Worker Empowerment
and Aleksandr V.
Suvorov's The Science
of Victory
But to the tale: -- great joy unto the camp!
To Russian, Tartar, English, French,
O'er whom Suwarrow shone like a gas
Presaging a most luminous attack
—Don Juan, Seventh Canto
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Aleksandr V. Suvorov,
• Possibly the greatest military commander
who ever lived
• 63 victories and no losses
• Defeated some of Napoleon's future marshals
and was feared by Napoleon
• Would have easily made mincemeat of
Frederick the Great
• Why rate Suvorov #1?
• Alexander the Great and Frederick the Great
inherited formidable and well-trained armies
from their fathers. Suvorov created his own
from poorly-motivated Russian serfs.
• His success came primarily from
organizational development, including
training and empowerment. The same
principles are usable in business.
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Suvorov's Organization:
• "Where did all the Russians come from?"
• Suvorov's campaign strategies and battle
tactics relied on extremely rapid
movement and decisive shock. The
enemy (ideally) never knew what hit him.
• "Money is dear; human life is still dearer; but
time is dearest of all. … One minute decides
the outcome of a battle, one hour the success
of a campaign, one day the fate of empires"
(Menning, 1986)
• "The enemy doesn't expect us, reckons us
100 versts away suddenly we're on him, like
snow on the head; his head spins. Attack with
what comes up, with what God sends; the
cavalry to begin, smash, strike, cut off, don't
let slip, hurra!"
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Speed Isn't Free
• It was one matter for Suvorov to want
speed and decisive shock and another to
achieve it.
• Contemporary tactics were limited by the need
to keep large numbers of men in formations
and even to prevent desertion. Fear of
desertion (by their own cavalry) often deterred
commanders from pursuing a beaten enemy.
• A formation that tried to move too quickly
would soon get out of step and become
disorganized and ineffective.
• Suvorov understood that his desired
methods would require:
• Empowerment, so his men could operate
without constant direction by superiors
• Training to enable his soldiers to perform
unprecedented and seemingly-impossible
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Suvorov's Environment
and Competitors
• During the 18th century, most
commanders regarded soldiers as
automatons who were to do exactly (and
only) what they were told.
• This illustrates a mechanistic organizational
model, in which performance is measured on
compliance with rigid rules.
• Results were achieved largely through
punishment or threat of punishment.
• Frederick II of Prussia: "Good will can never
induce the common soldier to stand up to such
dangers; he will do so only through fear [of his
own officers]."
• Frederick's own words describe his attitude
toward his soldiers, and we will compare this to
the organization that Suvorov developed. It will
be clear that Suvorov's organization could have
beaten "Old Fritz" decisively.
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Nauka Pobezhadt (The
Science of Victory)
• It was written for the workforce as well as
the management.
• "One of the most remarkable things about 'The
Science of Victory' was the fact that a major
part of it was deliberately put into language
comprehensible to the common soldier. A
large section of 'The Art of Victory' had to be
learned by heart by every man."
• "This is the first known record on the art of war
intended not only for officers but for every
serving man. If an army understood and acted
upon this manual, its commander could
accomplish things no other general could."
• It encompassed not merely procedures but an
organizational culture— "the way we do things
around here."
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Suvorov's "Quality
• At the end of each day's work, everyone
was to shout, "Subordination, Obedience,
Discipline, Training, Military Formation,
Military Order, Cleanliness, Neatness,
Health, Cheerfulness, Courage, Bravery,
Formation Exercise, Victory and Glory!"
• Far from sloganeering (against which Deming
warned), these words encompass much of
The Science of Victory. In Suvorov's
organizational culture, a single word or short
phrase conveyed enormous meaning.
• As an example, Suvorov's rules for personal
and camp hygiene, along with diet—
"Cleanliness, Neatness, and Health"—
reduced the Russian Army's attrition losses to
about 1 percent, versus 20 to 25 percent for
contemporary armies.
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Suvorov on
• In contrast to his contemporaries'
demand for mindless (as opposed to
disciplined) obedience, "Suvorov was no
believer in unwitting compliance with
orders. A soldier had to understand what
he did, know what his commander
wanted" (Longworth, 1966, 216).
• Suvorov "detested stupidity and blind routine
and did all in his power to make the men think
for themselves." "In striking contrast to the rule
of Frederick II [Frederick the Great] of
converting soldiers into automata, Suvorov's
system was based on the development of the
soldiers' intelligence and their understanding
of the tasks they were called upon to perform"
(Ossipov, 1945, 17).
• "Every soldier must understand his
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Teamwork and SelfDirection
• Russian soldiers were expected to use
judgment, initiative, and teamwork to
achieve their superiors' objectives— as
opposed to waiting for an officer to tell
them what to do.
• Suvorov instructed his troops in short
sentences that had enormous meaning
for anyone who understood his system.
• If a scaling ladder was too short to get over a
wall, Suvorov instructed, "Bayonet into the
wall– climb on to it, after him another and a
third. Comrade help comrade!"
• This is not just a cookbook solution to a
specific problem. It means to think about the
problem, identify the resources that may be
available to solve it, and work as a team to
implement the solution.
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Teamwork Examples
• During Suvorov's campaign in
Switzerland, the French destroyed the
Devil's Bridge— the only bridge across a
river in the confined mountain paths. The
enlisted men dismantled a nearby barn,
tied the planks together with officer's
sashes, and used them to bridge the gap.
• At Suvorov's funeral, the monks who
were carrying his coffin could not get
through a narrow archway in the chapel.
Some grenadiers who had served with
him proclaimed, "Suvorov must pass
everywhere" and lifted the casket above
their heads. This narrowed the
procession's width enough to fit through
the archway: a truly fitting monument to
the organization Suvorov had created!
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Demanding Initiative
• Suvorov wanted his followers to think for
themselves and exercise judgment and
• Suvorov detested Nichtwissers ("knownothings" or "I-don't-know-Sirs"), i.e. people
who were unwilling to take responsibility for
thinking for themselves.
• Unterkunft (literally "under the bed") meant
errors of omission, such as failure to exploit
• A single word could carry enormous meaning.
• He often accosted soldiers with seeminglyinsane questions like "How many stars are in
the sky?" One private admitted to not knowing
but said he would count them at once and
actually began to do so. Suvorov did not
expect the man to know the answer; what
delighted him was the man's immediate
willingness to work on a problem that even
skilled astronomers could not have solved.
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Requires Training
• The Russian Army could not have
achieved this level of empowerment
without thorough and diligent training.
Suvorov wrote in Nauka Pobezhadt (The
Science of Victory):
• "Training is light, and lack of training is
darkness. The problem fears the expert. If a
peasant doesn't know how to plow, he can't
grow bread. A trained man is worth three
untrained: that's too little- say six- six is too
little- say ten to one. In the last campaign
the enemy lost 75,000 counted, but more like
100,000 in fact. He fought with skill and
desperation, but we didn't even lose 500."
• The 200:1 casualty ratio was the direct
product of the Russian Army's superior
training and organization.
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Training Requires TopLevel Commitment
• Lord Byron's Don Juan gives the famous
lover and swashbuckler a role in the
siege of Ismail, where he meets Suvorov.
Byron describes Suvorov's success
secret explicitly but dismisses it as a
waste of time!
Glory began to dawn with due sublimity,
While Souvaroff, determined to obtain it,
Was teaching his recruits to use the bayonet.
It is an actual fact that he, commander
In chief, in proper person deign'd to drill
The awkward squad, and could afford to
His time, a corporal's duty to fulfil
• Suvorov's personal example actually
emphasized to everyone in the
organization the importance of training!
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
When Top-Level
Commitment isn't there
• Michael L. George's Lean Six Sigma reports
that a CEO brought in W. Edwards Deming to
give his senior executives a Total Quality
Management seminar. He said that he was
"totally committed to the process" and
expected his executives' "complete attention
and support"— and then he left the room. A
senior executive reported later that
"commitment flew out the window" with the
CEO's departure, and that managers who
were supposed to watch the 16-hour
videotape of Deming's lecture merely read
the videocassette's cover instead.
• It should now be evident that Suvorov was
not "squandering his time" by drilling soldiers
personally instead of delegating this task to a
noncommissioned officer.
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Training Cannot be
• When times are difficult, many
organizations cut the training budget.
Suvorov, in contrast, was firm in his
position that poorly-trained workers
cannot achieve outstanding results.
Byron records that,
• Also he dress'd up, for the nonce, fascines
Like men with turbans, scimitars, and dirks,
And made them charge with bayonet these
By way of lesson against actual Turks:
And when well practised in these mimic scenes,
He judged them proper to assail the works
• Only when the workers were properly trained
("well practicsed in these mimic scenes") did
Suvorov assign them a critical task.
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Managing by
Wandering Around
• Tom Peters describes management by
wandering around (MBWA), which the
Japanese call gemba leadership. It
means going to the value-adding
workplace instead of trying to lead the
organization from a corner office.
 Fosters morale and commitment, and the
leader knows what is actually going on.
• In contrast to the despised "chateau
generals" of the First World War, Byron's
Don Juan describes Suvorov's
performance at Ismail as follows:
• Suwarrow chiefly was on the alert,
Surveying, drilling, ordering, jesting,
Now Mars, now Momus; and when bent to
A fortress, Harlequin in uniform.
• Suwarrow, who was standing in his shirt
Before a company of Calmucks, drilling,
Exclaiming, fooling, swearing at the inert,
And lecturing on the noble art of killing
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Other MBWA Examples
• King Henry V at Agincourt
A largess universal like the sun
His liberal eye doth give to every one,
Thawing cold fear, that mean and gentle all,
Behold, as may unworthiness define,
A little touch of Harry in the night.
—King Henry V, Act IV, Prologue
• The French commanders, in contrast, spent
the evening comparing their horses and suits
of armor. They later referred to their
infantrymen as "superfluous lackeys."
• Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington
• "…he counted on word of mouth less than
other generals of his age, because of his
settled practice of 'taking trouble,' that is,
going to see for himself" (Keegan, 1987, 157).
• "Henry [Ford] didn't much care for sitting
in his office. He preferred to walk through
his factories and talk to his workers"
Gourley (1997, 38).
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Even More MBWA
• Frederick Winslow Taylor on MBWA
• "…the close, intimate cooperation, the
constant personal contact between the two
sides [labor and management], will tend to
diminish friction and discontent. It is difficult for
two people whose interests are the same, and
who work side by side accomplishing the
same object, all day long, to keep up a
quarrel" (1911, Principles of Scientific
• "The employer who goes through his works
with kid gloves on, and is never known to dirty
his hands or clothes, and who either talks to
his men in a condescending and patronizing
way, or else not at all, has no chance
whatsoever of ascertaining their real thoughts
or feelings" (1911, Shop Management).
 You can't run a war from a chateau or a
business enterprise from a corner office or
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
The "Morale Blitz"
• The kaizen blitz is designed to reward
workers and improve their morale by
providing results within a week.
• Suvorov's personal leadership paid
enormous dividends at Ismail.
• When he arrived, "The troops were badly
trained, badly fed and badly clothed."
(Longworth adds that the Turkish defenders
outnumbered them three to two.)
• "Only eight days had passed since Suvorov
appeared in the Russian camp, but during this
period the Russian troops were transformed.
One of the witnesses of the assault
subsequently stated that the spirit of emulation
filled both men and officers, every one rushed
where the fight was hottest, completely
ignoring the danger" (Ossipov, 1945, 43-44).
• Can similar results be achieved in industry
under the right leadership?
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.
Suvorov's Bottom Line
But let me put an end unto my theme:
There was an end of Ismail —hapless town!
Suwarrow now was conqueror.
—Byron, Don Juan
• The Russians succeeded in taking Ismail
by assault, a deed that was considered
virtually impossible without a lengthy
siege or bombardment.
• This achievement required training the
workforce to make it capable of the task
and empowerment to overcome
obstacles on a real-time basis.
• Suvorov also energized his workforce
sufficiently to get it to persist until the job
was completed, despite high casualties.
Similar results should be achievable in
civilian workplaces!
© 2005 Levinson Productivity
Systems, P.C.

Slide 1