Another Must Read Book From Don Vandergriff: "The Path To Victory" Revised Kindle Version with a new foreword

Path To Victory

From the foreword:

"Few books in the history of the U.S. Army have made a more convincing argument for change than Don Vandergriff's Path to Victory: America's Army and the Revolution in Human Affairs. It is therefore a great privilege to offer some thoughts on the re-release of this important work.

When Don's book appeared for the first time in 2002 it was not simply detailed account of the Army's personnel management system, its promotion policies and unit manning practices. It was also a critical examination of the Army as an institution and its extraordinary resistance to change in the way it identifies, develops and employs human talent. Most important, the book stipulated recommended changes informed by the ageless understanding that really great military success can be achieved only when leadership, technology and organization work hand in hand.

If leadership were truly recognized inside and outside of the American military as a vital component of national military power, most of Don's Vandergriff's recommendations would have been embraced and implemented long ago".

Adapting The Path To Victory to Law Enforcement

I have worked with Don personally and consider him a very close friend and mentor. His ideas on leadership, leader development, and changing organizational culture are indeed valuable to us in law enforcement as well and explained in The Path To Victory. He was instrumental in Baltimore PDs training evolution towards adaptability. The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, for the POST Incident Command Steering Committee, which I am honored to participate with, continues to evaluate current training and focus on the performance of first-responders who arrive at a critical incident often characterized as chaotic. Don’s work is instrumental in the adaptive leadership component of this project which should have a huge impact on how law enforcement handles crisis and conflict in the future.

Below are some of the reasons I believe The Path to Victory is a must read for law enforcement:

Through the Boyd Cycle is how we gather and process information and make decisions in our day to day law enforcement duties. We utilize this process of observation-orientation-decision and action to see the world around us, orient to what we perceive is going on and then based on this observation and orientation we make decisions and take actions to accomplish certain objectives based on what our goals or intent is. As law enforcement professionals we need to not only understand the Boyd cycle but we need to condition it through training so that we become more effective at applying it on the street. How are our efforts at becoming efficient law enforcement agencies affecting our ability to effectively execute timely observation, orientation, and decision and action cycles on the street? Is there a balance to be sought that has room for across the board adjustments to efficient processes, policies and procedures and effective real time decision making utilizing experienced people and ideas?

One of Col. John Boyd’s most important insights we need to make a greater effort to understand is, “Machines don’t fight wars, people do and they use their minds.” How this applies to law enforcement is to understand what technologies, processes, policies and procedures work on the street, one must first understand how people think and act in the uncertainty, fear and chaos of dynamic encounters and what creates friction in decision making as a cop interacts with a suspect bent on getting his way or in a crisis situation such as a multiple car accident with mass casualties, a blizzard, hurricane, tornado, or fire etc. Only with this understanding is it possible to develop technologies, processes, policies and procedures, to serve the street cops needs. By understanding the needs and dynamics of people (cops) who work the streets, it is possible to design a system from the streets to the courts that advances police departments, efficiency and effectiveness.

Is It Not Time We Robustly Embrace The Philosophy of Decentralized Control?

Considering the types of environments, crises and adversaries the law enforcement officer will probably face on the streets of the future is it not time for a change in the bureaucratic processes to a system that affects individual and organizational decision making and sustaining cohesive departments? A law enforcement cultural change that embraces fully a philosophy of a decentralized bias for action based upon a high degree of professional trust and confidence between leaders of law enforcement and the led. This philosophy will provide principles for exercising good judgment in unique situations, not formulas and checklists. Although specific tools i.e. weapons etc. and basic procedures are ingrained through training and repetition, this philosophy advocates adaptability in the application of the techniques on the street. Policies and procedures must be written in such a way that specifics are left to the cops on the street facing the problem, a bottoms up approach whose vast experience and education will allow him to pick the right solution for the right situation (mutual trust is crucial here). At the tactical level, an officer will make decisions according to the particular conditions of environment, the adversary or crisis his own resources and the overall mission and intent set by the leaders of the department using his best judgment. Currently, police training centers on teaching specific techniques or habits so they can be repeated in a consistent manner regardless of conditions.

The difference between how we currently train and prepare versus the philosophy I am advocating is similar to the difference between techniques and tactics. Techniques require inflexibility and repetition, while tactics require flexibility, good judgment and creativity. Officers can only gain the ability to execute this new philosophy with experience and education, stressing free play force on force training brought to a conclusion with clear winners and losers. Keep in mind no tactical concept is an end in itself and that there is more than one solution to a tactical dilemma.

The Path to Victory is an outstanding resource to help any learning organization continuously improve and get to their true north and focus on the mission at hand, while leading with values and principles that really make a difference.

Stay Oriented!

Fred