Small Wars Journal

Design and the Prospects for Deviant Leadership

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Design and the Prospects for Deviant Leadership

by Christopher R. Paparone

Download the Full Article: Design and the Prospects for Deviant Leadership

As a follow on to the short essay, "Design and the Prospects of a US Military Renaissance," (published in Small Wars Journal in May 2010 ), it is also important to pay some attention to the potential impact of design philosophy on the institutionalization of leadership -- rephrased, what is the "ideal" leadership model in the context of military design science? Several authors have attempted to reconceptualize organizational leadership to a postpositivist view (postpositivism is the underlying philosophical paradigm shift associated with "design"). The purpose here is to summarize postpositivist views of leadership by three noteworthy authors that are arguably very important to the design mindset: Ron Heifetz of Harvard University, USA; Donna Ladkin of Cranfield University, UK; and, Keith Grint of Warwick University (and formerly of the Defence Academy), UK. This essay will explore the impacts of postpositivist leadership defined by these authors in the context of military approaches to design.

Download the Full Article: Design and the Prospects for Deviant Leadership

Christopher R. Paparone, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired, is an associate professor in the Army Command and General Staff College's Department of Joint, Interagency and Multinational Operations at Fort Lee, Virginia. He holds a B.A. from the University of South Florida; master's degrees from the Florida Institute of Technology, the U.S. Naval War College, and the Army War College; and a Ph.D. in public administration from Pennsylvania State University. On active duty he served in various command and staff positions in the continental United States, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Bosnia.

About the Author(s)

Chris Paparone is a retired US Army Colonel who served in various command and staff positions in war and peace in the continental United States, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Bosnia.  He is a graduate of the US Naval War College and received his PhD in public administration from The Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg. He has published numerous articles, book chapters, and in 2013 published a Bloomsbury book titled The Sociology of Military Science: Prospects for Postinstitutional Military Design.  He considers himself a burgeoning "critical military epistemologist" and will feature an article on CME in a forthcoming Journal of Military and Strategic Studies special issue.


Thanks Adrian. Blair Williams' article is definitely worth reading and relates directly to the philosophy of design. Link:…

Heuristics are a mainstay in design thinking -- they are the source of extended meaning and creativity.

To illustrate the power of heuristics (and metaphoric reaosning): heuristics are the "paint colors" on a military artist's operational palette.

Design is our topic at tomorrow's PDT and the Brits, with our NATO Allies, will have a feast on your article. It neatly captures the roots, the fluidity and unpredictability of our operating environment.

I enjoyed an intriguing anecdote from a fellow officer (airborne infantry) who is recently back from deployment in Afghanistan. He said how they approached planning as a small battalion team. Rarely more than six officers, talking through the mission with the CO, appreciating the views of a newly arrived officer from our procurement agency, who brought a fresh approach to their perspectives and collaborating over the best approach. No formula, neat rubrics or written work; in fact very few words recorded for posterity apart from commander's war diary.

The radical change that needs to take place in our approach to
thinking problems through is, of course, structure. While we still have
these monolithic HQs we will have monolithic thinking. There are 350
plus staff officers in HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, with supporting
elements including a Signal Bde and Sp Bn we make up a thousand. We are joining the NATO IJC which I believe consists of, incredibly, 1500+ people. Add to that HQ ISAF and the HQs of the Regional Commands and therein lies your problem screaming out for a radical structural solution.

I am not saying that there is not a need for a large, efficient and
effective bureaucracy to run a country like Afghanistan, the British
used one to run their Empire. I am saying that our current structures do
not encourage the kind of corporate thinking that Design is seeking. Of course we all think in this way intuitively and would be well served to study the nature of thinking much in the way our friend MAJ Williams did in his excellent article, Heuristics and Biases in Military Decision Making published in the Sep-Oct 10 Military Review.


I do not think Dr. Grint would disagree with your thesis. Key to his model is to decipher when command, management or leadership is appropriate.

His idea (based largely in Heifetz's leadership theory) is that leadership is not about invoking hierarchy but is about adaptive (deviant) work. Command and management, on the other hand, depend on hierarchy for "authoritative response." And sometimes these clash...

Dan Reynolds (not verified)

Wed, 09/29/2010 - 1:16pm

A couple points related to the military hierarchical structure hampering postpositivist thinking. BLUF: C2 hierarchy does hamper innovative design, but doctrine and discipline are still vital to the military. #1. Doctrine is authoritative, not necessarily directive. Current military doctrine ultimately should be a reflection of best practices and lessons learned from 21st century warfare and the history of war. Even with a hierarchical C2 structure, the military espouses certain values to overcome and adapt to accomplish the mission. Values drive the daily efforts of the military just like any other organization or individual. If the values of creativity, innovation, and design are needed to drive best practices and more bottom-up feedback to accomplish the mission, then the military will figure out a way to do it. It is true that doctrine and hierarchy can slow down and possibly stymy innovative design, but the Western way of war was also founded on a discipline that demands doctrine and a C2 hierarchy to synchronize almost all military operations and minimize the risk of conducting combined arms operations, even with 21st century technology. Operational design has a place in military doctrine, just not in the drivers seat over discipline. Design is guaranteed a passenger seat and at times the TC seat of the vehicle and this flows into point #2. The military mission with todays technology is centrally controlled and decentralized in execution. The real folks designing and innovating solutions are those leaders at the lowest levels in the military where the execution of warfare depends upon the actions of a squad leader (young NCO) and platoon leader (young officer). Their ability to innovate and design follows the same ability to tailor different doctrinal leadership styles not always espoused in a military C2 hierarchy, but necessary in a deployed environment where the young NCO and officers must develop shared outcomes based on shared values between various stakeholders to include host nation security forces, host nation civilian leadership, USAID, DoS, USDA, and others. Bottom line: Innovative design continues to happen during decentralized execution, and centralized control allows for developing shared outcomes at a higher level and providing resources needed to accomplish the mission.
MAJ Dan Reynolds, student, Command and General Staff College, US Army Logistics University, Fort Lee, VA
"The views expressed in this blog response are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the US Government."

Hi Tim,

Well, I think the idea of levels of war corresponding to levels of thinking (i.e. that strategists and operationalists must be educated to think differently) is a fallacy. It is based on the fallacy of hierarchy (levels of organization equal levels of war).

Strategy (a blending of horizontal and vertical aspects of strategizing)requires a high level of abstraction, critical reasoning and creativity.

I think you can have tactical strategies and operations (campaign) strategies. In some ways, you may have a bottom up approach to strategy rather than a top down approach as suggested by the war college traditional models. I believe that platoon leaders can develop strategies for platoons and team leaders may develop strategies with their team members.

In view of the leadership model presented by the writers I mentioned in the article, I think the better distinction is between leadership, management and command. That is what I had hoped to convey. I am not interested in perpetuating the levels of hierarchy (and a sort of elitism) that subordinates levels of organization conceptually reinforced by the "snowman model" of war.

Tim Russell (not verified)

Mon, 09/13/2010 - 2:07pm

Am curious as to why there is no mention of "auftragstaktik" which underpins the "art" of command, and the "science" of control.

Design, in my view, is not a paradigm shift, it is a "word by other means."

As for SAMS and BSAP grads at BCT and DIV level HQs, I agree that this is a place for SAMS students who focus on tactical and operational level of war and aspire to be commanders at those levels, but not for BSAP graduates whose purpose is to focus on the operational and strategic level of war that is unless the command selection is changed. Wishful thinking.

The Pap

Mon, 09/13/2010 - 11:16am

I apologize to the BSAP (Army 59s) community. I used the acronym "BSEP" in lieu of the correct "BSAP" on the last page of the article. BSAP stands for "Basic Strategic Art Program" -- managed at the US Army War College.