All of this is well known to modern military historians and leaders: John Nelson makes an excellent case for its ongoing utility, and the excellent suggestion has also been made that its principles of decentralization, adaptability, independence, and lack of paperwork would probably be useful in reforming non-military bureaucracy. It has already been used and advocated in business, and its allowance for creativity, innovation, and reactiveness to ongoing complications gives new companies an advantage over ossified and bureaucratic ones (I am reminded of the last chapter of Parkinson’s Law, which roughly states that once an organization has purpose-built rather than adapted buildings it has become useless). However, I want to throw in my two cents by examining pre-Prussian applications of Auftragstaktik, in part to show that the advantages of decentralization are not limited to certain contexts, and in part because they give valuable insight into the impact of social structures on military ability and vice versa.
An army survives and grows, physically, intellectually and spiritually through its risk-takers. I do not here support the breaking of regulations, or the placing of soldiers in training under unnecessary, or unjustifiable, risk. We have, however, lost our capacity to seek the edge of the allowed envelope. Take, for example, the infantry. I have met over the years many of my own peers who avoid anything to do with field firing, the live fire training of soldiers in tactical scenarios. They achieve this by allowing their own skills to degrade and permitting the willing and capable few to always step in. Field firing ‘by the book’ is not dangerous; it can be the best training a soldier will experience. These officers avoid the challenge not because of the risk to the soldiers, but because of the perceived risk to their own careers if something goes wrong. Risk-takers challenge the comfortable warmth of the status quo; they are willing to trade their potential within the hierarchy for accepting a degree of responsibility the bureaucracy has decided to find distasteful. Even legitimate risk-takers disturb the hierarchy because they refuse to "stay in the box." And there’s no risk-taking, or Auftragstaktik, in the box.