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Newsgroups: comp.risks
X-issue: 6.78
Date: Wed, 4 May 88 22:41:34 EDT
From: mnetor!utzoo!henry@uunet.UU.NET
Subject: Re: Creating alternatives to whistleblowing [RISKS-6.65]

>  * If I see a problem, should I let it continue even though it's not
>    in my 'area of responsibility'?

(This may seem like a non sequitur, but all will become clear...)  A book
that might interest Risks readers is T.N. Dupuy's "A Genius For War"
(Prentice-Hall 1977).  It's an investigation of how, for about a century,
Germany consistently produced the world's best armies -- not just bigger,
but significantly better, man for man.  (Specifically, German armies fought
as if they were about 20% larger than they really were, and they inflicted
50% more casualties than an equal number of other soldiers.)

(Dupuy's book is actually an interesting example of simulation uncovering
real-world surprises.  He started looking into the subject when attempts
at numerical simulation of WW2 battles could not be reconciled with real
life unless a fudge factor was introduced to give the Germans an advantage.
He notes that similar fudge factors can be found in commercial wargames, if
you go looking for them.)

His major conclusion was that individual German soldiers were no better than
their opponents:  Germany's advantage was better officers, produced not by
birth but by superior training.  One aspect of their training particularly
stood out (we're now coming to the relevant part...):  the traditional
stereotype of Germans being obsessed with blind obedience was wrong, dead
wrong, for the officer corps.

In fact, German officers had it hammered into them repeatedly that they
were responsible for getting results, not for following orders, and that
obeying orders was *not* an excuse for fouling up.  If they saw a problem
developing, it was *their* responsibility to see that something was done
about it, orders or no orders, chain of command or no chain of command.
After the Franco-Prussian war, General Moltke inserted the following in
a new training manual:

	"A favorable situation will never be exploited if commanders
	wait for orders.  The highest commander and the youngest
	soldier must always be conscious of the fact that omission
	and inactivity are worse than resorting to the wrong expedient."

Every German officer heard the story of the major, being reprimanded for
fouling up, who tried to defend himself by pointing out that he was
following orders and that orders from a superior officer were legally
equivalent to orders from the King.  Prince Frederick Charles, who was
delivering the reprimand, replied:  "His Majesty made you a major because
he believed you would know when *not* to obey his orders."  This was not
apocryphal folklore; Moltke himself witnessed the incident, and saw to it
that it was incorporated into officer training, to make it clear what the
priorities were.  The result was an army which -- other things being
equal -- consistently performed better than any other army on Earth.
"[This system] enabled men who individually lacked the qualities of a
genius to perform institutionally in a manner that would provide results
ordinarily achievable only by genius."

(Before anyone objects that Germany lost both World Wars, note that there
is wide consensus that this was not the Army's fault.  In WW2 in particular,
it came frighteningly close to winning -- against larger and better-equipped
opponents -- despite extensive political meddling in its decisions and

How many companies (for that matter, how many *armies*) tell their staff
anything like that?  How many get results like that?

Henry Spencer @ U of Toronto Zoology   {ihnp4,decvax,uunet!mnetor}!utzoo!henry

Newsgroups: comp.risks
X-issue: 6.82
Date: Wed, 11 May 88 00:04:54 EDT
From: mnetor!utzoo!henry@uunet.UU.NET
Subject: Re: "Auftragstaktik"

I agree with most of Gary Chapman's comments, but must correct one error
of fact:  Auftragstaktik was not a World War I invention.  It became formal
doctrine in the 1870s, after the Franco-Prussian War, and had been employed
earlier in the Seven Weeks' War (1866).  A possible reason for the error is
that there were *two* famous German generals named Moltke:  the originator
of Auftragstaktik, and his nephew, the less-successful WWI commander.  The
quote I gave was from the elder Moltke, who died in 1891.

Ironically, the well-known WWII successes of Auftragstaktik came after it
was already in decline, because of Hitler's intolerance for disobedience.
Guderian spent most of the Battle of France making excuses for (and
bending the truth about) how far his units were advancing.

Henry Spencer @ U of Toronto Zoology  {ihnp4,decvax,uunet!mnetor}!utzoo!henry

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