the September 11, 2001, attacks, in which foreign operatives burrowed into American society, only to pop up to stage the biggest assault on American soil since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. President Bush, congressional leaders, and the 9/11 Commission issued an inescapable challenge to the agencies: cooperate! “But the organizations’ institutional cultures are so different,” concluded Gorman, “that real coordination will be very difficult to achieve.”5Since its creation in 1947, in the early days of the Cold War, the CIA has focused on building long-term relationships with potential intelligence sources. A field agent may spend long hours engaging in conversation with a subject who is plied with good liquor, swapping tales, and building trust, in the hope that, when things begin to happen, the source may share some important information. Within this clandestine world, where it is always hard to predict what is going to happen where, the CIA—known as “The Company” to insiders—has encouraged a loose, nonhierarchical style of operating. Success here consists of digging out a critical piece of information and passing it along to top policymakers. Field agents often cut corners to make this possible, and then they melt back into the background. By contrast, the FBI, founded in 1908, has long had an informal motto: “We always get our man.” Dogged police work combined with careful training of its agents has always been the hallmark of the FBI. Knowing that their job is to catch and incarcerate criminals, this agency’s operatives scrupulously avoid crossing legal lines so they won’t jeopardize prosecutions. Success means putting bad guys behind bars, one case at a time. FBI agents take up a case, track it to its completion, file it away, and move on; their work is linear. In contrast, CIA agents circle constantly around problems, pick up on leads until they either solidify or evaporate, and work them like a prospector panning for gold. These different styles of work lead each agency to recruit a different kind of person. John Vincent, a twenty-seven-year FBI veteran, explains, “The type of people that go into the CIA is completely different from the type of people who go into the FBI.” In the FBI, most employees “are pretty normal Joes off the street. The CIA guys—they’re a different group of people. Most of the CIA guys I’ve met are very intelligent but wouldn’t know how to put a nut on a bolt.”6 FBI agents, in Gorman’s analysis, are from Mars. Sixteen-year CIA veteran Ronald Marks says that’s because, in the CIA, judgment is much more important than rules. “You have a source who will tell you X. Your judgment of that source is based on the time you’ve spent with them. You’re dealing pretty much in a murky world.” That, Marks concludes, is “the world of judgment.”7 As Gorman puts it, CIA agents are from Venus. These different operating styles have led to very different antiterrorism strategies. The information-based, judgment-driven world of the CIA has focused on rooting out information about possible attacks in advance, even if the information does not come together in sharp focus. The conviction-based, rule-driven world of the FBI has focused on trying to arrest and convict terrorists, often after the fact. Nevertheless, the stark realities of the post-9/11 world make it essential for the two agencies to cooperate. As the 9/11 Commission warned, “Countering transnational Islamist terrorism will test whether the U.S. government can fashion more flexible models of management needed to deal with the twenty-first-century world.”8 In fact, toward the end of its report the commission quoted the following stark conclusion, drawn from a study of the Pearl Harbor attack: “Surprise, when it happens to a government, is likely to be a complicated, diffuse, bureaucratic thing. It includes neglect of responsibility, but also responsibility so poorly defined or so ambiguously delegated that action gets lost.”9To prevent poorly defined, ambiguously delegated policy in the future—to prevent the government’s bureaucratic problems from getting in the way of its war on terror—the commission argued that the nation needed a single, powerful director of national intelligence with the authority to force coordination between the FBI and the CIA, as well as the thirteen other intelligence agencies. That change, the commissioners concluded, was the only way to create a unified homeland security culture from the very different independent organizational cultures that had grown in the vast intelligence community. But even a new organization, Gorman argued, might not solve the problem. Looking back at Gray’s best-seller, Gorman wrote, “Mars and Venus can expect to need couples’ counseling for a very long time.”

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