In this episode, I talk to Tony Ingesson about why the Swedish army was viewed as trigger-happy and insubordinate during the Bosnia war and was celebrated as war heroes, whereas the very disciplined and professional Dutch army forced the entire Dutch government to ultimately resign.
In this episode we cover some of the following topics:
- Why other countries and politicians viewed the Swedish army as a bunch of trigger-happy and insubordinate mavericks during the Bosnia war
- How their actions and maverick attitude led them to save over 200 civilian lives
- Why the actions of the very disciplined and professional Dutch army led the entire Dutch government to resign and the insubordinate Swedish army to be viewed as war heroes
- Where the insubordinate behavior of the Swedish army originated from and how the Swedish military culture of mission command differs from that of other armies
- Why a high degree of autonomy makes sense for certain scenarios and units
- How decisions are made in the military and what types of leadership styles are used for which units
- Why the UN didn’t allow the peacekeeping soldiers to shoot back, despite being attack and tasked with protecting civilians
- The former nuclear submarine captain David Marquet advocated that you shouldn’t push information up to authority, but instead push authority down to information (meaning your employees).
- The way you can implement this is exemplified by the quote from the CEO of a Chinese white-label manufacturer called Haier:
“In the past, employees waited to hear from the boss, now they listen to the customer.”
- What this means is, that markets today move at a much faster and uncertain pace than say 50 years ago. By the time all the information about the market, customers, competitors, and so on move up through the hierarchy the market and customers have already moved on. Thus, it only makes sense to give your employees the freedom, trust, and autonomy they need in order to quickly respond to change in the market.
- It's very odd that no matter the type of context or environment (military or not) the same type of hierarchical command and control structure is used (top-down decisions with strict adherence to rules and regulations).
- This assumes that the CEO at the top has all the information and intelligence to make the “best” decision at any given moment, even if it’s an environment that has a high degree of uncertainly. This reminds us of one of Parkinson’s laws:
Delay is the deadliest form of denial.
- The environment and context you’re in should dictate what culture, people, organization, and resources you need in order to most effectively accomplish your objectives. You should never use a one-size-fits-all approach - to anything in life. Instead look at why a tool, method, or mindset is being used and why along with the context in which it’s utilized.
- It should be common practice in large organizations that rules are allowed to be broken as long as it is done to achieve the overall objective. If certain rules hinder your employees from achieving their objectives, they should be allowed to break them - no questions asked.
- Because remember, rules don’t exist for their own benefit, but to generally make things run smoother. Well…unless you’re a bureaucrat of course.
- First and foremost, this requires that you trust your employees and give them the autonomy that they need so they can make the best possible decisions.
- This in turn will lead your employees to make mistakes, which you should not punish, as this will create very passive and risk-averse employees. And in the worst case, they’ll become spineless politicians or managers that completely lack any sense of ownership and responsibility - so people we all love to hate.
- If you’re not willing to do that, then why the hell did you hire your employees in the first place if you don’t fully trust them to do the right thing and occasionally make mistakes and learn from them?
- Now granted, for managers this isn’t an easy task, as they have to grasp the fact that their role has to fundamentally change in this type of environment. And they will have to give up authority and power and a false sense of control. Because tet’s be honest, we’re never really in full control of anything.
- This power and control often take the form of titles, positions, and so forth that often represent the influence and for some, they are status symbols. For many senior managers that are not an easy thing to give up, especially when they’re so accustomed to it. So they will also have a steep learning curve ahead of them.
Links & Resources Mentioned
- Wikipedia: Bosnian War
- The Strategy Bridge: Trigger-Happy, Autonomous, and Disobedient: Nordbat 2 and Mission Command in Bosnia
- The Seattle Times: Assertive Swedes Play Tough Guy In Bosnia -- Most U.N. Troops Use Other Tactics
- Dissertation: The Politics of Combat - The Political and Strategic Impact of Tactical-Level Subcultures, Tony Ingesson
- Greyhound (Movie Trailer)
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This podcast looks at innovators and companies that are changing the game and how they took their initial idea and created a game-changing product or service, while giving you unique perspectives and insights you’ve probably haven’t heard elsewhere.
David and his guests discuss real-world practical advice on how to best harness the creativity of your employees and go from idea to product or service that has the potential to radically transform your business.
They also share lessons they’ve learned along the way to effectively accelerate, incubate and scale innovations within small, medium and large enterprises, all while separating hype from reality and replacing bullshit bingo with common sense.
The show is hosted by David C. Luna, author, keynote speaker and founder of GAMMA Digital & Beyond.
The Innovational Correctness Podcast by GAMMA Digital & Beyond, David C. Luna is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on a work at gammabeyond.com/en/podcast/. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by contacting us here.