Attention NCOs: It’s time to read The Starfish and the Spider.
Spiders die when their heads are cut off, and starfishes can multiply when they lose any part of themselves. The book uses this biology lesson to compare how top-heavy organizations and civilizations crash while decentralized, adaptable movements thrive–and it’s a favorite of the top Army general Gen. Martin Dempsey.
“The past eight-plus years of war have taught us many things as an Army,” said Dempsey, while he was TRADOC commander and we were just eight years into the war. “One particular lesson we’ve learned is that decentralized threats are best countered by also decentralizing our own capabilities. To adapt to what we’ve learned, the Army is training its leaders to think, act and operate in a more decentralized fashion.”
This week’s Army Times
(on newsstands only until next week, so go buy it) details how the Army plans to implement these principles to transform the brigade-centric Army into the squad-centric Army.
“The nine-man squad,” Dempsey says, “is the center of our universe.”
Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence says, “Dominant everywhere is unrealistic. You have to be dominant at a given place and time. We must establish favorable conditions while retaining the squad’s ability to react. We are surprised way too much.”
Although neither man mentions Starfish, you just have to read between the lines. The idea is to use cutting-edge technology to push intelligence and surveillance usually given to divisions to small units, to give them lighter equipment, better training, more trust and more responsibility.
The idea is that the Army must be more adaptable to fight adaptable organizations.