- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I first read the passage below, I thought Patton was writing about mission command. But as I typed this in, I began to wonder if he simply is prescribing rote learning of a military repertoire. What think you?
From the same 1932 paper I quoted the other day:
The successful use of such [small, mobile, self-contained] units will depend on giving great initiative to all leaders in actual command of men.
. . . Under such circumstances the solution of the command problem would seem to rest in using the method called by the British: "The Nelsonian Method," or by our Navy, the method of "Indoctrinated initiative."
This system is based on the belief that the: "Best is the enemy of the Good." That a simple mediocre solution applied instantly is better than a perfect one which is late or complicated.
Among leaders of whatever rank there are three types: 10 percent Genius; 80 percent Average; and 10 percent Fools. The average group is the critical element in battle. It is better to give such men several simple alternative solution which, by repeated practice, they can independently apply than it is to attempt to think for them via the ever fallible means of signal communications."