Staff Functions

How to Fail as the S6

By The Cove May 14, 2019


In this article, via From the Green Notebook, seven former Divisional G6s have collaborated to identify five key reasons why S6s fail in their roles. They argue that it is the responsibility of the S6 to ensure a Commander and their subordinate leaders are able to communicate across their formation. Effective communication enables synchronisation, massing of effects and ability to seize the initiative. When it is diminished or lost, operations suffer.

Below is a summary of the five key points:

They try to be the "smartest" communicator in the unit. 'take a step back when you find yourself knee-deep' in a technical problem'. Leave the soldiers and NCOs to solve the technical problems. The S6 needs to remain focused on the bigger picture and future operations. They must also be able to communicate 'signals speak' to their commander in a simple yet meaningful way.

They fail to lead their team. As the leader of technical experts, an S6 must practice Mission Command, focusing their team on a common purpose. This requires independent orders, human interaction and interpersonal skills. This follows the previous point, that the S6 is the leader of technical experts.

They fail to understand their mission or be valuable members of the staff. Every staff officer works on the operational plan, contributing their functional knowledge along the way. The S6 needs to be in the Command Post or Tactical Operations Centre, monitoring the network and ensuring services are working. The S6 has to be forward leaning and immediately available to exercise leadership when his team is required.

They do not understand planning or plan the wrong things. The importance of an S6 being is integral to the planning process. They need to focus on the important issues and provide honest and realistic options for their commander.

S6s fail when they rely solely on the lockstep processes. There are valid reasons for process, assurance and paperwork that are ingrained within strategic signal's culture. At the tactical level, the S6 needs to remain focused on delivering the outcomes required by the Commander at the time they are needed. The S6 will fail if they 'think the process is more important than the commander's mission'.



The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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