What is Mission Command? Book Part 1

Section One: What is Mission Command?
“The Sinews of Leadership: Mission Command Requires a Culture of Cohesion,”

Joe Labarbera leads off arguing that the Army needs to implement personnel policies that promote cohesion across the board, not only in operational units but in assignments among teams as well before Mission Command can be implemented. Joe points out numerous barriers to professionalism that impedes the adaptation of Mission Command. His main theme is that a higher level of professionalism breeds more independence among subordinates and is a pre-requisite of Mission Command. Joe is blunt in his criticism and has the background and experience putting Mission Command into practice while taking on an array of obstacles to its sustainment.

“Auftragstaktik zur See-an, Impossibility,”

In Norwegian Naval Commander Tommy Krabberod’s chapter, he points out that 20 years ago the Norwegian armed forces decided to implement Mission Command as the formal leadership philosophy. This decision was based on the official reports made in the aftermath of an accident where 16 Norwegian soldiers died in a peace-time exercise in Norway. In the western world, Mission Command is the prevailing norm for how to lead military forces, but several studies have claimed that the philosophy is yet to be implemented in the Norwegian armed forces. Based on the decoupling hypothesis in the new institutional theory, this study discusses possible problems when it comes to implementing Mission Command on board Norwegian frigates. Somewhat surprisingly, in this case the leadership philosophy does not seem to be irrelevant, neither does the reformer seem to be powerless. The most prominent explanation is the lack of implementation initiative.

“How the Germans Defined Auftragstaktik”

In this chapter Don Vandergriff provides a brief history and several definitions from German/Prussian literature of the period on how they saw Auftragstaktik as a cultural phenomenon and not a doctrine. He also demonstrates how the Germans saw this differently than the US Army, who saw it as a phenomena of the emerging bureaucracy invented by Max Weber.  Today, the U.S. Army still sees it as a command and control doctrine as well as a technological solution while struggling with it as a culture. This chapter highlights several key phrases and actions that defined it culturally.

“Winning Teams instead of Mission Command

In the final chapter of the first section, Second Lieutenant Regina Parker  points out how Mission Command doctrine is excessively long and itemized, thereby self-contradicting, and unintelligible to civilians who do not speak Army. This chapter proposes to replace Mission Command with a simplified framework called Winning Teams based on just two principles, trust and understanding, and applicable in any context, military or civilian.

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