Purpose – The merit of improvisation over command and control as an organizational approach is the subject of much debate in the management and emergency literatures. The purpose of this paper is to examine tactics employed by the two leading protagonists at the Battle of Stalingrad – Field Marshall Friedrich Paulus on the German side and General Vasily Chuikov on the side of Russia – and seek to identify the reasons for Chuikov's victory over Paulus and draw lessons from this for practicing managers. Design/methodology/approach – The research project examined over a dozen publicly available texts on the battle, in the light of the crisis management and strategy literatures. Findings – The paper shows how Chuikov improvised to meet the demands of the situation, relaxed the command and control structure of the Russian 62nd Army and developed a collective mind among Russian troops and that this triple approach played a significant role in his victory over Paulus. Originality/value – The case provides support for the view that improvisation is important in crisis response and can be applied within a hierarchical command and control structure. The paper puts forward a framework for managers to respond to crisis based on two continua: mode of response (improvised or planned) and means of control (via the hierarchy or via rules embedded in a collective mind).
Journal of Management History – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 11, 2011
Keywords: Strategic leadership; Military actions; Warfare; History; Germany; Russia
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