Roland Dürre
Sunday March 5th, 2017

Additional Note on AGILE


I already gave you a long IF-Blog report about my presentation at the FAV (Forum agile Verwaltung) at the Hochschule der Medien in Stuttgart on February, 10th.

In this presentation, I tried to point out how “agile” has always been normal if considered a “life-ruling value” that – due to the industrial revolution and technological progress – has only been pushed to the background during the last two centuries. But now, it returns in full force.

I left the military complex out of my presentation. It seemed to me that in the military world the dogma of precise planning and strict hierarchies is particularly dominant. But that, too, is not the case. Especially those involved in the military do and have to think in an agile way. One of the instances where this became obvious were the military successes of “agile and networking teams” (for instance the Vietcong) against the forces of super powers that were far superior technologically and in numbers.

But let me first cite Graf von Moltke (about strategy 1871):

»… No operational plan will ever look further than the first meeting with the enemy with any amount of certainty. Only the layman thinks he sees an idea that has been thought through in all its details until its well-predicted end in advance when looking at an entire campaign. You have to think ahead, but you cannot plan ahead.«

Colonel general Kurt von  Hammerstein-Equord, also a famous military strategist, recommends when addressing his officers:

“Liberate yourself from working on the particulars. You will want a few not so wise persons to do that. But take a lot of time to think things through 
and to get a very clear picture in your own mind. See to it that all your ideas are realized. That is the only chance for you to really lead.“

And he continues by saying:

“I distinguish between four types of officers: prudent, industrious, stupid and lazy. Mostly, these characteristics come in pairs: One sort is prudent and industrious, They must become General Staff. 
The others are stupid and lazy; they are 90% in all armies And best used for routine tasks. Someone who is prudent and lazy will qualify for the highest 
leadership positions, because he has both the clarity and nerves for difficult decisions. You want to avoid those who are stupid and industrious, 
you cannot give them responsibility, because they will always do enormous damage.“

That, too, sounds like absolutely agile leadership to me!

In general, you can say about the military sector:

Decisions and work should always happen on the lowest possible hierarchical level

In other words:
Delegate! Let others decide and work!

Formerly, they called this the Subsidiarity Principle (Subsidiaritäts-Prinzip) in management. It was extremely important, but it seems to have been forgotten by now.

After this digression into the military world, I wish to point out yet again that, more than ever, I am convinced that war is nonsense and peace is an absolute necessity. In the last fifty years – perhaps with the exception of a few small blue-helmet UNO activities – there was not a single armed conflict that improved matters in the least. As a rule, the situation was worse after the war than before.

The only case I know (which I actually witnessed) where bloodshed was prevented was probably the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia. That was a lucky case that can be seen more like an exception from the rule. And it caused the disintegration of Yugoslavia, which certainly nobody had initially declared their political goal.

(Translated by EG)

Parts of the ideas and cited sentences in this article are thanks to the inspiration the presentation of Frank Rebers on the Westerland Bike Management Camp in Westerland (Sylt) in February 2017 gave me.

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