Mission Command Culture

The U.S. Military’s Strategic Imperative to Embrace the Mission Command Culture
Mission command was (re)introduced in the U.S. military as a culture change to address current and future strategic security challenges. Among these challenges include a more interdependent and antagonistic world; increasingly high-tempo, complex, asymmetric, and decentralized threats; and domestic fiscal austerity. Military leaders plan to respond by shifting towards more adaptive, networked forces and operations. Accordingly, the values associated with mission command – understanding, intent, and trust – provide the cultural framework for the adaptive networked organization military leaders envision.
Then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey
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First, the strategic security environment demands we embrace mission command to meet future threats effectively. Second, organizational change is difficult, but in a large, complex, traditionally entrenched organization like the U.S. military, it is extremely difficult. And third, military leaders have unsuccessfully implemented a coherent strategy that fosters a culture of mission command thus far. Finally, this paper will offer recommendations on fundamental changes inherent to mission command culture in the military.
It is worth noting that a common perception drawn from the conversation on mission command is that we have a choice in the matter. In light of ongoing geopolitical events, this belief appears more inaccurate each day. The world is changing at an unprecedented pace. Population growth, technological advances and enhanced understanding are no longer shifting change linearly but exponentially (for examples, join the 5.7 million people who watched the YouTube video “Shift Happens”). From the Roman Empire to Kodak Film, history is filled with lessons of cultures that recognized the need to change too
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military leader. This similarity highlights an ongoing chicken-and-egg debate on risk aversion – whether the military reflects society’s growing discomfort with risk or vice versa. Regardless, risk-aversion is a major impediment to organizational change and another significant competitor to mission command’s underlying assumptions. In essence, implementing mission command means contradicting the prevailing military culture and, potentially, the mindset of most Americans entering the military in the coming years.
However, the magnitude of the challenge does not absolve military leaders from their responsibility in applying a coherent strategy to implement and anchor mission command in military culture. If the scores of articles, speeches, and publications are true, most leaders agree that mission command is the right strategy. Hence, the single greatest obstacle to instilling mission command is consistent behavior among the leaders. One Army op-ed aptly

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