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The German Way of War (Hardback)

A Lesson in Tactical Management

WWII German Forces & Weaponry in WWII Military

By Jaap Jan Brouwer
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 25 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526790378
Published: 9th February 2021



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The German Army lost two consecutive wars and the conclusion is often drawn that it simply wasn't able to cope with its opponents. This image is constantly reinforced in literature and in the media, where seemingly brainless operating German units led by fanatical officers predominate. Nothing was as far from the truth. The records show that the Germans consistently outfought the far more numerous Allied armies that eventually defeated them: their relative battlefield performance was at least 1.5 and in most cases 3 times as high as that of its opponents.

The central question in this book is why the German Army had a so much higher relative battlefield performance than the opposition. A central element within the Prussian/German Army is Auftragstaktik, a tactical management concept that dates from the middle of the nineteenth century and is still very advanced in terms of management and organization.

Using more than fifty examples to illustrate the realities of the battlefield, from North Africa to Arnhem and the Hürtgen Forest, the author explains why the Prussian/German Army was such an unprecedented powerful fighting force. And why Auftragstaktik – under other guises – is still the basic form of operation for many European armies, with even the US Army introducing certain elements of Auftragstaktik into its organization, more than 150 years after its conception.

Reading the case studies in this context will effect your view on some of these battles, at least it has for me.

This will be a book I read over again.

Read the full review here

Medieval Sword School

About 2006 I was a co-founder of a leadership start up that placed the principles of Aufstragstaktik at the centre of the product. There is no question that the German approach was exceptionally effective and produced results that were positive. Management and leaders focusing on ‘what’ is to be achieved rather than ‘how’ is fundamental. Unfortunately, many businesses have been conditioned to rely on process to simplify activity (‘how’) rather than to see the value in people being able to form solutions to changing circumstances because they were aware of ‘what’ the objective was and could therefore formulate an effective response. This results in people who become reluctant to be innovative because the constraint of process becomes dogma. The entrepreneurial benefits of Auftragstaktik are undeniable but the courage to embrace the doctrine is usually lacking as it requires a deep understanding and true cooperation.

This book clearly describes how the German Army consistently over achieved because it’s doctrine of tactical management made the very best use of its resources by pushing decision making down within a framework of direction rather than plans. This explains how small numbers of informed German soldiers could achieve significant success against the odds. This is a good read for anybody wanting more depth of information on how the doctrine enabled the German Army to be able to maintain itself against significantly larger numbers of Allied troops and how the vital role of leadership (at all levels) made it possible.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Jaap Jan Brouwer

Jaap Jan Brouwer studied Medicine, Law and History at Groningen University in The Netherlands. He has been a management consultant for more than 30 years and has written books on general management topics, health care, the Dutch industry and on military organisations.

He has a thorough knowledge and expertise on organisations and warfare, particularly the Second World War. His way of looking at military organisations provides a new, intriguing context and introduces new dynamics in the history of warfare, allowing the reader to understand why military organisations acted and reacted as they did. More information on the book can be found at www.auftragstaktik.eu.

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