Understand your manoeuvre

Below is my free translation of Alexei Kapterev’s (website and blog) blog post about understanding ones goals and purpose.


‘Understand your manoeuvre’ by Alexei Kapterev
Suvorov once said – “Every soldier should understand his manoeuvre”. He didn’t address soldiers, but officers, who were ought to explain the manoeuvre to soldiers. In real life, very few soldiers really wanted to understand own manoeuvre. They didn’t care about it’s goal, they cared… not to die. Understanding the goal didn’t help in this. On the contrary, understanding it led to realisation of own inevitable death. This demotivated, sometimes very much.

This is why soldiers didn’t care about the goals, officers had little understanding and generals were the ones to understand those. And it were the Germans who made a blast dropping initiative one level lower than it was in other European armies. This gave them very nimble and mobile army, which could blast off half of Europe. You can read more on that from John Boyd.

It was about that time, when people realised the less people organisation takes into hard control, the more effective this organisation is in case of emergency. But still, understanding of own manoeuvre didn’t do it to the soldiers mind. Why? Same reason – there’s no place to find soldiers, who really want to understand own purpose.

This problem was solved, still partially, in modern paid army, where people serve by own will, where soldiers are not used as cannon fodder. Not exactly because of humanity, but because these soldiers are very expensive. It was also solved in some organisations, where people work by own strong will after passing hard (HR) selection process. Biggest example is, of course, Google. But there are a lot more, lots of Internet companies, but real sector orgs too.

Businesses pick people more and more not by skills, but by values they have. You can teach them skills, but you almost can’t attach values to them. Filtering and selection by values is a very hard process, process when one only needs to be real, ‘be yourself‘. Many people fail this simple test. But ones who pass, receive a right to be free and not controlled, to make important decisions on their own. Not only to “understand own manoeuvre”, but to “create own manoeuvre“. It’s not important what their role is – content-director, support person, accountant or a janitor. In this kind of organisation, no matter what your role is, you are Human. At least, until you didn’t proof this wrong…


Discussion in comments also had good (and obvious) findings. Some companies with high value and shared standards pay less – you’re happier working in such organisation and spend less on ‘finding happiness’. Some other such companies pay more, because they are more efficient and they results are better than average.

One commenter went forward and described how good officers make good armies:

Soldiers and officers by Dmitri Galkvosky

All ranks: privates, corporals, captains and generals are soldiers. There’s a qualitative difference between private and officer. Officer is a noble person. “Order – is a law for subordinate”. You might be ordered to go and die. Disobey the order – and you’re under a tribunal, or even shot dead in 2nd WW terms. So who are? Slave!

But is it really this way? Not really. Officers have dignity. Formally, nothing limits his power on you. But he has much stronger value, than law of war. If he loses all his soldiers, other officers will laugh at him, put him in disgrace. He might shoot himself afterwards, commit a hara-kiri. Officers are members of closed society with own rules and high standards. On Day X, many soldiers will behave as average humans would – be afraid and passive. Officers are raised to behave boldly, to be brave and, if needed, to sacrifice his life and lives delegated to him. Of course, there are bastards and cowards among them, but still the moral level is completely different.

Army stands on shoulders of such people. This is how Japanese proved they have great army, this is why Germans succeeded with Blitzkrieg. They had strong, highly motivated officers with dignity.

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