Sugar’s take on plans - A Plan is a place to start, a place to deviate from, a source of common language, and a method of relating and creating a shared vision of what future conditions you’re trying to enable or encourage. Plans are key to creating a common vision and language, facilitating unity of effort between disparate and often large organizations, and also driving the bureaucratic processes required to provide the stable logistical backbone needed either for proactive preplanned actions or dynamic responsive ones.

Difference between strategy and planning. Even accepting Gray’s description of strategy as occurring below grand strategy and pertaining to the use or threat of use of force to influence politics, we still can't say definitively where strategy ends and planning starts. In the Strategy Division of the AOC, and also in A5 shops in MAJCOMs and Component NAFs, we usually consider the conceptual work we do there as strategy. In the Army, the conceptual formulation is still considered part of the planning process, and is now accomplished through Design:

Planning consists of two separate, but closely related components: a conceptual component and a detailed component. The conceptual component is represented by the cognitive application of design. The detailed component translates broad concepts into a complete and practical plan. During planning, these components overlap with no clear delineation between them. As commanders conceptualize the operation, their vision guides the staff through design and into detailed planning. Design is continuous throughout planning and evolves with increased understanding throughout the operations process. Design underpins the exercise of battle command, guiding the iterative and often cyclic application of understanding, visualizing, and describing. As these iterations occur, the design concept – the tangible link to detailed planning – is forged.


Warning – Campaign Design and “Design” are compatible concepts, but not the same thing. Operational Design is a more generic term that describes the process of building organizations and plans that translate strategy to action. “Design” is a specific methodology presented by the business world as a holistic advance over older operations thinking methods (Ops research, cybernetics/open systems). Design is also the name given to the conceptual component of the Army’s operations process , just published in the new FM 5-0 Chapter 3. “Systemic Operational Design”, or SOD, is also a specific methodology, one initially developed by the Israelis, but who’s specifics were found lacking by the Joint Staff (ask Master about this – some goodness in the method, but some flaws in its incorporation, much like EBO when it hit the Joint Staff and morphed into something else that the rest of us who thought we were “effects based” guys didn’t recognize. SOD has informed the development of Design, and continues to do so, but like EBO, it apparently was tainted during execution by those who didn't really grasp it, and is currently somewhat out of vogue with the joint staff from what I've been able to gather.

Why spend so much time talking about what the Army thinks? Because they’re "moving out and taking fire" on this topic right now, and also because their Corps headquarters tend to be the core of the JTFs that we’ll be working with, and they’ll be running JOPP using this language and methodology soon. They’re also driving the Joint Design methodology that is currently being developed, as is hinted by the JWC best practices reading when it says : “We have added a section on “design,” addressing the need for problem setting, questioning assumptions, and paradigm setting prior to conduct of the well known, established planning process.” (1) No doubt it’ll impact how we conduct JOPP-A in the future.

Lessard: Great point: “The current interpretation of campaign design is, therefore, largely based on a juxtaposition of land-centric Clausewitzian and Jominian concepts. While useful individually, these have inherent conceptual and interpretive weaknesses that can be compounded when employed in concert. Essentially, their main flaw is that beyond the enemy center of gravity, one is left in a void, hoping that things will turn out all right or, in the rather more elegant words of Allied Joint Publication 3, that “the necessary leverage should exist to prevent the enemy from resuming hostilities.” What he is saying is that we have taken the descriptive theory of Clausewitz (CoG, fog and friction, etc) and the prescriptive theory of Jomini (decisive points, lines of operation, etc) and tried to mix and match concepts from two very different ways of thinking (J: you can control war; C: like hell you can, J), and assumed that by mixing the best from both we could get a continuity of strategy from theories that don’t really harmonize. Kinda like a strategy buffet, but then, Americans are big on buffets… what we need is either a “Strategy Bridge” to help is get closer to a “unifying theory of strategy”, or we need to just get used to living in the space between controlling what we can, knowing we can’t control it all. Kinda like surfing – you’ve gotta ride the wave as it comes, and you can’t predict how it’ll break (unpredictable), but you can position yourself in front of the other surfers (quantifiable) cut in line if you can win the fight back on the beach (somewhat predictable depending on how tough the guy looks or how many friends you have to help), you can wait for a better wave (somewhat predictable), you can choose your board (totally predictable and quantifiable)., and you can choose when to cut on the downhill of the wave to ride the tube (predictable but sometimes difficult in execution).

Luck and Findlay: Great encapsulation of many of the key innovations and trends in operational thought in the last 10 years. I’m impressed that they’re finally holding the GCC’s feet to the fire on the tough calls between subordinate AORs and JTFs: “We often find the GCCs passing off some of their key apportionment, ISR management, and targeting responsibilities to the theater JFACC – at times to the possible` detriment of the JTFs.” When the combatant commander doesn’t even issue an apportionment decision, it shows confidence in the JFACC (like McArthur had for Kenney in WII), but it also leads to the subordinate AORs and JTFs blaming the air component when they don’t get the air they requested because someone else had higher priority. The GCC should be the one making apportionment decision and “owning” the risk, but what usually happens is that the guy on the AOC floor has to make the call and then “the CAOC stole my air”. Ask Blade about this…

Rittel: coined the term “wicked problems” (look at the year – 1973 – and compare it to the timelines in Waldrop’s Complexity), which since then has been assumed into complexity theory with terms like “complex adaptive systems”. Big picture: life occurs in a series of open systems, which we can influence but never control. Similarly, we’re influenced by the actions of other conscious and unconscious forces (emergent behavior from complexity theory) that may influence how much “pull” we have over the direction of our own lives/destiny. While we can guess at causalites, we can seldom assign them definitively, which makes prediction and strategy difficult. Wicked problems are always associated with complexity, which implies that out of many actions you can take, only very few can push the system in the ways you want them to go, and as soon as you act within the system, the system changes in ways you can’ always predict. This is where unintended consequences usually come into play - with a wicked problem, solving one problem usually causes others, and there is no “optimal” solution that satisfies all of your competing interests – it’s all about which tradeoffs you’re willing to make even if you could predict all of the outcomes, because you almost always have competing interests to satisfy (i.e. security/ access/ freedom) . Big takeaway: “The formulation of a wicked problem is the problem!” 161. You’ve got to have an idea of what the solutions look like to define the problem. Most of what “Design” is about is trying to define the right problem. If you do, you may be able to get to the “root causes” and design appropriate solutions that help more things than they hurt. If you get defining the problem wrong (like they did in Vietnam by assuming that the attriting VC was the problem instead of pushing for protection of the populace and governmental reforms), you end up solving for symptoms rather than causes, and make things worse (like Luttwak’s discussion of successful vertical dimension actions actually making things worse in the horizontal dimension of strategy)

The Beyerchen and Holmes articles remind me of the opposing critiques of Sun Tzu – on one side he (or whoever actual wrote/compiled the Art of War) says that winning without fighting is the acme of skill, but then spends most of the book describing how one can fight through winning. The enduring quality of Clausewitz is that he doesn’t pick one side (predictability vs uncertainty) – he looks at both, but is certainly one of the first theorists to look in depth at the nonlinear aspects of war, mostly in response to guys like Jomini who were too linear in their thought (but not wrong to look at some aspects of war as being linear). But Holmes is right when he says of Clausewitz “… if he really believed that ‘friction would frustrate all pre-conceived plans’, then it would be meaningless for him to set any standard of capability for executing a plan – or indeed to set any value on conceiving one in the first place.

The Beyerchen article echoes and fuels many of the arguments made elsewhere for the continuing usefulness of Clausewitz – he described the difficulties in trying to define, predict, or contain war, using the scientific (Netwonian) and philosophical (German Enlightenment) languages available to him at the time. Beyerchen argues that todays language of complexity theory and nonlinear science gives us much better conceptual tools to use to describe the same things Clausewitz was referring to. But it’s tough to extraplolate from a Hegelian thesis-antithesis – synthesis approach because such an approach falsely looks at two elements in isolation from each other, and assumes that truth exists somewhere between two extremes. In fact, the two extremes are usually related to other variables as well, all working at the same time. Clausewitz’s trinity is an example of this, and he even uses a 3D concept when he describes the pendulum and magnets suspended between the forces of violence/passion, chance, and reason.

Holmes- Can you really say that Clausewitz “had a definitive view “ that nonlinearity in war was a “snare and a delusion” (138) if he proposed a Trinitarian theory of war, like pendulums suspended between magnets in 3D? It is accurate to say that he didn’t see it as being entirely nonlinear – certain aspects (i.e. culmination) do lend themselves to that kind of analysis and description (i.e. an IADS takedown).

Maybe Beyerchen is going to far to say that a result in war can be “entirely unexpected” (although it might be) – what Holmes is saying is that even without the ability to make fine tuned predictions accurately, you can still make big picture predictions to an acceptable degree of accuracy.

Holmes 139 “Clausewitz is saying that the nonlinear outlook is the state in which we find ourselves before we have learned to connect things properly.” Sugar – no, he’s not, he’s saying that you can’t reduce a world of passion, chance, and reason to a phenomenon that you can contain, even if you can contain parts of it.

Holmes “Nonlinear thought prompts nonlinear behavior”,139 Sugar – no, nonlinear thought reflects life as it actually is, as we can demonstrate through the studies from a vast number of different scientific and social disciplines. We can’t “think” life into being linear, although linear language works well enough for most simple tasks and works really well for complicated ones that aren't also complex

Holmes “The commander should resist any such temptation and follow a clearly defined pathway, every step of which ‘has a specific purpose relating to the whole’ (p.227). Sugar – resist temptation to what, think and react to changing circumstances? That sounds oversimplistic unless you really can’t control your organization, you don’t have the capability to train them adequately and have lots of cannon fodder to throw at the problem (. There’s a difference between waffling and responding to reality and emerging opportunities that differ from your planning predictions.

3-24 COIN. This intro is significant because 1. It recognizes that the Powell Weinburger Doctrine, and MCO doctrine overall, was not adequate to be applied to the complexity of COIN in the context of Iraq and Afghanistan, and 2. The second half of the intro was written by Sarah Sewall, who also contributed to the manual. Getting someone from the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy is usual for an Army Field Manual writing team, but indicates the value Gen Petraeus saw in getting diverse views and an interagency approach to tackle the “wicked problem” of COIN. This is also the first Army manual to incorporate Operational Design as a concept, taken from the Marines who first started incorporating concepts from complexity (derived from Rittel’s work) into their 1997 Warfighting manual. Where did they get many of these ideas? Boyd.

Kometer: If you’re gonna talk about centralization and decentralization between C2 elements, you’ve gotta be able to discuss systems (in this case, the man/machine system of air and joint C2). This means that you’ve got to be a “strategist of bureaucracy” as well as war, understanding how organizations interact as well as how you interact with the enemy and third parties. The way you design C2 systems and delegate authorities heavily influences how responsive you can be - large scale, complicated ops (like theater airlift) usually benefit from the bureaucratic stability of a highly centralized operation. Lower scale, highly complex operations usually benefit from decentralized execution. Guess what”? We gotta do both simultaneously. So how do you perform one mission without setting yourself up to fail in the other? There’s the rub…

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