Staff Skills

The Staff Officer's Paintbrush: The Art of Advising Commanders

By The Cove May 16, 2019


This article by Dan Maurer via the Modern War Institute, part of the wider PME network, discusses the role of the staff officer. Dan highlights that staff officers are the not the 'deciders,' or the ones standing front and centre of their formations; rather, their place is to provide the commander with the information they require to make an informed judgment. So how does a staff officer ensure they are enabling their commander?

Dan highlights that a staff officer's information must hit the 'Three C's': it must be clear, concise and comprehensive. He explains that staff officers who do not brief their commander effectively are failing in their duty, as their commander cannot make a well informed decision. Dan goes on to explain that truly succeeding as a commander's advisor requires creative thinking.

To do this he uses the analogy of a staff officer as an artist where they should not be 'paint by numbers' - an approach where they feel compelled to 'stay between the lines' and conform to expectations. Rather, Dan argues a staff officer needs to be an impressionist who stimulates the imagination to produce new and novel options for the commander to consider and ultimately make a decision.        



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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