Selecting for Auftragstaktik

The Norwegian Navy is doing some interesting work in developing tools to measure how well individuals and groups are able to function under a climate that encourages mission-type orders. The development of such a climate is a component of the Joint Operational Doctrine of the Norwegian Armed Forces.

Here is a recent master’s thesis that introduces the SPGR (Systematizing the Person-Group Relationship) methodology. Although this paper is concerned with selection rather than development, it provides an excellent introduction to SPGR and its role in creating a maneuver warfare force.

About the author: Commander Stein Forsdahl is a program officer at the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy in Bergen where he leads the candidate selection function.

Selection of the Officer Candidate in a Maneuver Warfare Context (1.4 MB PDF)

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Filed in Misc. | 4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Selecting for Auftragstaktik”

  1. jaylemeuxon 17 Apr 2008 at 5:04 pm 1

    from pages 15-16:
    “The task denotes
    what, or the intent, the purpose denotes why, or the schwerpunkt. The intent provides the
    subordinate with guidance when the boss is not around to be asked. Another interesting aspect is
    Selection of the Officer Candidate in a Maneuver Warfare Context
    that the intent given by the leader is the purpose of the leader one level up.”

    I’m confused about the last sentence. I would think the purpose of the leader should be the intent of the leader one level up. Can anybody clarify?

  2. maximilliangcon 18 Apr 2008 at 8:39 am 2


    “I’m confused about the last sentence.”

    I agree It’s not terribly clear as written.

    I would expect it to mean decision and action plans
    processed and driven from the bottom up.

    That is to say, feild level command or “leadership” telling
    higher command headquarters the situation and what is needed,
    who in turn serve in a provider/client relationship.

    Suborniates in the feild telling higher authorities
    what they need to accomplish the task, that becomes
    higher authorities responibility to provide.

    So “intent” or “what” is higher command responsibility

    “purpose” or “why” is feild command passing the information


  3. maximilliangcon 18 Apr 2008 at 9:23 am 3

    Follow up, observation,

    Think about how the F-16 came to be.

    Designed from a wish list that came from the bottom up.

    Sparked by Boyd’s energy manuverability as applied to
    the F-15, but with inherent externally imposed compromise.

    The Originaly the embodiment of a consensus amoung
    Boyd, his inner circle amoung accomplished fighter pilots,
    many Aces quickly endorsed, embraced and apprecaited
    the concept.

    So the guys with the experience and proven track
    record at the pointy end of the stick, got what
    they wished for, or wished they had in combat.

    For once, one brief shining moment, someone finnaly listened,
    and the ideas came from the bottom up.

    The F-16 quite quickly and Subsiquently ruined, from the perspective of dog fighting purists, turned into a trash hauler.

    Current incarnations weigh in at 40,000lbs +.

    The concept re-emerged in the Northrop F-20 which suffered an even worse fate.


  4. michaelpittmanjr@gmail.comon 20 Apr 2008 at 11:35 pm 4

    [Editor’s note: We are making a special and extraordinary exception to our length restriction. Time permitting, I would have preferred to turn this into an article.]


    I think there is something maybe “lost in translation” in this paragraph cited but maybe what I have written below will help. Forgive any mis-statements or inaccuracies as I do not have a lot of time to devote to this answer. It will be unedited and rendered “as is”.

    In Special Operations Forces, your MISSION ORDER is the goal (usually communicated with both TASK and PURPOSE)assigned to a unit by a commander or higher authority- For example, the 2nd Ranger Battalion on D-Day was tasked with seizing Point Du Hoc(TASK)in order to destroy enemy defensive formations(PURPOSE) wich in this case was a strongpoint dominating allied beacheads.
    That was their MISSION ORDER (M.O.)

    However, the COMMANDER’S INTENT of this M.O. by General Eisenhower’s SHAEF Headquarters or some higher command authority was to “prevent the decimation of allied amphibious forces by ensuring the destruction of 6-captured French 155mm artillery pieces that were originally thought to be in place at that location”.

    It is doctrine in today’s Special Operations Forces to elaborate on the PURPOSE of the M.O. with a tool we call “The Commander’s Intent”.

    Once elements of the 2nd Ranger Battalion seized the strongpoint at Point Du Hoc they discovered that while they had indeed accomplished the M.O., they in fact had not yet completed their commander’s INTENT.

    Patrols were immediately sent out into the surrounding countryside to accomplish the destruction of the artillery pieces (with thermite hand grenades), which when completed met the INTENT of the senior leaders. Now both the strongpoint location and the artillery pieces themselves were no longer “in the fight”.

    The COMMANDER’S INTENT allows a subordinate or small-unit to accomplish the entire scope of the mission when cut-off or not in communication with higher command echelons.

    MCSP-1 says the following (pp 88-90).

    COMMANDER’S INTENT We achieve this harmonious initiative in large part through the use of the commander’s intent, a device designed to help sub-ordinates understand the larger context of their actions. The purpose of providing intent is to allow subordinates to exercise judgment and initiative—to depart from the original plan when the unforeseen occurs—in a way that is consistent with higher commanders’ aims.

    There are two parts to any mission: the task to be accomplished and the reason or intent behind it.10

    The intent is thus a part of every mission. The task describes the action to be taken while the intent describes the purpose of the action. The task denotes what is to be done, and sometimes when and where; the intent explains why. Of the two, the intent is predominant.While a situation may change, making the task obsolete, the in-tent is more lasting and continues to guide our actions. Under-standing the intent of our commander allows us to exercise initiative in harmony with the commander’s desires.

    The intent for a unit is established by the commander assigning that unit’s mission—usually the next higher commander, although not always. A commander normally provides intent as part of the mission statement assigned to a subordinate. A subordinate commander who is not given a clear purpose for the assigned mission should ask for one. Based on the mission, the commander then develops a concept of operations,which explains how the unit will accomplish the mission, and assigns missions to subordinates. Each subordinate mission statement includes an intent for that subordinate.

    The intent provided to each subordinate should contribute to the accomplishment of the intent a commander has received from above.This top-down flow of intent provides consistency and continuity to our actions and establishes the context that is essential for the proper bottom-up exercise of initiative.

    It is often possible to capture intent in a simple “. . . in order to . . .” phrase following the assigned task. To maintain our focus on the enemy, we can often express intent in terms of the enemy. For example: “Control the bridge in order to prevent the enemy from escaping across the river.” Sometimes it maybe necessary to provide amplifying guidance in addition to an“. . . in order to . . .” statement. In any event, a commander’s statement of intent should be brief and compelling—the more concise, the better. A subordinate should be ever conscious of a senior’s intent so that it guides every decision. An intent that is involved or complicated will fail to accomplish this purpose. A clear expression and understanding of intent is essential to unity of effort. The burden of understanding falls on senior and subordinate alike. The seniors must make their purposes per-fectly clear but in a way that does not inhibit initiative. Subordinates must have a clear understanding of what their commander expects. Further, they should understand the intent of the commander at least two levels up.