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The style of command in armies since the 18th century: developments and perspectives for command concepts

Cahiers de la pensée mili-Terre n° 49
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Building on the lessons of military history, and while several trends The tactical commanders' sense of initiative could be stifled by contemporary tactical commanders, Ms Géraldine Soulié, Squadron Leader Christophe Maurin, Battalion Commander Vincent Lehmuller and Squadron Leader Rémy Jaillet consider it appropriate toto undertake a determined action to consolidate today the culture of command by objectives in the Army because this style favours speed in decision making, a major factor in the domination of the adversary.

They propose a crossover between "command style in armies" and "managerial transformations in companies", taking the case of the Renault™ group as an example.

"Sir, the king promoted you to officer so that you yourself know when you must not obey". While the Prussian grenadiers of the Seven Years' War embodied discipline as the "principal force of armies", Frederick II makes the "discipline of the army" lie in this reply.In this reply, Frederick II bases the effectiveness of the military leader on his ability, beyond the letter of the order received, to grasp the spirit of the order and to accomplish what the sense of the mission commands him [1]. 1] This paradox illustrates one of the commonplaces in thinking about the art of command: is initiative never nothing but successful insubordination or, on the contrary, the product of a deliberate alchemy designed to foster it?

More fundamentally, this question highlights a key challenge for military thought and practice: the adoption of a style of command that is adapted to the operational conditions and possibilities of the moment. "Co-mandare": the etymology emphasizes the link between the one who commands and the one who is commanded, a relationship of interdependence and not the mechanical application of a faculty to an inert object.

As for the modalities of command, General Lagarde[2] describes them in a formula with a timeless value: "Command is articulated around three inseparable components: to foresee, to order and to control". Now, in the context of complex organizations engaged in extreme situations, the style characterizing the exercise of authority does not depend solely on the personality of an individual. Indeed, it draws its specificities more broadly from the encounter of an organization (in its human and technical aspects) with means, methods and doctrines, in a given historical context. Since the second half of the eighteenth century, the resolution of this equation has been largely played out in the relationship between the different hierarchical levels and in theIn other words, in the organisation of subsidiarity, i.e. the allocation of decision-making responsibilities to the levels most qualified to exercise them.

Broadly speaking, modern military schools of thought have developed two typical models to respond to this problem. On the one hand, a centralized command aiming at the maximum reduction of the frictions affecting the manoeuvre, through detailed planning in design and close control in conduct: the command by tasks. On the other hand, a style that relies on the freedom of action granted to the lower levels to achieve a goal defined by the higher authority: command by order or by objectives. Between the two, current French doctrine does not seem to decide[3], preferring to describe the tactical conditions in which each of these styles appears most appropriate. Is this position efficient and consistent with the imperatives of command training and combat training?

Based on the teachings of military history, and while several contemporary trends could stifle the sense of initiative of tactical leaders, it is relevant to take determined action to consolidate the culture of command by objectives in the army today because this style favours speed in decision making, a major factor in the domination of the adversary.

The study of three centuries of military history highlights the increasing complexity of the conduct of warfare and the vanity of a race towards exhaustive orders and close control of all subordinates. However, however justified and historically founded the choice of a command by objectives may be, the contemporary context makes this option an ambitious challenge requiring adaptation and questioning in terms of organization and training.

Accepting chaos

From the 18th century onwards, the question of command organization crystallized around the challenge of leading ever-larger armies over vast territories. The study of military history tends to show that the most effective response lies in the acceptance of an impassable uncertainty and theThe study of military history tends to show that the most effective response lies in the acceptance of uncertainty that cannot be overcome and the adoption of a decentralised style of command that recognises the subordinate's capacity for initiative as part of a better perception of the situation. Above all, the study of the factors that have presided over the evolution of the style of command in the armed forces provides the keys to understanding essential to assess the sustainability of this command by objectives.

The challenge of command organisation: original responses

In the West, the 18th century was a pivotal period for the place and style of the leader in combat. Since Antiquity, the heroic image of the chief at the head of his troops has dominated. The summary articulation of armies in the field limits the possibilities of manoeuvre in contact and makes it possible, in the preparation of the action, or even in its conduct, to command by voice and to surround oneself only with a restricted council. The progressive complexification of their structures and their ability to split up and manoeuvre over increasingly vast areas are changing the situation. One of the manifestations of Napoleon's genius thus lies in his command organisation, as illustrated by the Battle of Jena (1806). In this confrontation, the Prussian vision was one of order and the preservation of control by concentrating resources and centralizing decision-making. Napoleon's victory, on the other hand, was based on the autonomy left to the army corps, self-sufficient in command structures and support.

Echoing this culture shock, the 19th century was marked by theoretical and practical developments to tame these new forms of the complexity inherent in combat. Within the German school, the focus was on the command function. The conception was professionalized with the creation of the "General Staff". But the limitations of the means of communication attenuated the centralizing and deterministic nature of planning. Posing himself as a pragmatist, Moltke the Elder thus left an important part of the decision in the hands of his great subordinates [4]. 4] The fruit of empiricism, this style of command is not without flaws, as Foch demonstrates in his lessons on the principles of war [5]. 5] However, it became the stake of theoretical debates within the German high command, which decided in favor of a formalization: it was the birth of the Auftragstaktik as aconcept. 6] Moltke's personal style is thus a school of thought, for better or worse... and sometimes for worse. The example of the Schlieffen plan illustrates this contrast. Set to put France in the cup in 42 days, but driven "long reins" by Moltke the Younger from Luxembourg, it failed partly due to the unfortunate initiative of General von Kluck, commander of the Ist German army.

On the French side, the intellectual awakening following the defeat of 1870, although it also had consequences for officer training, focused more on questions of tactical style. The chief, a trainer of men rather than a designer, remains a symbol of ardour and will in a "spiritualist" conception [7] of war and an almost mystical vision of the offensive, in particular under the influence of the Young Turks [8]. 8] However, it is worth noting the emergence, in parallel, of alternative modes of action that favoured individual initiative within the framework of colonial commitments.

The affirmation of command by objectives as a factor of operational superiority

The First World War stimulated the distinct evolution of these schools of command in response to the tactical blockages faced by the belligerents. On the Allied side, getting the best return on assets through meticulous planning and then close control became the alpha and omega of the manoeuvre. The plan is rigid, and the autonomy of subordinates is non-existent in its implementation, hindering the seizing of opportunities. As a consequence of this centralization of command, combat is conducted in a processional manner and favorable power relationships are obtained by planned concentrations of fire and units, as illustrated by the formula "Artillery conquers, infantry occupies" [9]. On the Russian (Riga) then Italian (Caporetto) and French fronts (offensives of March 1918), the German army develops until the small tactical echelons, through the Stosstruppen, its principles of decentralized command. The chaos of the trenches proving to be uncontrollable, it is a matter of infiltrating the intervals to the enemy's rear. In the heat of the action, the subordinate with the best information must be given decision-making autonomy and decentralized use of support.

Insufficient to win the decision in 1918, but assimilated and set up as a system within the Reichswehr then the Wehrmacht [10], these principles of the Auftragstaktik demonstrated their operationalsuperiority during the French campaign of May-June 1940. Short orders, primacy given to understanding the spirit of the mission, seized opportunities by leaders commanding the front are the pillars. The Auftragstaktik enabled the French command to gain speed, invalidating or inhibiting its decision-making cycle based on methodical warfare and detailed orders [11]. 11] Faced with the dilemma between speed and the holding of information in decision-making, the Germans gave priority to the former. In the battle conceived as "organized chaos" [12], speed is based on initiatives, guided by a common understanding of the goal to be achieved. On the other hand, "the French generals were by no means cowards, but the style of command they had been given since 1914 underlined for them the birth of a new style of command.ceased to remain at their headquarters, sitting in front of large maps showing the whole battle" [13]: the extremely fluid tactical situations generated by the German offensive could only escape this holistic posture.

Today, technology, and in particular the new information and communication technologies (NICT), does not fundamentally change the terms of the dilemma. It brings information, not understanding, and does not guarantee speed. The centralization of data reported by subordinates and their analysis lengthens decision-making cycles. The Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld, during the Vietnam War, refers to a delay of seven months between the gathering of information about a prison camp and the launching of the liberation raid that fell on an empty camp [14].

Determining factors in the evolution of command style

These historical descriptions should highlight the factors that shape the emergence and evolution of a leadership style. First of all, it must be noted that adversity, confrontation with failure and the desire for revenge are formidable vectors for questioning, particularly in the area of command. The decisive role of the capacity to adapt in the evolution of the Prussian, then German, military tool towards a style of command by objectives is notably underlined by Lieutenant Colonel Jason M. Bender [15] of the US Army. Just as the humiliation of defeat at the hands of Napoleon's armies led to a radical modernisation of the command, the restrictions imposed on theGermany in the interwar period prompted the Reichswehr to maintain a corps of officers selected on the basis of high educational standards. Change is not painless: one must take the measure of the reality of failure to learn from it.

The style of command is also inseparable from the means to command and the means to be commanded, with their potentialities and the constraints inherent in their employment. The technological factor, in particular, must not appear to be univocal. Thus, the evolution of the means of communication has led to radically different uses. In 1940, radio was for German leaders a multiplier of the effectiveness of decentralized command: it made it possible to specify orders in the light of the development of the situation and to seize opportunities. In the 21st century, the same modernised tool in the form of the NEB led instead to a recentralisation of decision-making.

Moreover, the style of command is changing according to the troop to be commanded. Winning implies an analysis of one's own strengths: Are the troop and its leaders really capable of a large degree of autonomy? Is there not a need, deep or transitory, for formal discipline and leadership? A country's political and sociological construction, ethical vision and cultural heritage permeate its army and the way in which command is exercised. The Italian writer Curzio Malaparte evokes the differences in the behaviour of men and leaders in combat [17]. 17] In contrast to German or Soviet armies that were "workers" and culturally disciplined, he describes a Romanian army of peasants, requiring the grip of an authoritarian regime and command. Without yielding to national clichés, importing a command organization "foreign" to one's own culture carries the risk of rejection.

A model tested against reality

This historical analysis reveals a pendulum swing between the need for information and the need for speed in making decisions and taking action. While the quest for certainty seems destined to degenerate into a headlong pursuit, the speed allowed by the adoption of command by objectives seems the best compromise. However, comparing this assessment with contemporary reality highlights several factors that may contribute to curbing the development of subsidiarity within the Army today.

Means of command and organisation within the army: logic of optimisation versus subsidiarity.

NICTs enable the various operational levels to exchange information rapidly. The decision-making process is likely to be speeded up as a result. However, several feedbacks on the use of NICTs have also highlighted a tendency to focus on particular points and to free oneself from the various hierarchical levels. These temptations of micro-management present risks: for the manager who engages in it, those of losing the general vision of the situation and thus distorting the assessment of his or her level; for the subordinates who are subjected to it, those of a loss of responsibility and inhibition in decision-making.

This constraint on the implementation of the principle of subsidiarity can also occur through a form of denial of service[18] by the leader or subordinate. In the nineteenth century, the telegraph had made it possible to disseminate information more rapidly, but the constraint of writing time (paper format and transcription into a visual and then electrical signal, and vice versa at reception) forced chiefs to formulate relatively concise orders. Currently, digitization and its interfaces allow for an exponential increase in the flow of information, both in terms of volume and time. However, this progress can generate counter-productive effects, in particular by devoting ever greater efforts to managing and understanding the masses of data put into circulation to the detriment of decision-making. This was one of the shortcomings of the American command during the second Gulf War, which began in 2003 and was described by Colonel Goya, who concluded that "the scientific illusion of perfect knowledge, which would allow us to act with great efficiency, and therefore to have few means of action, has been short-lived" [19].

19] In response, the current developments in NICTs, especially those related to artificial intelligence, are not without risks for the exercise of command. Pan-digital and connected computer tools promote collaborative work, but above all lead to a division of labour. Tasks are entrusted cyclically to the same groups of people (targeted for their skills) or are automated thanks to decision support tools whose analysis algorithm is unknown to the decision-maker and cannot be modified. The increasing role of technology in decision making can therefore also lead to a depletion of analysis, to compartmentalisation within the command system, and thus to a weakening of the spirit of initiative due to a lack of human interaction and dialectic.

Finally, in terms of organisation, the gap between employment in operational conditions and functioning in garrison makes it difficult for leaders to create the conditions necessary for the implementation of command by objectives. In fact, the margin of initiative devolved to subordinate levels depends, among other things, on the means at their disposal[20]. 20] As these are reduced by successive rationalisation measures, the level of subsidiarity decreases mechanically and applying the maxim "train as you fight"becomes a challenge. In concrete terms, this translates into the multiplication of arbitration processes, a form of insecurity weighing on programming, and rigidification: all these are constraints on decentralisation, freedom of action and the development of mutual trust between leaders.

The environment of contemporary operational commitments

The physical and human characteristics of the areas of engagement have always conditioned the conduct and style of operations, requiring extensive coordination measures and allowing greater flexibility elsewhere. On the other hand, the exercise of command is more specifically constrained, depending on the context, by the political and military environment.

The strong political pressure that weighs on military leaders is primarily linked to the interministerial framework of commitments, which calls for greater efforts to achieve synergy beyond the perimeter of the armed forces. This is true abroad, and even more so at home: if Operation Harpie is today a good example of interministerial cooperation and freedom of action allowing the use of the military component in accordance with its capabilities, it is the result of several years of work by the military leaders.Conversely, subsidiarity certainly remains to be developed in the context of Operation Sentinel, especially as the basic pawn is usually formed by the battle group. To this endogenous factor of political pressure must be added that of the gap between the long time span of the continuum of military operations and a demand for short-term results and occupation of media space. The management of this double time horizon entails additional constraints for the maintenance of a bubble of effective freedom of action at each level: for the same desired end state, the political and military intermediate objectives may diverge; moreover, media coverage may be achieved through ad hoc directive behaviour and by restricting the room for manoeuvre granted to subordinate levels.

Furthermore, the military environment of joint and combined air-land operations also places limitations on initiative. Harmonisation processes within coalitions, and NATO in particular, while necessary to ensure interoperability of forces, also lead to standardisation at the doctrinal level. Similarly, interdependence and joint actions with our mainly Anglo-Saxon allies guide the use of both tactical units and headquarters. However, although its doctrine is based onmission command, the practice within the US Army is morelike task command. It is thus significant that the figure of General Patton emerges as an exception among those of his American peers of the Second World War, by his cult of speed and freedom of action granted (even imposed) to subordinates [21]. 21] The integration within American-dominated multinational forces can lead to transposing, volens nolens, this use of a command in which the requirement for initiative is relatively undeveloped at the small tactical levels.

The societal context: a standardised and judicialised world

More broadly, the influence of norms also emanates from civil society, particularly from the economic and business spheres. In order to be not only more efficient but also more readable for political decision-makers, armies have integrated the notions of piloting, internal control and standards[22] in order to measure activity. These instruments are likely to improve internal operations. However, their multiplication can also be a formality to the detriment of the real meaning of the action. This is all the more true since performance in the military "core business"? operational commitment? can hardly be presented in the form of indicators and figures; as for the concept of "total quality", its military transcription encounters obvious limits in the definition of criteria. Above all, however, the formalism of standardisation may be matched by a formalism of behaviour in which the sense of responsibility and initiative tends to be diluted: applying predetermined processes becomes the priority, and breaking away from them constitutes a penalising risk-taking, with collective action being transformed into chain work. It would be excessive to reject the contribution of standardisation, especially for redundant tasks in stabilised environments. However, it is also necessary to identify the constraints that it can generate where creativity and autonomy are essential virtues; in a way, and to continue the analogy with the business world, to make the logic of the start-up cohabit with that of heavy industry.

These considerations are also a reminder that command by objective and the implementation of subsidiarity depend on trust between hierarchical levels and the level of risk assumed by each. However, this acceptance of risk is not innate, particularly in our modern social models. Before the Enlightenment, the notion of risk was linked to divine and irrational factors. This was the case in Antiquity, which glorified the hero, half-man half-God, or in Western Christianity, where risk, placed in the hands of God, took on the features of fatality. With the secularization of society initiated in the 18th century and the modernism of the industrial revolutions of the 19th century, the individual becomes master of his or her own destiny. Risk is viewed in a more rational way. As a corollary, the ability to control it and the determination of responsibilities in the occurrence of the hazard become decisive. This is illustrated, for example, by the development of insurance and the development of legal proceedings. Under the threat of sanctions, responsibility for action is not always fully assumed. Under these conditions, while the unexpected and uncertainty are the breeding ground for fighting, behaviour can become wait-and-see or timid.

Cutting the Gordian knot

What can we conclude from this historical overview and its assessment in the current context? It would be naïve to view the issue in Manichean terms, opposing good and bad methods. But it also shows that the definition of the style of command in a modern army goes beyond the level of individuals and their personal faculties. Making a clear collective choice in this area is therefore an institutional challenge.

What is the ambition of the Army's leadership style?

The contextual elements described could suggest a growing gap between the desirable and the achievable. Autonomy and subsidiarity appear to be absolutely virtuous principles. However, the contemporary conditions of command practice are leading to decisions being pushed up the chain of command. Would it not be appropriate to recognize that a directive style of command would ultimately be more appropriate to the circumstances? Conversely, would not promoting subsidiarity as an operating principle be dogmatic or a fascination with the concept of Auftragstaktik to the detriment of taking reality intoaccount?

Beyond the historical teachings, it is the nature of the fight that should incite us to do so. In a balanced - even unfavourable - balance of power, the system that accepts the irreducibly chaotic and dialectical nature of war takes advantage of those who seek to dominate or evade it. But do current and future commitments confirm this assessment? The expression "strategic corporal" [23] reflects the reality of contemporary operations, in which the decision is largely based on the appropriateness of the action of the small tactical echelons. Above all, it refers to the phenomenon of battlefield crumbling and extension, observable since the 18th century. This trend was initiated and sustained by the modernisation of Western armies. Today, it is the work of adversaries capable of dispersing the efforts of the great military machines and reducing their output. This dynamic is likely to be long-lasting and challenges us to increase the flexibility and speed of our decision-making processes in tactical situations that could become even more complex and demanding. Otherwise, we will be condemned to hypertrophy and, ultimately, paralysis: as the command function becomes more and more demanding, but with scarce resources, these resources will be increasingly concentrated, and decision-making processes centralized and slowed down.

A decisive step could be taken by making a clear choice in favour of the style of command by objectives to make it a leitmotif of doctrine, training and the exercise of authority in daily life. To allow the ambiguity outlined above to persist gives the illusion of reversibility; in reality, this is not the case, for while it is always possible to increase or restrict the freedom In reality this is not the case, for while it is always possible to increase or restrict the freedom of action of a leader trained to make good use of it, it is much more hazardous to expect an initiative on the part of a subordinate accustomed to strict execution. Moreover, since task command is the one that requires, in the short term and on the surface, the least effort and risk, it is likely to be chosen by default (the leader feels better served by himself than by his subordinates). However, in the long term, this option is the most expensive and vulnerable: It forces the leader to take on more thought, slows down the development of professional skills of subordinates, and concentrates the risks inherent in decision making in one head rather than spreading them throughout the chain. Ordering by objective is therefore not a permanently open option, but a structuring choice that must be explicit.

What advantages do we have?

In order to develop and strengthen the collective and individual faculties that enable the effective implementation of this style of command, the Army can first of all rely on a rich conceptual and operational heritage. Indeed, it conceals theoretical fundamentals that we can easily appropriate. Foch and de Gaulle, for example, thought, each in his own terms, of the notion of freedom of action: "Active obedience, a consequence of the constant call for initiative" in the "...".Principles of warfare"To set the goal to be attained, to stimulate emulation, to judge the results, this is what the higher authority must hold with regard to each unit. But as to the manner of proceeding, let each one be master on his own board", in "The edge of the sword». As for practice, the command of General Leclerc in the French campaign of 1944 or Colonel Bigeard in the Algerian barracks are particularly demonstrative examples. The method of participative command by objectives (CPO) in the context of training or the notion of major effect in the design of maneuvers are also useful bases. More broadly, the combination of thought and experience forms the matrix of a common command culture. The maintenance of an autonomous capacity for doctrinal production, feedback and historical study within the army is a guarantee of the exploitation of this heritage, provided that this work is used in the training and reflection of the staff.

In addition, the maturity acquired by the Army through professionalization and the acquisition of operational experience that is fairly widely shared, particularly among the management team, is a cyclical asset. The homogeneity in the mastery of operational know-how, the unification of training for managers and, to a lesser extent, non-commissioned members, and the rotation of units in all theatres of operation, encourage the establishment of common references, and therefore the convergence of actions. Furthermore, at a technical level, digitisation and info-enhancement can be factors in extending freedom of action at tactical levels. Their shortcomings, mentioned above, often stem as much from biased use as from intrinsic flaws. However, assuming that digitized SOICs lift the fog of war less than they reduce its friction, it is likely that they will help to alleviate excessive coordination measures. They should then open up decisive spaces for flexible manoeuvring and the seizing of opportunities.

Finally, while the contemporary socio-cultural context may restrict the assumption of responsibility, certain fundamental characteristics of our societies on the contrary encourage subordinates to be valued and motivated by the degree of autonomy granted: democratic system, a high average level of education and qualifications, the primacy of the individual, wider access to information, a culture of democracy, a high level of education, a high level of education and qualifications, the primacy of the individual, wider access to information, a culture of peace, and a high level of social cohesion.These particular features can make decentralised command effective, comparable to the way a sports team operates: the coach develops tactics and identifies players to be committed, but does not interfere with the conduct; the playmaker directs collective action, but does not direct individual placements.

Command and Management

A comparison between command in the armed forces and company management was the subject of a text by Mrs Géraldine Soulié based on the example of the car manufacturer Renault.™. His article, placed in the appendix, is summarized here.

The management method known as PDCA (plan-do-check-act) illustrated by the Deming wheel [24], a continuous improvement model used in quality management.24], a continuous improvement model used in quality management, is interesting because of the similarity it presents in the sequence of actions with the plan-order-control triptych of command in armies. In fact, the management style in companies is subject to success factors and constraints similar to those of the military leader. The manager has become an "augmented" leader thanks to new technologies, who sets objectives, leaves freedom of initiative to his collaborators, while controlling their results.

In business, the leader must be the bearer of a strategic vision that gives meaning and must be able to be applied at all levels without falling into the temptation of micro-management. This vision sets all employees in motion towards the same goal. As an example, the "Drive theChange" plan, built to meet two objectives - to ensure the group's growth and to generate Free Cash-Flow in a sustainable way - sums up the ambition of Renault™. Like a regiment, everyone is aware within the structure of his or her objectives and mission.

Naturally, as is the case in the armed forces, the responsibility of individuals and the subsidiarity granted to them in no way excludes the need to exercise a right of oversight and control over their actions. While the leader states and embodies the values of the group, the team must also behave in accordance with them. Renault has adopted a common management reference framework, the Renault Management Way. Drawn up by the group's Executive Committee in 2009, it defines the roles, rules of conduct and mindset expected of managers: loyalty, transparency, openness, diversity, etc. To ensure convergence of these practices, the company particularly promotes continuous training.

The convergence between management in the company and command style in the armed forces are assets to consolidate command by objectives.

What more can be done?

The field of training is essential to spread a culture of command. The experience of the Reichswehr , extended by the Wehrmacht, bears witness to this, with the choice to train tactical leaders up to the N+2 level and the maintenance of a sustained effort to train managers until the end of the war. Transposed today to the French Army, it raises for example the question of possible points of junction in the training courses for officers and non-commissioned officers. More fundamentally, the idea of coherence between style of command and training refers, beyond learning, to the education of the character of warriors. This component, the most elusive of those that define style, must be the subject of particular attention. If the training of leaders and soldiers within the army stimulates the essential qualities of the fighter and the trainer of men, it could include a part more explicitly dedicated to the mastery of the notion of risk, especially tactics. Training in individual daring, well conducted through various training courses, is the foundation of this training. But it must be put into perspective with the leader's vocation to integrate into a command system. There is a twofold challenge here: on the one hand, to ensure the transition from the personal to the collective level; on the other hand, to adapt the influence of concepts from the business world (risk management) to military specificity. Building mutual trust, managing errors (leaving the right to make mistakes but also knowing how to account for them), understanding the problems of the higher level and its environment, precisely measuring its margins for action... can be the subject of specific training, and even of specific training, the initiation of which could be facilitated by the resources of the simulation before progressing towards real-life situations. Finally, it seems essential to develop the taste of chefs for the specific training of their managers and to preserve time dedicated to this activity. In this way, the command structure reinforces both its collective competence and mutual knowledge.

The development of subsidiarity also involves organisational measures. From a structural point of view, no single model can guarantee subsidiarity by itself. A pyramidal hierarchy has both the disadvantage of rigidity and the advantage of a clear identification of the leaders, the different levels and their relationships. Matrix structures, which appear to be more flexible, can lead to a dilution of authority or creeping centralization. The challenge is therefore more in defining decision-making circuits, for which a more benevolent view of local initiatives probably needs to be taken. The recent measures taken in the field of human resources management to strengthen the prerogatives of heads of corps are, in this respect, encouraging. At the operational level, the organisation of decision-making circuits in the sense of subsidiarity could be based on the formulation of a doctrine for the employment of the SIOCs. This should not be conceived as a simple technical manual or a straitjacket, but as a guide for a reasoned use of the means of digitisation in accordance with the real capacities of each level. In this respect, it might also be relevant, particularly from the perspective of the SCORPION IWG, to review the correlation between the level of command and the means to be commanded. The example of joint detachments (DIA, Level 6 ad hoc joint structure ) already raises this question in terms of the limits in the number of pieces to be commanded and the technical possibilities for integration. While SCORPION should improve these, the skills and cognitive load inherent in the use of sophisticated combat assets should increase. This could constrain the current logic of inter-service articulation[25].

Finally, referring to a structuring choice necessarily refers to the management of resources. Since one of the cornerstones of the principle of subsidiarity is trust, it is important that it be fostered in practice, both to reassure the delegating leader and to encourage the subordinate to take a share of the initiative. Individually, robust functional protection is a first guarantee; it is one of the challenges for the future of military interventions on national territory. Collectively, it would be desirable to set a minimum level of permanence in the contact management. One of the levers for reaching this threshold could be created by greater flexibility in the conduct of individual training courses in order to reduce the operational unavailability that they sometimes generate, which can be penalising at the level of elementary units. Finally, contrary to macroscopic optimization logics, giving substance to subsidiarity necessarily involves allocating human and material resources to leaders who are supposed to use their spirit of initiative[26]. The current reflections on the reform of park management and employment policy is a first step in this direction, which could be amplified as the SCORPION program unfolds.

In order for a mechanism to work, it is necessary to have some play in it. Similarly, and even more so in the context of a human enterprise characterized by chaos and uncertainty, it seems coherent to preserve intervals that allow the potential of each stakeholder to be deployed. This is true for the physical manoeuvre, but also for the intellectual sphere where the confrontation of wills is just as much at stake. This "intellectual game" can be created within the military hierarchy by a clearly established subsidiarity, whose command by objectives provides a matrix adapted to operational commitments.

For several years now, the Army has been demonstrating its tactical qualities: adaptation, reactivity, and aptitude for combining different weapons. These are all assets that enable them to rely on the leaders' capacity for initiative. However, several factors can make this bet less obvious. Resolutely adopting a style based explicitly on subsidiarity therefore means making the most of the potential already acquired, but also preventing or mitigating constraints of all kinds that lead to passivity and rigidity in command.

Behind the "miracle" of Guderian's breakthrough at Sedan in 1940, there are above all almost 150 years of military thought and practice. Rather than a transposition without adaptation of German methods, it is the maturation and constancy indispensable to the formation of a style of command that history offers us as a lesson.

Saint-cyrien of the promotion "General Vanbremeersch" (2001-04), squadron leader Christophe MAURIN served in the 1st spahis regiment from 2005 to 2012 as platoon leader, deputy officer and squadron commander. During this period, he was projected several times in Africa and Afghanistan. In 2016-17, he is a trainee of the 130th promotion of the Joint Superior Course and projected in Kuwait as military assistant to the General Senior National Theatre Representative (SNR France) to the Inherent Resolve coalition. In September 2017, he joined the 25th class of the War School.

At the end of the Special Military School of Saint-Cyr, promotion "General Vanbremeersch" (2001-2004), Battalion Commander LEHMULLER chose the parachutists "Colonial" parachutists, occupying all the positions from section chief to unit commander, he was projected four times in Africa and the Middle East. Between 2009 and 2011, he served in the Martinique Adapted Military Service Regiment . Assigned to Headquarters, he held a position as a dealing officer at the Land Operational Staff and then at the JGS before joining the 25th class of the War School in September 2017.

Saint-cyrien of the promotion "General de Galbert" (2002-2005), Squadron Leader JAILLET chose artillery. He spent his entire first part of his career at the 68th African Artillery Regiment where he commanded the 1st firing battery between 2012 and 2014. Assigned in 2014 to the Military Schools of Saumur, he was an artillery instructor officer and then an officer dealing with the Command of the Joint Combat Schools (COMECIA) from 2016. He is a trainee of the 1st session of the 130th promotion of the Joint Superior Course.

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  • Foch Ferdinand, "Principles of Warfare", Economica, 2007.
  • Goya Michel, "Flesh and Steel, the French Army and the Invention of Modern Warfare"Tallandier, 2004.
  • Goya Michel, "Res militaris"Économica, 2nd edition, 2011.
  • Hubin Guy, "Tactical Perspectives"Économica, 2003.
  • Keegan John, "The art of leadership"Perrin, 2006.
  • Laurent Boris, "General Patton's Secret Notebooks"New World, 2015.
  • Malaparte Curzio, "Kaputt", Ed. Casella, 1944.
  • Mc Chrystal Stanley, "Team of teams"Portfolio Penguins, 2015.
  • Van Creveld Martin, "Command in war"Harvard University Press, 1985.
  • Yakovleff Michel, "Theoretical Tactics"Economica, 2006.

1] Literal meaning of the German term Auftragstaktik.

2] CEMAT from 1975 to 1980, in preface to L' exercice du commandement dans l'armée de Terre, 1980.

3] FT-05 Command Exercise in Operations for Tactical Leaders, page 26-27.

4] "There are often situations in which the officer must act on his or her own feeling. It would be a grave mistake for him to want to wait for orders at frequent times when none can be given", Generalfeldmarschall Helmut von Moltke .

5] Marshal Foch, "Principles ofWarfare", Economica, 2007.

6] Other terms coexisted during this period (1891-1914) to designate similar concepts: freies Verfahren, freie Taktik, Auftragsverfahren , Initiativverfahren,....

7] Colonel Michel Goya, "Lachair et l'acier", Tallandier, 2004.

8] The Young Turks are a tendency ( of the Radical Party which, in theinter-war period, campaigned for a renewal of their party doctrine and, beyond that, for a modernization of French society and the institutions of the Third Republic.

9] Quote attributed to Philippe Pétain, Marshal of France.

10] In particular in the tactical command manual Truppenführung ( 1933).

11 ] Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Arbarétier, "L'école dela guerre SEDAN 1940", Économica, 2012.

12] Or balagan meurgen, an expression here borrowed from the term Tsahal.

13] Robert Allan Doughty, "Thebreaking point: Sedan and the fall of France, 1940", cited by V. Arbarétier, op. cit. p. 94.

14] In "Command in war", Harvard University Press, 1985.

15] In "Non-TechnicalMilitary Innovation: The Prussian General Staff and Professional Military Education", 14 September 2016, available online at

16] See also Colonel Michel Goya, "Resmilitaris" , Économica, 2nd edition, 2011, chap. 22 "La résistance au changement. The example of the American submariners".

17] In "Kaputt", chap.2"Horse Kingdom",ed. Casella, 1944

18] By analogy with distributed denial of service cyber-attacks, which consist of "converging requests from multiple computers [...] on a site, so as to obstruct and overload that service and thus temporarily disable it"; ref.O. Kempf, "Introduction to e-Strategy", Economica, 2012.

19] In M. Goya, "Resmilitaris" , Economica, 2nd edition, 2011, chap. 11 "Savoir et croire pouvoir: l'illusion post-industrielle américaine".

20] As the British doctrine states in its definition of mission command, translation of command by objectives; ref: General Desportes, "Deciding in Uncertainty", Economica,2007.

21] "Orders must be short and say "what to do, not how to do it? An order must be considered as a memorandum and an assumption of responsibility by the one who gives it". Extract from the instructions of General G.S. Patton to the US 3rd Army, March 6, 1944, quoted in "Carnets secrets du général Patton",presented and annotated by Boris Laurent, Nouveau Monde, 2015.

22] Example: the initial training of officers is subject to ISO 9001 certification.

23] General Krulak, USMC, The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Blocs war, in Marine Corps Gazette, January 1999.

24] William Edwards Deming, was a 20th century American statistician, professor, author, and consultant. Although his name is attached to the notion of quality, his teaching concerns all the components of corporate management.

25] On this subject, see Colonel Hubin, "Perspectivestactiques", Economica , 2009, chap. 10: "Tactical action will always be broken down into three main functions: design, conduct and execution, each of the levels of command being dedicated to serving one of these functions".

26] See M. Goya, "Resmilitaris", Economica , second edition, 2011, chap. 15 "General Creech and the Reform of Tactical Air Command".


Regards croisés - Stakes of the evolutions and perspectives of the command style in armies and stakes of managerial transformations in companies; the case of the group Renault™.

While General Lagarde defines the three components of command by forecasting, ordering and controlling, the industry has developed a management method known as PDCA (plan-do-check-act) illustrated by the Deming wheel, a continuous improvementmodel used in quality management. The similarity of the sequence of actions calls out.

Faced with a constantly changing world (technological, societal, environmental...), the company and its management system are constantly evolving: what parallels with the notions of leadership of tomorrow?

In a company, the leader must be the bearer of a strategic vision that gives meaning and must be able to be applied at all levels. It sets all employees in motion towards the same goal. As an example, the "Drive theChange" plan, designed to meet two objectives - to ensure the group's growth and to generate sustainable free cash flow - sums up the ambition of Renault™. Like a regiment, everyone is aware within the structure of his or her objectives and mission.

While the leader states and embodies the group's values, the team must also demonstrate behaviour in line with them. Renault has adopted a common management reference framework, the Renault™ Management Way. Drawn up by the Group Executive Committee in 2009, it defines the roles, rules of conduct and mindset expected of managers: loyalty, transparency, openness, diversity, etc. To ensure convergence of these practices, the company promotes continuous training. Naturally, individual responsibility and trust do not exclude control.

Accountability is crucial in order to face together the challenges of speed, unforeseen events and conflicts that affect both the military and industrial spheres. Environmental scanning also plays a crucial role. In industry it can be carried out through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, risks, opportunities), which is enriched by feedback and benchmarks. Looking at the context is a key element in avoiding blind spots.

Once the analysis has been carried out, the aim is to win. In the industry, winning means gaining market share. This requires innovation, capturing trends and, sometimes, "thinking out of the box". A permanent questioning seems to be essential today as digital and connectivity develop at increasing speed, making enemies polymorphic (competitors, industrial espionage, hackers, cybercrime...). In both military and industrial environments, risk management is becoming increasingly important.

Joining forces to be stronger is just as relevant in the context of a conflict (intelligence, armed force) as it is in the industrial sector. Created in 1999, the Renault-Nissan™ Alliance is an original partnership between two major manufacturers in the automotive industry. It is a unique model due to its longevity, its integration model and the synergies implemented. An essential element is the respect of the two independent brands to avoid cannibalization or redundancy between vehicles. The cross-shareholding model guarantees mutual interest for both partners and encourages them to adopt "win-win" strategies.

In conclusion, the military command style and the corporate management style are subject to very similar success factors and constraints. The leader becomes a man (or a woman!) "increased" thanks to new technologies; he sets objectives, leaving his troops free to take the initiative and act, and controls their results. He is at the same time a leader of men, a scout and a manager.

Ms. Géraldine Soulié

An INSA mechanical engineer, Mrs. Géraldine SOULIÉ began her career in 1997 with two major automotive suppliers in France and Germany in the Quality and Purchasing departments. In 2002, she joined the Renault Group and held various management positions in Quality and Engineering. In September 2012, she will join the Group's Executive Management, where she currently holds the position of Executive Vice President. She was an auditor at the first session of the 130th class of the Cours supérieur interarmes.

Title : The style of command in armies since the 18th century: developments and perspectives for command concepts
Author (s) : le Chef d’escadrons Christophe MAURIN, le Chef de bataillon Vincent LEHMULLER, le Chef d’escadron Rémy JAILLET, Madame Géraldine