Mission command

07 Apr 2024

General George S. Patton said: If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results. Patton was talking about mission command, where you give your subordinates an objective and timeframe for completion. And get out of their way.

Mission command works only if the commander doesn’t give more constraints than necessary, and the subordinate understands the mission intent and is willing to achieve the goal even if it violates other instructions.

If the situation changes, a subordinate can consider his orders no longer binding if they wouldn’t be issued in the changed situation. Only the intent of the higher commander is maintained. But the leader onsite must be obeyed without question.

Diverse are the situations under which an officer has to act on the basis of his own view of the situation. It would be wrong if he had to wait for orders at times when no orders can be given. But most productive are his actions when he acts within the framework of his senior commander’s intent.

Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke