The philosophy of Auftragstaktik is aimed at initiative of subordinates within and outside of the scope provided by the commander's intent. While acting within the intent, in general, does not cause problems, acting in alteration of or opposite to given orders regularly will. Deviating from orders within the philosophy of Auftragstaktik is justified by the grundlegende Lageänderung--fundamental change of situation, or if acting upon a higher responsibility to the unit. In four, partly overlapping phases this thesis examines the factors determining the use of initiative while applying Auftragstaktik in the German military forces from 1806 until today. 1. The emergence of Auftragstaktik, from Clausewitz's understanding of war to the total initiative of field commanders in Moltke's age and World War I, 1806-1918. 2. Low tactical level initiative in the synchronized warfare of World War I, 1915-1918. 3. An army shaped for initiative versus detailed tactical control by Hitler, 1919-1945. 4. The ethical component of initiative--responsibility for the preservation of units to Innere Führung, 1941-1955. Using doctrinal references and analysis of actions of commanders in the different wars, the thesis examines the influence of technological developments, culture, societal factors and political influences, as well as developments in warfare.