Organizing for naval operations: Implementing mission command on board the Nansen-class frigates
Not peer reviewed
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The motivation for this dissertation was an empirical one; how to design an effective organization for the new state-of-the art Nansen-class frigates. There is, however, no official tool for designing and diagnosing the organization structure in the Norwegian Armed Forces. Having found Mintzberg’s (1979) renowned configuration theory to be useful in a qualitative oriented study of leadership and organization on board the Oslo-class frigates that were to be replaced (Krabberød, 2002), it seemed reasonable to choose Mintzberg’s theory in this study as well. Due to the heavy workload on board and in order to give timely feedback, time efficiency became an important parameter. It was thus decided to use a quantitative instrument for organizational diagnosis (Cummings & Worley, 2009). Surprisingly, it was hard to find a validated instrument based on Mintberg’s theory. The one study that was found, in which Mintzberg’s theory was operationalized quantitatively, was a test which concluded that Mintzberg’s theory was invalid (Doty, Glick & Huber, 1993). Thus, a main concern in the dissertation is to discuss the validity of Mintzberg’s theory with regard to diagnosing the organization on board the Nansen-class.
The Norwegian Armed Forces do have an official leadership philosophy, called mission command, which has become the benchmark for military leadership (Shamir, 2011). However, it is a leadership philosophy that was originally developed by and for the German army in the nineteenth century, and several studies have shown that emulating and implementing mission command in other organizations has been challenging (Johnsen & Lunde, 2011; Shamir, 2011; van Creveld, 1982). Thus, the other main topic in the dissertation is to discuss the relevance of mission command on board, and whether mission command may clash with the existing organizational culture.
In the introduction part of this dissertation, mission command is discussed in relation to Mintzberg’s organizational framework and both theories are discussed in relation to the naval context. It is argued that mission command and Mintzberg’s theory are complementary and thus should be fruitful for diagnosing the Nansen-class organization. However, it is also argued that the organization culture aspect is not fully covered in Mintzberg’s theory and that implicit leadership theory (Javidan, Dorfman, Howell, & Hanges, 2010) will be a functional supplement in that regard.
The first study in the dissertation investigated the degree of consensus on the validity status of Mintzberg’s theory following the test by Doty et al. (1993) in which the theory was refuted. 319 pieces of research were reviewed and none of the works contained any discussion about the implications for Mintzberg’s theory. Based on this review the study concludes that it seems reasonable to question the correctness of Doty et al.’s claim, that Mintzberg’s theory is invalid. The second study in this dissertation presents new data and tests Mintzberg’s theory using the same method as Doty et al. (N=385). Support for Mintzberg’s theory was found in five of seven hypotheses tested. The main conclusion in study two is that Mintzberg’s theory is partially supported. The third and final study in this dissertation explores how mission command fits crew members’ implicit beliefs about what constitutes legitimate and effective leadership (N=174). The result of a simultaneous multiple regression analysis shows that the greater the task uncertainty, i.e. situations where mission command should be most relevant, the more the behavior of the preferred leader deviated from mission command. It is therefore argued that mission command is likely to challenge crew members’ boundaries of individual comfort and that implementing mission command needs continuous attention.
In sum, the dissertation provides support for using Mintzberg’s theory in future diagnoses of the Nansen-class organization and for implementing mission command as the leadership philosophy on board.