Self-Directed Work Teams and The Science of Victory (Nauka Pobezhadt)
* At Kinburn (1787), Suvorov and 3000 Russians defended a position against 5000 Turks. Under contemporary standards, Suvorov would have won by denying the position to the Turks, which he could have done by opposing their amphibious landing. Suvorov allowed the Turks to disembark instead, for his objective was not merely to stop them, but to destroy them! The Turkish marines suffered between 70 and 90 percent casualties, while the Russians lost fewer than 10 percent.
Suvorov wrote in his The Science of Victory (Nauka Pobezhadt) (Longworth, 1965, 220), "Training is light, and lack of training is darkness. The problem fears the expert. If a peasant doesn't know how to plow, he can't grow bread. A trained man is worth three untrained: that's too little- say six- six is too little- say ten to one. We will beat them all, roll them up, take them prisoner! In the last campaign the enemy lost 75,000 counted, but more like 100,000 in fact. He fought with skill and desperation, but we didn't even lose 500. You see, lads! Military training! Gentlemen, what a marvelous thing it is!" Our book, Self-Directed Work Teams: A Trainer's Role in the Transition, devotes an entire section to training in the business environment: "The Importance of Training: Using the Trust-Leadership-Competancy Model."
In a battle, especially in Suvorov's day, the commander could see little and control less. There were no radios, and messages had to be carried by horse. A football coach can see the entire field, but the players have to adapt quickly to changing conditions. The coach cannot send in instructions once the action starts. In a complex factory or service environment, the CEO cannot be everywhere at once. The salaried support people ("officers") cannot be everywhere at once. This points to a model that is very different from chess. A merely competent tactician with a good organization will probably beat a tactical genius who is leading a mediocre organization. Also, a merely competent tactician who is an organizational development expert will, in the long run, beat the tactical genius who cannot develop a first-class organization. The best business planner in the world cannot succeed unless he or she has an organization that can carry out the plans.
Suvorov realized that "…even the smallest unit must be prepared to act on its own as well as in unison. …Every corporal had, if necessary, to be general of his own line of men. It also demanded much more even of the private soldier in terms of offensive spirit and battle sense" (Longworth, 1966, 215). To make these capabilities reality, Suvorov drilled his soldiers relentlessly. We cannot overemphasize the importance of training, and a chapter in Self-Directed Work Teams covers it in detail. Suvorov did not regard his soldiers as mindless automata, or chess pieces. He realized that the frontline soldier (worker) was the keystone of organizational success.
Now consider some famous books that have become popular in the business community, like Sun Tzu's The Art of War, Carl von Clausewitz' On War, Machiavelli's The Prince, and Miyamoto Musashi's A Book of Five Rings. Their intended audiences are the "management caste." Sun Tzu used his Art of War to gain an audience, and employment as a general, with Ho Lu , the King of Wu. Machiavelli gave his book to a prince of a Renaissance Italian city-state. Suvorov's The Science of Victory, was "…the first known written record on the art of war intended not only for officers but for every serving man" (Longworth, 1966, 220). This was like writing a business management book to be understandable by factory workers.
Jay Luvaas' Frederick the Great on the Art of War reveals the deficiencies of Frederick's approach in the king's own words. In the chapter, "The Anatomy of a Battle," Frederick decrees, "If any soldier should attempt to run away during battle and should set as much as one foot outside his rank, the noncommissioned officer standing to his rear shall run him through with the short sword and kill him on the spot." "If the cavalry moved out for the attack are repulsed without having done their duty, as at Mollwitz, the grenadiers are to fire on them even if they have to shoot them down to the last man." "The King hereby forbids all cavalry officers, under penalty of being cashiered [sacked], ever to allow themselves to be attacked by the enemy in any action. Prussians must always attack the enemy." In the chapter, "Frederick and the Art of War," Luvaas quotes Frederick, "Good will can never induce the common soldier to stand up to such dangers; he will do so only through fear [of his own officers]." Joseph Stalin invoked the memory of Suvorov during the Second World War, but resorted to Frederick's motivational techniques; he ordered "blocking units" to shoot soldiers who yielded ground to the Germans.
Unfortunately for Russia, Catherine the Great's successor Paul I adopted the worst elements of Frederick's management methods. These included flogging soldiers for the slightest offenses and even marching an entire regiment off to Siberia for displeasing the Tsar in some manner. "Blind obedience became the supreme law." Paul finally dismissed Suvorov in 1800, largely because Suvorov was reluctant to implement these policies in his army.
Frederick also had a problem with employee retention,
for he wrote, "When the battalion marches, it must leave all of its lodgings
simultanously. This is a good precaution against desertion." He also discusses
precautions like the use of cavalry patrols to prevent soldiers from deserting.
"In battle there was a constant need to keep the men under strict supervision,
which discouraged the employment of skirmishers in loose formations. The
precautions that Frederick had to take to avoid desertion augmented the
difficulties of pursuing a beaten enemy after dark, greatly reduced the
number of night marches, were an important factor in determining the order
of march and the security of camps, and increased the dangers involved
While Suvorov also insisted on military discipline, his preferred method for promoting it was far different from Frederick's. Per The Science of Victory (from Ossipov, 1945, Suvorov): "In war morale is of immense importance. The principal weapon is the man. All the men must strive for victory and understand how to achieve it. 'Every soldier must understand his maneuver.'" Today, "every worker must understand his or her job." Suvorov "detested stupidity and blind routine and did all in his power to make the men think for themselves." Ossipov writes, "In striking contrast to the rule of Frederick II of converting soldiers into automata, Suvorov's system was based on the development of the soldiers' intelligence and their understanding of the tasks they were called upon to perform."
In contrast to statements like, "I'm a sergeant [foreman],
they don't pay me to think," Suvorov detested Nichtwissers ("know-nothings"
or "I-don't-know-Sirs"), i.e. people who were unwilling to take responsibility
for thinking for themselves. Some of his practices seemed very eccentric
to anyone who didn't understand their underlying purpose. Suvorov once
asked a private on the parade ground a seemingly crazy question: "How many
stars are there in the sky?" The private answered, "I don't know, but I'll
count them at once!" The man actually began to count stars until the cold
induced Suvorov to move on; the private's answer delighted him. The question
would have daunted that era's most prominent astronomers, to say nothing
of a possibly illiterate soldier, but Suvorov didn't care whether the answer
was scientific. The soldier's immediate willingness to try to find an
answer is what pleased Suvorov.
Gemba means being where the action is. It is in stark
contrast to the MBA financial analyst, let alone the executive, who would
be horrified at the mere idea of walking into a factory and talking with
blue-collar workers. Imai suggests that, while some of these executives
and managers are ashamed to be seen in gemba (recall Byron's derision of
Suvorov for performing "a corporal's duty" by drilling soldiers himself),
others are afraid to go to gemba because it might reveal their ignorance
of what happens there! Byron's poem continues,
Before a company of Calmucks, drilling,
Exclaiming, fooling, swearing at the inert,
And lecturing on the noble art of killing, …
Suvorov also instituted principle-centered leadership, and as much self-direction as was consistent with military discipline. "Suvorov was no believer in unwitting compliance with orders. A soldier had to understand what he did, know what his commander wanted" (Longworth, 1966, 216). This is organizational alignment. "When individuals clearly understand the 'big picture' purpose and future of your organization, identify the core values that it professes and supports in practice, and then embrace those commitments as their own, the foundation is laid upon which your high-performance culture is built" (Covey, 1996). Suvorov deliberately created such an organization. Remember that his Science of Victory was for everyone, not just the bosses.
During Suvorov's campaign in the Swiss Alps, the French broke the Devil's Bridge— the only bridge across a river in the confined mountain paths. The Russian soldiers dismantled a nearby barn, lashed the planks together with officers' sashes, and used them to repair the break under enemy fire. There was obviously no way to ask Suvorov, or even a high-ranking officer, for directions under these conditions. These soldiers, however, had been conditioned to use judgment and initiative: to think. Had their training not empowered them, they would have had to wait for the Russian engineering troops. This is like the production crew that has to wait for the equipment repairer.
Even Suvorov's funeral was a testament to the organization he had developed. The pallbearers and his coffin would not fit through the chapel's narrow archway. The bearers stopped and tried to figure out how to overcome the problem. While they were struggling, some grenadiers who had served under the marshal pushed their way through the priests. They shouted, "Suvorov must pass everywhere," lifted the coffin onto their heads (thus reducing the procession's width), and carried it through the arch. Suvorov was therefore carried to his final resting place by a self-directed work team in the year 1800- more than a century and a half before management science rediscovered the concept.
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