Archive for category Building Snowmobiles

Building Snowmobiles: All By Ourselves, By Chet Richards

Over the last couple of years, I have been digging into Mission Command and Maneuver Warfare quite a bit (hat tip Don Vandergriff, Jörg Muth and others). I guess my reasoning is that I am constantly seeking new ideas on how to build a better private military and security company or PMSC. My simple question is ‘would this work for a PMSC?’ or ‘can some aspect of this be applicable?’.

The simple answer for this latest information brought to you by Chet Richards is yes, I think it is absolutely applicable. My industry is composed of companies that operate mostly in war zones, and their head sheds are usually thousands of miles away. Good organizational climate is vital if the company wants it’s various contracts located all over the world to run efficiently and be contract compliant. Especially since a PM cannot be everywhere at once. A PM has to trust that things are being run well out there, and those contractors need to be set up for success and operate on their own. The leaders of these various contracts need to be good leaders and make life and death/contract saving decisions on their own, and at any time. A system or culture needs to be in place that sets up that contract for success and promotes initiative and harmony.

That, and this industry is inching closer and closer to more of a war fighting industry. Companies need to have an operating system or culture that supports contracts for the defense as well as for the offense.

With that said, Chet’s presentation covers what Mission Command and  Maneuver Warfare is all about and what companies can learn from the practitioners of MC. Most importantly he talks about why this is important and why these concepts are so powerful.

He specifically gets into EBFAS, which is the German acronym that John Boyd used to summarize his ideal organizational climate for a group–Einheit, Behendigkeit, Fingerspitzengefühl, Auftragstaktik, and Schwerpunkt. The reason why it is in German is because the concepts were derived from the German Wehrmacht way of war during World War 2 and 1 (and throughout their early Prussian history), and the German words have a wide variety of meanings. Here is a quote from Chet about EBFAS.

“EBFAS” was Boyd’s German acronym from the elements of his organizational climate. I’m very glad to learn that we have visitors who aren’t familiar with it. Certain to Win has a chapter on a simplified version, “EFAS,” in Certain to Win, and there’s a description of the complete version in the presentation Boyd’s Big Ideas, which you can download from the Articles page, beginning on chart 66. The simplification, incidentally, was Boyd’s suggestion. Certain to Win is available from Amazon and other online book sellers.

Briefly, the idea is that successful organizations fire up the creativity and initiative of all their members and then harmonize this power to accomplish the purposes of the organization. In a competitive environment, successful organizations do this better than their competitors.

So my first recommendation to leaders in a turnaround is to get the culture healthy, get the engine firing again. If you know what you’re doing, it doesn’t have to take long. Dean Lenane tells how he did it in The Turnaround, also available from our Articles page.

Why EBFAS? Well, back in the seventies and eighties, Boyd and company were studying ways of defeating the Russians during the Cold War. They stumbled upon some excellent ideas coming from the history of war fighting and specifically, from WW 2. Namely what the Germans did to prepare for their wars.

They also figured out how the Germans were able to defeat Russian forces much larger than themselves in battle, and a big part of that was the way they were organized and their command culture. Boyd was inspired by Germans like General Hermann Balck and after my own studies, it is easy to see where EBFAS came from and why Boyd and his guys were so inspired. (I highly recommend reading Balck’s book)

Back to my focus on this stuff. I am constantly looking for ideas on how to create the ultimate PMSC culture, and I believe EBFAS is the secret sauce. Or call it the optimum operating system, in computer speak. The military has Mission Command–this industry can call it Contract Command. lol

You can also use EBFAS to rate companies and see where they are strong and where they are deficient. Once you embrace the ideas presented, you cannot help but to view companies and units with an EBFAS filter, or rate leaders of companies on how well they support einheit and EBFAS.

On facebook I actually created an album dedicated to EBFAS and I recommend folks to check that out if they can. It is a living document of sorts because I am constantly adding to it, and it gets comments that build upon the ideas presented.

So without further delay, here is the video to watch and I have included the pdf as well. It explains completely what EBFAS is and why it is important to companies and military units. Enjoy. –Matt

All By Ourselves, by Chet Richards paper here.

 

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From Certain to Win, by Chet Richards

 

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Building Snowmobiles: Manoeuvre Warfare, By Captain Daniel Grazier

This is a fantastic video that I have watched several times and highly recommend. It is a Building Snowmobiles post because it is pure John Boyd and William Lind. I also wish this was available when I was a young Marine back in the day.

Captain Daniel Grazier is a Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and just recently joined up with POGO’s military reform project. I will let the video speak for itself, and he does a fantastic job of explaining manoeuvre (not maneuver) warfare and drawing heavily upon the concepts of Boyd’s Pattern’s of Conflict. Enjoy and Semper Fidelis. –Matt

 

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Leadership: The Proud Prussian Tradition of ‘Disobedience’

The German and Prussian officer corps are the officer corps with the greatest culture of disobedience–with maybe the exception of the French. The stories and events that kept alive the virtue requiring an officer–even in war–to disobey an order “when justified by honor and circumstances” were corporate cultural knowledge within the Prussian and German officer corps and it is therefore important to recount them here. -Jörg Muth, from the book Command Culture.

This is cool. Back in 2012 I wrote a Building Snowmobiles post called General Hermann Balck, The German That Inspired Boyd. In that post I explored the origins of Boyd’s thinking when it came to battlefield innovation and leadership. Or basically, I wanted to find out who inspired him in the history of warfare or gave him the idea like ‘building snowmobiles’. And what I found out had it’s origins at Chet Richard’s paper called John Boyd, Conceptual Spiral, and the Meaning of Life. Here is the quote I zeroed in on, and it has been fun to expand upon what made Balck interesting to Boyd.

Boyd’s appreciation for novelty grew as he mulled over the ingredients for success in conflicts. Boyd’s close associate, Pierre Sprey, credits Boyd’s conversations with General Balck (1979a & 1979b) as planting the seeds that led to Boyd’s fascination with innovation, novelty, and the importance of rapid, intuitive decision-making (Personal communication, September 23, 2012). Thus the elements of maneuver conflict that appear in the September 1981 edition of Patterns, for example, do not include the concept of novelty, but by 1986 it was there (p. 115). Perhaps it was not until he began to compose Conceptual Spiral, though, that Boyd realized how the term “novelty” encapsulated so much of his strategy.

So in my post, I wanted to find that translated taped interview between Balck and Boyd’s research team and talk about anything of interest to the readership here. (which by the way, if anyone has that tape, it would be priceless to get it up on youtube or in a podcast)

At the time, I was really into the concept of dissent within teams or units. To speak up and not have the fear of being put down by your leadership. This is necessary for healthy organizations and leadership absolutely needs feedback in order to gain a finger tip feel for their organization. You also need honesty so that you are able to make decisions based on reality, and not based on data derived from a group think type scenario. Too many leaders and managers in today’s private industry are so adverse to getting honest feedback, or lashing out at those within their organizations that have the courage to come forward and question the status quo or some policy that makes no sense. This criticism is often interpreted as an affront to leaders whose ego is more important than building a better organization or coming up with better strategies.

It is sad to see companies fail or falter because of these types of poor leaders, and their actions do immense damage. Within the PMSC industry, you see it all the time with Program Managers that lack management skill and leadership skills, yet are hired for the position because they knew someone or the company blindly hired them without proper vetting.

These PM’s would benefit greatly by just listening to their human resource and acting on that information, instead of trying to do everything on their own and not seeking input. To actually listen to those that have the courage to step forth and ask the all important ‘why’ question when confronted with idiotic policies. Policies that are often made without the input of others or the consideration of it’s second and third effects on operations or the morale of the contractors on that program.

So back to the main point. I ended that post about Balck with a question that has been bugging me since I wrote the thing in 2012. Here it is.

The other quote that perked me up is Balck’s mention of the Prussian military tradition of ‘expressing yourself bluntly’ to your superiors. lol I love it, and in the quote below, Model was his boss and Balck was telling him how much he sucked at commanding.
“Model listened to everything I said. We both expressed our opinions, shook hands and returned home. He never came to see me again. But every time I got a new assignment, he was one of the first to congratulate me.
That was one of the great Prussian military traditions: you expressed yourself bluntly but you were expected to never resent such blunt criticism.”
Boy, imagine if we had such a tradition in the US military? Or even in private industry? It also shows how smart the Prussians were about feedback and questioning authority. To actually have a tradition that forces folks to sit there and take criticism like a man…. I might have to explore this Prussian military tradition at a later point. Pretty cool and check this thing out. 

I thought at the time that this was crazy but awesome! For a military to have a proud tradition of ‘expressing yourself bluntly’ to your superiors is a pretty powerful concept? And most of all, where did this tradition come from and why is it important?

After making that post, it definitely got some traction and it sparked all types of conversations, and especially on Facebook. At FB, I even reached out to any of my German national readers that read the blog, and asked if they had heard of such a thing? Or even if there was a German phrase they were familiar with? I got nothing, and the question just lingered and the post just went into the archives un-answered.

Then late last year while reading an excellent book by Jörg Muth called Command Culture, I finally found the answer. For a quick reminder, Jorg came to my attention when I stumbled upon a post over at the blog called Best Defense, that described the command culture and the concept of Auftragstaktik (Mission Command) of the German Wehrmacht during WW 2, and compared that culture and command philosophy to the US military culture and command philosophy during WW 2.

After reading about the concepts, and how influential they really were to militaries around the world (to include the US), I was intrigued and had to find out more. I was amazed at how influential and sound the concepts were and I haven’t stopped researching the stuff since. Here is a segment about what Jörg’s book is about. (I also suggest the work by William LindDon Vandergriff, Eitan Shamir, Bruce Gudmundsson, Chet Richards, and Martin Van Crevald and their focus on Mission Command or Auftragstaktik and German military thinking during WW 1 and WW 2)

In Command Culture, Jörg Muth examines the different paths the United States Army and the German Armed Forces traveled to select, educate, and promote their officers in the crucial time before World War II. Muth demonstrates that the military education system in Germany represented an organized effort where each school and examination provided the stepping stone for the next. But in the United States, there existed no communication about teaching contents or didactical matters among the various schools and academies, and they existed in a self chosen insular environment. American officers who finally made their way through an erratic selection process and past West Point to the important Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, found themselves usually deeply disappointed, because they were faced again with a rather below average faculty who forced them after every exercise to accept the approved “school solution.”
Command Culture explores the paradox that in Germany officers came from a closed authoritarian society but received an extremely open minded military education, whereas their counterparts in the United States came from one of the most democratic societies but received an outdated military education that harnessed their minds and limited their initiative. On the other hand, German officer candidates learned that in war everything is possible and a war of extermination acceptable. For American officers, raised in a democracy, certain boundaries could never be crossed.
This work for the first time clearly explains the lack of audacity of many high ranking American officers during World War II, as well as the reason why so many German officers became perpetrators or accomplices of war crimes and atrocities or remained bystanders without speaking up. Those American officers who became outstanding leaders in World War II did so not so much because of their military education, but despite it.
The book connects successfully the pre-World
War II officer education of the U. S. Army and its traditions and culture with the conduct of the War against Terror today.

So what golden nugget of information did I find that relates to the topic of this post? Here is a quote from the book.

It was not by accident that the phrase fuhren unter der Hand (leadership behind the superior’s back) originated from the German and not any other army. All those examples were collective cultural knowledge within the Prussian officer corps, recounted and retold countless times in an abundance of variations during official lectures, in the officer’s mess, or in correspondence between comrades. The independence that was expected from a German officer and that was part of the tradition of the German officer corps could always attain the character of disobedience, a fact that was also recognized and acknowledged. 

The examples Jörg mentioned were of famous military leaders in the Prussian army, and later the German army. They include men like Ludwig Beck, who had the quote that ‘military obedience has a limit where knowledge, conscience, and a sense of responsibility forbid the execution of a command.’ Ludwig actually put action to words in regards to Hitler and was involved in a plot to assassinate him.

Other names mentioned include Generalleutnant Johann David Ludwig Graf Yorck von Wartenburg who signed a treaty with France in 1812 without the permission of the king of Prussia. The king originally wanted the guy executed for taking the initiative and not consulting the king about his actions, but then when that treaty actually resulted in great benefit to Prussia, then all was forgiven.

Another guy mentioned was Oberst Johann Friedrich Adolf von der Marwitz, who refused a direct order by his king to loot a castle of one of their enemies. That this kind of activity was not appropriate for his prestigious calvary regiments, and that lesser free lancer units raised during war time were usually given these tasks. Of course this pissed off the king, and Marwitz got a lot of flack for it. On his tombstone, it says ‘ He saw Frederick’s heroic times and fought with him in all his wars. He chose disgrace when obedience brought no honor.”

Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz is another famous guy in Prussian history that told his king to shove off during a battle. The king wanted him to attack with his calvary at a specific time during the Battle of Zorndorf, and Seydlitz replied that it wasn’t time yet. The king got pissed off, and demanded that he attack, and Seydlitz refused because he already had a plan. He replied famously ‘Tell the King that after the battle my head is at his disposal, but meanwhile I will make use of it’. lol

Back in those days, if you refused the king’s wishes, they would have you executed, so you can imagine the kind of courage it takes to say ‘nope’ or be disobedient.  And of course when Seydlitz attacked at the time of his choosing, he won the battle. Which shows how sure he was of himself and what needed to happen.

The final mention of disobedience was Friedrich the Second, who was the Prince of Hessen-Homburg. He decided he was going to start a battle against some Swedish mercenaries (Battle of Fehrbellin) at a time and choosing of his own, before waiting on The Great Elector to show up. The time period was 1675 during the Thirty Years War, and wars at that time required that rulers be present on the field of battle before they start. Friedrich decided to buck the system and kick off a surprise attack without the ruler being there. (on a side note, the army raised for this battle, became the core of the Prussian Army)

Now why is all of this disobedience relevant to Prussian history? Because back in 1812, a lack of initiative and a highly centralized command led to a bloody and extremely embarrassing defeat of the Prussians at the Battle of Jena. This battle is said to be the turning point in Prussian military thought on how to fight and win wars, and started them on the path to developing Auftragstaktik. A command culture and philosophy that emphasizes individual initiative, and forming creative solutions to problems and operating off of commanders intent as opposed to hanging on their every word.

So there you have it. It was fun to finally close the loop on this question, and a big thanks to Jörg Muth for writing such a kick ass book. It is also a reminder to those leaders out there that are actually trying to build a better company or military unit, that feedback is essential to the health of your organization. The Prussians learned long ago the value of dissent or disobedience, and it was infused into their command culture through years of warfare and trial and error.

If in fact the US military or private companies are interested in implementing decentralized command principals like Mission Command, they will have to remember that your leaders will have to have some thick skin and put away their egos. They must study what works for war or business, and they must have an appreciation for those willing to speak up and criticize what is going on. After all, that individual might be responsible for taking the initiative and turning the corner of a battle, or finding a new market for your business, all because they dared to do something different or say something that needed to be said.

Or they make like Seydlitz and ‘fuhren unter der Hand’! –Matt

 

Frederick the Great compliments General von Seydlitz on his conduct during the Battle of Zorndorf. Picture by Carl Röhling

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Building Snowmobiles: Boyd Sightings

I haven’t written a Building Snowmobiles post in awhile and thought these two tidbits were worth putting up. Col John Boyd continues to influence folks to this day and it is neat to see where he pops up at.

The first sighting is a series of videos that were posted by Jason Brown. According to his twitter handle, he is an AF officer and author at a website called General Leadership. They are videos of John Boyd giving his Patterns of Conflict briefing to some congressional staffer’s. The sound quality sucks and I think a crowd funding campaign to clean up the audio of these would be awesome. I am sure some group could clean it up and give it justice. Here is a quote about the process of getting these transferred to youtube.

Published on Jan 4, 2015
This is a video of John Boyd delivering his Patterns of Conflict lecture. The audience appears to be a group of Congressional staffers in former Iowa Congressman Jim Lightfoot’s office. The year of production is unknown, but my best guess is mid-to-late 1980s. I copied this from a tape in the Boyd Collection at the USMC Archives at Quantico, Virginia, in 2007. The tape’s audio wasn’t the best quality (recommend using headphones). The lecture is over 6 hours, so I’ll probably have to break this into 12 or more parts. Each part takes a long time to upload, so it will be a few days/weeks to get the entire lecture online. Boyd’s acetate slides are washed out, but you can follow along with the slides by downloading Patterns of Conflict here.

Very cool and the series can be found at this youtube channel if you want to watch the whole thing. Jason Brown has conveniently chopped up some very interesting portions of this presentation. If you have headphones, I suggest you use those in order to get better clarity. The first video is Boyd discussing two heavyweights of strategy and war–Carl von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu, and why he thought Sun Tzu got it right.

 

 

The second sighting of Boyd was over at Chet Richard’s blog. He just downloaded an outstanding slide presentation done by Dean Leane. He was the CEO of CRH of North America, and he applied the concepts of Boyd and his associates, to the strategic direction of the company. Here is what he did.

I asked my staff to read 4 books: Certain to Win, Boyd by Robert Coram, Maneuver Warfare Handbook by Bill Lind and Warfighting by the USMC. Although my people were sometimes puzzled by this curriculum, I was able to get most of what we were trying to get across stuffed into the assembled noggins.

Between 2000 and 2010, CRH North America went from no presence whatsoever to the largest supplier in its market sector in the NAFTA region. If anyone thinks this is easy, then I suggest they try it.

What sucks though is CRH eventually sold to their competitor. Meaning they did such a good job, that their competitor made a ridiculous offer to buy the company. Which is actually a good thing as well. If you can’t beat them, then buy them I guess. lol Good stuff and I highly recommend checking out all the new material to ‘get orientated’. –Matt

 

 

 

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Building Snowmobiles: Crowdfunding Private Security

Definition of ‘Crowdfunding’: The use of small amounts of capital from a large number of individuals to finance a new business venture. Crowdfunding makes use of the easy accessibility of vast networks of friends, family and colleagues through social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to get the word out about a new business and attract investors. Crowdfunding has the potential to increase entrepreneurship by expanding the pool of investors from whom funds can be raised beyond the traditional circle of owners, relatives and venture capitalists.
In the United States, crowdfunding is restricted by regulations on who is allowed to fund a new business and how much they are allowed to contribute. Similar to the restrictions on hedge fund investing, these regulations are supposed to protect unsophisticated and/or non-wealthy investors from putting too much of their savings at risk. Because so many new businesses fail, their investors face a high risk of losing their principal.-Investopedia

One of the exciting things to develop last summer was the advent of crowdfunded security. It is a concept that I wanted to share here on the blog that is really cool and cutting edge. It is a new way of doing business and I wanted to introduce the concept. Who knows, maybe someone will take the ball and run with this.

So here is the concept–create a crowd funding website called Securityfunfr.com or similar, that is completely dedicated to helping countries, states, cities, towns, communities and even individuals in starting crowd funding campaigns for their security. The model is already out there with such places as Idiegogo, Kickstarter, or Crowdtilt.

The idea for this came from a Crowdtilt campaign that was done in Oakland, California by a community in need of security services. Their neighborhood was constantly dealing with criminals, and the police were stretched too thin because of budgetary constraints to deal with that crime. So a member of the neighborhood started a campaign to raise money to contract the services of a local security company.

What happened next is amazing. They were able to raise all of the money needed to fund their own security, and in a very short time. Folks from all over the country could contribute funds to this campaign–and they did.

Now what makes Securityfundr an interesting concept is that it would be a ‘security specific’ niche crowdfunding site. A place to go, to specifically raise funds for whatever security is required. I envision something that a small village in Somalia could take part in, or some town Idaho could get into, or what some female jogger that runs in Central Park, NY could tap into–all to raise money for their security.

You could also raise money to secure websites and protect against hackers. The cyber element of securityfundr could be big, just because the ferocity of attacks that can hack places like Target, could easily be turned on small mom and pop websites–and they do. But small businesses and individuals are limited in their ability to protect their websites, all by how much money they have. Enter crowdfunding and the potential of a site like securityfundr….

I would also create a portal for security companies to advertise their wares on the site. They could receive alerts through the website, for when a funding campaign is started within their area.  A company could sign up, and get alerts for specific types of security work, within a certain distance. The website would have a highly secure and encrypted online interface and mobile interface. Each company would be voted on and rated by the public, kind of like what Yelp or Amazon does, all so folks can voice their opinions on the quality of companies and their services. Like I said before, the models are there, and all it takes is to make a snowmobile out of all of them for the purpose of Securityfundr.

Below I have posted all of the pertinent stories related to the crowdfunded security. If you know of others, by all means let me know and share them in the comments. As to the potential of such a concept? Who knows, maybe a crowdfunding campaign could be started to fund securityfundr?  lol –Matt

 

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Oakland Neighbors Crowdfunding Private Security
BY Sam Roudman
Friday, October 4 2013

Oakland California’s Rockridge neighborhood has generally been better known for its fresh pasta and pricey Craftsman homes than for brazen daylight robberies. But that changed last month when three men held up a line of drivers waiting at the Rockridge BART station to pick up passengers in order to use the carpool lane on their morning commute.
“The casual carpool line is sort of a sacred thing,” says Rockridge resident Steve, Kirsh, “they robbed 20 people and they kind of freaked out the community.”
What’s a violated yet technologically savvy community to do? In Rockridge, the answer has been to crowdfund private security services, with the aim of compensating for an understaffed police department in the city with the highest robbery rate in America. In the last few weeks three separate campaigns have been started on Crowdtilt in order to fund four months of private security patrols in three different section of Rockridge. Near $35,000 have been raised so far, and two of the three projects have raised enough funds to ensure they will move forward.
The campaigns illustrate the power of crowdfunding tools to propel civic action, but they also point to the potential of crowdfunding to increase urban inequality in the name of a civic virtue like neighborhood safety.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Building Snowmobiles: General Hermann Balck, The German That Inspired Boyd

The other day, Chet Richards posted his opening presentation to the Boyd And Beyond 2012 conference, and it was fascinating. It was pure building snowmobiles, and it was filled with the various bits and pieces of what and who inspired Boyd in regards to creating novelty or innovations during the fight. (unfortunately, I did not attend this conference)

What was cool is that an individual was identified as being the origin of Boyd’s thoughts on this stuff. That individual is General Hermann Balck, and he was considered to be one of Germany’s best during WW 2. Here is one quote that gives you an idea.

“Balck has strong claims to be regarded as our finest field commander,” declared Maj. Gen. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Mellenthin. And he was in a position to know: as a general staff officer during the war, Mellenthin had worked at one point or another for virtually all of Germany’s greatest commanders—including such legends as Rommel and Heinz Guderian.

So that gives you an idea as to why Boyd would be interested in such a man. The other quote that identifies Balck as a person of interest to Boyd is identified in this quote from Chet’s paper.

Boyd’s appreciation for novelty grew as he mulled over the ingredients for success in conflicts. Boyd’s close associate, Pierre Sprey, credits Boyd’s conversations with General Balck (1979a & 1979b) as planting the seeds that led to Boyd’s fascination with innovation, novelty, and the importance of rapid, intuitive decision-making (Personal communication, September 23, 2012). Thus the elements of maneuver conflict that appear in the September 1981 edition of Patterns, for example, do not include the concept of novelty, but by 1986 it was there (p. 115). Perhaps it was not until he began to compose Conceptual Spiral, though, that Boyd realized how the term “novelty” encapsulated so much of his strategy.

So can we boil it down even further?  Well below, Balck gave an interview and he talked about the secrets to his success on the last page. Chet quoted from this translation and I thought it would be prudent to post the entire thing here, just to give you the essence of what this guy was all about. Here is the quote.

Never do the same thing twice. Even if something works well for you once, by the second time the enemy will have adapted. So you have to think up something new. -Balck, pg. 42

Chet also added this quote to back up what Balck mentioned. Note that Boyd was equally inspired by Sun Tzu in his famous Patterns of Conflict.

So a military force has no constant formation, water has no constant shape: the ability to gain victory by changing and adapting according to the opponent is called genius. -Sun Tzu, Art of War

Of course you could expand upon all of this by reading Balck’s book he wrote, if you know German, but at least with this translated interview, you will get a good introduction to the man.

I think what is equally interesting is that Balck was totally a prime example of the kind of officer that the famous German field manual promoted, called the Truppenführung. Here is a snippet.

Truppenführung (“unit command”) served as the basic manual for the German Army from 1934 until the end of World War II and laid the doctrinal groundwork for blitzkrieg and the early victories of Hitler’s armies. Reading it is as close to getting inside the minds behind the Third Reich’s war machine as you are likely to get.

So what kind of results did this kind of thinking produce? Why would folks put him at the top. Here is a quote about one of his accomplishments when his panzer division took on the Soviet 5th Tank Army. Pretty impressive if you ask me.

Balck, who ended the war as a General der Panzertruppe (equivalent to a three-star general in the U.S. Army), is today virtually unknown except to the most serious students of World War II. Yet in three short weeks his lone panzer division virtually destroyed the entire Soviet Fifth Tank Army. The odds he faced were scarcely short of incredible: the Soviets commanded a local superiority of 7:1 in tanks, 11:1 in infantry, and 20:1 in a local superiority of 7:1 in tanks, 11:1 in infantry, and 20:1 in artillery. But Balck, leading from the front, reacting instantly to each enemy thrust, repeatedly parried, surprised, and wiped out superior Soviet detachments. Over the next few months his division would rack up an astonishing one thousand enemy tank kills. For this and other achievements Balck would be one of only twenty-seven officers in the entire war—Erwin Rommel was another—to receive the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, the equivalent of an American receiving two, or even three, Medals of Honor.

Check out the interview below and let me know what you think? I personally thought Balck’s focus on leadership and taking care of his men, and constantly trying to figure out the true health and status of his army was pretty cool. His focus on the enemy and his psychology was interesting too. That and all the lessons learned from when he fought in WW 1. I really liked the focus on the offense as well.

The other quote that perked me up is Balck’s mention of the Prussian military tradition of ‘expressing yourself bluntly’ to your superiors. lol I love it, and in the quote below, Model was his boss and Balck was telling him how much he sucked at commanding.

Model listened to everything I said. We both expressed our opinions, shook hands and returned home. He never came to see me again. But every time I got a new assignment, he was one of the first to congratulate me.
That was one of the great Prussian military traditions: you expressed yourself bluntly but you were expected to never resent such blunt criticism.

 Boy, imagine if we had such a tradition in the US military? Or even in private industry? It also shows how smart the Prussians were about feedback and questioning authority. To actually have a tradition that forces folks to sit there and take criticism like a man…. I might have to explore this Prussian military tradition at a later point. Pretty cool and check this thing out. –Matt

Edit: 02/26/2015  Found the answer to where this tradition of Prussian disobedience came from. A big hat tip to Jörg Muth and his book called Command Culture, and his personal help in researching this topic. Here is my post on the matter called Leadership: The Proud Prussian Tradition of ‘Disobedience’.

 

 

Translation Of Taped Conversation With General Hermann Balck, April 1979

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