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Thread: How to Think, Not What to Think at Leavenworth

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default How to Think, Not What to Think at Leavenworth

    How to Think, Not What to Think at Leavenworth by SWJ Editors.

    Inside the Pentagon’s Fawzia Sheikh reports (subscription required) that Ft. Leavenworth’s new commanding general, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, wants to revamp how Army officers are educated.

    Caldwell has decided to focus on developing leaders, increasing the interagency representation of certain officer courses offered by the Command and General Staff School and crafting strategic communications.

    How to think, not what to think…

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    In my opinion, the main problem isn't that they don't know how to think creatively; it's a system that punishes them for doing so. If the Army wants to change that, the key isn't tinkering with the CGSC curriculum; it's changing the way OERs and promotion boards work.

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Link to article by recently deceased General Wayne Downing on this subject.



    http://calldp.leavenworth.army.mil/e...CUR_DOCUMENT=2

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Thanks Slap...

    ... for this 1986 blast from the past. Good reading.

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    Default Asking the right questions

    Sometimes just asking the right questions can make a big difference in the effectiveness of our forces.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    In my opinion, the main problem isn't that they don't know how to think creatively; it's a system that punishes them for doing so. If the Army wants to change that, the key isn't tinkering with the CGSC curriculum; it's changing the way OERs and promotion boards work.

    Agreed 100%. What was carefully built as the spriit of the AAR has over time remorphed into the CYAr. Those who follow the former get punished heavily under the latter. Neither bad news nor the messenger who brought it is welcome.

    Tom

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    In my opinion, the main problem isn't that they don't know how to think creatively; it's a system that punishes them for doing so. If the Army wants to change that, the key isn't tinkering with the CGSC curriculum; it's changing the way OERs and promotion boards work.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Agreed 100%. What was carefully built as the spriit of the AAR has over time remorphed into the CYAr. Those who follow the former get punished heavily under the latter. Neither bad news nor the messenger who brought it is welcome.
    I think that's certainly part of the problem, but I suspect that there is a more serious problem underlying it, namely the fact that the entire training system is predicated on following doctrine. One of the reasons I really like FM 3-24 is that it integrates thinking outside the box as doctrine. It might be a useful exercise to literally go back to basics and try to figure out what situations have what "degrees of freedom" (to misuse a statistical term).
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    namely the fact that the entire training system is predicated on following doctrine.
    That might be true of training, but not of education. I've been in the professional military educational system for over twenty years and I've never seen it portrayed as the unthinking application of doctrine.

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    Council Member Dr Jack's Avatar
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    Default How to think, not what to think...

    From "The Leavenworth Staff College: A Historical Overview" by Dr. Christopher R. Gabel, Military Review 77(5), September-October 1997:

    The Leavenworth methodology for teaching problem-solving skills has remained constant since the 1890s when Swift introduced an educational technique known as the applicatory method, under which lecture, recitation and memorization gave way to hands-on exercises in analytical problem solving such as map exercises, war games and staff rides-all designed to teach students how to think, not what to think...

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Jack View Post
    From "The Leavenworth Staff College: A Historical Overview" by Dr. Christopher R. Gabel, Military Review 77(5), September-October 1997:
    It is the difference between computational science and computer technology. Technology is about tools and the application of knowledge rather than the discussion of knowledge.
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    Council Member Dr Jack's Avatar
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    Default How to think, not what to think pt. II...

    From "Preparing Field Grade Leaders for Today and Tomorrow" by BG Volney J. Warner and LTC (Ret) James H. Willbanks, Ph.D., Military Review, January-February 2006:

    A New Philosophy
    To deal with the complexities and challenges of post-Cold War full-spectrum operations, CGSC has changed its educational philosophy. The institution has adjusted its approach from training students what to think to focus more on teaching students how to think. This approach emphasizes critical reasoning; creative thinking; complex problem solving; service and joint, interagency, and multinational competence; transformation; cultural awareness; and regional expertise.
    Since the 1890s (as indicated by Dr. Gabel's article), CGSC changed its focus from "what to think to how to think." It doesn't hurt to remind CGSC of the focus, but the concept is certainly not new to CGSC...

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    Council Member Stratiotes's Avatar
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    The article posted sounds very much like Maj Don Vandergriff's book,
    Raising the Bar. It is well worth taking a look at.
    Last edited by SWJED; 09-23-2007 at 09:55 PM. Reason: Edited Amazon Link for SWJ / SWC credit if purchased
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    Default Thanks...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stratiotes View Post
    The article posted sounds very much like Maj Don Vandergriff's book,
    Raising the Bar. It is well worth taking a look at.
    Don is one of our bloggers, and as you implied one who knows about PME.

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    Default Officers working on the Hill

    A thought: when General Caldwell mentions giving serving officers experience working on Capitol Hill, isn't there a real danger of them learning Washington's lessons too well? By which I mean the budget game, the way in which the different services get their share of the pie, most often through big-ticket procurements that can farm out pork to Congressional Districts. I would think that getting officers more involved on the Hill may give them valuable experience "outside the box," but at the risk of dragging them further into the corrupt game that sees us spending hundreds of billions on weapons that won't help us in the wars we're fighting now, and most likely won't help us much down the road either.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Always a trade

    Hey GS,

    I got to meet a couple of officers working the Hill recently (we were doing an Inter-Agency Staff ride as part of the BSAP (FA 59) curricula) . While one of them did spend some of his time discussing Army budget with Hill staffers and members, they seemed to spend the bulk of their time working to get Congressional answers on the war from the Army staff, or about soldiers from their districts/states. I'd also mention that during and between, they spent time educating both Congress and staffers on the Army - its culture, history, etc.

    Overall, I think the amount of officers that cold actually work on the Hill at any given time is probably pretty small, but the opportunity to bring knowledge in and also take knowledge of Congress out is healthy - it helps leaders understand civil military relations and to be able to articulate that back into the mainstream Army is probably worth the investment. However, you bring up a very valid concern, these days to get the most out of our people we should ask why we want to do something - and what are the good and bad consequences of doing so.

    Best Regards, Rob

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granite_State View Post
    A thought: when General Caldwell mentions giving serving officers experience working on Capitol Hill, isn't there a real danger of them learning Washington's lessons too well? By which I mean the budget game, the way in which the different services get their share of the pie, most often through big-ticket procurements that can farm out pork to Congressional Districts. I would think that getting officers more involved on the Hill may give them valuable experience "outside the box," but at the risk of dragging them further into the corrupt game that sees us spending hundreds of billions on weapons that won't help us in the wars we're fighting now, and most likely won't help us much down the road either.
    The Air Force had a program (I don't know if it still exists) where they picked really elite captains, assigned them to Washington for two years, but moved them to a different job somewhere in the NCR every few months. When they later came back as colonels, they kind of knew how the place worked.

    I've heard lots of Army generals brag that they never served in the Pentagon until they were a flag. The Air Force would never do that. That is one of the reasons that, for decades, the Air Force has whupped the Army in political/budget battles.

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    I'm afraid that I have become completely cynical when it comes to this axiom of "How to think, not what to think."

    I've heard since I was a cadet in the early 90's, and still rarely encounter officers of a higher rank who actually allow this to occur.

    The OER is a sliver of the problem, the bigger problem is the Army culture. Until the culture is fixed so trust becomes a two way street between commander and subordinate, I fear the phrase of "How to think, not what to think" is just empty speech.

    Is the entire MDMP process telling us how to think, or what to think? I'd be interested in hearing some responses on this.
    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

    The Eaglet from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Ski; Very well said

    I think the answer to your question is tha MDMP tells us how to think BUT that it also allows the unimaginative, noninnovative, hesitant, over-cautious and / or just plain lazy to fudge by gaming the system and thus using the 'what to think' mentality -- and they get away with it because they "...tried to do it right..."

    The education an training porcess needs to change; the rating an promotion systems do as well -- knew a MG once who had as a COL been the Chief OPD at then MilPerCen. He and another guy designed an OER that had all a board needed to know on the front page; names and signature of rater and senior rater on the back page. Idea was to show Boards only the front page. Great idea. It lasted in review until it hit the first GO...

    Young MAJ I knew told me his Dad, a retired COL told him when he went in the Army to "...be good but not too good; if you are, your contemporaries will see you as a threat and kill you on the way up..."

    One of the better Generals I knew told me he was mediocre, "...all Generals are mediocre; the reallysmart one hide their smarts or the system will eject them..."

    I always found it fascinating that I was more trusted as young Marine Corporal in 1950 than I was as a fairly Senior DAC Manager in 1990...

    The culture is the problem.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Ski,
    I can tell you the way I see it, but ultimately how you (or a CDR) uses any tool (planning, management or otherwise) depends on you/them. I'll try and lay it out for the broader audience.

    MDMP is a good analytical construct for gathering lots of information, framing a problem and thinking about the consequences. The actual value of the process depends upon how the steps are carried out, always balancing the time available to plan with the options you'd like to explore. The analysis portion - or the "so what" is what lays out choices in the context of how you think things are, or will be in the future tense.

    If done right, you transition from an analytical mode to a recognitional mode where things move from how you thought (hoped, feared, etc.) they would be, to how they actually are. Recognizing that things are different and when they are different, and what are the consequences because they are different (articulating it to the CDR for a decision) is where staffs earn their keep and help the CDR make the type of timely decisions (even deciding to do nothing is still a decision) that retain the initiative and keeps the enemy at a disadvantage. Side note - the enemy is dynamic and always reassessing his situation at well.

    We often build this into a plan through branches - "if this happens here we might have to do this", and while they can be useful, not every situation will be addressed, or the change may equal something different then it was thought and may require a very different action - again staffs who are abreast of the situation, share that understanding with related echelons and the CDR, and can provide options with understood and likely consequences make the difference. The staffs job has only just begun when they issue the OPORD - its the execution of the OPORD - complete with the FRAGOs that come because the conditions with all their fog, friction, and chance arise, that continually synchronize the available resources in support of the fight.

    I want to emphasize that the staff should not only be considering when there are problems with the base plan, but when there are opportunities. This requires (IMHO) more creativity out of the staff then just seeing where things are wrong - but exploiting an opportunity can save lives and further disadvantage the enemy.

    The MDMP is a starting point. It is a way to express the initial conditions for the purpose of synchronizing operations across the echelons of CMD and beginning movement toward a purpose. It is built for tactical operations at the BN/TF level and above - below were we have less info to collect and analyze (because the higher echelon does it for us and has the staff to do so), we use TLPs (Troop Leading Procedures - for those outside the ground services) which are far less cumbersome and are meant to take advantage of situations and react to FRAGOs at a much faster rate. Both planning constructs IMO have utility across the range of military operations because they are just that - framework - yes they must be adapted, but this where people/staffs count most - so its not the rigidness of the construct that confines people -its self imposed constraints.

    As for the OER - I have had good an bad experiences with it. It never hurt me professionally, but it did not always work to provide me the means of self-development either. The best experiences I had were as CO CDR - I had a senior rater who was all about leader development and the OER was just one more tool available to counsel and get feedback. I tried to emulate him. My rater was also a great CDR, but his style was different - more of an informal wherever and whenever the opportunity arose. Both were effective and helped me greatly. So when it comes down to it, at the R/SR levels - the OER is just another tool and how the leader uses it is a personal decision.

    As for big Army using it to make personnel decisions - well, it is what it is, a sheet of paper that is supposed to indicate potential over a rating period, but is not always captured well, or considered equally across its breadth and scope. However, we have to have some management tool and this is just the latest incarnation.

    Hoped that helped.
    Best Regards, Rob

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Default Last year, I could not spell ILE Instructor...

    But now I are one.

    I am currently going through the FDP-1 ILE instructor training module, and have received some fascinating training material that is being presented to us. Here's a link to what we're learning:

    http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/collaborative.html

    http://www-distance.syr.edu/andraggy.html

    Collaborative Learning and Andragogy appear to be very promising methods of instruction, especially when directed toward Field Grade Officers in the US Army.

    However, are their future raters ready for independent thinkers who are "raised" to collaborate instead of directing military planning and operations?

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