In book II, Clausewitz goes into great detail about the formation and application of theory. While he espouses little actual theory here, he does hammer home one extremely important idea.
The most prominent point, in my mind, is that there is no one-size fits-all solution. Clausewitz discusses the use of “routine“ as necessary for ancillary functions and training, as it provides basic knowledge on a tactical level for troops in the field, and provide the junior officer with “brisk, precise, and reliable leadership, reducing natural friction and easing the working of the machine” (p. 153). However, it is clear that even at this tactical level, and with rank and file troops and junior officers, Clausewitz intends for routine to be used only as a framework for action, not as an immutable set of rules that must be followed. In fact, Clausewitz’ point for the entirety of chapter two appears to be that theory in war should used as a framework, never doctrine, and never considered an unassailable code of action. He again emphasizes that the commander should instead rely on his “genius”, referring to theory only as a tool to “educate the mind of the future commander, or more accurately, to guide him in his self education, not to accompany him to the battlefield…”(p. 141).
Clausewitz goes on to explain that experience and history are an important part of theory of war, but provides strong cautions for careful interpretation of historical events due to unreported factors involved in the decision processes used by past commanders. This, combined with inappropriate application of previously successful strategies can lead to disastrous results.
In my experience, this philosophy tends to be true not only in war but in any situation that involves conflict or decision-making. Often, relying on inflexible doctrine alone leads to brittle solutions that shatter when significantly tested. Organizations that drink from the well of “that’s the way we do it, and that’s the way it’s always been done,” often find themselves out of business. I need to stress that like war, there is a place for standards and routine, but they should serve only as guides for practice.