One of the central elements in the success of the Prussian/German army is Auftragstaktik, a tactical command concept that dates from the middle of the 19th century. In terms of management and organization it is still a very advanced management concept, with as characteristiscs quick and independent decisions making on the lowest levels, resulting in a very flexibile, agile and resilient organisation.


In this context the Germans paid particular attention to the psychological and sociological dimensions of army organizations. This should not suprise us as Germany is the cradle of these sciences. They attached great importance to elements such as group cohesion and had a clear picture of the leadership role of officers and noncommissioned officers in creating group cohesion and in the personal and professional development of the individual soldier. If we put everything together, the picture emerges of an organization that has achieved an optimal mix of the above and many other elements that we will describe on this site. This made the Prussian/German army an unprecedented powerful organization that in today's terms was extremely resilient and agile.

Contrary to the widely-held hero clichés about 'blind obedience', Kadavergehorsamkeit and Prussian discipline, the German Army had, from the time of Moltke the Elder at the latest, always emphasized the crucial importance of individual initiative and responsibility, even at the lowest levels.

Martin van Creveld


This does not mean that other armies could not reach the same level of battfefield performance. Examples of these are Evans Fordyce Carlson and his Raiders battalion in China and the 88th Infantry Division, fighting in Italy. The key to the succes of this division might be that its commander, John Emmitt Sloan, was educated at the U.S. Naval Academy (!). His style of leadership complied with all the elements of the German command concept of Auftragstaktik. Food for thought. 


Read the whole story about Auftragstaktik, its history and development during time in my book 'The German Way of War. A lesson in tactical management' published by Pen & Sword.