sophisticated succession management scheme was devised in the aftermath
of World War 2. It embodied a total environment approach to developing
the attributes needed for high office. No doubt some rudimentary
versions of such a scheme had been used before but wartime operations
together with developments in management thinking, behavioural practices
and what is now called information technology created, soon after the cessation
of hostilities, particularly favourable conditions for the Total
During the war, numerous training programmes were instituted to
make Armed Servicemen, support staff and civilians more effective in
their roles in the war effort. The importance of identifying and
developing good leaders was widely recognised and was featured in many
wartime training programmes.
With the end of the war came
de-mobilisation of Armed Services people and the release of civilians
for normal peacetimes duties. They brought with them into civilian life
diver skills, attitudes and other attributes which they had acquired
during their war service. A significant proportion of these had war
experience and attributes of particular value in planning and
implementing succession schemes.
Peacetime Britain was in dire economic
straits. The wartime training ethos carried over into peacetime. Ideas
about training and developing personnel for peacetime tasks abounded as
never before, for example in the form of programmed learning and
educational technology. It was under these circumstances that
Succession Management assumed great importance in the 1950s and 60s as a
means of developing careers and providing leaders, particularly of
large, complex and dynamic organisations.
At that time transparency was
not in fashion so that covert schemes of succession management were the
norm. Here again wartime activities were of considerable value.
War-time operations brought about the development of numerous techniques
of intelligence gathering and communication. A significant part of the
war effort was clandestine e.g. SOE support of resistance movements and
the associated sending and recognition of coded messages. Psychological
warfare and elaborate deception scenarios were also employed. In
addition, the war
provided individuals with an exceptionally wide range of network
One of the features which distinguished the
1950s & 1960s from other periods was the application of systems thinking
to a wide variety of human activity. MC Jackson, in his recent book
Fifty years of systems thinking for management considers that "both
Operational Research and Applied Systems Thinking were born from the
interdisciplinary ferment created during the second world-war when
scientists from different disciplines found themselves working together
on vital military problems".
The systems approach was applied in a
number of countries and disciplines - W.J. Conyngham, in The systems
approach to management reform writes about "the massive surge of
enthusiasm among Soviet natural and social scientists in the 1960s for
the application of cybernetic concepts to economic processes". Another
manifestation of systems thinking, holistic management, arose in the
1960s out of concerns about the natural environment in Southern
It can be argued that systems analysis is essentially a
disciplined technique for encouraging divergent thinking among those
with a scientific approach, who are inherently convergent in their
thinking. The divergence can be limited, as in closed systems, or
boundless, as in open systems.
A number of companies embraced a 'total
responsibility approach' to management, in which the drive for good
financial results was coupled with a wish to fulfil their social and
environmental responsibilities to their employees and to the communities
in which they were located. This in turn led to the idea of a total
approach to individuals, particularly those judged to be suitable for
advancement for key roles.
Probably the most
important feature of the post-war training scene came under the general
heading of Behavioural Technology. Thus there was a surge of interest and
activity in psychological processes and behaviour modification. There
came into being such specialities as Group Dynamics, T-Groups and
Sensitivity Training. These were applied to a wide variety of fields -
for example Churches of various denominations produced their own
versions of the specialities, such as Clinical Theology. H. Leavitt's
book "Managerial Psychology" became the 'bible' of managers.
particularly important development was the application of the ideas of
B.F. Skinner. His researches and his books Walden Two and
Freedom & Dignity were very influential. The eavesdropping on
conversations between German scientists in a village-like Mansion, which
led to The Prisoner TV series, was also significant.
The output of
concepts from research into age-old behavioural practices gave
confidence in the application of psychological techniques.
With the post-war ferment of Systems thinking , the Total approach to
Management and the Skinnerian environmental philosophy, it became
feasible to design a Total Scheme to develop leaders of major national
organisations which would embrace the personal and social dimensions of
a person's life as well as his professional attributes. Although in a
free society it is not possible to obtain total control of an
individual's environment, with the aid of modern technology deriving
from the behavioural and natural sciences enough can achieved to obtain
The development of the individual through the Total
scheme could be regarded as Education but in what follows the whole
process is usually referred to as Training - others are determining the
individual's development and they have a specific Level if not Function
or Office in mind. Also in what follows the trainee is referred to as a
male, which reflects the overwhelming predominance of men in succession
schemes in the immediate post-war period.
Major elements of a Total
Environment Mapping An individual's sources of information
can be mapped - e.g. what newspapers and journals does he read, what
TV programmes does he watch? In many cases article or interviews of
general interest but aimed at an individual can be inserted. Likewise
an individual's social groupings can be mapped - e.g. what organisations
does he belong to, what are his interests?
Intermediaries When the
sources of information and social groups of the 'target' are known,
various kinds of intermediaries - agents for intelligence and/or
influence - can be arranged. The war added numerous useful and
wide-ranging associations and friendships to those which would normally
be obtained in civilian life and this could be of great value in
obtaining intermediaries for the total career development scheme.
Intermediaries can be of several types and carry out a variety of
functions. In one case recruitment can take place of a person in situ
or in another instance a collaborator can be planted e.g. placed in
proximity organisationally, socially or physically. A planted
intermediary will generally have something in their background or
interests in common with the 'target' - e.g. went to the same
educational institution - so that there could be some bonding.
communication For a scheme which has to be covert, indirect or veiled
communication is a vital necessity. The practice must have been
present since the dawn of mankind but generally, being covert, very few
early examples have been recorded for posterity. An exception from 3000
years ago is the story in 1 Samuel
19-20 of a warning to David by Jonathan in the context of an arrow shoot
While communication by hints,
spontaneous coding, nods & winks, symbols, body language, allusions etc,
etc. have long been part and parcel of everyday life it is only in
recent decades that there has been widespread public and academic
awareness of indirect communication In the immediate post-war period
many practitioners of the art became skilled
in their application during WW2.
Information Technology The post-war
application of advanced technology based on the natural sciences,
particularly the then fledgling field of electronics, was a major
feature of developments in a wide variety of fields. It was a
major component of the total scheme e.g. in obtaining intelligence
electronic surveillance devices and in using computers to handle
information required for and generated by a scheme.
As was written in
1970: in connection with privacy issues:-
Every individual moves within
and around many social groups — such as his family, his club, the team at
work and "the local" — generating information about himself all the
time, leaving pockets of data here and there as he proceeds through life
and constantly taking in information from numerous different sources. .
. . . . there are three basic aspects to be considered. The first is
the extraction of information from or about the individual, the second
is its storage and the third is the injection of information directly
into the individual or into his social environment.
technology is a particularly powerful means of extracting and storing
information which facilitates its informed injection. Continuing:-
microphone can now be concealed in a sugar cube or lapel badge.
Infra-red equipment enables an observer to see and to take photographs
in the apparent dark. Telescopic lenses enable photographs to be taken
from hundreds of yards distance in sufficient detail to enable the time
to be read from a wrist watch. With these devices, vast amounts of
information can be extracted while an individual goes about his daily
life. His conversations with relatives, neighbours, friends and
associates, his actions, gestures and expressions, his behaviour when he
thinks no-one can observe him may all be monitored with unfailing
accuracy. . . . . .
With the aid of photographic film, magnetic tape and
computer equipment, all the information that has been extracted about
the individual may be stored permanently, accurately and with great ease
of access. Moreover, a computer can be of considerable assistance in
correlating or supplementing the information that has been put into it.
It may be programmed to provide rapid answers to particular questions
which would take a great deal of time or would be impracticable to
answer by traditional methods - questions such as "Does X know anyone in
Rochester?", "Where was Y in the evening of January 13th 1966?", "Is X
likely to know Y?", "What associative words could be used to remind Z
indirectly of an incident that took place in his early teens?".
nature of a total scheme will be regarded by many as unethical and might
at the time have been illegal. The lack of transparency avoided
challenge on those grounds and greatly reduced the possibility of the
trainee suing if the target appointment was not forthcoming or if he
found the methods used objectionable. If the career prospect is not in
writing or if oral communications are not stated with clarity the
trainee would find it very difficult to present convincing evidence in a
court of law. In the 1950s & 1960s the law in this respect was weaker
than it is now and the prospect of legal redress was very remote.
Another reason for a lack of transparency is that there were many other
than the trainee who might have found the Total Training approach
ethically or morally repugnant and could have spoken out against it.
Synopsis of a Total Training Scheme
The following after-the-event synopsis compounds two
1950s/1960s schemes - one Industry and the other Establishment - which
aimed at providing as near total control as possible. The schemes
did not proceed in the highly ordered manner depicted in the synopsis:
much of what took place required off-the-cuff thinking and day-to-day
dealing with whatever issues arouse in pursuing the general plan.
The following synopsis can perhaps be best regarded as a blueprint for
future schemes based on the actions and attitudes of those responsible
for two pilot schemes.
need for training for key posts. Economic importance. The Total
Training (TT) concept. Need for opacity. Initial stage by TT
Selection of Trainee preference for external candidates.
Advisability of early-career selection. First-order matching to final
Level, Function or Office requirements. Assessment of personality
characteristics, professional and social abilities. Vetting of
political inclinations. Assessment of professional, social and family
Setting up a TT-Group for each trainee. Forming a
training committee. Appointing a training supervisor. Selection of
initial work area for trainee. Methods of ensuring transfer of trainee
to selected work area. Establishing a communications network.
Maintaining opacity. Ensuring collaborative relationships with ‘escape’
Communications Security considerations. Sensitising. Use of
indirect communication techniques. Types of
intermediary - unwitting, voluntary, paid. Recruitment of
intermediaries. Use of intermediaries. The role of intermediaries in broadening horizons and
skills. Identification of indirect communication source.
Operation Continuing Passive observation of trainee's habits,
preferences, behaviour. Establishing areas for trainee improvement.
Use of negative and positive
psychological stimuli to facilitate compliance or
change in behaviour. Building up trainee's status and
prestige. Widening trainee's network
Top-Level AOB. Instructing trainee in widespread but not widely known
practices and malpractices.
Testing Responses Stress testing for high
Office. Crisis generation and observation of effect. Determining
reaction to enticement, fear, coercion, "chance" meetings.
End of Training Choice
between a party or letting the succession or appointment to the intended
or other high office be sufficient in itself.
Failure Procedure Causes
of failure - e.g. trainee awareness, inadequate supervision, changed
requirements, breakdown in system integrity. Examination of
alternatives, e.g. hold pending alternative opportunity, persuade to
continue, reverse build-up, change to another TT-Group program, divert
to congenial obscurity, take such other steps as are necessary to
protect the TT scheme.
Being for the most part covert it is not known
what other schemes of this type were being implemented, for what purpose
and over what period. Some aspects of the scheme are still applicable
but as the especially favourable operating conditions in the immediate
aftermath of World War 2 no longer exist it is unlikely any such schemes
are currently in full use.