Mission command, also referred to as mission-type tactics, is a style of military command, derived from the Prussian-pioneered mission-type tactics doctrine, which combines centralized intent with decentralized execution subsidiarity and promotes freedom and speed of action, and initiative, within defined constraints. Subordinates, understanding the commander's intentions, their own missions and the context of those missions, are told what effect they are to achieve and the reason why it needs to be achieved. They then decide within their delegated freedom of action how best to achieve their missions. Orders focus on providing intent, control measures, and objectives, allowing for greater freedom of action by subordinate commanders. Mission command is closely related to civilian management concept of workplace empowerment and its use in business has been explored by writers such as Bungay (2011) and Tozer (1995, 2012). It is advocated, but not always used, by the militaries of the United States, Canada, Netherlands, Australia and the United Kingdom. Mission command is compatible with modern military net-centric concepts, and less centralized approaches to command and control (C2) in general.
Originating from the Napoleonic corps concept, increasingly larger armies prevented movement en bloc. Commanders often separated by miles, communicating through horse-carried dispatches, were expected to maneuver in concert with one another. Beginning as early as 1807, the Prussian high command began to emphasize a battle philosophy that Moltke would later describe as:
A favourable situation will never be exploited if commanders wait for orders. The highest commander and the youngest soldier must be conscious of the fact that omission and inactivity are worse than resorting to the wrong expedient
Continued focus on tactical initiative at the lowest levels developed within the German army through the First World War and formally became Auftragstaktik during the Second World War. Despite the exceptional performance of the Wehrmacht at the tactical level, mission command was not adopted by NATO commanders until the 1970s.
- Build cohesive teams through mutual trust
- Create shared understanding
- Provide a clear commander’s intent
- Exercise disciplined initiative
- Use mission orders
- Accept prudent risk.
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- Storr, Jim. "A command philosophy for the information age: The continuing relevance of mission command". Defence Studies. 3 (3): 121. doi:10.1080/14702430308405081.
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- "ADRP 6-0" (PDF). armypubs.us.army.mil. Army Publications.