Opportunity for a Change: Mission Command and the Drawdown

  • Lieutenant Colonel John D. Hixson

The Army finds itself at a critical point in its implementation of a mission command culture. Recent post-conflict history demonstrates tendencies towards centralization. While there are some differences in context, the anticipated future environment for the Army bears many similarities to its recent post-conflict past. Army senior leaders experienced the difficult days of “zero defect” command climates, reductions in end strength, and reduced promotion rates. Conversely, based on their experiences in combat over the last decade, the Army’s junior leaders have both mission command experience and an expectation of empowerment from their leadership. To increase the chances of successful implementation of a mission command culture, the Army should utilize Schein’s cultural embedding mechanisms. Specific recommendations include: consistent senior leader focus on mission command, senior leader role modeling mission command, rewarding positive examples of mission command, and adjusting the Officer Evaluation Report to ensure the Army promotes the right leaders. The implementation of a mission command culture will only occur when senior leaders overtly embrace and participate in the process.