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The purpose of this thesis is to investigate Napoleon Bonaparte's command and control of the Grand Armee through the lens of organizational design. Napoleon's methodology behind the design of the Grand Armee is analyzed using modern principles of organizational design. The structure that Napoleon created within his organizational design was a vast information network that served as the framework for a highly effective command and control system. This command and control network allowed Napoleon to dominate a war with his enemies within the information domain. The Grand Armee transited the European countryside with lightning speed as Napoleon out maneuvered his enemies. Napoleon's dominance was a direct result of his organizational masterpiece that was the Grand Armee. From an organizational design perspective, Napoleon's methodology applied the ideas of others and exploited existing technology to affect his design. The reorganization of the military corps became one of the most importTélécharger gratuit DTIC ADA501580: The Command and Control of the Grand Armee: Napoleon as Organizational Designer pdf
THE COMMAND AND CONTROL OF THE GRAND
ARMEE: NAPOLEON AS ORGANIZATIONAL DESIGNER
Norman L. Durham
Thesis Advisor: Karl D. Pfeiffer
Second Reader: Steven J. Iatrou
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4. TITLE AND SUBTITLE The Command and Control of the Grand Armee:
Napoleon as Organizational Designer
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6. AUTHOR(S) Norman L. Durham
7. PERFORMING ORGANIZATION NAME(S) AND ADDRESS(ES)
Naval Postgraduate School
Monterey, CA 93943-5000
8. PERFORMING ORGANIZATION
9. SPONSORING /MONITORING AGENCY NAME(S) AND ADDRESS(ES)
AGENCY REPORT NUMBER
11. SUPPLEMENTARY NOTES The views expressed in this thesis are
or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.
: those of the author and do not reflect the official policy
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1 13. ABSTRACT (maximum 200 words)
The purpose of this thesis is to investigate Napoleon Bonaparte’s command and control of the Grand Armee
through the lens of organizational design. Napoleon’s methodology behind the design of the Grand Armee is
analyzed using modern principles of organizational design. The structure that Napoleon created within his
organizational design was a vast information network that served as the framework for a highly effective command
and control system. This command and control network allowed Napoleon to dominate a war with his enemies within
the information domain.
The Grand Armee transited the European countryside with lightning speed as Napoleon out maneuvered his
enemies. Napoleon’s dominance was a direct result of his organizational masterpiece that was the Grand Armee.
From an organizational design perspective, Napoleon’s methodology applied the ideas of others and exploited
existing technology to affect his design.
The reorganization of the military corps became one of the most important transformations made by
Napoleon. The army corps was considered a key component in Napoleon’s strategic deployments. The command
and control system he engineered for his corps was essential in the Napoleonic philosophy to march divided and fight
14. SUBJECT TERMS Napoleon Bonaparte, Information Systems Engineering, Systems
Engineering, Command and Control, Organizational Design, Grand Armee
15. NUMBER OF
16. PRICE CODE
CLASSIFICATION OF THIS
20. LIMITATION OF
NSN 7540-01 -280-5500 Standard Form 298 (Rev. 2-89)
Prescribed by ANSI Std. 239-18
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Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited
THE COMMAND AND CONTROL OF THE GRAND ARMEE:
NAPOLEON AS ORGANIZATIONAL DESIGNER
Norman L. Durham
Lieutenant, United States Navy
B.S., Oregon State University, 2003
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY
NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL
Author: Norman L. Durham
Approved by: Karl D. Pfeiffer
Steven J. Iatrou
Dan C. Boger
Chairman, Department of Information Sciences
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The purpose of this thesis is to investigate Napoleon Bonaparte’s command and
control of the Grand Armee through the lens of organizational design. Napoleon’s
methodology behind the design of the Grand Armee is analyzed using modern principles
of organizational design. The structure that Napoleon created within his organizational
design was a vast information network that served as the framework for a highly effective
command and control system. This command and control network allowed Napoleon to
dominate a war with his enemies within the infonnation domain.
The Grand Armee transited the European countryside with lightning speed as
Napoleon out maneuvered his enemies. Napoleon’s dominance was a direct result of his
organizational masterpiece that was the Grand Armee. From an organizational design
perspective, Napoleon’s methodology applied the ideas of others and exploited existing
technology to affect his design.
The reorganization of the military corps became one of the most important
transfonnations made by Napoleon. The anny corps was considered a key component in
Napoleon’s strategic deployments. The command and control system he engineered for
his corps was essential in the Napoleonic philosophy to march divided and fight united.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
C. THESIS OUTLINE.3
A. KEY MILITARY CONCEPTS.5
1. Command and Control (C2).5
3. Army Organization.7
B. INFORMATION SYSTEMS ENGINEERING.9
1. Systems Engineering.9
2. Information Systems.10
C. ORGANIZATIONAL DESIGN.12
1. Organizational Design.12
2. Principles of Organizational Design.13
III. STRUCTURAL MODEL OF NAPOLEON’S ORGANIZATIONAL
A. EVOLUTION OF THE CORPS FORMATION.17
1. Design Process.17
2. Corps Design.18
3. Corps Command and Control Element.20
B. IMPERIAL HEADQUARTERS ORGANIZATION.21
2. General Staff..23
IV. ANALYSIS OF NAPOLEON’S ORGANIZATIONAL DESIGN IN KEY
A. THE MANEUVER ON ULM: 20 OCTOBER 1805.27
B. BATTLE OF AUSTERLITZ: 2 DECEMBER 1805.28
C. THE BATTLE OF WAGRAM: 5-6 JULY 1809.32
V. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.37
B. FUTURE WORK.40
LIST OF REFERENCES.43
INITIAL DISTRIBUTION LIST.45
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LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1. Battle of Austerlitz (Battle of Austerlitz, 2009).31
Figure 2. Battle of Wagram (Battle of Wagram, 2009).33
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I would like to express my sincere thanks to LtCol Karl Pfeiffer and Mr. Steven
Iatrou for their support, guidance, advice, and humor during the research and completion
of this thesis.
Also, I would like to thank my beloved wife, Andrea, my daughter, Brooke, and
my dog, Caesar, for their understanding and invaluable support of my endeavors.
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Napoleon Bonaparte was undoubtedly one of the greatest military minds of all
time. As General, Consul, and Emperor he left an extraordinary record of success on and
off the battlefields of Europe during the years of 1803-1815. This twelve-year span of
Napoleon’s military dominance became known as the Napoleonic Wars (Esdaile, 2007).
Much has been written on the military tactics, techniques, and procedures developed and
implemented by this great commander. Little has been said of his expert use of
organizational design and the systems he engineered to ensure timely acquisition and
distribution of essential infonnation. This thesis explores this area of Napoleon’s
Napoleon’s appreciation and understanding of the military arts does not come by
happenstance, his military education started at the age of 9, as he left Corsica and entered
the French military school system. Here he was prepared for a career in the artillery.
Napoleon was provided formal instruction in the rudiments of military science,
mathematics, history, geography, and German (Horward, 1988). He spent his formative
years as an artillery officer until destiny intervened on his behalf. While in Paris in
October 1795, Napoleon was called upon to defend the National Convention from a mob
of 30,000 Parisians (Horward, 1988). Napoleon was considered a hero of the government
and was eventually appointed to be the commander of the Army of Italy in March 1796
(Horward, 1988). His star continued to rise and he would eventually become the First
Consul, and later Emperor of the French.
Napoleon had inherited large conscript armies from the French Revolution. These
annies were led by young ambitious commanders, accustomed to a mobile, offensive,
and ruthless way of war (Rothenberg, 1978). He would inspire these soldiers with a
fierce loyalty and devotion to France. Together they would win unsurpassed victories
and Napoleon’s strategies, campaigns, and style of command would be studied by
soldiers everywhere (Rothenberg, 1978). Napoleon transformed Europe and laid the
foundation for the nineteenth century—politically, socially, economically, and militarily
Organizational design is an example of a modern framework with which to make
a critical examination of this 18 th century genius. An inquiry into Napoleon’s
methodology of this framework would reveal that he pushed existing technology to the
limits. At the same time he made its very limitations work for him. The effectiveness of
Napoleon’s organization depended on his ability to successfully disseminate data
throughout his infonnation network. Organizations acquire and internally disseminate
information in order to carry out the critical functions of decision making and control
(Huber, 1982). Napoleon utilized the existing technology of the Chappe’s semaphore
telegraph to improve his message traffic. He maximized its potential by constructing
towers across Europe creating a communications web that would cover his expanding
empire (Elting, 1988). When messages were too long or not as important to use
Chappe’s telegraph, Napoleon relied on the European postal system. He made
improvements by creating an express courier service. Messages were carried in a lock
box with a logbook that showed the date and time of arrivals and departures of couriers to
each post house (Elting, 1988).
One of Napoleon’s greatest organizational designs was the versatile corps system.
Napoleon restructured its organization to contain every facet of an army. An anny of
150,000 men could be organized into eight numbered corps, each containing every
element of anns and each provided with a uniformly structured, but not necessarily
pennanent, staff to direct its operations (Van Creveld, 1985).
The command and control (C2) structure of the corps system developed by
Napoleon was a simple hierarchical organization with Napoleon as its pinnacle. The
corps was deployed such that no one corps was more than a one day march from another.
Following contemporary military wisdom that no single corps of roughly 28,000 men
could be overwhelmed in one day, allowing time for reinforcements to arrive in support
(Elting, 1988). The smaller well spaced corps system also allowed for ease in logistics
and foraging the European countryside (Van Creveld, 1985). Maneuverability of the
army was improved as the independent corps could take different paths to a rendezvous
point. In contrast, other European military organizations of the day normally deployed
their armies in mass, taking more time to reach a destination. Ultimately, this swift
maneuverability allowed Napoleon to achieve many of his greatest victories (Clausewitz,
1812/1942). He was able to out maneuver many of his coalition enemies by isolating
them and destroying them in detail. Napoleon’s ability to out maneuver his enemies
rested on his ability to engineer an organization that could support his innovative ideas.
This thesis will analyze the organizational design process, specifically how the
principles of organizational design applied to Napoleon the organizational designer.
Utilization of these organizational principles coupled with existing technology enabled
Napoleon to create a vast command and control network that supported his dominance
over his European contemporaries.
This thesis will investigate the command and control elements developed by
Napoleon Bonaparte. The primary area of focus will be on Napoleon as an
organizational designer. His mastery of the available technology and resources allowed
him to achieve his great success on the battlefield. Through the lens of organizational
design this thesis will examine the modern areas of organizational theory and design to
better understand how Napoleon effectively developed his organizational structure. The
objective of this thesis will not be to present another historical recount of Napoleon’s
many triumphs as a military commander. The intention will be to explore Napoleon’s
ability to develop organizational structures within the technological and human
constraints of the period to outmaneuver his opponents.
C. THESIS OUTLINE
The remainder of this work is organized as follows. Chapter II is a review of
pertinent literature that will provide an overview of some of Napoleon’s military
engagements to best emphasize his organizational skills and achievements in effective
command and control. This chapter will also discuss the basics of systems and
information systems engineering and highlight specific principles of organizational
design. Chapter III will be a discussion on how Napoleon’s interpretation of information
systems engineering and organizational design guided his restructuring of the existing
military corps structure. Chapter IV will cover the methodology and philosophy behind
the Napoleon command and control network the benefits of being the ultimate authority
on the design criteria. This chapter will also present three military engagements in which
Napoleon achieved victory as a direct result of his design theory. Chapter V will be
conclusions drawn from the analysis made on Napoleon’s ability to apply organizational
design concepts to command and control. This chapter will also attempt to present
further areas for research and discussion in organizational design and command and
This chapter will review important concepts and tenninology that are needed to
understand the organizational design process with respect to Napoleon’s Grand Armee.
Transformations Napoleon made were not typically the result of creation but
organization. He applied what are now considered to be modern principles of
information systems engineering to the ideas of others. In addition, this chapter will
cover key elements of warfare and how they were affected during the time periods of the
French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815).
A. KEY MILITARY CONCEPTS
1. Command and Control (C2)
No single activity in military operations is more important than command and
control (DoD, 2006). Without command and control an army would be subject to
lighting a battle as a reactionary force unable to effectively maneuver and exploit tactical
advantages during an engagement. Command is a function that must be exercised in
order for an anny to exist and operate. The Joint Pub 1-02, Department of Defense
Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms defines command and control as, the
exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commander over assigned
and attached forces in the accomplishment of the mission. Command and control
functions are performed through an arrangement of personnel, equipment,
communications, facilities, and procedures employed by a commander in planning,
directing, coordinating, and controlling forces and operations in the accomplishment of
the mission (DoD, 2001).
The Napoleonic era ushered in a revolution that necessitated an alteration in
military organizations’ command and control. The dramatic expansion of armed forces
through national conscription required a more logical and efficient means of controlling
annies in the field and on campaign (Bruce et ah, 2008). Napoleon Bonaparte had been
quick to respond to these revolutionary changes. Napoleon had a heightened sense of
awareness to command and control created from his military training and assignments as
an artillery officer. He knew that massed artillery during key moments in a battle could
very well decide the outcome of that engagement (Clausewitz, 1812/1942). Decisive and
effective command and control were paramount in exploiting this tactic on the battlefield.
Most Napoleon scholars and historians of the period would agree that Napoleon had a
very keen intellect that was considered by some to be border line genius (Rothenberg,
1999). His genius also included a vivid imagination that is present in many of his letters
that survive to this day (Van Creveld, 1985). This imagination coupled with his self
proclaimed love of mathematics and science were invaluable to his systematic
restructuring of France’s command and control structure.
For the purposes of this thesis infrastructure is defined as the basic organizational
structures needed to sustain a society, this includes roads, waterways, and lines of
communication. Basic infrastructure throughout France and Europe had made great
strides through the eighteenth centruy (Rothenberg, 1978). Vast amounts of new roads
and canals were being built which facilitated travel and trade. A royal mail carrier
service established in the sixteenth century had increased exponentially during this time
period. Napoleon had estimated this allowed infonnation and news to travel twice as fast
as it had during the age of Caesar (Van Creveld, 1985).
In 1793, the Frenchman Claude Chappe had demonstrated a practicle use of the
semaphore telegraph and had established a line from Paris to Lille (Elting, 1988). This
telegraph line covered the 150 mile distance with the use of fifteen stations. In favorable
weather, one sign could be sent in five minutes. The time needed to send a message was
considerably reduced by encoding it so that each sign represented an entire word or
phrase (Elting, 1988). This emerging technology was an area in which Napoleon tried to
improve, as it would serve as a faster means to send and receive data throughout his
command and control network.
There were also improvements in the field of cartography. Maps were now being
created using mathematical triangulation which improved accuracy of the maps (Van
Creveld, 1985). For the first time ever maps of all sizes and qualities were made readily
available, effectively improving the strategic planning process for commanders in the
Logistical support is a significant area that relies heavily on infrastructure. It saw
vast improvement with the expanding road and canal systems. A shift in population
density increased to the point where most regions could support the foraging of armies.
Prior to the 18 th century, population density’s tended to orbit around major cities.
However, during the 18 th century the population density of the countryside increased to
the point that many regions could support annies (Van Creveld, 1985).
Foraging was an accepted method Napoleon’s soldiers used to gather food from a
surrounding countryside. In contrast, the act of foraging was strictly forbidden in the
British anny and severely punished by Wellington. However, on occasion necessity
forced Wellington and his officers to turn a blind eye to the practice (Rothenberg, 1978).
The practice had developed into a highly effective system in the French army, and troops
showed considerable ingenuity in finding supplies (Rothenberg, 1978). This decreased
an army’s dependency on magazines and convoys which improved the army’s overall
mobility (Elting, 1988). The concept of foraging was paramount for Napoleon’s corps as
they normally traveled independently, further decreasing the logistics demand from one
3. Army Organization
One of the elements to Napoleon’s success as a military commander was the
adaptations he made in the organization of his armies. Armies of the Napoleonic era
were roughly organized the same as they are today aside from the weapons and vehicles
that modern technology has provided.
Prior to the French Revolution, France’s military was organized much like the
modem Army National Guard of the United States. The French military was organized
into divisions in 1791. Each division was assigned to a specific region or territory and a
general officer assigned to each division. These general officers were responsible for all
the troops and fortresses within their divisions and for the preservation of law and order if
local civil authorities could not handle the situation (Elting, 1988).
The French Revolution created many social changes within the anny. The title
and birth right of nobility was forbidden by the National Assembly. The officer corps
thoughout Europe primarily consisted of nobles or men who had attained noble stature or
station (Elting, 1988). The reorganization of the officer corps within France had actually
assisted up and coming officers such as Napoleon. The chaotic conditions of the
revolution had advanced him in rank well beyond his years. In fact, the average age of
the first eighteen marshals was only 44 (Horward, 1988). Napoleon’s marshals had risen
through the ranks and were not given assignments based on noble birth as was contrary to
the European monarchys of the era. This gave Napoleon an edge as he developed his
organization. He realized he could appoint marshals who were risk takers and would not
shy away from combat. This advantage came at an extremely high cost as Napoleon
suffered a higher mortality rate amongst his generals than those of his enemies
(Rothenberg, 1999). Eventually, the overall effectiveness of Napoleon’s organization
was decreased due to attrition of experienced commanders in the field.
As in today’s military organization the armies of France were organized into
regiments, brigades, divisions, and corps. The brigade usually consisted of two or more
regiments; a division of two or more brigades (Elting, 1988). The corps became the focal
point for Napoleon’s organizational adaptation. The corps system had been previously
established by France’s National Assembly in 1794. In 1799, Napoleon consolidated his
political power becoming First Consul of France. He began to combine his divisions into
anny corps, a combination of infantry, artillery, and a brigade of cavalry, plus
detachments of engineers, pontoniers(engineers that build pontoon bridges), and a staff
(Horward, 1988). Details and breakdown of the corps sytem will be discussed further in
Another key element of army organization was the general staff corps. In 1792,
the French National Assembly started assigning a chief of staff officer to its field armies.
In particular. Marshal Berthier would excel in this role as he was assigned to the Army of
the Alps. The future chief of staff for the Grand Annee, Berthier developed doctrine
which provided guidance on how to effectively operate as a General Staff (Van Creveld,
1985). The General Staff would serve as the backbone of Napoleon’s organization and
C2 network. Berthier would provide the blueprint for all staff officers on how to be an
effective productive component of Napoleon’s C2 system.
B. INFORMATION SYSTEMS ENGINEERING
1. Systems Engineering
Systems engineering is considered to be a robust approach to the design, creation,
and operation of systems. The systems engineering process consists of identification and
quantification of system goals, creation of alternative system design concepts,
performance of the design, selection and implementation of the best design, and to verify
if the design meets the criteria set forth in the goals of the system (NASA, 1995).
The fundamental goal of systems engineering is problem solving. The problem
solving process can be described in three steps: problem system, project system, and
delivered system (Marvel, 2008).
The problem system starts with the quantification of the goals, system
requirements and customer needs (Marvel, 2008). One of the biggest engineering
problems facing Napoleon was the scale of the command and control network he set out
to design. Prior to his appointment as First Consul of the Republic, he had only
commanded one corps or roughly 28,000 men. Napoleon would have to drastically
expand that network in order to control up to ten times as many soldiers.
The next step in the problem solving process is the project system. This is where
the engineer formulates his strategy for his design, develops, and produces a solution for
the problem (Marvel, 2008). In systems engineering this is also referred to as
methodology. Napoleon’s Italian campaign of 1796 afforded him the opportunity to
experiment with the effectiveness of his C2 system. He organized his one corps into a
structure he would apply to his design of the Grand Armee (Rothenberg, 1999).
The final step in the process is referred to as the delivered system. This represents
the finished product which included the testing and verification that the system meets the
requirements set forth in the design concept (Marvel, 2008). For Napoleon, verification
would come at the Battle of Ulm in October of 1805. The Austrians under General Mack
would be the first nation to witness the lightning quick efficency with which Napoleon’s
Systems engineering also relies on an ability to utilize current technology and
resources in order to meet the system goals. Napoleon Bonaparte applied the standard
systems engineering process when he set out to reorganize the military corps fonnation.
His goal for the corps system was to create an organization that could function
autonomously. The corps was a self-contained army and C2 network, complete with all
military elements and led by a marshal and staff corps. The result of this design impacted
the command and control of the Grand Armee by improving the flow of information
throughout his organization.
2. Information Systems
Information is simply the influx of data that are relevant, timely, and concise
(Tushman & Nadler, 1978). This infonnation effects a change in knowledge. This
change in knowledge is the result of information processing. Information processing is at
the heart of an effective information systems network. Tushman and Nadler define
information processing as the collection, interpreting, and synthesis of information in
respect to organizational decision making (Tushman & Nadler, 1978).
Napoleon designed his organization so that he could serve as the nucleus of his
command and control network. However, its effectiveness depended on the flow of
information from his units in the field. This infonnation flow was regulated by Marshal
Berthier and the General Staff. Information was collected and organized by Berthier and
then forwarded to Napoleon for processing and interpretation. This step is an integral
process in an organizational information system. An organization must acquire, analyze,
de-conflict, and internally disseminate information in order to carry out critical functions
of control and decision making (Huber, 1982). Chapter III will discuss in detail the
design and layout of the General Staff and its role in Napoleon’s organization and C2
The term network is defined as an interconnected or interrelated chain, group, or
system (Network, 2009). This definition will be used in terms of command and control
and the information systems that connected related groups within Napoleon’s
organizational design. The relationship between the General Staff and the staff corps of
individual army corps represents a network created by Napoleon’s organizational design.
The General Staff was responsible for the flow of information within Napoleon’s C2
structure. This network depended on a highly organized courier system that delivered
information to all parts of the empire (Elting, 1988).
Military intelligence was a major component in Napoleon’s information system.
The need to gather intelligence has not changed through the evolution of warfare, only
the means and technology used to gather it. Intelligence gathering for Napoleon’s
organization included troop movements, terrain scouting, force size, composition,
intentions, and unit strength and weaknesses. Basic intelligence gathering was
accomplished through a well arranged system of espionage, capturing prisoners, probing
with cavalry scouts, and intercepting messengers (Jomini, 1862/2007). Intelligence
gathering was supervised by an Intelligence Bureau that Napoleon established within his
Imperial Headquarters. Unfortunately, many of these operations were only vaguely
recorded (Elting, 1988).
Napoleon used his political station as Consul and Emperor as an extension of his
information network. The majority of his intelligence came from his diplomatic service,
every French ambassador had his own spy net and staff, who made friends with loosed-
lipped government officials (Elting, 1988). Napoleon’s diplomatic service also produced
intelligence from foreign newspapers as well, finding them most infonnative.
In the end, Napoleon’ organization and system of command and control depended
heavily on a diverse information system. Napoleon drew his information from many
agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau and his system of diplomatic espionage. This
information came by many means, and he often paid well for it (Elting, 1988).
C. ORGANIZATIONAL DESIGN
1. Organizational Design
Many of today’s theories on organization have their origins in the organizational
designs created in a military structure (Autry, 1996). Although this thesis will focus
more on Napoleon’s ability to restructure his military organization, he was also very
successful in redistributing responsibilities within his government. In both facets,
Napoleon is what Henry Mintzberg refers to as the strategic apex, or top management.
Napoleon in essence did the hiring and firing of the people to do the basic work of the
administration (Mintzberg, 1980). Napoleon made all decisions within his organization
both militarily and domestically. From a military point of view, Napoleon acted as his
own operations officer. Napoleon often remarked that he required no advice from his
generals, for he alone knew what he must do (Rothenberg, 1978).
There are five basic organizational design clusters or configurations. These
configurations are the simple structure, machine bureaucracy, professional bureaucracy,
divisional form, and adhocracy (Mintzberg, 1980). Napoleon’s organizational design
falls primarily within the definitions of the simple structure and the machine
The simple structure is the baseline for all of the organizational design structures.
As its name suggests, there is not very much involved in this structure. It is defined as
one large unit consisting of one or a few top managers and a group of operators who
perform the basic work (Mintzberg, 1980). Looking at Napoleon’s organization through
a lens of organizational design reveals a simple structure. This structure is evident with
Napoleon representing the apex. His top managers consisted of his General Staff, and
then Napoleon’s marshals and their respective staff corps. The simple structure functions
most effectively in an environment where one man is making all decisions and requires
minimum assistance to distribute and carry out orders. Napoleon as a supreme
commander often held an advantage over his Coalition adversaries who were often
without a unity of command. This often allowed Napoleon to react more quickly to
tactical situations while his enemies wasted time deciding amongst themselves what
action to take. Chapter III will discuss what elements of Napoleon’s design can be most
represented by the simple structure configuration.
The machine bureaucracy is often associated with the industrial revolution and its
standardization of work for coordination and its resulting low-skilled, highly specialized
jobs (Mintzberg, 1980). The Napoleonic structure was very standardized from the very
day to day schedule the man kept, to the manner in which Marshal Berthier ran the
general staff. Standardization was the key in the development of the standing armies of
the day. High attrition rates from Napoleon’s campaigns meant that new recruits were
constantly refilling the ranks (Elting, 1988). Standardization within the command
structure, i.e. staff corps assigned to each corps allowed for the continued ebb and flow of
daily operations within the unit, in addition to the supervision of drills and training for the
new recruits (Elting, 1988). When viewing Napoleon’s design from the modern lens of
organizational design it must be noted that his simple structure contained the
standardization element of the machine bureaucracy.
2. Principles of Organizational Design
The organizational process begins with the creation of a strategy or objective.
The strategy is derived from clear, concise statements of purpose and vision from the
organization’s philosophy (Autry, 1996). The strategy should utilize the five basic
principles of organizational design: division of labor, unity of command, authority and
responsibility, spans of control, and contingency factors.
The division of labor covers the departmentalization of the men and women who
work for the organization (Sharma, 1995). For Napoleon, this illustrates how he divided
his various divisions to create his corps system. These new departments (corps) now
required the second component of division of labor, specialization. Specialized workers
were needed in order to operate in Napoleon’s organization. A classic example would be
the mobile artillery units created by Napoleon to bring field artillery pieces expeditiously
to points in the line for defence or to spearhead a charge in the enemy’s line. This
specific division of labor was paramount in the Napoleonic tactic of massing artillery to
achieve maximum firepower (Clausewitz, 1812/1942). This required a new
specialization requirement for a member of the cavalry as well as the artilleryman. New
specialized troops meant new training requirements. Napoleon was able to train his
troops on the proper allocation of this tactic during the two years he spent forming the
Grand Armee in northern France (1803-1805) (Elting, 1988).
The unity of command principle establishes a chain of command. Napoleon
designed his organization such that he maintained a role as an ultimate authority.
Napoleon’s contemporaries amongst his enemies often had to operate in an environment
without unity of command. Napoleon never had to contend with his decisions affecting
the national interests of his allies. Napoleon’s allies were normally satellite states of his
empire and therefore subject to his decisions (Howard, 1988). From a military
perspective, the upper echelon chain of command consisted of the corps Field Marshals,
then Napoleon’s chief of staff (Marshal Berthier), and finally Napoleon. The success in
the unity of command relied heavily on the strategic apex concept (Sharma, 1995).
The next principle is authority and responsibility. Napoleon was obviously the
ultimate authority. However, Napoleon had to grant his Marshals command by negation
in many instances due to proximity of their units. Although, it was the marshal’s
responsibility to report his movements to the General Staff, they had to exercise
autonomous authority from time to time in order to achieve the goals set forth in
Napoleon had developed a trust in the majority of his marshals through serving
with many of them in his early campaigns in Italy and Egypt prior to the formation of the
Grand Armee. Through the specialized training that occurred during the build-up of the
Grand Armee, Napoleon’s confidence in his commanders increased (Elting, 1988). They
conducted drills that emphasized the Napoleonic way of war. Through strategic and
tactical repetition Napoleon hoped to ensure his commanders would respond to a tactical
situation appropriately. Although ultimate responsibility lay with the Emperor, Napoleon
never hesitated to hold one of his generals responsible for the failure to carry out his
Spans of control refer to the levels of authority delegated to the various
management positions within Napoleon’s organizational structure. For example,
Napoleon would often grant his aides-de-camp authority to speak on his behalf (Elting,
1988). These aides-de-camp had the complete trust of their emperor through years of
service and were hand selected. In some instances Napoleon even required them to go
into the field to relieve a general of his command. This was the case at the Battle of
Wagram in which Napoleon had Marshal Bemadotte relieved for abandoning the town of
Aderklaa (Horward, 1988).
The last principle of organizational design is called the contingency factors
(Sharma, 1995). The environment and weather are two contingency factors that annies
are always faced with. One of the keys to Napoleon’s success was the ability of his
organization to adapt to its environment. Some elements of the Grand Annee had been
with Napoleon since his Egyptian Campaign of 1798. Many had survived plague in
Egypt and starvation during Napoleon’s earlier campaigns in Italy. The resilience of the
Grand Annee was always a source of confidence for Napoleon who was never afraid to
push his men to their physical limits. In fact, much of the success of the Grand Annee
was due to their ability to cover great distances in short periods of time (Bruce et al.,
This chapter has served as an avenue to highlight key terms and concepts in
regards to the command and control of the Grand Annee as they relate to organizational
design. The components of Napoleon’s information network were engineered to
capitalize on improvements made in France’s infrastructure.
Napoleon utilized concepts of modern organizational design and systems
engineering centuries before they became areas of academia. These modem concepts
help to gain understanding of how Napoleon restructured the Grand Annee. During this
process he also created a highly effective command and control network. The schematic
he created became fashionably popular and his organizational model has been analyzed
and applied through the generations. Chapter III will analyze how modern methods of
organizational design and systems engineering were applied by Napoleon to create his
III. STRUCTURAL MODEL OF NAPOLEON’S
A. EVOLUTION OF THE CORPS FORMATION
The corps formation became the cornerstone of Napoleon’s Grand Armee and a
major component of his organizational design. The corps consists of two or more
infantry divisions, a brigade or division of light cavalry, artillery batteries, and a
detachment of engineers and support troops (Rothenberg, 1978). The corps organization
was originally adopted by France’s National Assembly in 1794. The system had been
experimentally used by one of Napoleon’s chief rivals, General Jean Victor Marie
Moreau, who initially helped Napoleon to power, but was later exiled to America (Elting,
1988). By 1800, Napoleon began the design process that would restructure his military
divisions into army corps (corps d’ armee).
1. Design Process
The organizational design process begins with the creation of a strategy. For
Napoleon, that strategy was to create a standing army that was swift and versatile. This
army would consist of numerous self-contained anny corps. These units had to have the
capability to maneuver effectively when detached from the centralized command of
Napoleon. However, the centralized command required the need to maintain an effective
command and control network in order to redirect forces when Napoleon deemed it
necessary. The birth of the Grand Armee can be set in May, 1803, when England
repudiated the Treaty of Amiens and declared war on France (Elting, 1988). Napoleon
responded by concentrating large forces, designated as the Army of England, in camps
along the English Channel and the North Sea.
The strategy in the design process must be derived from clear, concise statements
of purpose and vision. The strategy helps to unify the intent of the organization and
focuses soldiers toward actions designed to accomplish desired outcomes (Autry, 1996).
These annies had become battle hardened through campaigns in Italy along with those
who returned with Napoleon from the Egyptian campaign. In order to provide his
organization with a purpose and vision, Napoleon sought to instill pride in his troops,
love for the Republic, and share in his vision to rid Europe of the established monarchies
(Esdaile, 2007). The monarchies of Europe who constantly tried to undennind
Napoleon’s rule and return the House of Bourbon to the throne of France (Esdaile, 2007).
While waiting to invade England the troops stationed in northern France received
intensive training on new tactics and equipment. Napoleon’s men were trained in the
maneuvering strategy of the anny corps. Here Napoleon’s soldiers learned how to march
divided and fight united, which would become another Napoleonic way of war (Bruce et
For nearly three years the army drilled and maneuvered giving the command
element a chance to become more proficient with the newly organized corps. Many of
the new tactics were small unit maneuvers. This gave Napoleon’s organization a chance
to become more proficient in C2. These tactics developed from Napoleon’s new corps
design, and had been tested on a smaller scale in Italy and Egypt (Bruce et al., 2008).
Eventually, a shortage of adequate sea transportation and artillery would deter
Napoleon from an invasion of England. From 1805, the Anny of England became known
as the Grand Armee (Horward, 1988).
The manifestation of the Grand Armee had been Napoleon’s visionary design for
a military organization. He had already achieved absolute political power in France. As
an absolute autocrat, there would not be any other competing authority in France with the
Grand Armee under his command (Rothenberg, 1978).
2. Corps Design
Napoleon institutionalized the corps organization for strategic and tactical
purposes. The object was to engineer a smaller more maneuverable force which
contained all facets of an organized army. The reorganization of the corps became the
foundation with which Napoleon set himself apart from his contemporaries. From
Napoleon’s perspective, command and control issues were accomplished by maintaining
an effective messaging system (Elting, 1988). His messaging system consisted of an
elaborate courier system that included lock boxes and a travel log to track the movements
of the couriers. Napoleon insured that his generals were well informed of his intentions.
By accomplishing this, Napoleon’s army had a heightened state of situational awareness.
Good situational awareness increased the effectiveness of his organization by
allowing his field commanders to decide how to best prepare for an upcoming
engagement. In contrast, most of the conscripted armies of Europe travelled in mass
which eased the burden of command and control (Clausewitz, 1812/1942). Many
Coalition commanders were not as forthcoming with information to their subordinates,
thus limiting their situational awarness and commander’s intent.
A typical corps in the Grand Annee consisted of around 28,000 infantry, 1,400
cavalry, plus its artillerymen, engineering corps, and staff corps (Elting, 1988). Napoleon
engineered this organization to move autonomously and be able to meet and defeat an
enemy of equal strength. He deployed his corps so that no one corps was further than a
one day march from another. This concept was built around the premise that one of his
corps could engage a superior enemy force and hold them at bay until reinforcements had
arrived (Clausewitz, 1812/1942). Napoleon depended on well developed lines of
communication to pass news along whenever one of his corps engaged the enemy.
Napoleon often enlisted allied forces to garrison cities and towns that he conquered in
order to protect his lines of communication (Horward, 1988). By creating a standardized
organization whereby each corps was roughly interchangeable and able to exchange
roles, Napoleon enhanced his strategic level of performance. Instead of being an army in
mass, the Grand Annee was able to spread its corps a distance of fifteen to thirty miles
from each other to avoid traffic control and supply problems (Van Creveld, 1985).
Whenever the road permitted it, the corps would march in three or four columns to allow
more rapid maneuver and deployment able to seek out, accept, or avoid combat as its
commander chose (Elting, 1988).
Napoleon’s corps design follows the first principle in organizational design,
division of labor (Sharma, 1995). The Grand Annee was departmentalized into each
individual army corps, each with its own staff and Field Marshal. Napoleon required a
specialized labor force within his organization to lead his anny corps. During the build
up to invade England, Napoleon had the opportunity to remove any undesriables in his
officer corps which he felt were not capable leaders (Elting, 1988). The French
Revolution had removed any prerequisite of noble blood or station to become a member
of the officer corps. Napoleon wasted little time in promoting deserving leaders to direct
his units, as all his future marshals shared one quality, conspicuous bravery (Rothenberg,
These specialized leaders were responsible for training their individual corps to
maneuver and tight in the corps fonnation. The corps organization consisted of many
other skilled laborers, including the vaunted mobile artillery units. Napoleon utilized
specialized cavalry units to haul light weight cannons around during an engagement.
These units were paramount in his overall organizational strategy as the could deliver
needed artillery support to spearhead an advance, or be relocated to brea
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