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Traditional principles studied in this chapter – mission command (decentralisation) and partnership between a commander and his chief of staff – are seen as a special characteristic of German command. Part of the mechanism for handling the first command task, co-ordinating a mass army. Why mission command’s implementation was limited in Western Front conditions, and how granting autonomy of action could go badly wrong. Lack of trust in subordinates, risk aversion, the growing complexity of battle, shortages of manpower and matériel and good communications led to increased micro-management.
Mission command linked to the partnership between a commander and his chief staff officer, the command team. Composition, strengths and weaknesses of the commander and general staff officer cadres. Great efforts to create effective command teams: reasonably successful in terms of their duration, less so in the vital combined arms balance required by modern battle. General staff officers increasingly influential, but commanders remained important.
Explanations for the successes or failures of militaries in both war and peace have traditionally focused on key factors such as technology, leadership, personnel, training, or a combination of all of these. A more recent addition to the list of possible variables contributing to military effectiveness is the concept of organizational culture – the pattern of shared assumptions that an organization learns as it solves problems, that has worked well enough to be considered valid, and that is therefore taught to new members as the correct way to approach those problems. This chapter combines the organizational culture concepts of Edgar Schein with the nine cultural dimensions of the GLOBE research program. The resulting model provides a useful framework to analyze a military’s organizational culture. Perhaps more importantly, the model also provides prescriptive actions leaders can take to align a military’s organizational culture with its mission and environment.
Strategic culture drives patterns of national statecraft, which in turn drive military strategy. Grand strategy also derives from strategic culture, which emerges from geographical, economic, and historical circumstances. A nation’s circumstances give rise to a distinctive manner of perceiving national power – including the use of military force. Strategic culture is ethnically and nationally driven, derived from a combination of factors. It may be national or subnational, and it may be based on real or imagined traits. It tends to be both enduring and unexamined. It involves intersectionality between national, subnational, and organizational cultures, and it may invoke fictive and contingent identities. It manifests in how individuals and organizations make sense of reality. Individuals and subgroups are presumed to self-ascribe to a certain identity, to absorb distinctive attitudes about force, and thus to adopt a “way of war.” Organizational and ethnic cultures coexist, and any military unit may have multiple subcultures. But strategic culture, since it derives from ethnic and national characteristics, precedes and supersedes organizational culture. Strategic culture influences the organizational culture of a national military, with ethnic and historical factors setting the parameters within which organizational culture and individual initiative operate. Ethnic culture frames strategic culture, which in turn interacts with organizational structure, institutional form, and individual incentives to create military organizational culture.
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