Archive for the ‘How to develop adaptability’ Category


Summary:  The outline for today’s post comes from the youngest member of the FM website’s staff, a Corporal of the USMC.  He’s completed one tour in Afghanistan and will deploy again in 2011.  Here he describes a dark side to one of the most popular science fiction books of the past 20 years, widely read by members of the US military.  Ender’s Game contains inspiration for both the best and worst leadership philosophies in today’s USMC.

The USMC professional reading program includes Ender’s Game, perhaps science fiction writer Orson Scott Card’s greatest work.  It contains a powerful dramatization of current Corps doctrine, but it also holds a hidden vision for many Generals.   See Wikipedia for a summary of the book.   Go here to see the full text of the original short story (Analog, August 1977); the book-length version was published in 1985.  It won the Nebula and Hugo awards.

From the USMC discussion guides (here and here):

Ender’s Game is more than about the difficulty and excitement that competition provides in preparing for combat. There are lessons in training methodology, leadership, and ethics as well. Such richness in range and treatment has made Card’s book an oft-read and re-read title for many years; Ender’s Game has been a stalwart item on the Marine Corps Reading List since its inception. then Captain John Schmitt, author of FMFM-1 Warfighting (a foundational book on Marine maneuver warfare doctrine, now published as MCDP 1) used it to teach.

… Winning wars depends on the quality of the people you put into battle. Start with smart people, train them in imaginative and challenging ways, and ensure you force decision making authority down to the person with superior awareness of the tactical situation.

… Ender’s Game was published at the same time Marines started reading The Maneuver Warfare Handbook.  We have since institutionalized maneuver warfare into the Marine Corps. The challenge to every generation of Marines is to continue to live up to what Maneuver Warfare philosophy demands of them.



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Dragging the U.S. Military Culture into the 21st Century

13 August 2010 tags: , , , , by don

Summary:  Our soldiers fight using 21st century weapons but ancient methods.  Under the stress of a decade-long and running long war against adaptive but poorly equipped enemies, our military slowly evolves from its WWI doctrines (massed firepower, 2GW), towards methods used by the Wehrmacht in WWII ( maneuver war, 3GW).  The origin of these doctrines lies in the century following Prussia’s defeat in the Napoleonic Wars.  Here Donald Vandergriff describes what’s happening and why it is necessary.


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The Historical Linkage by Dave Shunk, Small Wars Journal, August 3, 2010 How German Captain Willy Rohr changed infantry tactics, weapons and doctrine within the World War One German Army is a remarkable story. He succeeded in his task as a result of the German Army’s ideas of operational adaptability, mission command and decentralized authority. This paper presents by historical example the basic ideas and inherent power in the Army Capstone Concept based on the German model.

But first, a few Capstone Concept definitions as a baseline reference…. Operational adaptability requires a mindset based on flexibility of thought calling for leaders at all levels who are comfortable with collaborative planning and decentralized execution, have a tolerance for ambiguity, and possess the ability and willingness to make rapid adjustments according to the situation. Operational adaptability is essential to developing situational understanding and seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative under a broad range of conditions. Operational adaptability is also critical to developing the coercive and persuasive skills the Army will need to assist friends, reassure and protect populations, and to identify, isolate, and defeat enemies. 5

So how did the Germany Army of World War One use decentralization, mission command, and operational adaptability to create infiltration tactics and revolutionize infantry tactics in World War I? The story revolves around a Captain Willy Rohr. Dave Shunk is a retired USAF colonel, B-52G pilot, and Desert Storm combat veteran whose last military assignment was as the B-2 Vice Wing Commander of the 509th Bomb Wing, Whitman AFB, MO. Currently, he is a historical researcher and DA civilian working in the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC), Fort Monroe, Virginia. He has a National Security Strategy MS from the National War College.

Read article: http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/487-shunk.pdf


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Today’s Training and Education (Development) Revolution: The Future is Now
by Donald E. Vandergriff (Land Warfare Paper No. 76, April 2010) 
Discusses the changes the Army is making to its educational system to provide Soldiers with the best tools for success on the battlefield. Today’s highly complex operations have emphasized the importance of quality decisionmaking at junior levels. Even with modern command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities, the noncommissioned officer or junior officer on the ground sometimes has the best situational awareness and thus is likely to make the best decision—but only if he or she is equipped, intellectually and culturally, to properly assess the situation and creatively arrive at the best solution. Adaptability, critical thinking and creativity have become critical skills for modern Soldiers. The Army’s new approach, Outcomes-Based Training & Education (OBT&E), is an educational philosophy that teaches both basic skills and aids the development of leaders, using the Combat Applications Training Course (CATC ) and the Adaptive Leader Methodology (ALM). These new training and education tools will produce the kind of flexible, adaptable Soldiers and leaders the modern battlefield demands.

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HSTV Presents: Leadership 101

[1] Leadership 101 For Homeland Security Professionals. HSTV talks to Donald E. Vandergriff, a leader development expert, and Terry Shear, the Vice Consul for Homeland Security at the British Embassy about the issues surrounding leadership development in homeland security.

Starts March 1

The type of leadership methodology that military, first responders, law enforcement and security should be practicing is adaptive leadership. Adaptive leadership is a method of leadership that is constant and all encompassing. All encompassing not in the sense of let’s all sit around, hold hands and hope things work out, instead in the real sense of lets create and nurture the proper climate and culture that breeds mutual trust and cohesion. Allowing an organization to adapt and deal with any problem as it unfolds. This includes prevention efforts and response abilities. Developing superior individual and collective situational awareness through constant analysis, synthesis and experimentation in a given set of circumstances overrides any plan due to an ability to adapt on the fly, individually and collectively.

“…Experimentation is not a destination to be reached, but an unending process of trial, feedback, learning, renewal and experimentation again. The organization as a whole is agile, ready to learn, continually changing and improving. It is fast, flexible and never prepared to say: “We have not finished getting better.” Innovative organizations depend less on forecasting, planning and control and more on scanning, agility and feedback. Innovative organizations embrace uncertainty, recognizing that an uncertain future potentially holds as many opportunities as it does threats.” ~Brig.Gen. David Fastabend and Robert Simpson

Leadership is a daily activity, not just an event activity. Adaptive Leaders, lead daily by interacting with, training and developing their people and themselves for the conventional and unconventional threats and problems foreseen and unforeseen.

Leadership 101 video series will be well worth viewing.

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This is very very good, and I highly recommend it.


A collaborative effort of Homeland Security Television and Law Enforcement and Security Consulting, Inc produced a new training video, Are Police Officers Ready For The Next Generation of Active Shooters?

HSTV explores law enforcement’s preparedness for the Next Generation of active shooter threats. Featuring law enforcement training expert, Fred Leland of Law Enforcement Security Consulting Inc., you’ll be surprised by what you learn.

You can view the two part program that starts this Sunday night, January 31st 2010 at 7PM at HSTV and

http://www.lesc.Net . Part 1 Active Shooter 2.1

The evolution of active shooter response and the problems that must still be overcome.

Part 2 Active Shooter 2.1

The art and science of active shooter response.

We look forward to your feedback and comments on part one of the series.

Stay oriented! Fred

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DON VANDERGRIFF: On Adaptive Leadership Posted

15 Dec 2009 10:29 AM PST

Obviously, warfare and conflict in the 21st Century present new challenges. It’s not only hideously complex, mercurial, and lightning fast — it’s an environment where missteps or brain dead actions of an individual or small group can unwind the work of an entire Army within hours. The solution to these challenges isn’t achieved by: automating new layers of oversight/controls on individual behavior or hermetically sealing off the organization’s members from the outside world or developing ever more complex doctrines that appear to solve every contingency.

Instead, the answer is to train leaders to think adaptively.

* So, how do you accomplish this? How do you train leaders to think adaptively?

** The best answer I have found so far is found in the work of Don Vandergriff.

He’s done more deep thinking and generated more experience actually training adaptive leaders than anybody else.

Here’s some links to his work on the topic:

First, his books:

The Path to Victory America’s Army and the Revolution in Human Affairs

Raising the Bar Creating and Nurturing Adaptability to Deal with the Changing Face of War

Manning the Future Legions of the United States Finding and Developing Tomorrow’s Centurions

Here are some articles that use his adaptive leadership training methodology.

Assembly Article: No Approved Solutions for Asymmetric Warfare (Foster)

OBTE: Defining the Aim Point for Reconnaissance Leader Training

* I could go into a long explanation for why this is so, but frankly Don does a better job than I would. ** I consider adaptive thinking is a requirement for all 21st Century organizations — corporate, military, agency, NGO, or insurgent . Even further: the best organizations make adaptive thinking a requirement for ALL of its members.

Here’s his contact info for more info:



CELL: 571-229-0962

EMAIL: vandergriffdonald AT usa.net

WEB: http://www.donvandergriff.com

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