Friday, June 12, 2009

Four Pillars of Administration Based On the Movie “The Great Escape”

By Swapnil Saurav

In this article I present the review of the movie “The Great Escape" and compare with the four pillars of administration. This 1963 film is based on a true story about the Germans who opened Stalag Luft North, a maximum security prisoner-of-war camp, designed to hold even the craftiest escape artists in 1943. Steve McQueen did an excellent job as Capt. Hilts "The Cooler King". James Garner as Flight Lt. Hendley "The Scrounger" and Richard Attenborough as Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett "Big X" were also too good.

1. Administrative Context:
Intrinsic characteristic of any organisation is heterogeneity of objectives of members. There are conflicting intra organizational goals between functions, departments and human beings working for them and between short term and long term, and becomes the cause of potential conflict in organizations. The task of a leader, a manager or an administrator is the selection of such course of action that ensures maximum congruence between the different set of goals, keeping the conflict and contradictions among these goals to minimum so as to achieve coordination and cooperation between the members.
The movie shows leadership, sacrifice, relationship building and goal setting and how POWs attempts to find freedom. We see them plan, prepare, and dig the tunnels as they elude detection from their captors. It was remarkable to see so many people involved with each other considering their large number and working together in synergy.

2. Role Of The Administrator
The activities have to be broken and assigned to people with required skills (or potential to build necessary skills) to deliver on the distinct strategy. Role of the administrator becomes very crucial in integrating the sub-units of the structure and how well these sub-units are integrated determines the success of implementation. The ranges of roles they perform are: Interpersonal roles, Informational roles, and Decisional roles. They display the traits of: Hard work, analytical ability, taking initiative, attention to details, persuasiveness, value for values, social/political skills, perseverance, and team skills.
In “The great escape” movie, we had a core group of prisoners determined to escape, in fact their goal was to facilitate the escape of 250 men in one night, which they managed to do it. Planning for escape was a daunting task, something never tried before, and required utmost collaboration among the prisoners.
The role of an administrator is to work for the betterment of community at large. This is precisely what Capt. Hilts did:
a. Teams of men were organized specialized in different crafts.
b. Jobs delegated- like survey, dig, dispose the soil, manufacture clothing, forge documents, procure contraband materials, keep track of soldiers movement, distract security guards, supplying fresh air in the tunnels with handmade bellows, and to provide lighting in the tunnels. Noise of digging was covered by men singing in chorus.
c. The list of supplies needed for the job was unbelievable: 4000 bed sheets, 600 feet of rope, 1000 feet of wire etc. It took army of prisoners to find and steal all the materials required.
d. Each person had a job. There were tailors, blacksmiths, forgers, pickpockets and camouflage artists.

3. Administrative Process And Behavior
The behavior of each individual has to be directed towards achieving the team’s objective. In the movie we have seen that people exhibited administrative process and behavior.
This movie is a great example of each of these things mentioned above. It doesn't take long for one prisoner, Virgil Hilts (the late Steve McQueen), who earns the nickname "The Cooler King" for his failed escape attempts. Hilts isn't the only prisoner who wants out, a few others hatch a plan to get 250 men out in one night. How it’s executed is a stroke of pure genius and skill. The movie has a vast variety of characters who are allowed to show their feelings, which is a nice touch. There two characters who make solid examples and I cared for the most. One is Colin Blythe (the late Donald Pleasence), a gentle Brit who specializes in forging names and goes blind, the other one in Danny Willinski (Charles Bronson), a Russian who excels in digging tunnels and tends to get rattled.
The behavior is about ordinary people with commitment creating extraordinary team.
Vision inspires team. The prisoners had a vision of becoming free and that inspired the whole team.

4. Administrative Strategy
The organizational structure must follow strategy if implementation is to be effective.
a. Suitable specialization of task: Everybody is specialized in some art and their tasks are well laid out. The scene that impressed me and I think is the best example for administrative strategy is the 4th of July celebration, where Steve McQueen is riding on a motorcycle and McQueen throwing the baseball against the cell wall to test the alertness of the security guards.
b. They had parallel provision for coordinating.
c. Setup information system. The way they setup their information system was amazing.
d. Collaboration is multiplication: complementing one another is important and not competing. We find prisoners working as single unit, and in spite of some misunderstanding never allowed competition between them.
e. Last but not the least: Great challenge require great team work. Though attempt failed in accomplishing its objective but it offered the world a historical example of collective endeavor.

No doubt this movie is all about leadership, sacrifice, relationship building and goal setting. It was sad that they were caught later but their effort which led to achieving impossible is praiseworthy.