Too Many Rules Results in “Adherence Instead of Audacity”

(p. 159) . . . Wong found a distinct downside to this division of labor. “Put all the directed requirements together and the life of a company commander is spent executing somebody else’s good ideas.” Too many rules and requirements “removes all discretion” and stifles the development of flexible officers, resulting in “reactive instead of proactive thought, compliance instead of creativity, and adherence instead of audacity.” These are not the kinds of officers the army needs in unpredictable and quickly changing situations where specific orders are absent and military protocol is unclear. The army is creating cooks, says Wong, leaders who are “quite adept at carrying out a recipe,” rather than chefs who can “look at the ingredients available to them and create a meal.” Wong found a number of top brass who agreed. Retired General Wesley Clark observed that senior army leaders have “gone too far in over-planning, over-prescribing, and over-controlling.” The consequence, according to retired General Frederick Kroesen, is that “initiative is stymied, and decision making is replaced by waiting to be told…. There is no more effective way to destroy the leadership potential of young officers and noncommissioned officers than to deny them opportunities to make decisions appropriate for their assignments.”
The same thing can be said about public school teachers.

Source:
Schwartz, Barry, and Kenneth Sharpe. Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing. New York: Riverhead Books, 2010.
(Note: first ellipsis added; second in original.)

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