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 Total Training Scheme 

 

 

The most 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 method.

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 contacts.

Systems Thinking

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 Rhodesia.

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.

Psychological Techniques

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.

One particularly important development was the application of the ideas of B.F. Skinner.  His researches and his books Walden Two and Beyond 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.

Total Scheme

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 significant results.

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 scheme are:-

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.

Indirect 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 (DJ Story).

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 through 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.

Information technology is a particularly powerful means of extracting and storing information which facilitates its informed injection.  Continuing:-

A 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?".

The 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.

Introduction  The need for training for key posts.  Economic importance.  The Total Training (TT) concept.  Need for opacity.  Initial stage by TT Directorate.

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 contact potential.

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’ outlets.

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.

TT-Group 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 of contacts.

Instruction in 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.

 

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