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Organizational learning capability and battlefield performance: The British and German Armies in

World War II
Author: MAX VISSER - Email: m.visser@fm.ru.nl
University: RADBOUD UNIVERSITY NIJMEGEN
Track: 50. Knowledge and Learning General Track

Abstract - In the past two decades the concept of organizational learning capability has been
developed to bridge the gap between the concepts of learning organization and organizational
learning. However, current conceptualizations of organizational learning capability still
predominantly lean towards the learning organization side, emphasizing the necessity of
double-loop learning in profit firms in highly volatile markets. This leaves room for a
conceptualization of organizational learning capability that leans more towards the
organizational learning side, emphasizing the necessity of solid single-loop learning in
nonprofit and government organizations facing complex societal and political problems and
situations. Army organizations appear as particularly interesting cases in this respect. In this
paper such a conceptualization is proposed as a model with four dimensions: (1) degree of
empowerment; (2) degree of error openness; (3) degree of knowledge conversion; (4) degree
of adequate human resource management and development. Next, this model is applied to the
British and German army organizations during World War II, on the basis of a secondary
analysis of historical and military sources and data. It is argued that this learning capability is
differentially present in both armies, and that this difference can be reasonably related to
differences in battlefield performance between these armies.
Keywords – organizational learning capability; battlefield performance; British army; German
army; empowerment; error openness; knowledge conversion; human resource management.

The importance of learning in and by organizations has since long been recognized by
organization scientists. In particular in the last three decades the interest in organizational
learning and learning organizations has been growing, as evidenced by increasing numbers of
journal articles, reviews and books (Argote, 2011; Bapuji and Crossan, 2004). This does not

imply, however, that there has been an equivalent growth in common conceptual understanding
and theoretical convergence among learning scholars. According to many observers, this still is a
field characterized by conceptual diffusion and confusion, despite some recent attempts towards
conceptual order (Huysman, 2000; Tosey et al., 2012, Visser, 2007).
One of the most important and enduring differences can be found between the concepts of
learning organization and organizational learning. Most of the literature on the first concept has
adopted a prescriptive, practice-oriented approach, directed at developing learning
organizations. Mostly designed for profit firms looking for organizational survival in highly
volatile markets, this literature is both optimistic and normative about the necessity of double
loop, generative and other forms of deep learning for such survival (e.g., Pedler et al., 1997;
Senge, 1990). Most of the literature on the second concept has adopted a descriptive, scientific
approach, directed at analyzing organizational learning. This literature is less optimistic and
normative about the necessity and possibility of deep learning in organizations (Easterby-Smith
et al., 1998; Örtenblad, 2002; Tsang, 1997).
To bridge the gap between these concepts, an increasing number of studies have attempted to
identify factors that influence the development of an organization’s learning capability (Prieto
and Revilla, 2006; Van Grinsven and Visser, 2011). However, this literature still predominantly
leans towards the learning organization side, emphasizing the necessity of deep learning and
mainly diagnosing profit firms in industry and services sectors. Although some authors here
diagnose the learning capability of nonprofit and governmental organizations, they uniformly
apply the same instrument to all organizations, often finding that nonprofit and government
organizations are less capable of learning than the profit ones (e.g., Goh and Richards, 1997;
Moilanen, 2001).

adaptive and other less deep forms of learning.But diagnosing organizational learning capability may be equally useful for organizations not facing existential dangers in highly volatile markets. 2007).. 2010. Army organizations appear as particularly interesting cases in this respect. McHargue. i. In this paper a four dimensional model of organization learning capability is proposed that leans more towards the organizational learning side. 1984. for example. according to current organization theory (Bijlsma et al. Governmental and larger non-profit organizations. In other words.e. . 2003. On the one hand armies arguably face the most dynamic and competitive situation any organization may encounter. this model is applied to the British and German Army organizations in World War II. which. these organizations need to become particularly good at single loop. and thus not experiencing a pressing need for deep forms of learning. the common image of armies as hierarchical and bureaucratic ‘machines’ appears at odds with the degree of adaptability that organizations should possess when dealing with such dynamic and competitive situations. 2006. and a diagnosis of their learning capability would profit more from organizational learning than learning organization theory (Browne and Wildavsky. Consequently. Stokes. is generally not at stake. Mutch. and that is specifically directed at nonprofit and government organizations. at least in an institutional sense. 1989). actual war. although naturally victory and defeat may have a large impact on army functioning. and that . At the same time their continuing existence is mostly not at stake. It is argued that this learning capability is differentially present in both armies. Wilson. Next. on the basis of a secondary analysis of historical and military sources. when not adequately solved and dealt with. make them the object of media and political scrutiny. On the other hand their existence. often face complex societal and political problems and situations. Furthermore. army organizations appear to pose a ‘learning paradox’ here.

Randolph. Rowe and Boyce. and on deutero-learning and double binds in organizations (e. 2000). 1978: 2. An organization’s capability to detect and correct errors is here supposed to have four dimensions. 1978.. it is supposed that the more decision-making responsibilities are decentralized to lower echelon employees.g. involving a discrepancy between what organization members aspire to achieve and what they actually achieve (Argyris and Schön. . 2007. Mills and Ungson. the higher the probability is that they will make errors. degree of error openness. 1975). March and Olson. 1996. based on a synthesis of the dimensions distinguished in the literature (Table 1) and in the sources mentioned below: Table 1 about here The first dimension. refers to the degree to which organizational learning climates are open or closed towards errors. Dimensions of Organizational Learning Capability For the purpose of this paper I regard organizational learning as ‘the detection and correction of error.. Argyris and Schön. 2003. The second dimension.. Visser.’ whereby an error is defined as a problematic situation. refers to the degree to which decision-making responsibilities are (de)centralized in organizations. degree of empowerment.g.. 2009. 1998. Schneider et al. Argyris.this difference can be reasonably related to differences in battlefield performance between these armies. Drawing on theory and research on empowerment and (de)centralized decision-making in organizations (e. Drawing on theory and research on (Model I and II) learning climates (e. 1996.g. 2002).

refers to the degree to which lessons learned from past errors in organizations are being translated. 1993.. refers to the degree to which organizations adequately deal with their personnel.. they may constitute a defensive learning cycle. The fourth dimension.g. The third dimension. stored and disseminated. the higher the probability that these organizations as a whole may learn from these experiences. the more decision-making responsibilities they can handle. Jaw and Liu. 1996. . 2006). which brings us back full circle to the first dimension. Drawing on theory and research on human resource management and development in organizations (e. Siggelkow. store and spread lessons learned from previous error detection and correction in and through formal and informal channels and repositories. 1997. Nonaka.. it is supposed that the better selected. Baird et al.. degree of adequate human resource management and development.. 2006). Arthur and Aiman-Smith. degree of knowledge conversion. 1994. it is supposed that the more open towards and tolerant of errors organizational learning climates are. the more responsibilities can be delegated to them. the higher the probability that errors may be surfaced and corrected.2010b). Darling et al.g. they may constitute a productive learning cycle. Nonaka et al. 1999.. 2006. Changes in one dimension always lead to corresponding changes in the other dimensions. educated. trained and motivated organization members are.g. and. Miller. 1997). When the dimensions are positively configured. Drawing on theory and research on organizational knowledge conversion (e. 2001. Ron et al. Tannenbaum.. Lopez et al. and on the use of ‘after action reviews’ in organizations (e. it is supposed that the more organizations translate. 2003. when negatively configured. to the extent that they dynamically interact in the determination of organizational learning capability (Meyer et al.. 2005.. 2002). so that improvement or deterioration in one dimension will soon or later affect the other three dimensions. These four dimensions are supposed to form a configuration or Gestalt.

small-scale colonial wars in disparate areas around the vast British Empire. meaning that divisions and higher had to learn a new way of waging war with each new commander (French. on the basis of a secondary analysis of historical and military sources and data. At the heart of this tradition stood the British Army’s regiments. combined with the lack of army wide doctrine. strong unit cohesion and identification. accustomed to fighting brief.In the following sections this model of organizational learning capability will be applied to the British and German army organizations in World War II. and from frequent leadership changes at senior levels. using the search terms ‘army organization’. during World War II this system hampered the adoption of army wide doctrine and tactics and the formation. which were responsible for maintaining one of their two or three battalions overseas. . ‘British Army’. Hart. 2000). The sources were repeatedly searched from February 2005 to March 2010 through search engines PiCarta. Google Scholar. While the regimental system in general fostered an excellent ‘esprit de corps’. The British Army Regarding degree of empowerment. Further. ‘army performance’ alone and in various combinations. Web of Science. the British Army in World War II came from a tradition as an Imperial Army. References in the sources found were further checked for relevance and suitability for this paper. from the rotation of battalions between the Home Office and field commands. continuity and cohesion at these levels suffered from regimentally-induced wholesale replacements of battalions inside divisions. led to radically different operational styles. The latter problem. 2001. 2001. and Google. Heginbotham. development and training of coherent fighting units at the brigade and division levels. and provided room for local experimentation. ‘German Army’.

logistics and administration. and to engage the Germans in attritional. which Montgomery knew in the long run would exhaust the scarce German human and material resources (Hart. Regarding degree of error openness. Hart. 2000). and rather than taking independent action and seize battlefield opportunities they were encouraged to wait for orders (‘Befehlstaktik’). 2001. protection of reputation. achievement of a distinct material superiority. also more senior officers were ‘gripped’ in this way (Hart. and the concentrated and coordinated use of artillery fire power and tactical air power. when in the course of 1940-1942 the British Army suffered a long line of defeats at the Germans’ hands. 2007: 76). 2001. massive set-piece battles. senior commanders were allowed much leeway in interpreting doctrine and applying general principles of war. Heginbotham. Class differences between senior officers and the rank and file hampered communication from the bottom up and advice seeking from the top down. and putting the blame on others. junior officers were required to obey orders to the letter. stemming from a general distaste of abstract rules and ideas and an inclination towards improvisation and pragmatism among these senior commanders (French. On the other hand. The purpose was to curtail German operational maneuverability and flexibility. his operational methods were characterized by careful and methodical planning. On the one hand. as well . only in 1942 did Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery apply it successfully in the North African desert. Under Montgomery’s command. rather than openly and honestly evaluating strengths and weaknesses. this led to efforts towards face-saving. Building on recognized British strengths in artillery. 1996a: 170).To avoid the massive manpower attrition of World War I (the ‘shadow of Passchendaele’). 2007). The decentralized nature of the British Army and the lack of army wide doctrine led to different styles of command and empowerment across echelons. However. 2001. already in the 1930s the British Army had come to rely on ‘combined arms operations to generate overwhelming firepower’ (French.

fearing that an open discussion of errors by both commanders and troops might adversely affect troop morale and public opinion. did the pace of learning increase. senior officers and the War Office made a habit of censoring lessons-learned material. Among senior commanders. Only halfway World War II did the Army establish the Directorate of Tactical Investigation to adopt a more professional and scientific approach to the analysis of lessons-learned. it also made them reluctant to act boldly and to gamble. error openness was not encouraged by the inclination of the two most influential British senior commanders Brooke and Montgomery to ‘ruthlessly weed out any officer who they believed was not competent to do his job’ (French. Further. egoism and condescension also hampered this whole lessons-learned process: troops had to learn the ‘gospel . and failure could imply the end of a successful career (French. and saw to it that these lessons were disseminated though education of his senior officers (and through them further down the chain of command). Not only did this lead to a quick rotation of divisional commanders. But his traits of arrogance. and to his troops through memoranda. He then based his doctrine and training on these lessons learned. and valuing loyalty over honesty. making criticism on commanders only possible in euphemistic and diluted terms. pamphlets. not from failure (Hart.as cooperation between older. Montgomery in particular recognized the importance of lessons-learned from immediate post-battle analysis. emphasizing retraining in the field. These class differences were exacerbated by the hierarchical culture. 1996b. because the British made it a habit to learn from success only. 2001. in general the British Army lacked appropriate mechanisms to draw and disseminate combat lessons-learned. Furthermore. and other written materials. Only when the British Army gradually gained successes in N-Africa and Italy. socially exclusive units and newer units. Hart. 2001). because gamble could imply failure. Regarding degree of knowledge conversion. 1996b: 1197). 2007).

turning out good commanders should have been a priority. by 1944 two main weaknesses were identified among British corps and divisional commanders: ‘they had not been trained in peacetime for their wartime roles. Regarding degree of adequate human resource management and development. However. However. 2007). which until then were reassigned to front-line units. class considerations were influential in determining officer suitability. history. But this was not done. were partly overcome by the attempts of Field .according to Monty’ (Hart. According to many observers. only after 1942 did Officer Cadet Training Units receive their training from battle-experienced instructors. and these commanders should have been separately trained from staff officers. and the course at the staff college was insufficiently related to staff and command duties in battle’ (French. and only in 1942 did the War Office establish selection boards for a more rigorous and objective assessment. Not surprisingly. military law and organization. leaving it to the Home Office or the regiments (Hart. economy. In spite of allegations of ‘Blimpism’. most other senior commanders did not consider field training and retraining under combat conditions very important. 1996b: 1190-1191). since his approach was only gradually backed up and propagated by the War Office. With regard to officers. until 1944 it remained particular to the armies under his command. Heginbotham. 2007. 2001. the staff colleges tried to produce both good staff officers and commanders. and more. These deficiencies. 2000). Further. partly because of the fear of training ‘arrogant staff officers’ in the German mould. 2001: 125. Also. partly because higher training continued to be carried out through Army exercises (although these were held only twice between 1925-1935). throughout World War II the British Army experienced problems with the quality and quantity of officers and men. geography and foreign affairs. most senior officers had received a broad staff college education in tactics. due to manpower shortage. however.

… why numerical superior forces… failed to achieve decisive penetrations’ (Hart. and other services. Within the army. Morale was boosted by Monty’s methodical and cautious approach. 1996b). where the British Army only employed 18 first-line infantry divisions. the regular infantry. at least within the armies under their command (Hart. Hart. French. was diluted by the assignment of the best men to the industry. and suspended sentences for deserters in order to make the best use of the limited manpower . much of Montgomery’s seemingly erratic operational conduct of the Normandy and Market-Garden campaigns can only be comprehended in relation to these two overriding concerns. 2001. many good men were diverted to various Special Forces that grew beyond all reasonable bounds to the equivalent of six divisions. In practice the Army combined psychological treatment for ‘exhaustion’ victims. and throughout World War II commanders were cautious and conscious of the continuing needs for maintenance of morale and casualty conservation. With regard to men. Casualty conservation was driven by acute manpower shortages in the UK by 1943. 2001). in which victory was practically ensured through large advantages in material and numbers. and also ‘explains in part the unimpressive combat performance of AngloCanadian forces in Northwest Europe. and by political and imperial considerations. the quality of the most important branch. 2007: 66). influenced by World War I trauma’s. British morale. with no soldier being executed for desertion during the whole war. remained vulnerable. in which the British were aware that after World War II they needed a strong and large standing army to play an continuing role in world politics against the US and Russia (French. the technical branches.Marshals Brooke and Montgomery to promote only competent and professional officers. Casualty conservation was important in halting seemingly promising exploitation of operational successes in Normandy and thereafter. Military justice in general was lenient. 1996a. For example.

as supreme commander of the armed forces. integrated support units of commanders. independent thinking and responsibility at all levels of command. In line with this. The German Army Regarding degree of empowerment. 2007). However. which since the early 19th century had been systematically translated into army wide doctrine. In the spirit of Napoleon. On the whole. German officers did not give detailed orders from the top down (‘Befehlstaktik’). the army encouraged individual initiative. The General Staff of the German Army played an important role in developing and maintaining army doctrine. tactics and training. in the words of Von Moltke. As a consequence. in the course of World War II Hitler. An emphasis was laid on maneuver. surprise and improvisation to ensure a quick and decisive destruction of the enemy’s command and control capability. 1998. 2000. They assigned them the tasks to be accomplished and left them as much room as possible in determining how they should accomplish these tasks. Uhle-Wettler. the doctrine of war of the German Army traditionally was directed at overwhelming the enemy through superior fighting power. emphasizing execution over detailed planning that. this Staff and its equivalents at army. led to an operational conception of war. Hart. 1977). ‘would not survive the first . the military justice system reflected the essentially civilian attitudes among the rank and file in the Army (French. with few natural resources and surrounded by powerful (potential) enemies. Von Lossow. corps and division levels functioned as small. 1993. well-trained. tended to resort to ‘Befehlstaktik’ again (Frieser. rather than through numerical and material superiority. but instead provided broad missions to their lower commanders (‘Auftragstaktik’). 2005. The geographical position of Prussia (later Germany) as a relatively small state.available.

In that program. Staff units were very reluctant to place administrative burdens on the troops in the field. 2005: 76). 2001. indicating a high level of trust and honesty between echelons (Hart. relying on global ten days reports instead of detailed daily reports. for the numerous new units and existing reserve units that Hitler intended to commit against the West in the Spring of 1940. In general lower commanders were not afraid to issue reports in this spirit. an important role of the General Staff was the rigorous and objective analysis of victory and defeat on the basis of critical and detailed after action reports (‘Erfahrungsberichte’) from lower units. which it developed in close collaboration with the Army. Staffs at all echelons remained well-informed and closely connected to one another. the General Staff used the results of analysis for the continuous improvement of doctrine and tactics and their translation in training programs. Hughes. Within one month these reports were written. For example. the lessons of Poland were directly tied to the training of existing and new troops. the lessons learned from the Polish campaign were translated into a vast. Visser. Regarding degree of knowledge conversion. In the same spirit. ordered his corps and division commanders to come up with as critical. these senior commanders in their turn should collect after action reports from their subordinate officers down to regimental level. 1983). 1984. 2008). because officers rotated continuously between the General Staff and senior field command positions (Dupuy. Van Creveld. . Colonel-General Von Brauchitsch.contact with the enemy’ (Boothe. not only for the units that had been involved in that campaign. the Army commander-in-chief. collected and passed on to OKH. and even more importantly. though. but also. 1981. For example. Regarding degree of error openness. 1986. Murray. six-month (re)training program. honest and realistic ‘Erfahrungsberichte’ as possible. emphasizing the importance of combat leadership of officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and the importance of discipline and order as a basis for victory. directly after the seemingly successful Polish campaign in October 1939.

including those NCOs who showed leadership and initiative in front of the enemy. Officers were primarily selected on the basis of character and will power. class or education. In their behavior. while remaining within the framework of the mission of their senior officers. Murray. in the German Army the selection of officers. logistics and organization were relatively neglected. Van Creveld. Thus. 2001. Regarding degree of adequate human resource management and development. where officers and NCOs with recent combat experience were brought in as instructors (Hart. 2010a). Promotion to higher ranks primarily occurred on the basis of personal evaluations of character. increasingly more than seniority. throughout World War II the German Army increasingly experienced problems with the quantity of officers and men. but the other decisions remained at the regimental level. In formal training tactics and operations were emphasized. in 1944 hundreds of battalions were commanded by majors. Only in 1942 a central screening bureau was instituted for officer testing. Visser 2008). With regard to officers.The General Staff’s training section developed a detailed set of objectives and standards for training in the various schools of the German Army. 1983. independent action and quick decision-making. their admission to officer training and their commission rested with the regimental commanders of the men involved. competence and the ability to generate trust under front line conditions. preferring competent junior or no officers over incompetent ones. 1984. Although in the course of the war a shortage of officers developed. captains or even 1st lieutenants. more than intelligence. but in general attempted to maintain quality standards. They should lead from up front. active front service increasingly came to be regarded as the best training of aspiring officers. the German Army in general did not compromise on their quality. while strategy. issuing their own mission orders on the basis of first- . Psychological tests. class or General Staff training (Dupuy. 1981. officers were expected to show responsibility. As the war proceeded. examinations and personal evaluations played a main role in the selection process. Visser.

were highly regarded by their men (Frieser. In the German Army replacements were mainly used to set up new divisions. This system ensured that the best men were assigned to front-line fighting units. 1989).000 men strong. Kershaw. 2010a). In general both officers and senior NCOs. until cohesion gains were offset by the depletion of men and officers due to war attrition. Van Creveld. were particularly welcomed by their units. they were selected. Visser. recovery and rest. 2001. this practice made rotation of divisions in and out the line possible to the very end of World War II. which in this way were instrumental in integrating old and new men and officers. Rotation involved a few weeks of refreshment. not to bring existing divisions up to strength. led by officers of the receiving division. 1983. armed and self-sustained marching battalions (‘Marschbattallione’). assessing character more than intelligence. This practice turned divisions into cohesive. At the same time they were expected to enforce strict discipline. With regard to men. Van Creveld.hand knowledge of the situation. Replacements reached their divisions in 1. 2005. since these veterans were important for group cohesion and front atmosphere (Kershaw. at least up to battalion level. Unlike the British Army. rearmament. 1990. Shils and Janowitz. Shils and Janowitz. 1990. 1948. rather than to special branches and staff units (Hart. Recovered soldiers. The selection of recruits occurred in local centers by a selection officer and a physician. 1983). Recovered men and officers also traveled back to their last field unit in the same ‘Marschbattallione’. . Further. thus combining attitudes of sternness and benevolence. though small in numbers. Selection was based on personal judgments and tests. trained and organized in ways that bolstered unit cohesion and morale. officers were expected to live with their men and allowed to fraternalize with them when off duty. Wilson. tightly knit units with considerable fighting power. 1948. while their admission to specific army branches rested with their future regimental commanders. which were quite important for morale.

1948. 1989). other forces driving German morale became the increasing realization that the German Homeland was now in danger. with 11.Since especially at the Eastern front war attrition often broke up cohesive units in a matter of days. . The harsh system was given a ‘human face’ by the veterans and by relative lenience on private transgressions. Shils and Janowitz. and much more numerous among Waffen SS and paratroopers. 1990. Although the influence of Nazi propaganda is often mentioned in this respect.753 men executed for desertion and undermining morale. Van Creveld. 1948. 1983. they were more numerous among NCOs and young officers. Shils and Janowitz. 1990: 57. As the war progressed. Allied and Axis political developments. Military justice in general was harsh and often draconian. British and German Battlefield Performance In order to assess relative battlefield performance. 1983). personal faith in Hitler as a leader was widespread among the troops. like drunkenness and women in the barracks (Kershaw. other sources of morale were important as well. Van Creveld. It led to the sardonic exhortation ‘Enjoy the war while you can. it is estimated that Nazi enthusiasts made up only 10-15 percent of all enlisted men. and the Allied call for unconditional surrender. because the peace will be terrible’ (Kershaw. Wilson. the still faint but uneasy realization that the war excesses and crimes committed by German forces at the Eastern front would now backfire on Germany at the hands of the revenging Russians. which probably led to relatively low desertion rates. Further. However. it is important to find engagements in World War II that permit a more or less fair comparison between German and British Army units without too many confounding influences of Allied air and naval superiority. and relative differences in combat experience.

the Italian campaign between September 1943 and June 1944 appears suited for that purpose. vulnerability. pertaining to weapons. 1986. 1987. Second. Dupuy and his team developed the Quantified Judgment Model. 1986. Hart. season. Graham and Bidwell. Dupuy tested the QJM on the basis of 60 division-size engagements in the US Fifth Army zone in Italy between September 1943 . tactical air effects and intangible factors such as leadership and morale (Dupuy. it affords such a comparison at a time that the German Army.For several reasons. Geldenhuys and Botha. the QJM in general has remained robust under criticism (Dupuy. it affords an assessment of the development of battlefield performance of the British Army over nine months of intense fighting.g. First.July. a retired US Army colonel and military historian. 1944)(Wilmot. posture. weather.June 1944. 1986). 1985. in later engagements the rugged mountainous terrain and adverse weather conditions made Allied naval and air support much more difficult (Graham and Bidwell. 2004). did not yet experience the profound impact of the Normandy invasion and the attempted assassination of Hitler (June . 1994). He selected this particular zone because both ground and air operations took place in a confined operational area between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Apennines. which involved the identification and quantification of 73 battlefield performance variables. While not without its critics (e. Brown. which permitted a better comparison of forces than would be possible in less . terrain. air superiority. although badly battered at Stalingrad (December 1942). 1986. 2001). it affords a comparison of German and British Army performance at a time and place in which Allied naval and air superiority did not yet decisively impact ground operations. 1987. 1985.. mobility. Third. Although the initial landing at and securing of the Salerno beach head was decisively aided by Allied naval and air bombing. The Italian campaign has been intensively researched by Dupuy. Nutter. 1986). 1952). after its initial string of defeats during 1940-1942 and its successful comeback in the North African desert (Dupuy.

The second part of the CEV formula. reflecting the actual outcome of an engagement (Dupuy. Since the Fifth Army zone involved the commitment of US as well as British and Commonwealth divisions. spatial effectiveness (the number of miles gained or withdrawn in an engagement). In this formula the first part. and casualty effectiveness (the number of daily inflicted casualties. is concerned with the ratio of relative combat outcomes and combat power. and air support weapons used into an Operational Lethality Index. controlled for the size of the opposing sides). modified for the effects of environmental variables (like weather. armor. whereby CEVg = 1/CEVa and vice versa (Dupuy. terrain and season) on the effectiveness of . and other necessary data (based on Dupuy. represents Combat Power. In a formula it is defined as: CEV = (Rg/Ra)(Pg/Pa). German and British units. In this Table it can be seen that seven British and seven German divisions were involved in these engagements. Table 2 contains the various campaigns. represents Result. 1985). Calculating R values for the German and Allied sides in the engagements results in Rg/Ra ratios. Here S represents Force Strength. which in its turn is defined as: P = S x V. P. The first measure. a quantification of the lethality of all infantry. 1986). 1986). in which the British divisions enjoyed an average numerical superiority of about 40 percent over their German counterparts. out of Dupuy’s original 60 engagements I have selected those 28 that only involved British divisions. defined by three sub measures: mission accomplishment (the extent to which opposing sides succeed in achieving their goals). Combat Effectiveness Value (CEV). 1985: 234-235). 1985. artillery.strictly confined areas (Dupuy. R. Table 2 about here Dupuy developed two measures to analyze engagements in the Italian campaign. engagements.

the average CEVg decreases somewhat to 1. is not concerned with results and weapons. training. mobility and vulnerability.49 (with a corresponding CEVb of 0. reflecting the theoretical outcome of an engagement (Dupuy. but simply counts the number of men and the daily number of casualties (killed. 1986). experience. This includes tangible factors like posture.55 (or corresponding CEVb of 0. Table 3 about here The second measure.65) seems to indicate that on the whole the Germans were about 50 percent more combat effective than the British forces facing them. 1986).67). wounded. the average CEVg of 1. and intangible factors like leadership. V represents Variables affecting the employment of the force under the circumstances existing as the time of the engagement. weather. From this a score is calculated.63) appears to show the distinct combat advantages of the Germans (Graham and Bidwell. However. Score Effectiveness Value (SEV). missing) on both sides of an engagement. Applying this CEV formula to the 28 engagements between British and German forces (Table 2). In the Anzio and Rome campaigns (January . indicating a slight improvement in combat effectiveness of the British troops.December 1943) the average CEVg of 1.each weapon. 1985. providing further indication of British troops learning to fight more effectively in the face of stiff resistance. as Table 3 indicates. Calculating P values for the German and Allied sides in the engagements results in Pg/Pa ratios. In the Salerno and Volturna campaigns (September . the British forces showed some signs of development and adaptation during the nine months under consideration. This development coincides with a decrease in average numerical superiority of British over German forces from 85 to 2 percent. morale and logistics.June 1944). indicating the . Further. terrain.59 (or corresponding CEVb of 0.

0 = 2.0 AL Score Éffect (SEa): GE cas/AL N 250/20.41). namely 1.87 : 1 (or corresponding SEVb of 0.35 (with a corresponding SEVb of 0. The Score Effectiveness Value of German versus Allied troops (SEVg) then is 2. 1986: 206-207): Army N Posture # Casualties/day % cas/day German 10.000 Defense 250 2. hasty defense. 1985).47 (with a corresponding SEVb of 0. on this measure the British forces showed signs of development and adaptation as well during the nine months under consideration.000 Attack 400 2. yielding a German Score Effect (SEg) of 2.0.000 x 100 = 1. as Table 3 indicates.25 : 2. Applying this SEV formula to the 28 engagements between British and German forces in Italy (Table 2).25. .63 : 1). of which posture (attack. a typical average engagement in World War II has the following division of forces (Dupuy. or 0.5 Allied 20. the value of which depends on a number of interacting factors.000 x 100 = 4. the German score is divided by a constant of 2. However. As an example.0.0 During most of World War II the Allied forces were the attacking party and the Germans delaying or defending. While in the Salerno and Volturna campaigns the average SEVg is 2. providing another indication of clear improvement in battlefield effectiveness of the British troops. Because of the advantages of a defensive posture. in the Anzio and Rome campaigns the average SEVg has dropped to 1. the average SEVg of 1.74).0 : 1.average number of casualties inflicted on the enemy by blocks of 100 men on each side.0. fortified defense) is the most important (Dupuy. delaying resistance. The Score Effectiveness is calculated by dividing the score by a constant.0 / 2. prepared defense.6 : 1 (the corresponding SEVa is the reverse.25 GE Score Effect (SEg): AL cas/GE N 400/10.54 : 1) seems to indicate that on a man for man basis the German troops inflicted casualties at an average 87 percent higher rate than they incurred from the opposing British troops. or 1.

in which lessons learned from errors were quickly and thoroughly disseminated. in which lessons learned from errors were partly disseminated. a factor favoring the Germans was geographical proximity. with the British troops fighting on remote battlefields and the German forces increasingly fighting close to home. a relatively free hand (Graham . which was subject to rather intense inter-Allied strive and disagreement. and so on. While organizational learning capability may have been influential. trained and organized so that in principle they could have been empowered more. trained and organized so that they could be empowered more. 1986). Regarding the four dimensions.Discussion and Conclusions In this paper it has been argued that the German Army enjoyed a more effective battlefield performance than the British Army. in which errors were unwelcome and covered up. in defense of their fatherland (Kershaw. For example. with the Allied forces consisting of multiple nations with concomitant political complications and the German forces being led by one man. in which officers and men were little empowered. the German Army appears to present a relatively more productive learning cycle. at least in principle (Beaumont. several other factors have played a role as well in determining battlefield performance. in which errors were valued and honestly appraised. and that this advantage can be reasonably related to their comparatively higher organizational learning capability vis-à-vis the British. and so on. while Hitler lend his senior commander in Italy. 1990). Air Marshal Kesselring. and in which officers and men were thoroughly selected. Another factor favoring the Germans was the political factor. This was particularly true for the Italian campaign. and in which officers and men were reasonably well selected. The British Army appears to present a relatively more defensive learning cycle. in which officers and men were substantially empowered.

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(1) Driving forces.Table 1 Dimensions of organizational learning capability Source Chiva et al. (3) openness and experimentation. (1) Build a commitment to learning capability. (2) leadership commitment and empowerment. (2007) Jerez-Gómez et al. (3) interaction with the external environment. (7) operational variety. (6) connect the organization to its environment. (1996) Ulrich et al. (5) participative decision making. (3) questioning. (1) Managerial commitment to learning. (4) empowering. (8) multiple advocates. (2005) Marsick and Watkins (2003) Moilanen (2001) Goh and Richards (1997) DiBella et al. (7) provide strategic leadership for learning. (4) dialogue. (1) Clarity of purpose and mission. (2) finding purpose. (5) climate of openness. (1) Scanning imperative. . (10) systems perspective. (5) teamwork and group problem solving. (6) continuous education. (4) transfer of knowledge. (3) encourage collaboration and team learning. (2) promote inquiry and dialogue. (5) empower people toward a collective vision. (9) involved leadership. (2) risk taking. (5) evaluating. (3) concern for measurement. (4) create systems to capture and share learning. (3) experimentation and rewards. (2) work to generate ideas with impact. (1993) Dimensions of organizational learning capability (1) Experimentation. (4) knowledge transfer and integration. (1) Create continuous learning opportunities. (3) work to generalize ideas with impact. (2) performance gap. (4) experimental mindset. (2) systems perspective.

January 22-February 29.79 0.30 1.05 3.000 8. 3-5 1 I D34 Carroceto.24 2.730 9.917 12. Salerno Campaign.78 0.557 16. 7-8 1I D36 Aprilia II.85 2. 25-26 1I D31 The Factory.766 9.513 5. 12-15 56 I D7 Vietri II. 13 56 I D15 Castel Volturno.75 0.230 18. Feb.158 8. Jan.138 7.93 0.75 2.912 14. Dec. Oct. June 3-4 1/5I 28 Average 7 div’s Ratio Italics = attacking I = Infantry A = Armored b= Britsh g = German Nb Germ.92 1.73 2.300 6.74 2.200 17.42 0.19 0.59 0. Sep.35 1.27 19. Oct.000 14.500 16.99 1. Sep.098 26.588 3. 27 1I D32 Campoleone.08 4. div.490 27.750 15.765 20.26 0.11 1. 9-11 46 I D2 Amphitheater.288 0.995 0. May 23-24 1I D57 Ardea. Jan. 20-22 7I D22 Monte Camino I. May 23-24 5I D50 Anzio-Albano road.56 1.79 0.49 0.25 2.88 3.14 1.465 0.43 2. 15-20 46 I D18 Monte Grande.89 0.73 1. Feb.518 21. 16-19 56 I Rome Campaign.06 2.91 0.56 17. 1-2 46 I D28 Monte Camino III.011 15.569 11.Table 2 Selected engagements British-German troops.10 1.06 2. Oct.08 0.345 17. 13-15 46 I D17 Canal I.74 0.95 3.765 17. Oct. 8-12 56 I D27 Calabritto.59 0.54: 1. Feb.317 15. 16-17 50 I D19 Canal II.94 1.343 7.942 7. October 12-December 8.58 1. May 28-30 5I D60 Tarto-Tiber.734 4. Jan.46 1.02 0.21 0. Sep.029 26. 1944 D49 Moletta offensive. 1943 D10 Grazzanise.42 1 : 0.313 15. Dec. 2-6 56 I Anzio Campaign.30 2. 12-14 7A D11 Capua.04 0.02 14.60 1. Italy 1943-1944 Nr.88 3.71 0.46 0. Nov.81 0.000 19.90 0. 5-7 56 I D25 Monte Camino II.478 0.85 0.750 7.730 13. 9 1I D39 Moletta river.78 1.68 1.20 1.917 11. Engagement Brit.250 15.842 4 Pa 65 I 4 Pa 4 Pa 7 div’s 12.068 8.96 0.98 0. Sep.515 17.13 0. May 11-June 4.44 2.77 0.94 2. 17-18 46 I D8 Battipaglia II.51 0.41 0.761 3 PzGr 3 PzGr 3 PzGr Kg Greizer 3 PzGr Kg Greizer 65 I / 4 Pa 6.976 17.84 1.48 1.81 2. Sep.71 3.088 6. Oct.350 17.60 1. Sep.659 10.744 15 PzGr HG Pz 15 PzGr 15 PzGr HG Pz 15 PzGr 15 PzGr 15 PzGr 15 PzGr 15 PzGr 15 PzGr 8. 17-18 56 I Volturno Campaign.400 14.65 (1.600 14.917 12.60 0. Nov.38 : Pz = Panzer Gr = Grenadier Kg = Kampfgruppe Pa = Paratroopers 1 .60 2. 1944 D30 Aprilia I.55) 2.79 0.73 0. September 9-18.557 38.88 4.85 0. Feb.730 16 Pz 16 Pz HG Pz 16 Pz HG Pz 16 Pz 4.67 0.52 0. 12-14 46 I D5 Battipaglia I.138 8.47 2.250 4.81 0.59 0.36 1.76 0. Oct. 9-11 56 I D4 Vietri I.86 1.855 11.239 8.87 1 1. 1943 D1 Port of Salerno. div.61 1. Ng CEVb SEb SEg 12. 17-18 7I D20 Francolise. Oct. 29-31 1I D33 Campoleone counterattack.857 17.

1943-1944 Campaigns Salerno & Volturna (Sept.38 1. 11 engagements) Average Ratio Nb / Ng 1.30 SEg 2.41 : 1.47 1 2. 1943.65 (1.Table 3 Development British-German battlefield performance over campaigns.55) SEb 0.99 1 : 0.49) 1. – June 1944.67 (1.02 : 1 0.54 : 1.63 (1.74 : 1.59) 1.Dec.87 1 .77 1 : 0. 17 engagements) Anzio & Rome (Jan.44 2.38 : 1 0.42 1 : 0.85 : 1 CEVb(g) 0.35 1 2..