Military Quality Institute

Quality Leadership as Maneuver Warfare

A Method of Instructing and Implementing "Total Quality Leadership" in the Armed Forces


Law or Lip Service?
"Quality", as it is understood in the context of the teachings of Dr. W. Edwards Deming (often referred to as "Total Quality Management" (TQM) or "Total/Army Quality Leadership" (T/AQL)), is in trouble in the US Armed Forces. Not, properly speaking, a doctrine, but rather, an all-encompassing culture of productivity; "Quality Leadership" has been demonstrated to be a superior method of synergistically harnessing the human resources of any organization to better accomplish its missions.  It has been endorsed by the executive branch of the federal government, mandated by Congress, and adopted by the Department of Defense and the Departments of the various Armed Services.  Yet, in spite of the usually dedicated, competent, and creative efforts undertaken to promulgate it within the armed forces it is being widely rejected by many of the middle- and lower-level leaders whom it is designed to benefit.

The reasons for this rejection are many and varied.  They include the notion that this is but the most recent of a series of leadership "fads", and that it can safely be depended upon to disappear if ignored.  Some imagine that they are already “doing” Quality.  Many are skeptical that Quality can really work as advertised.  Some fear that it is an invitation to anarchy.  Others fear risk to their careers and their personal status resulting from such an ambitious "paradigm shift".  Many feel that the present system is good enough, and (in the absence of a crises) there is no compelling reason to change.  The most prevalent and deep-rooted reason for this rejection is based on the fact that many cannot envision how the principles of Quality can be incorporated into, or even made compatible with, their roles as servicemen and women.  They see Quality as a culture for the office or factory, completely alien to their needs and duties, particularly on the battlefield.  They see Quality as being inherently "unsoldierly".

Quality Instructors, having little or no knowledge of any history of the application of Quality on the battlefield, are ill-equipped to address these objections.  In the absence of being able to transmit the principles of Quality in military terms, that servicemen can understand and appreciate, instructors might as well be teaching in a foreign language.  Similarly bereft, upper-level leadership is resorting to insisting upon the implementation of Quality, in the hope that those who practice it, even under compulsion, will eventually accept and appreciate it.  Because compulsory Quality is an oxymoron, and since middle- and lower-level leaders are necessarily experts at appearing to sup-port plans that they, in fact, do not (and because they tend to outlast their superiors), this approach is also doomed.

In short, in the absence of the adoption of an expedient that will effectively and thoroughly persuade servicemen at every level that Quality is not merely compatible with soldiering, but will actually enhance their ability to "soldier", Quality in the Armed Forces will unavoidably, yet needlessly, fail.

Talk the Soldier's Language
The only expedient that can remedy this, that can bridge the gap between hearing and understanding, that can trans-late the ideas that underlie Quality into a language that every serviceman can comprehend and appreciate, is the “doctrine” of  "Maneuver Warfare" (a term used, in this context, by the Marine Corps and, more recently, the Navy).

Students of Military History have noted and studied that "culture" of military organization, administration, logistics, training, and operations known as "Maneuver Warfare Doctrine".  This doctrine was initially developed and refined by Prussia/Germany between 1808 and 1945; and was subsequently adopted in its entirety by Israel, which has practiced it since its reemergence as an independent country in the 1940s (other countries have also adopted it (including the United States Marine Corps and Navy), but these are the only two for which extensive data pertaining to their use of it in combat is available).  It has been demonstrated, through sophisticated models of quantitative analysis, to be consistently significantly more combat-effective than the "Methodical Warfare Doctrine" developed by France in World War One, and subsequently adopted and refined by many other countries, notably the United States (the US Army, until recently, practiced it in the incarnation: "AirLand Battle").

Not Merely a Doctrine
Students of both Military History and Quality Leadership, have been impressed by the striking similarities between Quality and "Maneuver".  Each is an entire culture (indeed, the same culture), not merely a doctrine; and can be better understood through study of the other.  Each views leadership as an art more than a science, and is more a way of thinking about problems, than a rote formula for solving them.  Each is based upon an understanding of "Profound Knowledge” (theories of knowledge, systems, psychology, & variation in Quality; and maneuver theory, combined-arms theory, military psychology, & military history, in Maneuver).  Each is designed to maximize productivity (combat-effectiveness) by more fully (synergistically) using the human resources of an organization; and is based on driving “fear” (narrow self-interest, careerism) out of the decision-making process in favor of a broader appreciation (of organizational “purpose” in Quality, and the “Commander’s Intent” in Maneuver).  Each is based on using decentralization of the decision-making process to remove systemic barriers to initiative, creativity, and maximum performance, and to thereby unleash the full potential of the individual ("Empowerment" in Quality, and "Auftragstaktik", or "Mission-Oriented Tactics (or Orders)", in Maneuver).  Each is based upon speed (timely service to the customer in Quality, and tempo of operations in Maneuver); and on focus of attention on key individuals (serving the customer as opposed to the system in Quality, and neutralizing the enemy as opposed to seizing terrain in Maneuver).  Each is based upon identifying and addressing key problems in order of criticality (using analytical models in Quality; and the principle of "Schwerpunkt", or "Focus of Effort", in Maneuver).  Each is based upon identifying and accomplishing that which is most readily done first (again using analytical models in Quality, and the principle of "Flachen und Lucken", or "Surfaces and Gaps", in Maneuver).  Each emphasizes continuous (cyclical) improvement and innovation (using the models of the Shewhart Cycle in Quality, and the Boyd Cycle in Maneuver); and eschews rigid dogma.  Each offers (and delivers) otherwise unimaginable increases in productivity/com-bat-effectiveness.  To most economically, quickly, and surely achieve control over any situation involving the dynamics of human interaction (which includes all work and all warfare), each focuses its attention on, and tailors its efforts toward, the underlying causes of all human behavior: the mind and will, rather than needlessly wasting resources directly engaging (after-) effects (the results of a systemic problem in Quality, and enemy main/combat force deployments in Maneuver).  The parallels are limitless.  Each is a direct analog of the other, differing mainly in the environment for which it was designed (civilian in the case of Quality, and military in the case of Maneuver)

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