Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"Correction From Below"

I always find commentary about military reform to be more illuminating for the problems of school reform than comparisons with business. Like this piece by William S. Lind on the Swedish conception of "military intelligence" as underrättelser, or "correction from below:"

Higher level commanders are even more victims of the current system than are their juniors. With sufficient guts, junior leaders can ignore the intel. Unless a senior commander is the sort who recognizes that his headquarters is a Black Hole and stays away from it as much as possible, he has no alternative to the virtual reality his G-2 presents to him. He is not only flying blind, he is flying blind while thinking he sees. Out of such double-blindness many great defeats have come.

What is missing here is precisely underrättelser, correction from below. Instead of dumping the errors on the users, the whole intel system should avidly seek correction from below to minimize them. Errors cannot be eliminated, because no matter how good the intel, it will be incomplete and some will be wrong. But correction from below, from the people who are directly encountering the enemy, is the only way to reduce them. By making "correction from below" literally their name for military intelligence, the Swedes have made the intel system's most necessary characteristic definitional. Intellectually, that is a remarkable achievement.

Defining military intelligence as "correction from below" also carries the culture of a Third Generation military over into the intelligence process. Just as another of those words that speak volumes, Auftragstaktik, builds tactics on the understanding that the levels of command nearest to the fight have the clearest tactical picture, so underrättelser builds military intelligence on the same understanding. The two work hand-in-glove: junior leaders act on the basis of what they see, not detailed orders from remote headquarters, and they simultaneously feed what they see into an intelligence process that is eager for their corrections. Neither action eliminates uncertainty in war, because nothing can, but both speed adaptation to it, which is the goal in maneuver warfare.

I think the relevance to high-stakes testing and NCLB is obvious.

1 comment:

Jim said...

I don't think the need for this type of reform is exclusive to military organizations. Plenty of enlightened businesses have also learned the benefits of listening to the ranks.

Of course, there's still plenty that haven't too.