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Culture and Group Cohesion Boaz Tamir and Gideon Runda Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Introduction What makes men risk their lives under fire? This is a question that has occupied many scholars over the years. Military life offers perhaps the most extreme manifestation of the dilemma that lies at the heart of manes social existence: the degree of willingness of - individuals to make personal sacrifices for perceived group interests. What made men "go over the top" at the Somme, stand under fire in "squarest at Waterloo, cross the Suez canal in the 1973 Middle East War, and live underground for years in The San? Why do some military units break while others hold their ground? Answers have varied from Freud~s (1936) suggestion that men are driven to war by an unconscious "death instinct," to Reegan~s (1975) speculation that it is the consequence of various combinations of rum (or other intoxicating agents), jingoism, and an untried, youthful machismo. While no conclusive answers have been given, the fact remains that military organizations vary quite dramatically, and apparently systematically, with regard to the group performance. For the military command, the same question assumes practical dimensions. To the extent that military decision-makers have degrees of freedom to influence a.,= ~~.'-,~.,-~ __ ~_.. _..__ (itself an open question), how to most effectively do so becomes a question of considerable significance for the outcome of military engagements. Whether articulated or not, this question has been addressed by military organizations in a variety of ways. Henderson (1983), for example, illustrates the very different practical theories of motivation that have guided military organization in countries as the performance of men under fire 1

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diverse as the USSR, North Vietnam, Israel, and the United States. Perhaps the most common variable used to explain performance, with appeal to both students and practitioners of military organization, is "cohesion." Grounded in the literature on small- group behavior, cohesion refers to the quality of the relationships between members of the small group. Henderson (1983), for example, defines cohesion as: The bonding together of members of an organization/unit in such a way as to sustain their will and commitment to each other, their unit, their mission....cohesion exists in a unit when the primary day-to-day goals of the individual soldier, of the small group with which he identifies, and of the unit leaders are congruent...with all members willing to risk death to achieve a common objective. ~ However, to explain performance with "cohesion" thus defined, is to engage in tautology. Consequently, efforts to explain the existence of cohesion have been extensive, both in military and non-military contexts. Structural variables have been primarily used to explain cohesion. A sizeable literature on the structural underpinnings of small-group cohesion has emerged. Numerous studies have attempted to relate cohesion to group size, span of control, leadership style, length of tenure, recruitment and promotional practices, benefits packages, the nature of the task, the available technology, and so forth. While such structural and task variables no doubt have a significant impact on performance they are clearly insufficient, having long frustrated decision-makers eager to influence the nature of "cohesion." Since the unexplained variance remains considerable, more comprehensive explanatory variables are needed both for theoretical and practical

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purposes. The cultural context of military performance has been offered as an important explanatory factor. Henderson, for example, suggests that the nature of beliefs and values held by soldiers, as well as the external ideologies contained in their social, ethnic, and national groups of origin, mediate the connection between military structure and cohesion. Cultural variables, however, remain vaguely defined, and are often offered as an afterthought or a commonsensical and often tautological retrospective explanation. The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of cultural variables in explaining cohesion more systematically, by applying Schein~s (1985) model of organizational culture to the question of cohesion. In the first section, Schein's model will be outlined. Following that, the use of the model will be illustrated at the societal, organizational, and group levels of analysis, using examples mainly from Israeli military history. The main thesis is that cultural variables have an independent role in mediating the relationship between structural variables and cohesion. Finally, specific hypotheses will be outlined with regard to experimental project COHORT (Cohesion, Operational Readiness, Training) manning system.1 Appendix tA) briefly outline major methods for further exploration . i. The goal of the new personnel system is to keep the soldiers and their commanders together for a long period of time. Personnel, within this system, will be stabilized in their units for definitive time period. Movement in or out of units between those assignments periods will be constrained. The goal is to stabilize first term soldiers in their unit for their initial term of enlistment.

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ORGANT ZAT I ONAL CULTURE ~ N THE MI L ~ TAR Y CONTEXT . According to Schein (1985), culture refers to a shared world-view developed by members of a social group. He suggests that: ...culture should be viewed as a property of an independently defined stable social unit. That is, if one can demonstrate that a given set of people have shared a significant number of important experiences in the process of solving external and internal problems, one can assume that such common experiences have led them, over time, to a shared view of the world around them and their place in it. Culture, in this sense, is a learned product of group experience and is, therefore, to be found only where there is a definable group with a significant history.2 This shared world-view is presumed to influence and constrain how members perceive, understand, and take action in the world. As a concept, it is applicable to different types of social groupings, including civilizations, national entities, ethnic groups, occupations, organizations, and small groups. To the extent that members share certain views of the world they live in, they may be said to have a culture. - A groups culture is manifested at three distinct levels (see Table 1: Levels of culture and their interactions): Artifacts, Values, and Basic Assumptions. Artifacts -- the constructed physical and social environment -- are . the most visible level of a culture. These include all external manifestations of it: language/ clothing' art r technology, 2. Edgar H. Schein Organizational Culture and Leadershio, Jossey-Bass Publication, 1945, p. 7 4

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arrangement of physical space, and so forth. Taken together, artifacts are an expression of a shared world-view held by members of a group or an organization. However, as guides to a group's culture, artifacts require careful and knowledgeable interpretation. For example, in the Israeli army, the dress code of the elite paratrooper unit is very different from that of the tank corps. Members of the paratrooper unit wear loose, often intentionally shabby and informal clothing. They typically wear a variety of civilian caps and ignore military insignia, including formal signs of rank and status. In the tank corps, in contrast, the dress code reflects the "spit and polish" image of the British army (where its founders received their training): there is careful and detailed attention to formal appearance and status differences. The dress code is just one artifactual element out of many in the Israeli army, yet it immediately invites interpretation: Do members of these two groups perform differently during peacetime? In combat? Do they have different attitudes about the use of military technology? Will these units react in different ways to the loss of a commander in combat, or to the necessity of an individual to endanger himself to help an injured peer? And areithese artifacts consistent with others? To answer such questions we must examine a deeper, more systematic aspect of culture: its values. Schein suggests that artifacts reflect shared underlying values for the group members. They serve the normative and moral function of guiding group members in how to deal with key situations. Group members are often conscious of the values they claim to share and 5

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adhere to, and they can usually articulate them. For example, a number of key values in Israeli combat units guide behavior. "Never leave a comrade behind" is an organizationally supported and widely shared value that has guided behavior under fire. This value is associated most closely with elite infantry units. "Report the truths is a value that is expected to guide officer behavior: Never offer misleading or distorted information, even if the truth is personally damaging. "Follow me" (the leader is first into combat) is a battlefield value which suggests that commanders always lead their troops into battle, are always at the front line, and often take great personal (even unnecessary) risks. Each of the above is a widely known, frequently articulated, shared value in the Israeli army that either guides behavior in combat in ways that might contradict concern for personal safety and advantage, or serves as a shared standard for evaluating behavior. As we will demonstrate there are myths, explanations, stories, and behaviors that illustrate these values; and despite the many documented examples of incongruent behavior (and even alternative values), they have a demonstrated effect -- at least in the authors' experience -- on combat performance and behavior. However, lists of values do not give the entire picture. In many cases such lists are not patterned, sometimes they are mutually contradictory, and sometimes they are incongruent with observed behavior or leave large areas of behavior unexplained. For example, the values of "personal example" and Volunteering" in the culture of the Israeli cohort units, that suggest the importance of individual responsibility to the collective or to his related group, have in the 6

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past been a source of high status and a guide to the behavior of many conscripts. However, since the 1982 war in Lebanon, in many combat units the value of "own a little head", seems to have gained impetus. Similar to the Scottish "never volunteer and never refuse," the owner of the Little head" will do his duty and not Openly challenge the importance of the collective task, but will not assume any further responsibilities. In general, this attitude represents a newly introduced element of passive self-preservation that challenges the old values. Thus, the examination of values is often inconclusive. This is in part to the "ideal" nature of values, i.e., if values express- "espoused theories," then we must determine the variables of "theory in action."3 In addition, contrasting values often exist within a single group: Do they represent potential alternatives held in the collective mind of the group? Do they serve to differentiate sub- cultures within a single group? Or do they represent a weakness, strength, or some dynamic not strictly related to effectiveness of the group? To get at a deeper and more systematic level that would allow us to decipher behavioral patterns) and predict future behavior, a third level of group performance must be understood -- that which is guided by "basic assumptions." 3. In their analysis of theories of practice, Argyris and Schon suggest two kinds of theories: "espoused theories" are those that actors claim guide their actions, "theories in use" are those that are revealed in practice. There is often a gap between the two. Argyr~s C. and Schon Donald, Organizational Learning, Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1978. 7

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Basic assumptions comprise the underlying, taken-for-granted understanding of the nature of the world that is shared by group members, often at an unconscious level. Since they are taken for granted and unarticulated, basic assumptions are often unconfrontable and therefore difficult to change. In stable cultures, these basic assumptions underlie the patterns of values and artifacts which are more easily observed. A culture often coma-ins inner contradictions at the basic assumption level, and contradictions often exist among its three levels of artifacts, values, and basic assumptions. For example, a shared basic assumption that characterizes the Israeli military combat unites t end Israeli society in general) is that there is an enemy with evil intent out to destroy the collective. Self preservation requires suspicion, vigilance and eternal conflict. "They [the enemies] don't understand any other language" is a frequently heard characterization of the enemy. The role of the individual in this struggle requires self-sacrifice and risk-taking that express a debt to the collective. This not only to his peers, but also to the overall society. This rhetoric of individual commitment to his peers also differentiates the Israeli from the presumed passivity attributed to Diaspora Jews. This basic assumption is expressed in the oft- repeated and now cliched words of a national poet [Alterman], who sees the "fallen" as the "silver platter that brought forth the state." These basic assumptions, perhaps less widely shared in Israel today, nevertheless serve as a basis for interpreting historical events, and explaining diverse aspects of Israeli political and military life. 8

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In sum, two divisions with similar structures and tasks, performed differently. The differences can be accounted for by a cultural explanation. In the next section we will focus on a basic nucleus unit -- a tank crew -- and identify the cultural elements that stand behind the artifacts of both Israeli- and Syrian tank crews. CULTURE IN THE NUCLEUS GROUP: THE T~K CREW . The structure of a tank crew is "cast in iron:" four member enclosed within an iron frame. However, cultural differences among tank crews are significant not only between two armies, but also within the same army and unit. In this section we will examine the differences between a Syrian and an Israeli tank crew, which characterizes those crews that participated in the 1973 Middle East War on the Golan Heights battlefield. A typical Syrian tank crew as part of an armored division offensive must follow the leading tank into the front line. The rule is that if the leading tank is destroyed, the remaining tanks must bypass it into the front and keep to the offensive. In many ways this approach resembles, with spme modification, the classic Roman Falanga tactic. The way in which a typical Israeli tank crew operates in the counteroffensive is distinct from its Syrian counterparts. The - ~sraeli crew must be flexible enough to react independently, even when it loses communication with its unit. Not only the commander, but the entire crew must understand the mission and be able to 31

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implement it. Thus, the commander can be replaced if injured and the tank can keep to its mission. In contrast to the Syrian approach, the Israeli approach can be viewed as a modern interpretation of classic cavalry warfare.20 The cultural differences are manifested Inca number of revealing practices. First, the crew's attitude toward the position of its commander, i.e., whether he should stand with his head out of the tank, and expose himself to greater risk by not having armored protection, or whether he should remain closed within the turret. This artifact is rooted in leadership values. A Syrian commander who participate in the "line offensive" stays closed within the turret. Individual innovation is not required; his mission is strict and well-defined. Furthermore, an enclosed commander requires less commitment from his crew since he takes fewer personal risks. In this system of narrow job definitions, nobody in the tank crew can take over if the commander is injured, and his well-being is necessary for the crew to keep operating. When a commander is disabled the crew loses its ability to function and hence the commander must be protected to the same extent as the other crew members. Since the operatiion requires very simple actions, it is expected that the crew members will remain disconnected from their commander's stressful environment, and it is assumed that their access to accurate information would cause damage by increasing their anxiety and ability to function. 20. See a good description of such a cavalry warfare in John geesan The Face of Battle, Penguin Books, 1976. Chapter 2, Agincourt Battle. 32

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There is no great room for maneuvers and changes; the division's success is determined by accurate strategic planning and the critical mass required to execute the tactic. A major unplanned environmental event can prevent the fulfillment of the mission. The artifacts of a Syrian tank crew would, among other things, consist of strict hierarchical bureaucracy to an inflexible response to changing combat conditions, and restricted predefined individual roles based on narrow job definitions. The tight Syrian hierarchical control is marked by a reluctance to be creative or innovative, and by a desire to follow the path of least resistance. In different, a common practice in the Israeli armor force is- that the upper part of the tank commander's body should be outside the turret. This position gives the tank commander immediate and direct knowledge of his environment, and enables him to make choices at his own discretion. Here the value of "follow me, n as well as the overall military values concerning the role of it commander corps, dictate the way in which the tank commander stands during combat (with his upper body out of the turret). In fact, frequently, in an attempt to improve his view, a tank commander will stand high in the turret, and even disobey his commander order to stand low. By standing with part of his body out of the turret, the tank commander exposes himself to higher risk only for the sake of active participation in and correct information about the battle. As a result of this typical artifact, during all combat in which Israeli armor participates, tank commanders are at highest risk and have the most casualties. 33

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Second is the organization of communication in the tank. This artifact reflects deeper values is the fundamental disparity in the use of communication techniques. In a Syrian tank frequently there is no radio: the tank commanders simply follows their commander, or strict orders that have been given in advance.. In a higher ranking commanders' tank (platoon level), the only person who listens to regimental communication networks is the commander, while the other crew members have access only to the internal. The network is designed so that only from the commander position can an individual member access external networks. In contrast to the Syrians, a common practice by Israeli crew members is to listen to all radio channels of command. They do so despite the fact that it makes the tank radio channel more difficult to follow. In other words, within a culture of narrow job definition, the tank driver should listen only to the tank commander: The function of the driver is explicit and as such his radio system should be channeled only to his tank commander. In an Israeli tank, technically each crew member can listen to all channels to which the tank commander is listening.21 The assumption underlying the last two examples is that each Israeli individual in combat should have a large amount of accurate information about the combat, both before and during his unit's operation. For that matter the Israeli crew must develop informal 21. This is true even if the tank commander is also ~ division or battalion commander. In this case the tank crew are listening to the entire division's or battalion's radio channels. 34

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hierarchical boundaries that consist of a common ability to innovate, contingent upon broad job definition and social cohesion. Hence, since the crew's values determine that every individual shares all information even when such information is not directly re levant for him. However, the common practice is to try to get a better view of the close environment and to keep a connection with the broad picture by listening to the radio. The artifact that indicates this pattern of sharing information, is rooted in values such as mutual commitment, and the basic assumption that all Israeli individuals and groups are in pursuit of a common goal. Values, rather then structures, are frequently used as a basis to define combat behavior. The importance and the emphasis~that is given to the necessity to share information among all ranks in the Israeli army is case in point. The functional consequences is twofold: First, it is instrumental in fulfilling an innovative job; and second, it sets the stage for internal replacement of any crew member, especially the commander, so that another member can lead the force. Namely, within the context of sharing information, every individual and even every unit is replaceable; sharing information is also the framework that enables a unit to adapt to rapid environmental and internal structural changes. In sum, we can confidently assume that further examination of a military unit's basic assumption that would reveal related behavioral and performance variables. Social cohesion, based on common values and basic assumptions, rather on a particular structure in such a unit is fundamental for implementing the mission. 35

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CONCLUSION In this essay we used Schein's (1985) model of organizational culture to explore the relationship of cultural variables and military cohesion. The focus on culture should not be interpreted as an ignorance of other types of variables. In particular, we recognize the centrality of structural and task (or functional) variables in determining the relation of military cohesion and performance. These variables, however, have received more than their fair share of attention from scholars who have applied social theory to the analysis of the military organization. The purpose of this paper was to introduce and examine the contribution of the relatively neglected dimension of organizational culture to the analysis of military performance. The paper challenges some of the structural-functionalist assumptions that have guided much of the research on organizational performance. We assert that the overemphasis on linear relations between structure and function is an inadequate explanation of social action. The concern with expected consequences typical of structural-functional explanations, rather than with the causes of social action that lie in the riealm of culture, often leads to a distorted view of organizations. Thus, an organizational design based upon a strict functional and task analysis risks inadequacy by ignoring cultural variables that mediate, limit, constrain, or enhance performance. These variables are necessary to explain organizational diversity under similar conditions. Overconcern with the expected consequences or the organizational goals, at the expense 36

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of the causes of a particular social action is analogous to designing a military unit for an environment characterized by a lack of ambiguity, "plain, n nclean" and specific combat. Such an approach suffers from an overdeterministic view of human behavior. In addition, this approach also manifests an assumption of social homogeneity, while not considering the diverse origins of the unit groups and individuals. To be fair, the structural-functionalist contains the seeds of Schein~s cultural perspective, manifested in Parsons attempt to understand the social origins of the organization by proposing the concept of a cultural value-system. In Parsons' view, an - organization is tied to society by the value-system which it shares and by its functional requirement which it can only meet through the society and which must be satisfied if it is to survive.22 However, the notion of a semi-independent cultural sub-system is the least explored one. Hence, by suggesting unidirectional culture diffusion --from the top down-- the structural-functionalist's approach does not explore the notion of sub-cultural development, and the reality of diverse organizations performing within the same "functional" realm. Hence, a major question remains open: how and why do diverse organizations arise and operate within the same functional boundaries.23 22. Parsons Talcott (1965) "an Outline of the Social System", In Parson ed. Theories of Societies, New York: Free Press, pp 30. 23. The counts r argument that each organ) Nation has some unique manifest or latent social function Chat explains its specific form (Merton, 1949) is at best tautological. 37

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J9.r Parsons' underutilized notion of a "cultural system" served as the departure point for Schein's culture framework. Schein's model is in fact an additional but necessary development of the structural- functional model, in which cultural variables become endogenous to the analysis. Thus, the organizational culture framework should be considered as a theoretical extension which tries to connect the structural-functional relations among the three basic analytical levels -- societal, organizational, and group. Schein's culture model adds two significant dimensions to organizational analysis: first, a rigorous analysis of the internal dynamics that account for the uniqueness of a given organizational culture, rather then the external forces embodied in Parsons' value- system that mold organizations into a specific societal function. This enables us to examine sources and processes (rather then the structure and function) that lead to organizational diversity, and offers variables (such as leadership and socialization) that are controllable by decision makers. Second, Schein's model explains cultural constraints on organizational performance in situations where pure structural and functional considerations would! suggest successful outcomes. In Schein's view, basic assumptions --learned ways of viewing the world-- often constrain or enhance organizational performance independently of other variables. This perspective offers decision makers a way of understanding the limits of structural design 38

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decisions, as well as those of organizational strategies and policies. For example, an analysis of the new COHORT MANNING system that considers Schein's culture framework will provide both the policy-maker and the military scholar with an important dimension that is missing from the structural-functionalist perspective. In sum, the organizational culture framework suggest that organizational structure is not only a result of external forces, or inherent in the nature of the organizational goals, function, task or technology, but a consequence as well as a symbol of the most fundamental cultural factors that develop within the organization. Namely, while the structuralist argument emphasizes top down causal links, and in fact presents a highly constrained and deterministic image of individual choice and behavior, the cultural argument adds perspective that is derived from the bottom up and thus emphasizes variables that are potentially controllable by individual decision makers as well as other participants. Overall, it adds sets of cultural variables that must be understood and taken into account by anyone who would influence the nature of military life, and the outcomes of military performance. SOME COMMENTS WITH REGARD TO PROJECT "COHORT MANNING" Our discussion of the relationship of culture~structure and cohesion in military setting has a number of implications for project COHORT MANNING. In essence we claimed that the impact of the structural arrangements on attitudinal and performance outcomes in meditated by culture variables that are at least partly independent and should be 39

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taken into account in the planning stage. COHORT MANNING is primarily program that defines the structure and the shifts of units. What impact it will ultimately have on the performance of military units under various conditions is --if~we are right-- not a simple question. These outcomes might very quite dramatically under the same structural conditions as a result of culture variables. An analysis of these variables might help in designing the project and in practice its outcomes. AS an example of hypotheses that are derived from a cultural perspective, we offer the following: 1. T relations between structure and performance COHORT is necessary but not sufficient condition for attaining military horizontal-cohesion. Thus, cohesion might disrupted by contradictory basic assumptions. The racial tension among peers in the US army in Vietnam, as described by Moskos, is a point in case. 2. The Dynamics Factors: COHORT socialization can be destructive to vertical-cohesion, by producing a subculture that rejects external intervention. For example, John Van Maanen (1983) asserts that as a result of the cohort structure in the Harvard Business School, its graduates develop cooperative horizontal values, but are much less conformist as subordinates. In contrast, at the MIT Sloan School of Management the graduates are trained individually, and hence friendship among peers is rare, but graduates are much more conformist as subordinates. 40

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socialization in a Cohort unit is designed in an attempt to "break" the individual as a private citizen, and remold him as a member of a cohesive unit. A conflict between the values of a person as a citizen and as a soldier could be developed. A COHORT scheme blocks the ambitious individuals from promotion: A soldier who desires to be an officer will find it much more difficult, not only because of the structural determination, but also as a consequence of the cohort culture that suppresses individualism and demands loyalty to the group. 3. Demographic Element - - A COHORT unit that consists of individuals who enlisted without any other economic choice will develop low self-esteem and internal distrust: instead of having an elite spirit, the second-class spirit will be in force. 4. Ideological Element The COHORT scheme can develop internal values that will contradict civilian legal principles such as the military subordination to the civil political regime, and the ethic and moral foundation of the society. 4