Along with BG (ret.) James Warner, I was invited by Dr. Patrick Cronin of the Institute for National Strategic Studies of the National Defense University to speak at a round table called “Building Adaptive Leaders.”
Here is a transcript of what I talked about (BG Warner focused on the operational and strategic levels of development, and our views parallel and support one another).
Warfare has evolved to the point that the central idea is that small unit leaders in direct contact with the enemy can see and react to situational changes much faster than could the more senior leaders in the rear. This occurs despite the advent of information technology. This technology laid over an Industrial age hierarchal force structure can make it tempting for leaders to micromanage. Thus, the decision cycle slows down. Small unit leaders who were once only concerned with choosing which battle drill now make decisions which have strategic implications.
The Army acknowledges the need for change. The Army has begun an evolution in the way we develop-train, educate, access, promote and select-leaders, specifically how do we evolve adaptability. In the past, the “Competency theory” of learning dominated course curriculums, and there remain signs of it continuing today in leader development. A good example of competency theory is “Leave no child behind.” It prescribes what to think and not how to think-“teaching the test.” Order and control are central to Programs of Instruction (POIs) that use the “Competency theory” as its foundation.
Leader development for Asymmetric war must be based on quality, not quantity, at every grade level. The rule should be, “Better no officer [leader] than a bad officer [leader].” Schools must constantly put students in difficult, unexpected situations, and then require them to decide and act under time pressure. Schooling must take students out of their “comfort zones.” Stress-mental and moral as well as physical-must be constant. War games, tactical decision games, map exercises, and free‑play field exercises must constitute bulk of the curriculum. Drill and ceremonies and adhering to “task, condition and standards” (task proficiency) in name of process are not important. Higher command levels overseeing officers’ and NCOs’ schools must look for courses adhering to a few principles, while allowing instructors to evolve their lesson plans using innovative teaching techniques and tools to an ever changing environment. Those leaders who successfully pass through the schools must continue to be developed by their commanders; learning cannot stop at the schoolhouse door.
Current research-the work of Dr. Robert Bjork at UCLA (2005)- tells us the most frequent type of decision making for leaders in a time critical environment is recognitional, which requires a large amount of experience. Research also tells us that competence in decision making is solidified by making a large number of decisions in a stressed environment (Vandergriff 2006). Leaders must understand that deciding when and how to close with an enemy may be the least important decision they make on an asymmetric battlefield. Instead, actions that builds and nurture positive relationships with a community, local leaders and children may be the defining factors for success, as well as the primary tools that contain an insurgency, build a nation, or stop genocide. True tactical prowess often entails co-opting the local population’s will while shattering the cohesion of Asymmetric adversaries.
Adaptive Leader Methodology (ALM)(known as Adaptive Course Model (ACM) in my book Raising the Bar) is a cultural change rather than a specific set list of exercises. ALM develops adaptability through the Rapid Decision Marking (RDM) process using the experiential learning model through scenario based learning. ALM is a system that promotes self-actualized learning via weakly structured situational problems. Additionally, ALM parallels the latest findings of the academic world in leader and cognitive development. The ALM program of instruction (POI) employs techniques that are “desirable difficulties” as pointed out by Dr. Robert Bjork in his keynote presentation at the TRADOC hosted “Science of Learning Workshop” August 1, 2006. ALM espouses institutionalized inductive reasoning in order to prepare leaders for the complex wars of the future.
The Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) II courses at Fort Sill, OK and Fort Benning, GA have been using ALM for the past 18 months. The last six months have intensified as the demand for information on ALM as well as the workshop “Deciding Under Pressure and Fast” that teaches ALM. Since January 2008 trips to brief ALM and conduct the workshop have been to San Diego, CA (Joint Conference on Military Ethics), Fort Huachuca, AZ; Fort Benning, GA; Fort Monroe, VA; Fort Knox, KY and the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, NY. ALM has become institutionalized as Lieutenant General Benjamin C. Freakley, Commander U.S. Army Accessions Command, signed a policy letter, dated 24 April 2008 titled “Basic officer Leader Course (BOLC) Policy and Guidance,” mandating ALM certification for BOLC instructors. The Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG) has also used ALM in its incentives, and it hosted an Adaptability Conference 3-4 June 2008 with Day 1 focusing on ALM’s workshop while day 2 focused on Outcome Based training.
With ALM being institutionalized by Accession’s Command, and now being used by BOLC II, the Department of Military Instruction (DMI) and Behavioral Science and Leadership (BS&L) courses at USMA, as well the beginning of implementation by several BOLC III and Captains Career courses, requests for the ALM workshop “Deciding Under Pressure and Fast” have increased. DMI at USMA has scheduled a certification of all new instructors in early August, followed by other workshops and lectures at Fort Huachuca, AZ; Fort Leonard Wood, MO, as well as a return to Fort Knox, KY to review and observe the use of ALM in the classroom and in the field.