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Business Operations with Military Concepts

USSPACECOM Joint Operations Center.jpg

USSPACECOM Joint Operations Center

The USSPACECOM Joint Operations Center (JOC) is responsible for integrating data and status from multiple operations centers, the services and agencies to provide the Commander, USSPACECOM with critical Command and Control capabilities.  Photo by John Ayre

The first pillar of business we will discuss covers business operations. This includes plans, organization, coordination, and management of a business's ability to provide goods and services to the market. During this chapter, we will look to define, expound upon, and compare and contrast these same areas of business operations with those of contemporary doctrine in military operations, including historical examples to stress the points made. Let's start with this introductory question to set the stage:

What are business operations and operations management?

Simply put, business operations are the means by which a business creates value, and operations management is the way by which leadership ensures operations create value. If we look at the subject matter experts, here is what they say.


Linda L Brennan, who is/was a Mercer University professor on the topic of business operations management and leadership, wrote on the subject of business operations in The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course: Operations Management when she stated:


Operations consist of whatever an organization does to make inputs become outputs… Operations transform these inputs by adding value to them (and sometimes wasted effort) and make them available to others as outputs. Operations management is about managing for results - that is, desired outputs. (pg 1)


Her perspective shows that operations are tied to the transformative process by which a business adds value to its products and services. Operations are the mechanism by which an input is made better in some fashion that warrants the consumer paying a higher price when it becomes an output. The management of operations seeks to ensure this transformative process is carried out efficiently to produce a desired result; ideally, the product or service a consumer is willing to pay a premium for.


An operations manager's duty is to ensure that the people, systems, and processes are aligned and unified to create a desired result. These are the mechanisms by which a business takes its inputs, transforms them, and creates outputs of a higher value to the consumer. The operations manager is the one leader within a business that directly manages the means of that business to accomplish its purpose. Remember that the purpose of business, as stated in Chapter 2.4: The Purpose of Warfare, was "to compel another to provide net value through cooperative forms of influence which are socially acceptable."


The operations manager, sometimes the chief operating officer (COO), coordinates the inputs, directs the activities of the business, and controls its people to transform those inputs to add value, and on the back end, creates a thing that is desirable to customers and worth more to them than the sum of all the costs that have gone into this process. The purpose of the business is the thing it provides to society, and the validity that it can accomplish its purposes effectively is whether it can accomplish it while making a profit. Remember, profit is not the purpose; it is only a benchmark of success in achieving the purpose. This is especially important as Brennan offhandedly brings up waste as an element of operations. Sometimes, the difference between a successful business that generates positive profits and an unsuccessful one is the ability to optimize its processes so that they reduce waste in all its forms.


Nigel Slack and Alistair Brandon-Jones, who are/were professors from Warwick University and the University of Bath, respectively, wrote on the topic of operations in their book, Operations Management 9th Edition when they said:


Operations management is the activity of managing the resources to create and deliver services and products. The operations function is the part of the organization that is responsible for this activity. Every organization has an operations function because every organization creates some type of services and/or products. (pg 5)


For these authors, they identify that operations are tied to the delivery of goods and services to the consumer. They note that operations are a definitive function of a business rather than simply a word used to describe those activities that create products and services. We see this in larger businesses that treat "operations" as their own organizational entity. They naturally need their own systems, processes, and organizational structure to function, and they would be headed by the COO or designated operations manager that serves to unify their efforts to accomplish business objectives.


They note that, by necessity, every organization has an operations function because they need some operational procedures to guide their actions toward desired results. It is operations that ensure that value is added and that products and services are desired by the consumer. It is operations that coordinate and deconflict issues within the organization so that the transformative process flows effectively and with limited waste. Operations become the central aspect of a business because it is the operations function that accomplishes the purpose of the business by creating the positive net value arrangement that, if successful, generates profit.


Ashley McDonough has a slightly different take on this topic, as her expertise lies in the supply chain management side of business operations. She even makes an effort to differentiate between the functions of the supply chain and of operations in her book, Operations and Supply Chain Management: Essentials You Always Wanted to Know, when she states:


It is important to distinguish early on the difference between the terms Supply Chain and Operations because although both traditionally fall under the responsibility of the Chief Operating Officer (COO), there are subtle differences in what each area is responsible for. The key differentiating factor is that Supply Chain traditionally focuses externally around functions such as planning, sourcing and distribution that are impacted by environmental factors. Alternatively, Operations focuses on internal processes within a company such as manufacturing and quality, and how these can be best controlled. What is critical to realize, however, is that these two areas overlap substantially, and are dependent on one another. (pg 18)

McDonough notes that the internal processes and systems of a business, one that actually produces the goods and services as outputs of the business, can be conceptually separated from the external coordination and distribution of material, which are the inputs that feed those internal processes and systems. In this way, she treats the supply chain and operations as separate functions focused on external and internal processes, respectively. They are both often managed by the COO as, from the business's perspective, they can be conceptually linked. From the original supplier moving on through internal systems to be transformed till it leaves the business to be delivered to the retailer or end-user, this line of effort can be viewed as the complete operations process.


This operations process is designed to fulfill the purpose of the business by providing the consumer with an output that they value and will pay for. A well-developed operations process accomplishes this while also keeping the sum of the cost of inputs and the cost of the operations function, such as employee wages, warehousing, equipment leases, and contracts, lower than the revenue generated by the outputs. Having a customer base that buys the outputs of a business is accomplishing the business's purpose, and profit is the reward for doing so effectively. And it is the duty of the managers involved, the COO, operations manager, supply chain manager, or whoever leads, directs, or manages the operations processes of the business, to handle this.


And it is from these various perspectives that we begin to understand what business operations are and what these managers attempt to manage. Fundamentally speaking, operations is the line of effort that starts with its inputs, sees those inputs transformed in some way to improve their value, then is finalized as an output. Operations management is the effective planning, executing, and assessing of operations so that the outputs are desirable to the market and that the operations process generates greater income than the expenses it costs to run it.

What can military operations and the management of military operations tell us about business operations?

When Slack and Brandon-Jones previously said that "every organization has an operations function because every organization creates some type of services and/or products," that was true for the military as well. We don't necessarily make goods, but we do provide a service; violence. Remember, in Chapter 2.4: The Purpose of Warfare, we defined warfare's purpose was to compel another group towards a desired policy change through the use or threatened use of violent forms of influence. That is the service any armed force provides, be they a tribe, chiefdom, dukedom, kingdom, state, nation, or empire.


If operations are geared toward an organization being able to accomplish its purpose through a line of effort, then we would expect a military organization's perspective on operations should be along those lines. Indeed, it is through the operations process that a military organization develops its courses of action, identifies its objectives that it needs to achieve, and, thereby, accomplishing its purpose for the state.


If we look at the United States Army's October 2022 version of Field Manual 3-0: Operations, we can pull the doctrinal definition of an "operation" where it states that an operation is:


A sequence of tactical actions with a common purpose or unifying theme. (pg Glossary-10)


In this simple definition, we see operations consisting of two major features. First is that operations are composed of "a sequence of tactical actions," and what this means is that an operation is not a single activity but a sequence of activities that are related in some way. These "tactical actions" are individual activities that are employed, arranged, and directed to achieve some particular result. The second is that the reason they are related activities is for the accomplishment of a purpose or a theme. Rather than these organizations or individual personnel engaging in disparate and self-directed actions, if the actions are all tied to a line-of-effort or are in support of a specific plan, then we may consider their actions as being an element of an operation.


For a business example, let's say we have a business whose purpose is to produce widgets for the market. To be profitable and keep their consumers happy, they have a goal of generating a thousand widgets per workday and to a specific tolerance since these widgets are a component of a larger, more complex product. The operation would be the successful production of widgets to the exact quantity and tolerance that the customer requires; this is the operation's purpose. To achieve this purpose, a sequence of tactical actions needs to be accomplished. The workers need to clock in on time, they need to get their initial safety brief for the day, they need to occupy and prepare their workstations, they need to utilize their rest and lunch breaks, their work needs to be supervised, the widgets need to go through periodic quality assurance and control testing, the widgets need to be packaged for transportation, they need to be delivered to the customer, and then every station needs to be cleaned and prepared for next shift before finally, the workers clock-out. Each one of these directed actions is tied to the other in some way. If they don't clock in on time, then this may delay production. If they don't take safety precautions, then injuries may occur, workers may be hurt, machinery may get damaged, and delays could occur. If the workstation is not prepped and the worker is tired and hungry, the quality of their work may suffer. If the QA/QC testing is not done, poor-quality widgets may cause problems for the client, and they won't be happy. If they don't take care of their areas and machinery at the end of the shift, there may be excessive wear on the machinery, and the following shift may be spending additional time correcting the issues left behind. If there are problems in the operation, then the purpose of the operation may not be achieved unless problems are effectively mitigated by other tactical actions.


This widget manufacturing scenario is just an example of a single operation in which multiple smaller activities are directed to come together to achieve a purpose. This is what makes it an operation. But in this example, you may have initially noticed that the widgets were themselves part of a greater operation as it was a component of a greater product. Multiple operations can coalesce into something greater as if these smaller operations were tactical actions for a greater purpose. This is the same for military operations. An army is merely the preeminent land component of a nation's warfighting capability, and in times of conflict, a nation will utilize all of its warfighting components to achieve national objectives. When the army conducts operations, they should be relative to operations conducted by other services, like naval and air forces. And since conflict happens in domains other than the land, an army must also take into account what happens in other domains, such as the sea and air.


This is one of the reasons why the United States Army, and the Joint Forces for the United States, have emphasized the concept of "multidomain operations." Multidomain operations are defined as:


The combined arms employment of joint and Army capabilities to create and exploit relative advantages to achieve objectives, defeat enemy forces, and consolidate gains on behalf of joint force commanders. (Glossary-10)


For the United States, and for conflict between nations in general, the Army no longer fights its battles completely isolated from the other services. Modern military forces need to be cognizant of what occurs in all domains and how they impact each other. For domains, there are land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. Each has its own unique set of conditions that require tailored ways and means in order to shape their influence on the battlefield. And with Multidomain Operations, the United States has made an effort to conceptualize and place into doctrine how these domains influence each other and how they can be shaped by the various armed services.


In the past, when warfighting was the rather simple affair of numbers and maneuvering, there was less of a concern about what occurred in other domains. The impact of battles between navies on the sea only really concerned armies in that they may indirectly provide enemy land forces an advantage or cut off resupply. Similarly, navies were not impacted by land battles unless they discovered that ports were no longer accessible to them, and they had to dock elsewhere. The land and sea were always interconnected in the consequences of their action; however, in antiquity, the consequences were not direct, only indirect. Direct influence through the use of weapons was limited alongside the range and accuracy of weapons; bows, crossbows, ballistae, catapults, trebuchets, arquebuses, muskets, and cannons, each of these increased the range of humanity's ability to impact each other. The longer the range, the greater the direct influence that land and sea had on each other, but ships can always go farther out to sea, and soldiers can always walk farther inland. As a result, the direct impact of land and sea forces on each other was conditional, but the indirect impact aforementioned was always there.

The Left Hook Into Kuwait. Third Army in Desert Storm.jpg

The Left Hook Into Kuwait. Third Army in Desert Storm

KUWAIT---The Third U.S. Army threatened to completely close off northern escape routes, forcing the Iraqi surrender. From 40th Public Affairs Detachment

With the advent of more powerful and far-ranging capabilities of rifled cannons and missiles meant that the land and sea domains could effectively engage each other in direct combat. Ground-based anti-ship missile batteries and coastal artillery were pitted against ship-based naval surface gunfire and land-attack cruise missiles. The opening up of other domains, the air, space, and cyberspace, all with their own unique tools for shaping and influencing operations, made warfare more complex, and the uncertainty of results increased. There are now so many variables that when we introduce new technology and capabilities, changes in one domain can cause a cascading ripple throughout all other domains; such as during the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991 AD), within the domain of space, the introduction of satellites that could triangulate positions on Earth (Global Positioning System) allowed the U.S.-led coalition to traverse the open deserts of Iraq with great speed and coordination of all warfighting capabilities.

When the Army looks to the Joint Force, the entirety of the United States Armed Forces, it is to acknowledge that the Army is not alone in the fight. It is not a separate entity that fights its own battles separate from the other, but it fulfills a particular purpose within the greater conflict. The Army is an organization within a larger organization, the Joint Force, but the Army is also an organization made up of smaller organizations. These smaller organizations within the Army, our numbered armies and corps, are broken down further into sequentially smaller units, divisions, brigades, battalions/squadrons, companies/batteries/troops, platoons, squads, teams/crews, and then finally the individual Soldier.


Each unit is an organization within itself. They each have leadership and personnel. The larger organizations have more robust staff for planning, but the hard work of fighting is done at brigades and below. Each unit has its own systems and processes, and each subordinate unit has its operations geared toward producing results that are unified and achieve complementary effects for the higher organization. Every unit, in a way, has its own operations process geared towards producing these results. How they decide to organize, lead, and execute their operations is based on the size of the unit and its resources to help facilitate its operations.


What I mean to say is that in an organization of smaller organizations, each unit has its own operations. And since operations are how an organization achieves its purpose, then logically, military operations are a culmination of many smaller operations working towards a common goal and purpose. For an organization that is supposed to conduct operations in a unified manner for a shared purpose, it is surprising that it is able to do this with a semblance of efficacy when the U.S. Army consists of upwards of one million active and reserve component Soldiers and a quarter of a million civilian personnel.


It is an impressive feat that such a massive organization is able to direct and motivate such a large body of personnel to carry out their various operations and accomplish their purpose in a unified effort. There are some major businesses out there that have become so massive that they lose a sense of unity. They compartmentalize so much that people that occupy the same office space aren't communicating critical information to other departments because they have become so insular. Operations, marketing, finance, human resources, and product development have become stove-piped, and they conduct their activities in a vacuum without concern for each other's operations. This creates wasted effort, as departments inadvertently hinder the efforts of others. This creates lost opportunities, as information known to one group isn't acted upon by another who happens to be clueless. So this begs the question:

How can we make a large business more effective in achieving its purpose?

Through the use of two organizational concepts: first, with span of control and echelonment, and second, through the use of nesting and battle rhythms.


Span of Control & Echelons


The more personnel that are within the organization, the more important it is to divide up personnel into manageable pieces. This is generally understood when it comes to the functions of a business; for example, when we separate the personnel from marketing and operations. Each has its own manager who supervises their activities and guides them to achieve their objectives for the business while reporting their progress to the chief executive or owner. As a result, the executive officer is only really managing and communicating with a handful of personnel which are the managers of each business function. The question of an effective span of control comes after this, in how many personnel are managed by these heads of functions.


These mid-level managers, if they have large departments, need to do what their own superiors did and divide up their departments into smaller manageable segments with leaders who then report to them. And this process of dividing up subordinates continues all the way down until you get to the lowest rank-in-file employee. Simply, no one person in an organization should be directly managing more people than they can effectively manage. For the highest level leaders to control the functions of the business, every leader beneath them needs to have effective control of their segment.


For the military example of the span of control in practice, the number of subordinate units within an organization is determined by a Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) which dictates the number of personnel, their occupational specialties, the structure of their organizations, and the equipment assigned to each. These unit commanders don't need to be concerned with determining their span of control since it is already determined by the TO&E. An armored brigade combat team may have upwards of three-thousand Soldiers, but it is divided into 6x battalions: 1x Cavalry squadron, 2x tank/infantry battalions, 1x field artillery battalion, 1x logistics battalion, and 1x combat support battalion. The brigade commander doesn't need to speak with 3,000 soldiers, only the 6x battalion commanders with authority over those 3,000. The brigade commander's span of control is six subordinate units.


Each battalion will vary in size and equipment, but if we look at that single field artillery battalion commander who is in charge of 500 soldiers, the situation is similar. They have 5x company/batteries: 1x headquarters battery, 3x field artillery batteries, and 1x logistics company. The battalion commander only needs to speak to 5x subordinate commanders, not 500 Soldiers, and their span of control is five subordinate units. This can go further. An artillery battery commander will not directly control 100 soldiers in the battery but through the 2x platoon leaders. These platoon leaders will control their Soldiers through the gun section leaders, who then directly manage the gun crew and ammo carrier crew of a little less than 5x soldiers each. These are all rounded numbers for the sake of simplicity, but hopefully, the idea gets across. In the United States Army, there is no commander that directly commands and controls tens, hundreds, thousands, or especially tens of thousands of Soldiers. They effectively control through the delegation of authority to junior commanders, who in turn do the same. Everyone is a human being, and even the most competent and skilled leader can only handle so many human beings at one time.


This is the importance of span of control for a business as there is no tried and proven organizational framework, like the Army's TO&E, for how to structure yours. This concept of units within units, what we call echelons, and the creation of their management relationships for control of the functions of these units, what we call span of control, allowed individual commanders to control large organizations. It allowed us to delineate certain duties and responsibilities based on which echelon an organization was at; for example, a Soldier at the division level wouldn't be expected to be kicking down doors; that would be something we would expect at the company and below. But naturally, TO&E and activities related to echelons are tested heavily through trial and error, both in combat and in a peaceful garrison environment, to see a command relationship that serves the organization in actually achieving its purpose. But there are times in which, even in the Army, span of control is flexible.


Major William G. Pierce wrote a monograph entitled "Span of Control and The Operational Commander: Is It More Than Just a Number?" In this, he discussed the issues with understanding the nature of the span of control at an operational-level organization where TO&E is much more mission-dependent and malleable. Here it is difficult to determine an effective number of subordinate units, too many or too few, and this is where it is applicable to how a business owner or executive will need to employ their own effective span of control for their business. In the paper, he states:


Determining the optimum span of control is a very complex task. If the span of control of a commander is too large, then the commander cannot efficiently or continuously control his forces. The span of control issue is unique to the operational level commander. He is required by joint and Army doctrine to organize his forces. In order to do this, he must understand the limits of his span of control when making organizational decisions. (pg 38)


This is where you are probably at, determining the limits of your ability to control the various departments, functions, and personnel of the business so that the business can accomplish its purpose effectively. If you have hundreds of personnel, you need to not only be cognizant of your own scope of control but of those subordinate to you as well. Yes, you may have selected a competent operations manager to report to you on the operations function and to guide them in their daily operations. But if that operations manager has dozens of workers that they directly control, then they may not be able to effectively manage their conduct, careers, and development as leaders, just as it does for the Army. You may not need to divide a larger organization into smaller units, but you will need to determine how many is too many and too little for the average human being in that leadership position.


Four to six subordinates can be effective for activities that are constantly engaging, such as detailed work on assembly lines, construction work, or fast food. However, jobs that are more supervisory or have moderately intensive activities can probably handle a larger number of subordinates, such as a call center or reviewing real estate agent activities for a brokerage. The span of control for the leaders in your business, including yourself if you hold a position where you lead others, will be based on the position's requirements, which include 1) responsiveness, 2) risk, and 3) workload. If the leader is required to respond quickly to problems and inquiries, if they need to supervise dangerous or functionally critical activities, and if they themselves need to tackle a lot of additional tasks, meetings, and reports, then reducing their span of control will make them more effective.


If you need to reduce the span of control, then you will probably need to increase your number of echelons. For example, let's say you have a real estate brokerage that is managed by the owner. This owner has been supervising agent activity and reviewing documents as the managing principal broker for the brokerage. As more agents joined the brokerage, more agents needed to be supervised by this one individual. At one point, more than 50 agents being supervised became too much. Too much paperwork, too many "urgent" emails, and not enough time to focus on the business itself. This organization could be echeloned into three teams of more than 20 each, headed by 3x principal brokers that reported to the managing broker of the brokerage. As more people joined, you could make a fourth and a fifth team, and so on. Until, hypothetically, there are too many team leaders for the managing brokerage to effectively control, they would seek to create a new echelon, like multiple offices, each with its own managing broker.


But that goes into the next issue with managing large organizations, and that is keeping everyone unified in their efforts. Being unified is easier when the business is small and intimate, but as it grows and becomes more bureaucratic, the unity may disappear, and you will only have the mechanism of span of control and echelons to maintain any semblance of unified effort. It is through the process of nesting purpose and developing a rhythm that  actual unified effort is achieved, and through the use of mission command, that allows these various echelons to function effectively and adaptively to achieve their purpose in a synergistic way.


Nesting, Battle Rhythm, & Mission Command


One of the most effective ways to synergize a large organization of multiple departments, offices, or otherwise separate entities, is through the use of nesting actions and purpose and through a battle rhythm. If you didn't take anything else away from War Is My Business' lengthy discussions of the civilian applications of military theories and concepts except an understanding of nesting and battle rhythms, then I would consider you to already be a little better off.


The concept of "nesting" operations is often used in the context of mission command, which is the exercise of authority and direction by the commander using mission orders to enable disciplined initiative within the commander's intent. Within a mission command framework, "nesting" refers to the process of integrating and coordinating the activities of subordinate units to achieve the commander's intent. We will discuss "mission command" shortly, but what you need to know about nesting since it doesn't have a doctrinal definition, is that nesting is merely the conceptualized process by which humans synchronize the inputs and outputs of activities between different organizations and amongst individual people.


When an action or operation is nested with another, what we mean to say is that the activity itself, the time it was executed, the effects we want it to produce, and the outputs we want it to generate, are in relation to another activity; often becoming another input to it. Many business activities are nested with one another as part of the operations function. Inventory for retailers is predicated on the delivery of finished products through logistics. Logistics leaving the distribution center for the retailers is predicated on receiving the shipments from the manufacturer. The manufacturer's production of the product is predicated on the actual assemblage of the component items into the final product. These component items being on-hand are predicated on delivery from the supplier, who themselves have numerous suppliers they need to provide the raw materials to make the components. All these disparate organizations, often outside of the business in a B2B relationship, have their activities nested amongst each other. Their outputs become the inputs of other businesses, which are then transformed into outputs.


Yes, a business can simply generate a bunch of widgets in the hopes that they can sell them as a component to another business, but better for them to be nested with a known buyer so they know how much to produce to generate the best profit. This way, they produce exactly what they need with minimal wasted resources and time. The leadership of a business engages with those in their span of control to ensure the department of a business, and those outside the business with whom they rely, are nested in their purpose, ensuring inputs and outputs are synergized. This is where staff comes to help the leadership.


While the span of control is there to make leadership more effective in controlling a large organization, the leader should not be alone. They have staffers that assist in ensuring the bulk of the legwork gets done and unify the effort between the various departments of the organization. For the Army, each commander at each echelon has certain staffing capabilities, with those higher in the echelon having the most robust staff. It is through these staff personnel that the intent of commanders are fleshed out.


As stated in Field Manual 6-0: Commander and Staff Organization and Operations from May 2022, it states:


Effective staffs establish and maintain a high degree of coordination and cooperation with staffs of their subordinate echelons. Staffs help subordinate headquarters understand the larger context of operations. They do this by first understanding their higher echelon headquarters’ operations and commander’s intent, as well as nesting their unit’s operations with their higher headquarters. They then actively collaborate with subordinate commanders and staffs to facilitate a shared understanding of an OE. Examples of staffs assisting subordinate units include performing staff coordination, staff assistance visits, and staff inspections. (pg 2-1)


The leadership of these higher and subordinate organizations, the commanders, understand the situation. The higher commander states their intent for operations, what they want to happen, and what they are looking to achieve, and the subordinate commanders understand and nest their intent with that of their higher. The higher and subordinate staff, in turn, develop their operations plans and coordinate to ensure the activities that they undertake are synergized; each subordinate staff's plans will be nested with that of the higher's plan. One such way to capture all of these nested activities necessary to develop and execute a unified plan is with what we call a  “Battle Rhythm."


Also stated in FM 6-0: Commander and Staff Organization and Operations:

A headquarters’ battle rhythm consists of a series of meetings (to include working groups and boards), briefings, and other activities synchronized by time and purpose. The battle rhythm is a deliberate daily cycle of command, staff, and unit activities intended to synchronize current and future operations. The chief of staff (COS) or executive officer (XO) oversees the unit’s battle rhythm. The COS or XO ensures activities are logically sequenced so that the output of one activity informs another activity’s inputs. This is important not only within the headquarters, but also in the unit’s battle rhythm as it nests with the higher echelon headquarters. The battle rhythm ensures that the staff provides the information pertinent to decisions and the recommendations on decisions made in the headquarters in a timely manner to influence the decision making of the higher echelon headquarters, where appropriate. (pg 4-1)

TABLE 3.0.1: Sample Headquarters Battle Rhythm

Sample Headquarters Battle Rhythm

For a business, a battle rhythm can help in the daily or weekly actions that need to occur to accomplish the same purpose, keeping the organization functional and responsive. Knowing when things need to occur so that the outputs of those engagements, either physical material, like spreadsheets, or simply that understanding of current operations so that leaders can adjust as needed, is of value. With a shared understanding, the information and products developed as outputs necessary for action, and intent from higher leadership, subordinate leaders are able to act and run their organizations to achieve purpose in a unified manner. And this is done through the concept of mission command, of which I spoke previously.


ADP 6-0 Mission Command: Command and Control of Army Forces from July 2019 states:


Mission command is the Army’s approach to command and control that empowers subordinate decision making and decentralized execution appropriate to the situation. Mission command supports the Army’s operational concept of unified land operations and its emphasis on seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative. (pg 1-3)


Mission Command's emphasis on empowering subordinates has become more prevalent due to the nature of warfare that we are seeing. With the advent of long-range and instantaneous communication, high levels of mobility for even the average human being, and globalization, these conditions have created an environment that has been progressively becoming more complex, uncertain, and varied. Every facet of every society has the potential to be weaponized by adversaries in some capacity to hinder our efforts. Even tactical-level actions, an atrocity, a mistake, or a kind-hearted gesture can be captured on a personal smartphone and go viral throughout the world in hours to have strategic-level impacts.


This type of dynamic environment is the same for the marketplace and businesses because these technologies have the same impact. Instant real-time information allows customers to price shop products and services. Mobility allows businesses to deliver their goods to the customers' doorstep within a day or two. Local small businesses, who once had the unique selling point of simply being close to the consumer, are now competing with international online distributors, such as Amazon and Walmart, who have greater economies of scale. These local consumers are able to get items not found locally, and even when those items are local, often they are found online at lower prices, and the consumer is willing to wait a day or two for the convenience of getting them delivered right to their homes.


The impact of technologies on the environment has caused this dynamism, and with it, both militaries and businesses can no longer be stagnant in the face of it. These organizations need to constantly reassess their situation and the environment to determine if what they are doing is still having the desired effects. They need to determine if the adversary has adjusted and employed a new tactic or technique that has made our current operating procedures obsolete. And they need to determine how new technologies introduced into the environment shake things up. Basically, when the powers of human influence have been changed, and technologies are constantly being developed that do this, we have to reassess to see how these new changes could impact our desired ends.


Mission Command helps in this way by empowering subordinate leaders to react to changes they witness in the environment dynamically as they occur. Because everything is now so chaotic, fast-paced, and instantaneous, leaders in modern conflict often need to make decisions immediately without getting approval from senior leaders. If they can't act, then the ramifications of failing to do so could be disastrous to operations and the whole effort. With Mission Command, we try to compensate for these dynamic situations by establishing a relationship that allows quick response without hesitancy with a higher degree of success in supporting unified operations. It does this by emphasizing two elements: 1) a shared understanding and 2) trust.


With a shared understanding, the senior leader and subordinate leaders are on the same page about what they are trying to accomplish through their conduct of operations, the nature of the environment, and the status of their forces. The senior leader will give their subordinates a mission, but they will also provide them with intent. The intent is what the senior is looking to achieve by shaping the environment, and the mission is the way in which it is done. When the dynamic environment changes abruptly, the parameters of the mission may no longer be able to achieve the commander's intent, and the subordinate, understanding this, will be able to adjust their operations accordingly.


With trust, the senior leader believes in the abilities of the subordinate. They believe the subordinate is competent in their capabilities and will be able to accomplish the assigned mission given with the tools at their disposal. They believe the subordinate will seek to achieve the desired intent so that if the unforeseen occurs, they will be able to adjust and produce results instead of floundering in the face of uncertainty. They understand that operations in a contemporary environment can be dynamic, and if the subordinate makes a decision that turns out to be a mistake, instead of being accusatory, they are supportive. In the mind of the senior leader, they don't think "they shouldn't have deviated from their course of action." They instead think, "What occurred to compel them to change their course of action?"


On the other side, with trust, the subordinate leader believes that the senior leader will support them if they need to deviate from the course of action. They believe that the commander will have their back should misfortune befall them and that they won't be "thrown under the bus" should their decision turn out to be wrong. The subordinate needs to think at a time of critical importance: "We don't have time to communicate with the boss. We need to act now and change our course of action; otherwise, we will fail. We understand the commander's intent, and we understand our situation. This is what we are going to do to achieve that intent. The boss will understand." If the subordinate succeeds, then the senior showers credit and respect upon their subordinate and their personnel for what they were able to accomplish. If the subordinate fails, the senior takes responsibility for the failure and conducts and investigates to see what lessons can be learned. In Mission Command, there is no assignment of blame, as fostering an environment of blame compels individuals to hesitate at critical moments.


From this, Mission Command can be valuable in a business setting for a multitude of scenarios, and we do see it occur on some occasions, even if they don't call it by that name. For a sales force, often the branch manager will give a degree of freedom to their salespersons to adjust offers and conditions to potential customers in order to close a deal. They understand that they can't simply give the customers everything they desire if it will cut into the profit margin of the business, but with trust they can give the salesperson room to haggle with the terms when necessary. By having a shared understanding of current stocks, features, and offerings available, as well as the impact of adjusting contracts on the bottom line, they can close deals that generate profit. The trust is there to allow salespersons to engage with customers confidently and with authority that assures the customer that the salesperson knows what they are talking about and has an aura of expertise and charisma that is necessary to compel a customer to purchase. If salespersons need to constantly communicate with the manager over every little thing over fears of being punished if things go wrong, the customer will themselves be harder to influence and either may become a stickler to certain objections or otherwise leave and not make a purchase.


Mission Command in manufacturing could take the form of dynamic shifting of production lines when things break down in one area to compensate and still achieve production quotas, the intent. It allows supervisors to grant leave and support employee needs, such as maternity/paternity leave or emergency situations, hospitalization, or death of loved ones. Just think about the motivation of employees in regard to their work when they believe their supervisors have their best interests in mind. The employee could say something like, "Sir/Ma'am, I just got a phone call that my son was in a car accident," or "My wife just went into early labor." The empowered supervisor, with the power of Mission Command granted by their superiors, can say something akin to, "Go to them. Don't worry about cleaning up your area; I will have someone cover for you. I will handle all the admin paperwork for your emergency leave, and we can handle it later when you get things situated. Head out now, and feel free to call if you need anything, and we will do what we can to help."


Through these elements; an effective span of control that allows leaders to effectively engage with their subordinates; a battle rhythm that nests the efforts of multiple departments or echelons of an organization; and the use of mission command so that our juniors can engage in a dynamic situation with customers and employees to achieve a desired intent, we can shape the environment toward a desired endstate. Shaping the environment for a business is making our products and services not only known to them through marketing but by enticing them to purchase through the value we add. This leads us to our next question.

What does it mean to "add value," and how do we do it?

Linda Brennan, on the topic of "adding value," states:

To create any kind of output, an organization transforms inputs. There are four elemental transformation functions: alter, inspect, store, and transport. They are applicable whether the output is a good, a service, or a combination of these functions. If it does not add value, then why would a customer purchase that organization's output instead of purchasing the inputs directly? (pg 3)


It is through this process of transforming inputs in various ways that we generate outputs that are desirable to the market. We pay the seller a higher market value than the raw inputs because of the convenience of having others go through the process of making it desirable to us. In addition, all of the other tasks that add value to the product or service are rolled up into that one simple payment when the consumer finally makes the purchase.


Most individuals don't want to raise a cow, feed it, care for it, milk it, or churn the milk to produce butter; they just want the butter. And the total amount of butter product that could be produced by one cow would be more than an individual would want, so there would be a waste, not to mention that if the individual only wanted butter, the entire process of self-producing butter would cost more than buying it on the market from professional butter producers. The consumer, when they buy those sticks or tubs of butter at the grocery store, in one action, have paid their part in the raising, feeding, and milking of the cow; transportation of the milk; churning and packaging of the butter; delivery of the packaged butter to the store; and then the storing and offering of the butter to the consumer.


The numerous transformative actions in simply getting you butter are the justification for its slightly higher price than the direct input of the milking of the cow. At every step in the process, transformative value is being added to that butter. We know it costs the farmer capital to raise, feed, milk, house, and store the cattle on their land. It costs the butter manufacturing capital to pick up, deliver, run the machinery, package, and store all the milk and butter until it is ready to be moved, conduct health and safety testing and QA/QC, then finally deliver to the store. It costs the store capital to unload the butter, store it in their fridges, put it up for display, and manage the process of an effective customer experience that eventually leads to a sale. Each thing mentioned added value in some way, and when the individual consumer pays a few dollars for a carton of butter, they have paid for the whole process. If all the butter is sold, and if the entire operations process from beginning to end is efficient, then every business along this chain of supply has generated a profit. Each business organization in this chain has achieved its purpose by providing products and services through cooperative exchange with other organizations all the way to the consumer, and profit was the reward for an effective system.


However, it is this transformative process that we should really look at when it comes to understanding the value that consumers desire. Taking something as an input, transforming it, then providing the result as an output is the means by which the organization achieves its purpose. The very reason it exists is to transform things into desirable results, and this applies to anything we do as individuals and why we organize at all. As an individual, if I see a result of an action I can undertake not being worth the effort and/or worth the resources put into doing it, then I wouldn't do it. If I assess that the capital that I can pay another person to do that same job is worth less than the result of their work, then I will pay. We pay a plumber to do their work, not because we can't, but because we assess that they can do it faster and with greater results than we could. We may attempt to do it ourselves, knowing it will take longer to accomplish and will not be as good, but we feel the experience of doing it is of value in itself that offsets the other course of action. And in regards to why we organize, it is because the cooperative efforts of the group are seen as more effective in the transformative process of turning inputs into desirable outputs.


Businesses, militaries, sports teams, professional associations, clubs, and even marriages and families; these organizations of human effort exist because the individuals involved find that the results of the cooperative effort are worth more than what they could do by themselves. This is because they find that 1) the results of the cooperative effort it takes to be part of the organization are more worthwhile than going alone, and 2) that the organization is able to achieve its purpose collectively to a greater extent than the sum of all the efforts of each individual. The organization assesses the characteristics of its people and places them in areas to take advantage of their strengths and offset their possible weaknesses. Gaps that are identified within the group can be purposefully sought out amongst the individuals in society not currently part of an existing organization through recruitment.


For an individual who is all by their lonesome, they may need to tackle every activity; even those activities that they perform poorly at, to produce a similar output that that an organization can do but with people tasked to do what they are strong at. The organization, therefore, can often add greater value to its outputs at a lesser cost than an individual can. And amongst organizations, larger organizations are able to add even greater value than smaller organizations for much of the same reason, in that they can leverage greater economies of scale to reduce costs. Here we see the value of the transformative process of inputs into value-added outputs from the various components of military activity that can be applicable to the business world.


The military takes its inputs, the machinery and ammunition of war, and the skills, sweat, and blood of its personnel and transforms all of it into effects that shape the operational environment. The individual actions taken have their effects, and the combination of these effects compels adversaries to change in certain ways, ideally culminating towards a desired policy change as this is the purpose of warfare. And the decision-making process of choosing to use war as a means of compelling policy change and the employment of those organized to conduct warfare; militaries, private military corporations, and militias, is a cost-benefit assessment for a nation's leadership to make. Just like an individual or business can make a cost-benefit assessment between insourcing or outsourcing a capability needed to accomplish a task or altering operations so that the task can be achieved through another avenue, a nation can pick the avenue of war and its tools or choose another avenue; such as a combination alongside other elements of national power: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic.


Now, the military is made up of a collection of individuals trained, equipped, and organized to conduct warfare on behalf of the state. Private military corporations have the same means and way of war, but their purpose is to provide military capabilities for paying clients; be they state or private. For the militia, its means and ways are temporary, but the purpose is the same as the military, to compel an adversary to change policy, though often limited to their locality. The military provides society value by transforming the operational environment through the ways and means of warfare in such a way as to compel the adversaries of that society to change their policy. The private military corporation provides this same value for its clients. And the militia provides this value to their communities and causes.


The individual that wants to utilize the ways and means of a warrior can join these organizations or go it alone. It will depend on what results they are looking to achieve and, therefore, which arrangement works best for them. Not including forced conscription, an individual may choose to join a military because they want to protect the entirety of the state, enjoy the lifestyle of military service, gain the training and skills from this service, earn and utilize the benefits offered, and otherwise make service a long-term career because other careers are less appealing. For the private military corporation, who often want personnel who are already trained from military service, the individual may seek them out for higher pay, constant action, a greater focus on combat-related training, and a greater variety for potential professional development. For an individual joining a militia, they may desire to join up to solve a temporary violent crisis; like an invasion or civil conflict, to protect their homes, family, or property from external forces, or to support a particular cause until that cause's objectives have been accomplished. Or the individual can go it alone, fighting others outside of the group, protecting their homestead from anyone that may threaten them, becoming a vigilante outside of local and state oversight, or simply staying armed just in case something happens.


Specifically looking at the U.S. Army, they transform its ways and means, its people and its equipment, through its various functions of the military organization. Just like a business, it has people in charge of managing personnel and pay, gathering intelligence, conducting and coordinating operations, organizing logistics, developing and forecasting long-term plans, working communications, developing training, working the budget, and dealing with public relations. These different activities are tied to staff functions, each led by its own manager, an officer in charge, that supervises the activities of its personnel and the outputs they generate that allow the organization to function and work with other organizations, higher and subordinate.

Here is a list of the numbered staff that assist the commander at various echelons; the following activities are taken from the May 2022 version of Field Manual 6-0: Commander and Staff Organization and Operations within Chapter 2 - Staff Organization and Roles:

TABLE 3.0.2: Staff Sections

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However, in times of conflict; when environments are volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, often the capabilities of these sections need to be streamlined. They need to be able to communicate and work through planning, coordination, and executing activities that would be hindered if they stayed isolated in these staff sections. If a tank is damaged or destroyed, then getting replacement parts or a new tank would be an S4 Logistics task. If the crew members of that tank were injured or killed, and we needed replacement tankers, that would be an S1 Personnel task. Getting new equipment, maintenance of the existing fleet of vehicles, ammunition, fuel, personnel replacement and their administrative needs, and medical services get rolled up into what we call the “Sustainment Warfighting Function,” as these tasks help sustain the ways and means of the organization to operate.


When the staff have particular tasks assigned to them, based on their expertise and capabilities, that are complementary and synergistic with the task of others, we combine them into what we call a “warfighting function.”  As defined by FM 3-0: Operations, it says:


A warfighting function is a group of tasks and systems united by a common purpose that commanders use to accomplish missions and training objectives.


The purpose of warfighting functions is to provide an intellectual organization for common critical capabilities available to commanders and staffs at all echelons and levels of war. Warfighting functions are not confined to a single domain, and they typically include capabilities from multiple domains. Warfighting functions are not branch specific. Although some branches, staff sections, and types of units have a role or purpose that mainly aligns with a warfighting function, each warfighting function is relevant to all types of units. (pg 2-1)

TABLE 3.0.3: Warfighting Functions (WFF)

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Now, these warfighting functions are not another stovepiping of personnel, since it states, “an intellectual organization for common critical capabilities.” If anything, it is a stovepiping of tasks that need to be done, and by categorizing as such it makes it easier for leadership to conceptually understand the myriad of things that need to be done to keep effects focused. The unit’s S4 logistics officer-in-charge may spend a majority of their time and focus on the sustainment cell, and an artillery officer; such as myself, would spend most of our time focused on the fires cell, but since both of our sections utilize computers and phone lines connected to secured and encrypted networks, we both have a part to play in the command and control warfighting function, headed by the unit’s S6 communication officer-in-charge.


What you need to know about all of this is that we take considerable effort to make our operations process more effective by creating synergistic relationships in both 1) staff sections with common capabilities and expertise, and 2) warfighting functions with common or related tasks. This would be similar in the business-world to having a section of employees that handled public outreach, a section that handled advertisements, and a section that handled customer relationships, while rolling them up into a business function called “marketing” headed by the chief marketing officer. The personnel are separated based on what they do, but conceptually they are unified in the related and complementary effects of their tasks. But this doesn’t mean that personnel in the budget and operations sections don’t have engagement with marketing, because:


  • The chief finance officer will need to have a contribution in shaping the marketing function’s budget, and;

  • The chief operations officer needs an output on the quality of the product, from the end-user, from the customer relations section of the marketing function.


This is the difference between sections of personnel and functions of the business. The following is a chart of what one would see if we were to create the “intellectual organization of common critical capabilities” as the Army does with its warfighting functions except for a business, and since the business-world likes to use the lexicon of the military, we could adopt the term business-fighting function for this purpose.

TABLE 3.0.4: Business-Fighting Functions*

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All that this achieves is to produce an outcome more effectively. The military could shoot and bombard things on the battlefield haphazardly, but a cohesive and coordinated plan can more effectively achieve the desired results better and with reduced costs. These staff sections, the conceptual organization of tasks, the echelonment of units, and the span of control to allow leadership to effectively control their organizations is how we wield the monstrous-size of the United States Army and achieve our objectives. This is how we “add value” to the resources available to us and to the United States government. This is the way any nation’s military provides them value.


Since adding value is about transforming inputs into better outputs, we developed these processes to allow us to do just that. The transformative elements of adding value are all performed in some way by us. We received munitions, weapons, and warriors, and we ALTERED them in such a way as to create a capable and ready organization that can shape the battlefield for the client; in this case the client is the government and the citizenry. These munitions, personnel, and equipment are INSPECTED to show that our machines of war are maintained, munitions are stockpiled and in good condition, and our people are trained in their warrior tasks and drills. We STORED our vehicles in motorpools, weapons in arms rooms, munitions in ammunition holding areas, and people in barracks and offices, ready for when they are needed. And when the government does indeed need them, they are all TRANSPORTED to the place they are required to fight to achieve our purpose; compelling the adversary towards a desired policy change. This is how we add value!


But as with all things, what the customer finds valuable is relative to the needs of the customer at a particular time and place. In business, analyzing the market helps us understand what they could want or need which we can then satisfy to fulfill our purpose. And here we can ask another question to see if the military has principles and concepts that can help us. So our next question:

How can we understand our market more effectively to achieve our purpose?

The purpose of business operations is to produce an output that meets the needs and wants of the market. By the operations function, value is added to inputs and the outputs are purchased by consumers. Now, what is deemed a valuable transformation of inputs is determined by the marketplace. So there are various ways in which a business can assess the market, usually through the marketing function of the business, but one particular connection between operations and marketing is how the assessment of the market impacts the operations functions. In this case, it is in what way the operation function adds value.


One technique found in the business world to help develop an assessment of the environment is through a PESTEL analysis. The acronym stands for six environmental factors, which are: Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, and Legal. Through PESTEL, a business can assess the impacts of various environmental and market factors that would impact operations, and how these may impact the efficacy and bottom line of the business’ operations functions.


The PESTEL analysis, discussed by Oxford’s College of Marketing, emphasizes the need for external assessments in the process of developing a course of action for the business. They stated:


In marketing, before any kind of strategy or tactical plan can be implemented, it is fundamental to conduct a full situational analysis. This analysis should be repeated every six months to identify any changes in the macro-environment. Organizations that successfully monitor and respond to changes in the macro-environment can differentiate from the competition and thus have a competitive advantage over others.


The framework is also used to identify potential threats and weaknesses which are used in a SWOT Analysis when identifying any strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to a business.


Regardless of whether PESTEL is used to develop a SWOT analysis which is used to develop a business and marketing plan, or it is simply used as a rubric to judge a course of action efficacy in regards to these areas, it is a valuable tool to reflect on the business environment. More than just what potential customers may be looking to buy, and assessing the impact of competitors in your acquisition of market share, but in areas of the marketplace not directly related to your business but would otherwise have an indirect effect. Here is a breakdown of the categories:


  • Political covers not only the impact of regulations and taxes at local, state, and national levels, but also international engagement between nations. If a business’ supply chain at any point includes overseas material or who trade their products overseas, they need to understand and prepare for potential international issues and their impacts on their operations.

  • Economic covers the health of the economy along the supply chain and within the markets that the business sells its services and goods as this will impact their ability to make a profit. Additionally, access to employees, the quality of their pay and benefits, and their own opportunities will be impacted, which will impact your business.

  • Social covers the nature of social trends, education, and family and ethnic demographics of the environment. Understanding the social makeup of your marketplace will help guide your marketing and determine whether what your business provides is or is not desired.

  • Technological covers not only the existing technological capabilities that may help or hinder the purpose of your business, but also anticipated future technological advancement. By assessing current capabilities to future potential tech you can determine whether a facet of your business, or your products or services, have a lasting value within society or are at risk of obsolescence. With this a business can develop a risk mitigation plan and determine how to develop a business plan that is flexible in the face of uncertain future developments.

  • Environmental covers the literal natural environment, such as the ecology of the Earth and the raw materials we extract from it. A business which relies on rare elements, non-abundant materials, or difficult to acquire resources needs to be aware how this factors into their operations. Also, through the conduct of their business, they may need to be aware of how their operations positively or negatively impact local ecologies and how that may be viewed by customers and politicians.

  • Legal covers the impact on laws in relation to the conduct of the business itself. Certification and licensing requirements required by certain industries would be included, but also the conduct of certain activities and the selling of certain products being made illegal. Also, being aware of laws that impact other sectors, may have a positive or negative impact on yours which you will have to take advantage of or protect against.


For a PESTEL example, here is a chart applying these factors in a contemporary scenario for a real estate brokerage and an agent, something I would often use to advise others on the status of the real estate market, my brokerage, and as a real estate agent working on behalf of clients. It is not an exhaustive list of all of the variables in each category, simply many of the most pressing ones:


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The military has its own way of assessing the environment so that it can determine what actions it may need to take to achieve desired results. Battlefields are volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, and if you understand the nature of cause and effect then you understand how unforeseen effects can occur when variables are not understood. While there are a multitude of variables at play in any environment, and even unintended consequences can occur because we won’t be able to understand every single variable out there, the more we know about an environment the higher the probability we can produce the effects we want.


The process we use to understand the operational environment is through assessing operational variables. These eight variables include political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure, physical environment, and time, which goes by the acronym PMESII-PT. Through understanding these variables, planners are able to determine how the environment may impact the execution of their courses of action and what they would need to do to adjust their activities to achieve the desired results. Making an effort to deeply understand an aspect of the operational environment allows an organization to foresee potential issues. By understanding its own strengths and weaknesses, it can use PMESII-PT to find opportunities and threats to which they plan a course of action around; just as a PESTEL analysis helps business planners complete a SWOT analysis that feeds a business plan.


With this understanding of the environment in hand, unit leaders are then able to shape their own operations around them. Using mission command, which we previously discussed in this chapter, they have a shared understanding of the environment and their commander’s intent when they receive mission orders. When they generate their own orders for their unit, they develop an operations order which takes into account specific mission variables. These variables are unique to the unit and the mission at hand, and in a way, is a tailored and practical application of operational variables at the lower levels. There are six mission variables: mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, and civil consideration, which goes by the acronym METT-TC.


What you need to know about the difference between operational variables and mission variables is that operational variables are more overarching and lofty conceptualizations of the environment. Operational variables help us understand why things are the way they are, and how it impacts the world around us. Mission variables are down-to-earth and pragmatic manifestations of those operational variables and ourselves, and through mission variables we can apply our operational understanding in a pragmatic and tactical way. For example, the operational variable that covers social aspects of the environment may note that the local civilian population is religiously conservative and holds their beliefs above individual freedoms and personal safety. The mission variable of civil considerations may note that 1) no military action will be conducted that negatively impacts important religious sites, 2) a list of these sites to be avoided will be produced, and 3) guidance on what to do if something were to occur at one of these locations; such as contact a liaison with the local police to handle the issue. The mission variable provides tangible action and guidance that allows our people to actually employ operational considerations in a practical way.


To provide greater detail, in the May 2022 edition of Field Manual 5-0: Planning and Orders Production they discuss operational and mission variables thusly:


Commanders and staffs use the operational and mission variables to help build their situational understanding. They analyze and describe an operational environment (OE) in terms of eight interrelated operational variables: political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure, physical environment, and time (PMESII-PT). Upon receipt of a mission, commanders filter information categorized by the operational variables into relevant information with respect to the mission. They use the mission variables, in combination with the operational variables, to refine their understanding of the situation and to visualize, describe, and direct operations. The mission variables are mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, civil considerations, and informational considerations, remembered with the mnemonic METT-TC (I).


The operational variables are fundamental to developing a comprehensive understanding of an OE. When commanders and staff analyze their specific OE, they also discern what parts or aspects of each domain and the relevant information aspects are considerations to their operation. The information environment is the aggregate of individuals, organizations, and systems that collect, process, disseminate, or act on information. These information aspects and considerations can make up a significant piece of a commander’s OE… (pg A-1)


Mission variables are fundamental in analyzing the situation and developing a course of action (COA) for a given operation. Mission variables describe characteristics of an area of operations (AO), focusing on how they might affect a mission. Incorporating the analysis of the operational variables into the mission variables ensures Army leaders consider the most relevant information available about conditions that pertain to the mission. Using the operational variables as a source of relevant information for the mission variables allows commanders to refine their situational understanding of their OE and to visualize, describe, direct, lead and assess operations.


METT-TC (I) represents the mission variables leaders use to analyze and understand a situation in relationship to the unit’s mission. The first six variables are not new… The increased use of information (both military and civilian) to generate cognitive effects requires leaders to continuously assess the informational impacts on operations. Recent operational experiences demonstrate the importance of commanders and planners considering the informational aspects and impacts early in planning and constantly assess them to create desired effects and outcomes. Because of the continued growth and information capabilities impacting all operations, during all phases, a necessary emphasis for leaders at all levels, informational considerations, has been added to the familiar METT-TC mnemonic making it METT-TC (I). Informational considerations is expressed as a parenthetical variable (I) in that it is not an independent variable, but an important consideration combined with each mission variable that leaders should pay particular attention to in understanding a situation.


Commanders and planners integrate information into all operations and activities to create favorable support and circumstances for friendly action, limit enemy or adversary action, and minimize unintended consequences. Information considerations are the relevant friendly, threat, and neutral (both military and civilian) individuals, organizations, and systems capable of generating cognitive effects and influencing behavior. (pg A-2 & A-3)

To provide better clarity, the following are some descriptions of what is assessed in each of these operational and mission variables. Understanding the nature of these variables will help planners develop courses of action that actually produce desired results. The following descriptions for PMESII-PT and METT-TC come from the November 2014 version of Training Circular 7-102: Operational Environment and Army Learning and FM 5-0, respectively.


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From the perspective of a business, it isn’t important what words are used by military planners to help them understand their environment with PMESII-PT or shape their operations based on that understanding with METT-TC. Their language is tailored to a particular audience; military personnel and politicians, based on the use of their ways and means; war and weaponry. What matters is that we understand the fundamental aspects of what they are trying to achieve in the human domain. If we can do that, we can adopt these operational and mission variables and apply them to any endeavor, including business. The following table is such an attempt to understand the fundamental nature of these variables and how they can relate to business.

TABLE 3.0.8: Operational and Mission Variables for Business

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If we look towards our environment, we can see that we are dealing with more than just the marketplace. That is unless we treat the term marketplace to also mean this all-encompassing environment in which every variable both directly and indirectly affects our ability to do our business; in much the same way a military looks beyond just the battlefield. The military's value is its ability to shape the environment through its use or potential use of the tool of violence, as well as provide direct support to civil authorities and stability for local governments and its people. Yes, the military can engage in direct action against enemy combat power; destroying an enemy convoy, conducting decapitation strikes against enemy leadership, and neutralizing their communications. But the military can also provide support to shape environments through non-violent methods, such as training host-nation military and police forces, providing presence patrols to help curtail gang activities and protect businesses, and supporting the development of infrastructure through their engineers.


What matters most is the achievement of desired ends, and it is through the effective shaping of the conditions of the environment that we do that. The military is the preeminent organization that employs violence to shape conditions, but even the military; especially now in the 21st-century, knows there is a time and place for martial action and when a non-military solution may be the better course of action. Ideally, leadership versed in both military and non-military methods would develop courses of action that best employ strengths while compensating for weaknesses and mitigating the risks of both. However, leadership would not be able to make this determination if not for a comprehensive understanding of the environment. A military organization looks at the environment, assesses its nature, identifies the conditions that need to be shaped, figures out how its tools can shape them, and then conducts operations to make it happen; being sure to assess and adjust these operations based on real-world analysis. It cannot provide value if it doesn’t understand how its actions will impact the environment.


In much the same way, businesses need to focus on achieving their desired ends and will shape the conditions of the environment to do so. It needs to look at the marketplace, assess its nature, look at what it needs to do to shape it, and then develop a course of action that effectively accomplishes it with the tools it has available; its products and services. The value of a business is what it provides its customers, how it solves their problems. The business delivers its value through the accomplishment of its purpose, and we do this through the operations function of a business. Business operations are led by market analysis, because it is the needs of the marketplace that should dictate what operations should look like. Market analysis is an activity of the marketing functioning of a business, and we will cover that in the next Chapter 3.1: Business Marketing with Military Concepts, but for now, what you need to know is that without an effective understanding of the environment; be it marketplace or battlefield, we can’t hope that operations can achieve our ends. It would be like developing a military course of action based on absolutely no intelligence; no information on enemy composition or locations, no understanding of the various actors and groups at play, no comprehension of how the locals will view our actions, and no realization of our own capabilities and assets. We can’t hope to succeed in what we do if we don’t know the nature of the game we are playing.


Some form of understanding is necessary for operations to begin, because often a greater understanding will be achieved as we develop plans to tackle the environment and achieve our purpose. In much the way an individual entrepreneur may begin their business journey from pure observation of a potential need for their community, they will begin figuring out how to satisfy this need and manifest this in the form of a business. By the end when they need to begin operations they will have developed a greater understanding of what needs to be done, and they can tailor their operations to achieve their goals in the most efficient way possible based on this greater understanding. This leads to our next question:

How do we develop plans that are effective in achieving our purpose, especially in an uncertain market?

Now that we have a general understanding of the nature of the marketplace, to whatever extent we are able to glean from a market assessment, we need to determine how to move forward to accomplish our purpose. To move forward, we need to unify the efforts of our people and resources to ensure what we provide meets the needs of consumers. We accomplish this through planning. We also need mechanisms in place to ensure that the plan is still sufficient, and if not make changes and alter our course of action. We accomplish this through control.


Slack and Brandon-Jones discussed the nature of planning and control as this:


The design of an operation determines the resources with which it creates its services and products, but then the operation has to deliver those services and products on an ongoing basis. And central to an operation’s ability to deliver is the way it plans its activities and controls them so that customer’s demands are satisfied… (Nigel Slack, 318)


Planning and control is concerned with the activities that attempt to reconcile the demands of the market and the ability of the operation’s resources to deliver. It provides the systems, procedures and decisions which bring different aspects of supply and demand together.

(pg 319)


Notice that we have chosen to treat ‘planning and control’ together. This is because the division between ‘planning’ and ‘control’ is not clear, either in theory or in practice. However, there are some general features that help to distinguish between the two. Planning is a formalization of what is intended to happen at some time in the future. But a plan does not guarantee that an event will actually happen. Rather it is a statement of intention. Although plans are based on exceptions, during their implementation things do not always happen as expected… Control is the process of coping with these types of change. It may mean that plans need to be redrawn in the short term. It may also mean that an ‘intervention’ will need to be made in the operation to bring it back ‘on track’… Control activities make the adjustments which allow the operations to achieve the objectives that the plan has set, even when the assumptions on which the plan was based do not hold true. (pg 320)


From the business-side of things, we focus on providing what we believe the consumers want or need, or that we can develop some innovative product or service that upends existing wants or needs. The marketing function of our business helped us discern these. It helped assess the potential impact of what we seek to provide the marketplace, the reaction from competition, the reception of consumers and naysayers, and the interest or disinterest of potential investors and backers.  The greater our understanding of the environment, the greater the chance that our prediction of our plan’s success will be accurate. This is because that prediction is based on a critical and non-delusion analysis.


In the review of the works of W. Edward Deming, in the book The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality, he stated:


The aim of an analytic study is to aid prediction of the behavior of a process, to aid plans for improvement of tomorrow’s run or of next year’s crop.


Planning requires prediction. One may have to plan with a little degree of belief in the predictions that he would wish to have in hand for planning, or he may be fortunate with strong degree of belief in some of the predictions. Degree of belief can not be measured in numbers.


Better knowledge of a process means enhancement of the degree of belief in the prediction of its performance, and a better basis for planning. There is no sure way to predict the results of a change. Empirical evidence is never complete. (pg 232)


This is the nature of planning. You will never have a complete understanding of the environment, and, therefore, you won’t be able to develop a perfect plan. Often, plans will require adjustment to various degrees depending on how comprehensive the initial assessment was. The greater the assessment of the marketplace, the less adjustment that may need to be made during execution. The greater the uncertainty, then the greater the need to change plans, even develop plans that incorporate flexibility and adaptability into their execution. But, regardless, we develop a course of action for our business based on our understanding, and when that understanding proves to be incorrect in some fashion, we have to use our mechanisms of control to alter our course of action accordingly.


There is a quote that is often attributed to United States General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower that goes along the lines of, “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” And this perspective is a realization that first made it rounds in military circles all the way back to Prussia general Helmuth von Moltke’s writing in his Kriegsgechichtliche Einzelschriften, which directly translates as “war history documents,” published in 1880 AD, where he said, “No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main enemy forces.” A more down-to-earth example rephrasing this sentiment can be attributed to the boxer, Mike Tyson, where he said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”


What these mean is what has already been stated. Planning is critical to the preparation of operations. Without it we can’t make movement. But in the process of planning we learn more about the environment. More important than simply learning, we hyper-focus on the areas we believe are the most important, and flesh out our understanding of these critical operational variables in our limited time. We can alway learn more, but time dictates we prioritize our intelligence gathering unless we risk being stuck in analysis paralysis. Our plans will never be perfect, because that would require a level of understanding of the environment that borders on omniscience. We neither have the time nor resources to develop such understanding, so we focus on developing a “good plan” instead of a perfect one. If you ascribe to the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80-20 Rule, you may realize you don’t necessarily need to understand everything to develop a plan that works.


The planning process is indispensable because it hyper-focuses people into those key areas that we need to understand to generate a feasible course of action. We know the plan will not be perfect, so we plan for imperfection through methods of risk mitigation, flexibility, and adaptability. If you realize this, that your plan will probably need to be altered at some point based on variables you may not have realized when you first completed your plan, then you can institute levers into your operations that allow you to change. But first and foremost we need to plan, and we have a few military processes for doing just that.

Military Decision Making Process (MDMP)

For the United States Army, our primary method for developing our courses of action is through what we call the military decision making process, or simply MDMP. This process is used when you have the requisite time and staff necessary to develop multiple plans, gauge their pros and cons, and then refine and publish orders for their eventual execution. FM 5-0 says this of MDMP:


The military decision-making process is an iterative planning methodology to understand the situation and mission, develop a course of action, and produce an operation plan or order. Commanders with an assigned staff use the MDMP to organize and conduct their planning activities. The process helps leaders apply critical and creative thinking to analyze a mission; develop, analyze, and compare alternative courses of action; select the best [course of action]; and produce an operations plan or operations order. The MDMP is applicable across the range of military operations from military engagement, large scale combat operations, and security cooperation activities to crisis response. (pg 5-1)


Now, as one would expect, this level of planning is not quick. Indeed, staff officers and noncommissioned officers, we have a love-hate relationship with the process. It is our best tool for developing comprehensive and workable plans that actually gets things done for such massive and unwieldy organizations that we have to contend with. But to be stuck in the midst of the process will be time-consuming and stressful until you get the hang of it. You are often on a time crunch, so the various steps of the process need to be completed at particular times if you want a functional plan by a particular date. For my buddies, my colleagues, and myself, going off to an MDMP meeting, at times, may as well be tantamount to saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow!”


But regardless of how tiring MDMP is, the only reason it is such a pain is because of the importance of what it produces. Nothing good is ever easy, after all, and developing military plans for our operations is critical to our success if we want to accomplish our objectives. MDMP has seven-steps, and each step must be completed before moving on to the next step. This is its iterative nature, as each following step requires the outputs of the previous step. You can move backwards through the process if necessary, but you can’t move forward until completion of the current step. For example, if you get to Step 6 - Course of Action Approval, the commander can tell the staff that the developed courses of action are “no good” and tell them to go back to Step 3 - Course of Action Development and generate a new batch of potential plans to work from; ideally with further guidance to alleviate the commander’s hang-ups about the previously develops options.


For the business applications of MDMP, we don’t necessarily need to go through the entire training process on how to do MDMP, but understanding what occurs during each step and how that helps the organization develop workable plans is valuable. Indeed, it is critical to understand this process as though it actually unifies the efforts of larger corporations that have many subordinate organizations and departments that need to develop their own plans for a higher plan. Here are the seven steps; in order and how best to use them for your business planning.


The seven steps of the military decision making process are:


  1. Receipt of Mission

  2. Mission Analysis

  3. Course of Action Development

  4. Course of Action Analysis

  5. Course of Action Comparison

  6. Course of Action Approval

  7. Orders Production, Dissemination & Transition


And now we will go over each step to familiarize you with the process and what MDMP provides staff and their leadership.

1) Receipt of Mission


For any military organization, in most situations, the initial catalyst to the beginning of planning comes from orders from their higher organization. The battalion commander initiates MDMP when they first receive mission orders from their brigade, and the brigade initiates MDMP when they receive orders from their division. Often, these orders are simple and abbreviated orders called a “warning order” or WARNO/WARNORD that serves as a heads-up about a future mission. This allows for parallel planning throughout all echelons so that all these organizations can begin their planning processes instead of waiting for a completed operation order. Naturally, since the warning order is based on incomplete information, all echelons will need to adjust their course of action development as new guidance is pushed down to subordinate units during the course of MDMP, however, waiting for each echelon to push completed orders before subordinates could begin would take too much time and reduce their adaptability to changing situations. The warning order is a powerful tool to get a multi-leveled organization unified and synchronized towards a new mission in a timely manner.


The WARNORD is often a paragraph or two giving the subordinate organizations an understanding of the situation; preliminary guidance on the mission in the form of a who, what, when, where, why, and how; and a timeline for how planning is going to unfold, such as the time and location of planning meetings and the due outs for particular phases of MDMP. For a business, being able to use something akin to a warning order would allow for a faster response and greater planning time for subordinate leadership and departments when things change drastically. If you have been in a business where, prior to a new product or service launch, corporate or higher headquarters required you to assess the economic impact and marketplace viability of such a launch in your area, then plan accordingly, you have experienced this WARNO-style mission order.


In addition to warning orders, we also have fragmentary orders, or FRAGO/FRAGORD, which simply amends an existing order. It is a commonly used tool when operations are being carried out as originally intended, but something occurs that requires an alteration to a plan. The alteration isn’t so detrimental that it requires an entirely new overarching plan from your higher headquarters, but it could be enough of a change that your organization needs to initiate MDMP to develop a course of action to make it work. For a business, fragmentary orders are used in much the same way, even if they don’t call them such. If you have ever been told by superiors that you needed to “cover-down” for another manufacturing line's missed quota or you were told to “be-prepared-to” respond to an influx of potential customer inquiries and complaints, then you are familiar with FRAGO-style mission orders.


There are also times in which, without guidance from higher-ups, a commander initiates MDMP because they anticipate a change in the environment that would necessitate a new plan and they are trying to get ahead of the situation. There is no problem with doing this, as long as the subordinate commander understands their own commander’s intent and is seeking to meet that intent in the best way they can. The concept of mission command, with the dual requirement of shared understanding and trust between superior and subordinate commanders, encourages subordinates to take the initiative to accomplish objectives in spite of complex and ambiguous environments that change. They don’t want their subordinates to wait for guidance to solve a problem if they have the means and capacity to solve the problem themselves; given that the solution seeks to support the overall effort as intended. For a business, just as in military organizations, often those directly engaged with the environment; the front lines of warfare and business, have a unique perspective of their operational environment or marketplace not seen by the higher ups. If you have ever had to take the initiative to prepare for a problem before being told to do so, such as preparing for a potential influx of irate customers during a product recall or getting ahead of the holiday season, then you understand why junior leadership may initiate planning without a directive to do so.


Regardless of how it begins; being directed to plan a course of action, directed to adjust an existing operation, or preparing to adjust on one’s own accord, the MDMP step of “receipt of mission” is merely the initial catalyst that kicks off the planning process. The importance of understanding the operational environment is that its assessment leads to a decision that a change is necessary. Without that understanding, there would be no motivation to execute the planning process that would galvanize the organization to effectively utilize its personnel, assets, resources, and time available to change things. A greater understanding of the environment comes in the next step, and it is through the conduct of mission analysis that we flesh out our understanding into actionable information and develop a shared understanding of the situation for the whole organization. But before mission analysis within our staff, we must give a heads-up to our subordinates so they can begin their own MDMP and or Troop Leading Procedures (TLP), and this comes with us giving them the WARNORD, an act that effectively serves as their “Step One: Receipt of Mission.”

2) Mission Analysis


The purpose of mission analysis is to develop a shared understanding that will facilitate the development of workable courses of action that achieve desired ends. It helps answer the classic questions of who, what, when, where, and why so that we can generate the how in “Step Three: Course of Action Development.” This is a critical step, not something done as a half-measure, because without a fleshed out understanding we will not be able to make predictions about the effects of our actions. In mathematical terms, how can we “solve for x” if there are other variables unknown to us.


Mission analysis is so important that in our doctrine we dedicate around 30% of our time allocated to planning to executing mission analysis, the most of any step in MDMP. This makes sense in a business-sense as we also have limited time, resources, and personnel to make things happen in the marketplace. If we desire to achieve our purpose by providing our products and services, and make a profit in the process, we best understand our marketplace to such detail that we can realistically predict how our efforts will be manifested. Failing to understand those aforementioned operational variables related to PMESII-PT, or PESTEL, will result in plans that can't accomplish our goals.


Naturally, since mission analysis is such an important and time-consuming process, it is lush with many sub-steps that help planners make sense of something so complicated. By going through these sub-steps, staff will be able to generate a briefing to the commander and staff that is robust and gets everyone on the same page for the next step of MDMP. Mission analysis is all about creating a shared understanding. Each staff member is able to contribute their subject matter expertise to this process, and as a result the leadership; especially the commander, is able to give their guidance on how to move forward.


We will quickly go over all of these sub-steps, what they provide to our understanding and how they relate to business.


  • Analyze the Higher Headquarters’ Plan or Order


Since the military uses echelonment, the division of large organizations into progressively smaller and smaller organizations to improve command and control, subordinate units often receive their orders and are given tasks that they need to do to accomplish an overall objective. They need to understand this in order to shape a mission and develop a plan that specifically supports these assigned tasks.


For a large business with multiple departments or franchises, subordinate elements need to understand what is expected of them; be it supporting a new product or service or pushing some public relations campaign, and they need to understand the higher’s intent and purpose for the plan so they can support the effort and not engage in counterproductive activities and produce negative results or waste capital.


  • Perform Initial Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield


For a plan to be developed, staff need boundaries and expected enemy courses of actions in which the staff can plan against. They determine the nature and impact of operational variables; such as PMESII-PT,  they determine the nature of the threats in the area, and develop the most likely and most dangerous courses of action that an enemy may take.


A business plan is often developed in relation to market research. Through understanding the effects of marketplace variables; such as PESTEL, and an assessment of competition, our threats, we can produce information that can be acted upon; such as a SWOT analysis.


  • Determine Specified, Implied, and Essential Tasks


When a unit receives a mission from higher headquarters, there will be tasks that are specified that the subordinate must execute in order for the higher headquarters’ objectives to be met. Implied tasks are not stated in the overarching plan, but are tasks that need to be accomplished to support a specified task which is stated. Once specified and implied tasks are laid out, planners can then identify which ones are essential to the accomplishment of objectives and are used to gauge whether a mission is successful or not.


Owners, C-level executives, and corporate officers may often give directives to accomplish certain things, such as achieving quotas or having a certain profit margin. These are specified tasks that probably have numerous implied tasks that need to be accomplished in order to achieve them; such as securing a certain market share or offloading and liquidating excess inventory. Whether a specified or implied task is essential will be based on planners developing a greater understanding of what needs to occur to accomplish the overall purpose of the business at that time.


  • Review Available Assets and Identify Resource Shortfalls


The staff will look to what they have on hand that could support or achieve the previously mentioned tasks. Personnel, equipment, materials, ammunition, and time available will be taken into account, and the planners will identify where they may be lacking.


On the same exact note, the tasks pushed down from corporate or identified by the boss will need to be assessed by an analysis of what you have on hand. You may realize you need to liquidate old products, but if they are so obsolete that no one would want them then you must figure out whether you have the means to do so. Any task a business is given must be determined through an assessment of whether or not it is viable given what they have available.


  • Determine Constraints


A constraint is just a restriction that is placed on a command from a higher command. The reason for constraints is usually either to specifically limit the impact of potential negative effects; such as not damaging culturally sensitive sites or not destroying important infrastructure, or it could be reflective of limited available resources; such as a limited use of certain scarce munitions for only specific cases.


While tasks are the things you should do, and businesses will develop a course of action to achieve those tasks based on what they can do, you will need to understand what you mustn’t do. You will naturally have your legal constraints, but a limited logistical network and production capacity may also be a constraint that impacts your scope of work. For example, you are restricted by the corporate office by only being allocated 1,000 units of the new smartphone over the next quarter. This would be a constraint if your essential task was to improve sales numbers.


  • Identify Facts and Develop Assumptions


Facts are known variables, or are at least believed to be known, and we are able to act upon them. However, there will be certain variables that we don’t know, but we will have to assume their nature in order to continue with planning. The difference between how the Army makes assumptions and those of the regular world, is that assumptions are turned into requests for information in order to turn these into facts. These assumptions continue to exist in our planning as assumptions until we finally have the answers we seek or are mitigated against should the assumption turn out to be false.


Assumptions for a business often come in the form of an expected performance based on historical precedent. Facts can include the number of agents, branch offices, available inventory, and current contracts with clients and other businesses; however, an assumption would be that any of these different things result in a predicted level of future performance based on historical performances. Often, we make marketing and operation decisions based on the status quo being retained, but we end up being blindsided when marketplace conditions change and our profit margins make our plans impractical. If we can’t ascertain an assumption to be fact ahead of time, we need to employ risk mitigation techniques that we can implement in case that assumption starts proving false.


  • Begin Risk Assessment and Management


Risk is always present, never more so than in military operations where; even if you do everything exemplary, your people can still be killed or injured. What the Army seeks to do is mitigate the risk. Furthermore, through risk management we prevent smaller manifestations of risk from cascading into greater ones. We manage the risk of injury by employing medics, equipping our Soldiers with first aid kits, and using various levels of medical aid so that an injury doesn’t become a death. We manage the risk of battle deaths by training in redundancies and stress management so that the death of one Soldier, no matter how important their job was, doesn’t cascade into the death of more in the ensuing chaos of battle. We look at every form that risk may take, assess their probability and severity, determine how we can control them, and then implement those controls into our plans.


While the business world is less dangerous than the battlefield or a military training environment, risk is everywhere and it doesn’t even need to be related to the physical health of our people. Lawsuits are a form of risk, and we mitigate that risk by preventing incidents and acquiring insurance should some level of fault be found on our part. For a business, risks are often financial or clerical, such as a bad investment or some error on a form that invalidates a contract. In manufacturing, construction, farming, timber, or any other physical profession you still have physical risks related to the job, but even our office workers are at risk of death or injury; just in different forms. If your business has a particular individual that handles something critical, such as the management of important contracts and transaction documents, if you haven’t built in redundancies to cover for them should something happen to them; such as accidental death, injury, or even emergency leave, then your business has a potentially severe risk though it may be unlikely to occur.


  • Develop Initial CCIRs and EEFIs


CCIRs, an acronym for commander’s critical information requirements, consists of two things. The first are PIRs, or priority intelligence requirements; intel reports that help develop an understanding of the threats present and the operational environment. The second are FFIRs, or friendly force information requirements; which is information based around the status of friendly forces and supporting capabilities. While CCIRs are questions that we seek to answer which is necessary for the commander to make a decision, EEFIs, or essential elements of friendly information, is basically information about ourselves we don’t want the enemy knowing. We protect our EEFIs because that knowledge, should it be known to the enemy, could jeopardize our operations.


When you own or manage a business, there is information we seek to find out about the competition, about the marketplace, about our partners, and about ourselves that we need to understand in order to develop business or marketing plans. These would be akin to CCIRs, as it is usable and critical information that helps our decision making process. Also, there is information about ourselves that we wouldn’t want our competition learning as they may use that information against us or to enrich themselves in some way; these would be EEFIs. For a business, the targeted information gleaned by our competition from forms of industrial espionage would be those EEFIs we seek to protect, while we would answer our CCIRs through market research and even our own espionage efforts against our competition.


  • Develop the Initial Information Collection Plan


In order to answer the questions about the enemy that were brought up during mission analysis, especially those important intelligence requirements identified as CCIRs, the Army needs a plan to answer them. We have various sensor systems at our disposal that we can utilize to seek out those answers. This includes our own reconnaissance and unmanned aerial surveillance, as well as information gathered from intel sources; signal, human, and open-source. The intel collection plan seeks to prioritize and synchronize our limited sensor options in order to answer the most important questions in the most effective and time-sensitive manner.


Any business that seeks to be competitive in the market and protect their interests will seek to gather information about their competitors and threats. While the average business may not use drones to spy on the competition, depending on the business, you can always go there yourself or send someone to collect information on offerings, customer service, or some other public-facing apparatus. Our most frequent source of information, however, comes from intel sources. If you have ever surfed through a competitor’s website, their social media, read their press releases and shareholders reports, or searched up their public records then you have engaged in open-source intelligence; or OSINT. If you have ever talked to their employees who have been fired or laid-off, probed their recruiters for information, or asked their suppliers how much they are being paid for components and materials then you are familiar with forms of human intelligence; or HUMINT.


  • Update Planning Timeline


At the beginning of MDMP, during receipt of mission, commanders and staff provided an anticipated planning timeline in order to get staff and subordinates to begin managing their available time in order to get things done. Now, during mission analysis, the organization has a better understanding of what actually needs to be accomplished and how long it should take, so they develop and distribute an updated timeline for plans to be completed. This is not only to ensure that the desired ends can be accomplished in a timely manner or before it is too late, but to ensure completed plans are distributed to subordinates to give them time to adequately plan and prepare. Commonly referred to as the one-thirds two-thirds rule, an organization at any level should have completed and published plans to their subordinates at one-third of the allocated planning time, which provides their subordinates two-thirds of the remaining time for their planning and preparation. They, in turn, are also expected to utilize one-thirds two-thirds for their subordinates as well. For example, if execution of an operation is to occur in 72 hours then we will publish our orders by hour 24; if 8 hours to execute then 2:30 hours to publish.


It is easy to forget that it takes time for others to digest and think through information before it actually makes sense and they can act. If you have ever been in a business or other organization and had a plan thrown into your lap at the last minute and told to execute, then you understand this sentiment. If they expect you to execute a directive or plan, but it is so complex and there are so many moving parts, you may still fail because you and your people were unprepared. Updating planning timelines, using the one-thirds two-thirds rule, and, of course, WARNORDs, it would have given you the time you need to get ready. Often, in the business sector, when leadership fails to do this, it could be attributed to one or two things. First, they take more  of the planning time to create the “perfect” plan, instead of simply taking an acceptable amount of time to generate a good or workable plan. Second, while superiors may understand the plan in intimate detail, they forget that the subordinates that need to execute the plan may not, and that they need the time to digest, understand, plan, and prepare themselves, just as the superiors had.


  • Develop a Proposed Problem Statement


Planners develop a problem statement that the unit seeks to solve through their mission and the courses of actions they develop to support that mission. The problem statement is important as it is a reference tool for planners to look back on to ensure the actions that they propose to be executed actually help in solving that proposed problem. There are many problems that can be identified and solved in any particular environment, but we limit our scope to what we can realistically achieve given our limited assets.


The problem statement for the military can serve the same purpose for a business, because in business parlance it helps reign in the scope of activities a business can do. A business is also limited in its assets; personnel, capital, relationships, and time, so being focused on solving a major issue helps unify our efforts. Just as the military, there are many problems out there, so we need to focus on where our efforts will yield the best results. If a business has a problem with positive profit margins now, it will do well to solve that first before starting new products and offerings that require time and investment before they themselves become profitable.


  • Develop a Proposed Mission Statement


The mission statement is either a sentence or paragraph statement that covers the essential tasks that the unit must accomplish. As mentioned, essential tasks are those specified or implied tasks that need to be accomplished in order to meet higher headquarter’s objectives and be considered successful. Like all things in mission analysis that are proposed, the proposed mission statement is simply the draft version to be accepted or revised by the commander upon their approval; just like the proposed problem statement, but the mission statement has such a great importance in planning that planners take time crafting it. Often, when a subordinate or staff first receive an operations order, the first thing they will search out is the mission statement as this will provide them the fastest frame of reference before digesting other portions of the order.


In the realm of semantics, a business mission statement is different from a military mission statement. For the military, the mission statement is the who, what, when, where, and why of the plan’s how. For businesses, their mission statements often are used to describe their purpose, functions, and objectives that support what they often call their vision. In the free market of businesses, there is no compulsory doctrine, only best practices and examples that other businesses may or may not emulate for themselves, so what makes a good mission statement for a business will differ based on what the individual’s concept of the purpose of a mission statement for a business actually is. If you choose to emulate the military’s understanding and purpose of the mission statement, then you benefit from a statement that is 1) clear and precise in its language, 2) helps solve a particular problem, 3) is allowed to change with the environment as new problems surface, and 4) it is actually actionable. Forget about the pandering and flowery prose, the calls for inspiration and fun, and concepts that have no correlation to your business or your vision statement. You can’t accomplish a sentiment


  • Develop and Issue Initial Commander’s Intent


The commander’s intent is how the commander envisions the purpose of the operation, the conditions of the environment they are shaping, and the ends they seek to achieve. It discusses the big picture. Whereas the mission statement is specific to the current situation, this visualization set forth in the intent has a broader scope. It can reference the general tasks of subordinates and their constraints, but it emphasizes in greater detail and range why they are conducting the operation and its importance in that bigger picture. It is vital to mission command because it allows subordinates to take the initiative to adjust the mission’s parameters should their accomplishment no longer support the commander’s intent. The mission is conditional while the intent is general, and the mission is more likely to change than the intent.


Since business is generally less chaotic and dynamic than military operations, the intent for business can more easily be tied to the purpose of that business and its objectives. The intent could be tied to increasing profits, building brand recognition and loyalty, or otherwise meeting some goal set forth in the business's vision statement. As we mentioned about business mission statements, they aren’t that useful as they are filled with feel-good statements without much substance. If the business had a military-styled mission statement, with its 5-Ws, then leadership and employees would be able to analyze that mission’s place within the intent of ongoing business operations and adjust the mission should they realize it will fail that intent. Again, for the military, having an established intent is important because of its place in mission command, but for businesses, it is also important if you seek to empower your people to take initiative. Intent is a valuable tool of leadership, unless you run your operation along the lines of “just do as you're told,” and if that is the case you don’t need to explain your reasons for anything, and all you need is obedience amongst your people.


  • Present the Mission Analysis Briefing


Now, all the aforementioned sub-elements of mission analysis seek to build an understanding of the operational environment, threats, friendly forces, and guidance on how we might move forward. All the key staff and their elements contribute their understanding to flesh out these areas. However, we now need to share the summation of our contributions to the entirety of the staff and the command team. While everyone attending the brief benefits from the sharing of information and perspectives on the various elements of the future mission, its primary purpose is to get approval from the commander on many of the proposed elements developed by the staff. The following is a list of the various elements that could be included in the mission analysis brief, as taken from Field Manual 5-0: Planning and Orders Production:


  • Mission and commander’s intent of the headquarters two echelons higher than the unit.

  • Mission, commander’s intent, and concept of operations of the headquarters one echelon higher than the unit.

  • Review of the commander’s initial guidance.

  • Initial Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield products that impact the conduct of operations.

  • Specified, implied, and essential tasks.

  • Pertinent facts and assumptions.

  • Constraints.

  • Forces available, including known command and support relationships and resource shortfalls.

  • A proposed problem statement.

  • A proposed mission statement.

  • Proposed commander’s intent for approval or commander’s intent issuance.

  • Proposed commander’s critical information requirements and essential elements of friendly information.

  • Initial information collection plan.

  • Initial risk assessment.

  • Recommended collaborative planning sessions.

  • Proposed course of action evaluation criteria.

  • Updated timeline.

  • Review or issue commander’s planning guidance. (pg 5-18 & 5-19)


Remember that mission analysis aims to develop a shared understanding so the team can move forward to planning. Without a shared understanding, a team can’t develop a cohesive plan that achieves results in an effective manner. Additionally, the fact that one of the biggest outputs of the brief is the approval of many proposed elements as well as the leader’s planning guidance, means the team is by necessity unified by the leader’s directive. The value for a business in this case is one in which the team not only has a shared understanding, having contributed their own subject matter expertise to the various topics and have heard others do the same, but they have purpose, direction, and motivation to move forward to actual planning by the owner, executive, or manager; whoever is leading the planning effort. Often, the rank-and-file employees or contractors will get together to discuss change, things that should be done, or complain about problems, but then do nothing about it because their position within the business doesn't give them authority to do much more than follow. Without having an individual on the team who just exudes confidence and drives people to act, a leader in action but not in title or position, then the business’ leadership must do their job and compel that unity of effort through planning.


  • Develop Course of Action Evaluation Criteria


During the course of action development step of MDMP, staff will create multiple potential courses of action that are then analyzed, compared, and then approved in subsequent steps. The goal here is to provide the metrics that will be used to assess the strengths and weaknesses of different plans and then make a selection based on the best one. It helps development by guiding the staff to focus on particular elements; such as defeating particular threats, speed of completion, risks, political concerns, logistical support, leveraging organizational strengths, and the simplicity of the plan. Other than this set of criteria given by the commander, another set of general criteria is always applied, and they are that each course of action developed for consideration must be feasible, acceptable, suitable, complete, and distinguishable. Basically, depending on time available for planning, we want to give the commander multiple options to choose from that are all sound plans by themselves. In the end, they could choose one plan, but incorporate elements of others as a revision. Pragmatic diversity in options is key to a good development process.


The value for a business in developing multiple courses of action, each being a viable option, is that it compels business leaders and their subject matter experts to find different methods to solve the same problem. Business leaders, like military commanders, are able to influence the decision making process by acknowledging their strengths and assets and requiring their people to leverage them in their plans. Criteria could include costs, risks, logistics, in-house vs. outsourcing, existing customers, available contracts and contractors, marketing, and suppliers. A new C-level executive or manager, even if they are very knowledgeable on a particular subject, may not be aware of some of the unique aspects of their current organization so guidance from the owner or chief executive through evaluation criteria can shed light on what they need to utilize. For example, a new American tech executive who has only ever experienced the difficulties of acquiring key components from China and Taiwan, may have a poor outlook on future prospects in the region due to increasing tensions and the probability of having these supplies reduced or cut off, and may not be aware that they can leverage other sources the business already has a pre-established relationship with.


  • Develop and Issue Continued Planning Guidance


Heading into the course of action development step is not done from a blank slate. What I mean to say is that for the staff that is just coming out of mission analysis they will receive some initial guidance from the commander on how they envision the operation unfolding. It won’t be a detailed concept, merely a sweeping overview of what they would like to see planned so that the staff can work out the actual details. It helps focus the efforts of staff on developing courses of action that the commander would actually accept while avoiding ones that would be written off as an absolute no-go. The guidance is naturally based upon the commander’s own knowledge, experiences, and judgment at the time, and is usually geared around each warfighting function.


The value in providing guidance prior to the planning step is that it acts as a catalyst for hesitant, inexperienced, and tired staff to start developing courses of action, while for more enthusiastic and experienced staff it prevents them from wasting their energy on plans or elements that the commander won’t accept. Providing direction is one of the things that leaders provide their people, something we mentioned in Chapter 2.3: On Leadership, and in businesses where employee initiative isn’t present, this type of guidance would be necessary to get things moving. Ideally, if the owner, manager, or executive is guiding the planning process of staff they will need to ensure that all the members of the planning staff not only have that shared understanding of the vision, but also have guidance on how best their segment of planning helps achieve that vision.


  • Issue a Warning Order


Time is of the essence, especially in military operations, and no more critical than in times of crisis and chaos where things are moving fast. Simultaneous planning at all levels, as we mentioned in the first step, Receipt of Mission, requires providing lower echelons with the most up-to-date information and understanding to continue conducting their own MDMP for their organization. Mission analysis has provided a wealth of information and understanding, and this should be shared with subordinate organizations through the use of the WARNORD. It would include the approved problem and mission statements, the layout of the organization for the operation, maps and overlays of the area of operations, identified tasks to certain subordinate units, updated planning and mission timelines, guidance on necessary movements, as well as the general guidance given to warfighting functions. While this WARNORD serves to help inform subordinate organizations of what the parent organization has come to understand about the environment and what the operation could entail, it also serves to inform the rest of the organization’s staff about the outputs of mission analysis; especially those that weren’t present during the mission analysis briefing to the commander.


The value of keeping your people in the loop should be obvious. The best value from informing your sub-departments, franchises, and other branch offices about the results of your planning research is in keeping them aware of changes within the organization and the marketplace and giving them the impetus to begin or continue their own specific plans based around their own unique environments. Conversely, businesses that are more dictatorial in their relationship between management and employees may not require each employee to understand the bigger picture, as they may only be required to do as they are told to accomplish their tasks in support of the business's overall objectives and meet the mission. Even if that is the case, however, most individuals feel their efforts are valued when they understand their part in the organization's future development. Even a custodian, replacing light bulbs and cleaning areas, could become more enthusiastic and derive greater job satisfaction if they believed the organization they were supporting was doing great things and not floundering financially.

3) Course of Action Development


After mission analysis, we have generally come to understand the nature of the operational environment, identified the problem placed in front of us, and have been given guidance on potential methods to solve it. Now we enter into course of action development to expand upon this guidance into detailed and usable plans that we will assess, refine, select, and then publish as the plan for our upcoming operation or phase of an existing operation. As we go through the process of developing a workable plan we take into account that at first it is shaped by the mission at hand, for if it can’t accomplish the mission, then the plan is useless. The plan is then shaped by the commander's suggested criteria, taking advantage of strengths in the presence of operational and mission variables while mitigating weaknesses. Then finally it is determined to be valid if it meets the final screening criteria; its feasibility, acceptability, suitability, distinguishability, and completeness.


As always, I don’t want to dig into the specifics of how we develop a plan, the specifics of how to calculate fuel consumption needs for our vehicles or how to determine the numbers of Soldiers necessary to accomplish particular military tasks as these are related to subject matter expertise. What I do want to discuss are the reasons why we do them and their broader implications to other human endeavors, like business. For example, in regards to fuel consumption, we develop our general consumption needs based first on the facts established using mission analysis; such as the estimated miles per gallon for vehicles and number of vehicles in the unit, and this provides us our estimated ranges which we then incorporate into our plans to help us identify routes, locations for refueling, and coordination with higher organizations to stockpile fuel for future operations based on anticipated needs. For a business that utilizes fleets of vehicles, similar planning considerations can occur as you have your facts (fuel tank capacity, estimated ranges, and number of vehicles) to which you can plan for future operations, such as having your own fuel stockpile for continued operations even in spite of fuel scarcity in the marketplace.


The first aspect of course of action development comes from assessing relative combat power. Here, the Army seeks to understand the relative capabilities of friendly and adversarial forces within the area of operations which will help planners determine the extent to which their means will actually accomplish the mission. The goal is that at the time and place of the decisive operation, which would be the actual execution of those essential tasks needed to accomplish the mission, that friendly forces have a calculated advantage to ensure success; ideally overwhelming. Not all combat, constructive, and informational capabilities can be leveraged at the decisive point, as some will need to be dedicated towards shaping and supporting operations that need to occur to make the main effort happen. But through assessing relative power we can determine how much of our assets should be dedicated to particular subordinate tasks, and whether to adjust our plans if we can’t make it work or request additional support from outside organizations in order to compensate.


For a business, what one must realize about the assessment of relative combat power is that we are simply doing a calculation of capabilities; just in the military domain. We seek to shape the battlefield and influence other state actors through the use or threatened use of violence; our stated purpose of warfare, and assessing combat power merely serves as our way to determine that it can actually be done. Later, we will assign this combat power to particular efforts, but first we determine the variables at play in our battlespace. Our historical and field tested experience has provided us with an understanding of what is needed to be successful in any situation under regular circumstances. If we have a general principle that we need to have a ratio of greater than three times the number of combat capabilities more than the enemy to take a fortified position, then we need to know the number on their side and ours so that our plans can arrange the engagements. If a plan is a series of movements with anticipated engagements, our goal as planners is to ensure it is arranged in such a way that the final decisive engagement has enough assets and personnel to be successful, while also mitigating any potential risks; like a counterattack, and to do this we need to ensure we aren’t exhausting ourselves in lives and resources in all the necessary previous engagements that will have to occur to make the decisive engagement happen.


As a business example, we look towards the capabilities that the business has to accomplish its mission. An actual mission with guidance and tasks for a business will require the expenditure of various assets. Naturally, we have our capital that we can choose to leverage towards one effort or another. We have our personnel and their time. Finally, we have our business operations which generates the goods and services we use to satisfy our purpose and achieve profit. You need to understand what you have available, information you should have discovered during mission analysis as facts, and with that information you will be able to later array your resources towards particular efforts. A proper arrangement of capital, personnel, and inventory will ensure that you haven’t expended resources on marketing that couldn’t be supported by production and services for the customers that marketing brings in. What we are essentially talking about is opportunity costs, where the capital and time spent supporting one option could have been used on another, and during course of action development we play a lot with opportunity costs.


For the Army, we generate options based on this relative combat power assessment. The unit has its assigned area of operations, has its tasks, has its equipment, has its Soldiers, and it has its guidance on what it can and can’t do based on rules of engagement and law of war. There is a lot that can be done within the bounds of these limitations, so it will be up to planners to use this information to develop simple solutions to the multiple problems found within the area of operations. There will be enemy units, criminal organizations, non-combatant residences and civil infrastructure, host-nation forces, friendly partner and allied forces, and international and non-government-aligned interests. A brigade-level planner whose sees an enemy infantry company occupying a small town could plan to dedicate an infantry battalion to engage and destroy them, they could simply bypass them to attack a piece of key terrain to compel them to leave, or the could cordon off the town and compel them to surrender through information and psychological operations.  Every option for every problem will require time and resources, and both are limited.


The planners who have generated options for each perceived problem would then array forces that are available to the organization for the accomplishment of the operation’s mission. Laying out all that they have, then can then start understanding which units and resources are available at any particular time to support the various options that were generated. Then, they develop a broad concept for each particular course of action being developed. Again, the final problem to be solved are generally those that are aligned with the essential tasks of the unit, and with forces arrayed they can start tentatively aligning them to solve each problem in a particular sequence of actions all the way to the accomplishment of the mission’s objectives.


These plans start out broadly, because the intent is to see if the options being utilized can actually be supported by these arrayed forces. For example, at a particular time or phase of the operation planners have determined they need to execute three separate actions that require the sum of five infantry/armor battalions to solve, but the brigade only has four in its organization. Since they can’t solve these problems as they are broadly conceived then they will need to change out some options being used to free battalions to support the main effort, while they use other options to solve what is left over. If time permits, they could instead solve the problems in sequence instead of all at once. If support is ample and available, they could request additional maneuver support from their higher organization. If terrain is permissible and mobility is an option then can use various tactical tasks, like delaying, bypassing, spoiling, interdicting, emplacing obstacles and minefields, and other activities that can solve a problem in different ways. These are all generated options, but through developing a broad plan at this part of course of action development they can easily assess what they can actually do with the assets they have.


Once the broad concept has been laid out, we then start assigning headquarters amongst our subordinate units that will be charged with supporting and accomplishing the various efforts that make up that broad concept. Generally, the assigned headquarters are the headquarters of the subordinate units of said organization, but the efforts may require the transferring of tactical control of smaller units under sister organizations. For example, an infantry battalion getting an attached armor company from their adjacent armor battalion, giving that infantry battalion armor support for their mission. They will create task forces and company teams; these mixed organizations with assigned headquarters, to accomplish these tasks, and then we prepare course of action statements and sketches that will achieve the results of all of these efforts. We will have starting locations, general guidance of the routes they will take, the boundaries between subordinates, the various phase lines of the operations, and the tactical tasks to be executed.


With these courses of action laid out and determined to be valid, the commander’s course of action briefing can take place. It will provide an update on enemy and friendly intelligence, reaffirmation of previous facts and statements, discussion of assumptions turned facts, discussion of relative combat power, the layout of the courses of actions as well as the schemes of maneuver, fires, intelligence, protection, sustainment, information, and command and control, as well as the risks present. Basically, the commander is presented with the courses of actions that the staff have developed in order for the commander to understand how they envisioned achieving the commander’s intent and the mission, and await the commander’s approval of these plans or guidance on how to revise them or redo them before moving into the next step of MDMP: analysis.


For a business, what we need to remember is that 1) when executing a plan, that we are seeking to accomplish the essential tasks tied to our mission, and 2) that whether or not we accomplish them is based on our ability to accurately support the sequence of events or actions that precede and follow them. We can’t have a successful product launch if we don’t have the marketing to drive consumer interest. Our marketing will be wasted if we don't have enough of the product available when the launch has crossed that threshold. And even if we did have enough on hand in our warehouses, if our distribution network is not robust enough to support numerous shipments in a timely manner to restock high-volume areas, our potential profits will be negatively impacted. Basically, a plan’s success is not just found in the successful support and execution of its most important tasks, but in the balancing of resources and activities in time and space in order to make everything flow as effectively as possible to get the best results.


Through course of action development, we ensure that we have a general idea of how events will unfold with what dedicated resources we have so that we aren’t putting our business into a position where it has overextended in terms of its capabilities. You may even come to realize that some of your initial solutions, such as gaining a certain percentage of market share or a quantity of product sold, were too ambitious. If the initial development of the plan constantly informs you and staff that the resources are just not there, then either you need to generate new options; such as partnering with other businesses to compensate for in-house limits, or reevaluate mission objectives. That being said, by the end of development, we would have a handful of courses of action to assess, which takes us into our next step where we wargame them.

4) Course of Action Analysis (Wargaming)

Course of action analysis, which we generally refer to as wargaming, has us take the courses of action that were successfully developed in the previous step of MDMP and discuss the execution of each course of action, phase by phase or objective by objective. Planners and subject matter experts seek to play out the events planned in order to ensure all the actions are sequenced and resourced properly, and to ensure variables have been accounted for. Accounting for refueling and resupplying after engagements, the time it takes to move from one point to another, the time and resources it takes to set up fighting positions, the munitions and time it takes to emplace obstacles and minefields, all of these are often neglected and simply “hand-waved” into existence without realizing that they need to be accounted for in the sequence of events. It isn’t that these things are forgotten, only that there are so many things to account for and that we are so tunnel-visioned into the big battles that these “little things” are only given a quick glance. Wargaming allows us to actually play out these smaller, yet still critical, actions so that we can adjust the course of action based on any realizations that manifest.

While the step starts with the issuing of guidance and gathering of tools for how the wargame will proceed, what you will also find of value would be the methods of wargaming that we use. Depending on whether it is combat operations or stability operations, we have three different methods. Reference picture is taken from Field Manual FM 5-0 Planning and Orders Production May 2022.

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Belt Method - within this method, the area of operations is separated along its width, usually utilized when the terrain itself is already somewhat divided: valleys, highways, rivers, mountains, etc., or when the enemy themselves are organized into belts.

Avenue-in-Depth - this method often focuses on segregating avenues of approach because the terrain is so canalized that threats are generally restricted along those avenues, such as through tall valleys or tight causeways and peninsulas.

Box Method - instead of looking at the entire operation's span, this method focuses on particular critical events, often where the risk of failure is highest, such as difficult river crossing and attacks on contested objectives.

However, most of these methods are in reference to combat operations, and more specifically movements in time and space and how they impact other efforts. We are looking to understand how an important planned action that takes place 48 hours from now would be impacted by an action we are taking within the next 24 hours. Looking at anticipated fuel requirements, areas for resupply, whether we still have the necessary combat power for important action, and what risk mitigation techniques we can employ to compensate so in 48 hours we still have the means to accomplish our tasks. However, the Army also conducts operations that could be considered outside the realm of purely combat operations, where we support local and host nation governments through the training of their military and police personnel, conducting presence patrols to deter criminal activities, constructing critical infrastructure, and protecting government buildings. These actions seek to improve the authority and capabilities of the host nation and stabilize their control so that, eventually, our military forces can be redeployed elsewhere. We call these stability operations, and we utilize lines of effort that are more dependent on environmental conditions being shaped over time rather than in the quick applications of violence through warfare.


In business operations, the utilization of lines of effort has utilitarian value for the business sector because of its focus on influencing conditions over time rather than the quick alterations of conditions that violence allows. We can’t force consumers to engage in voluntary exchange, nor can we gain greater market share by literally destroying our competitors, so we play the slow and gradual game of influencing them through marketing and providing better products and services. So, through the use of objectives that are based on these non-violent requirements, we can wargame for a business, so to speak.


  • Belt Method - Lines of effort through the belt method is usually based on the segregation of objectives based on particular events. If the event for a business is a product launch, your belts could be segregated between prior, during, and post-launch activities. If the business revolves around farming, the events could be seasonal-based; tilling, sowing, planting, maintaining, and harvesting could each be a belt, depending on how complex the operation is. 

  • Avenue-in-Depth - This will focus on individual lines of effort from initial objectives to the final objective, before analyzing other lines of effort. This can be more useful than the belt method when the objectives of other lines of effort don’t have overlapping concerns or resource conflicts, and the relationship between objectives within a line of effort are far more important than with those outside. This could include certain professional brokerages where the recruiting and training of new agents; its own line of effort, isn’t consequential to the conduct of managing brokerage activities; another important yet somewhat unrelated line of effort.

  • Box Method - This will focus wargaming around a specific objective, just like the box method for combat operations and for the same reason: lack of time. Focusing on a single objective within a line effort would be important for time-sensitive activities requiring quick responses. In business, this could include restructuring supply chains because the previous supplier suffered a major setback and can no longer support you, or a reaction to a serious incident that necessitates an organizational shake-up.


Regardless of whichever method is used, for military planners, those participating in the wargame will go through the series of events that are supposed to occur from the perspective of friendly forces while the intelligence personnel discuss the anticipated enemy and civilian activities in relation to it. We would leverage the expertise of others to help develop the bigger picture of what we think will occur when we execute a particular course of action, including weather and light data, the impact of important decision points that would shake up the plan and require a response, the methods of control used to avoid fratricide and reduce collateral damage, the activities of other friendly forces in our area of operations, and the anticipated risks involved. We ensure everything higher, adjacent, subordinate to our planning is accounted for as well as the important activities of the warfighting functions. Basically, every element within the organization should have a known task that they must do at any particular phase or step of an operation before the wargaming commences so that they can discuss their part.

The goal here is to make an effort to visualize how the operation will unfold and how all the pieces; friendly, enemy, civilian, and non-aligned, will react to our actions. It requires that the people conducting the wargaming be subject matter experts in what they speak, and the more experts of diverse occupational specialties the staff can drag into the wargame the more expert opinions they can get. It allows those leading the wargame to ask questions as they narrate the events of the different courses of action, and they can pose the question of what their enemy might do in response. In turn, anticipating what the enemy might do, the planners then can suggest whether these potential responses require a response on our part and an adjustment to the plan to compensate. For example, if we do X the enemy will most likely do Y, but they could also do Z which would be very dangerous for us. If they do Y, then we continue as planned, if they do Z, then we could mitigate the danger by assigning a supporting task to another unit should Z occur.

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Saber Strike 2013

Multinational officers assigned to NATO's Multinational Corps Northeast conduct a course of action brief June 7, 2013, in Tapa, Estonia, during exercise Saber Strike 2013. Saber Strike is a U.S. European Command-sponsored, Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed regional and multilateral command post and field exercise designed to increase interoperability between the U.S. and partner nations.  Photo by Staff Sgt. Maksymilian Halec

While all this is occurring, everyone is developing a greater understanding of the operational environment, especially the area of operations, now that they have to visualize everything within time and space. The various staff and warfighting functions take this opportunity to further develop their own concepts and schemes to support aspects of the operation alongside giving their expert opinions. The mission command warfighting function is anticipating the ranges of their radio communications and planning out retransmission sites to extend that range further. The maneuver warfighting function is refining the location of assembly areas, mapping out important primary and alternate routes for movement, as well as the location of usable bridges and river fording sites. The fires warfighting function is developing a more refined fires plan to support the movement, and air defenders are ensuring their air defense assets are providing decent coverage based on the anticipated movements of friendlies and the terrain. The protection warfighting function is ensuring they have the means to support the breaching of enemy minefields or providing bridging assets for river crossings. And the sustainment warfighting function is ensuring that they can keep all these movements and combat actions well-supplied; how much of each class of supply (fuel, food, water, ammo, etc.) needs to be prepared ahead of time and delivered at the appropriate time and location to ensure each action has the necessary supplies.


This utilization of expert opinions to help develop a greater understanding of how a process may flow is not unknown to the business world. Regardless of how intelligent the owner, C-Level suite, and various managers may be, businesses that utilize complex processes benefit from engaging lower-level workers in how they conduct their work. Lean manufacturing processes, initially promoted by Toyota and now widespread through many industries, utilize what they call the Gemba walk, in which managers physically go to the place of work in order to get a first-hand account of processes and systems in action. Through Gemba, they seek to identify sources of waste in which they can attempt to remove in order to improve the process, increase quality, and reduce expenses.


Gemba, when roughly translated from the Japanese, means ‘the actual place’ where something happens. It is a term often used in lean philosophy or in improvement generally, to convey the idea that, if you really want to understand something, you go to where it actually takes place. Only then can a true appreciation of the realities of improvement opportunities be gained. Lean improvement advocates often use the idea of ‘the gemba walk’ to make problems visible. By this they mean that managers should regularly visit the place where the job is done to seek out waste. The concept of Gemba is also used in new service or product development to mean that designers should go to where the service happens, or where the product is used, to develop their ideas. (pg 525)


That last element, the utilization of Gemba for the development of ideas is what we are referencing. While the development of new courses of action for military operations limits where planners can actually go, we do incorporate aspects of the concept into actual practice; such as the leader’s recon where they physically travel to the location to get a better understanding of the terrain, but it is the experiences that is we are seeking to leverage in planning. A business planner seeks out the worker on the manufacturing line in order to see how systemic processes translate to actual work being done. They do this because planning teams are often only composed of a small group of management and development experts. The expertise on a planning board doesn’t run the gamut of all important business activities for the organization, so they compensate by filling in their gaps of knowledge through physically seeking out the information through engaging lower-level workers and salespeople to probe them for information on what they do and how they do it.


For U.S. Army battalions and above, we have the ability to leverage larger staffs with personnel of diverse backgrounds that provide this expertise directly to course of action development. You don’t need to do a Gemba walk with tank and infantry fighting vehicle crews to gauge their opinion of how their vehicles will perform on certain road types, because you will have armor and infantry officers and non-commissioned officers helping develop the maneuver plan that comes with this expertise. We have artillerymen that understand ranges and capabilities. We have logisticians that understand throughput, supply manifests, and supply distribution methods. We have communications personnel that understand electromagnetic spectrum management and communication ranges and limitations. Basically, by design, we have experts on hand when developing our plans, and we leverage this expertise during wargaming when everything needs to start becoming interconnected in time and space.


What businesses can learn, or what I am suggesting they employ, is the incorporation of diverse subject matter experts during the planning analysis phase of their development. Imagine the value that could be derived by having a floor manager in the planning room during the discussion of how an operation will unfold, and them being able to interject with important perspectives of the reality of activities on the floor. They understand the flow of inventory and production and can comment if planners have not taken into account the space needed to support their complex production lines. They understand the physical burden on the workers and can speak on their behalf should a plan not mitigate risks unforeseen by these planners who themselves are far removed from the place of work. Fundamentally, even if the course of action development step for a business only included a handful of senior leaders, they would benefit by bringing in more people from throughout the business who can help troubleshoot the plan before it is implemented. This way the planners can institute changes while still in development rather than make changes later after implementation which could cause a waste of capital and/or cause a critical failure that hurts the business.


If time allows, having a handful of diverse courses of action; each being feasible, acceptable, suitable, distinguishable, and complete, will be available for the commander to modify or select. The value of having multiple options gives leadership a certain level of reassurance that their planners were not tunnel-visioned into a particular solution to solve the problem at hand. The development and analysis of these plans forces staff to attempt to solve a problem from multiple angles, and this increases the likelihood that the final plan will be more robust from this more diverse assessment. Businesses, in turn, would benefit from attempting to solve its problems in multiple ways, because at the very least it compels business planners to think about solutions in the same way a military staff does. But now we have a couple of courses of action, so we must select one.

5) Course of Action Comparison


When the organization is ready to start selecting which course of action to follow, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of each plan and evaluate them based on the criteria that the commander establishes at the close of mission analysis. Again, the point of having evaluation criteria put forth during mission analysis was as a way for the commander to shape the development of courses of action by planners along the lines of strength and advantages that can improve the unit’s chance of success in accomplishing its mission. Now, during the course of action comparison step, we use those criteria to evaluate which plan has the greatest likelihood of success in an objective way.


One of the most practical ways the Army has found to take a subjective evaluation of courses of action and make it more objective is through the use of a decision matrix with weighted criteria. Here is an example decision matrix taken from Field Manual 5-0: Planning and Orders Production:

TABLE 3.0.9: Sample Decision Matrix

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In the example decision matrix we see we are evaluating two separate courses of action, against five evaluation criteria; simplicity, maneuver, fires, civil control, and mass. Two of the evaluation criteria; maneuver and mass, have been weighed at two, while the rest are weighted at one. Knowing nothing about the nature of these criteria or what their mission is, we can tell how the commander envisions their assets being utilized to achieve their objective. Of the five, the commander wants to leverage their maneuver capabilities (infantry, armor, cavalry) and their ability to mass (converging firepower capabilities of all types at a time and place) over the other criteria. This isn’t to say that a plan must prioritize these weighted criteria, only that when being evaluated that these criteria will provide a bonus value to the total.


In the example, each course of action has its criteria judged against that same criteria in the other course of action. The better the course of action utilizes that criteria the higher its ranking; bigger number equals better. So, the commander and staff see that the first course of action is better than the second in simplicity, maneuver, and fires, but worse in civil control and mass. If there were three or four courses of  action in the example we would provide numerical rankings 4 through 1, but since we only have two then it is ranks of  2 and 1. We then take these rankings and sum them up into the total column. This tells us which course of action is more likely to achieve success should all criteria be equal, but since we have two criteria weighted then we must also include their weighted value in a separate total adjacent to it. From this example we see that in both base totals, as well as weighted totals, that the first course of action is the best; even if neither course of action was best in both weighted criteria.


Now, this objective valuation tool is just a tool, and it can be based on a somewhat subjective assessment of each criteria. So the commander is free to adjust the criteria, adjust the course of action, and even tell staff to go back and make new courses of action to evaluate in order to produce a course of action that is clearly superior. That would be up to them as commanders, but they must be cautious not to let personnel bias cloud their judgment during evaluation. Ideally, an Army commander, through their experiences in various duty positions throughout their career and their superior officer’s belief in their ability to command, would not let judgment be clouded into manipulating the evaluation process so that they can get their preferred plan selected. However, all commanders are human after all and vulnerable to some level of hubris, but it is in their prerogative to pick and choose a course of action in whatever way they deem fit. We only reinforce that this process has a track record of producing workable courses of action that produce results, indeed maybe one of the best outside having military geniuses in positions of command authority. But just as Peter Drucker would say in his book Concept of the Corporation:


No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings. (pg 24)


Having these processes in place has allowed us to produce results where our leaders are not prodigies and just average men and women, trained and proven to be competent in their duties; the ideals of a modern professional military force. And this can benefit a business in the same way. Utilizing MDMP in a business-setting allows business leadership to 1) produce multiple courses of action in a methodical way, 2) analyze those plans to catch often unforeseen or overlooked planning considerations, and 3) evaluate which plan is most likely to succeed in one of the best ways we have found. Or at least I would say it is best when 1) the environment itself is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambitious, 2) we have to synergize multiple levels of a technologically and professionally diverse and complex organization, and 3) when time is not on our side.

6) Course of Action Approval


After the staff has laid out the evaluated courses of action for the commander to select it would seem that the approval process would be relatively straightforward, and it is, but there are some elements of this step that we should mention. For example, the commander may not be pleased with any of the courses of action developed and evaluated, so could decide to further refine them with directed changes or even tell the staff to go all the way back to course of action development and generate more options. However, one element that occurs during this step that is of great value is that it serves  as the final issuance of a WARNORD to subordinates who themselves are still going through their course of action development at their level.


Even if the commander has provided their approval for one of the plans it will still take some time for the various staff sections to publish the completed orders, annexes, appendices, map overlays, and other products that will be distributed down to lower echelons. Even if they rush to get all the material completed and published it could still take hours, and in a time crunch those hours could be leveraged by subordinates to produce their plans with more information in regards to what they will inevitably be assigned to tackle when the operation order (OPORD) is published.  Even if it takes a little bit of extra time to produce a WARNORD that could have instead been used on the OPORD it will have been for the benefit of subordinates who are still locked in the most exhaustive steps of MDMP; mission analysis and course of action development. Helping them get the information earlier, even an abbreviated version of it through a WARNORD, is to the betterment of the whole organization, because a higher echelon organization’s success will be based on the collective success of their lower echelons. Always keeping subordinates in the loop is of vital concern to such complex organizations.


That being said, without additional details that would be provided in the publication of the OPORD and all its accompanying documents, we can quickly inform subordinates through a WARNORD on important details that will help them in their planning. This would include:


  • The area of operations.

  • Mission.

  • Commander’s intent.

  • Updated CCIRs and EEFIs.

  • Concept of operations.

  • Principal Tasks Assigned To Subordinate Units.

  • Preparation and rehearsal instructions not included in standard operating procedures.

  • A final timeline for the operations.

  • Updated Task Organization.

  • Necessary Graphics.


While the hard work is basically done, and the production of the OPORD can be a relatively easy task of copy and pasting what was presented during the briefings and expounding upon assigned tasks, we must be cautious not to rest on the laurels of our hard work. If business planning meetings and plans development act in much the same way as it does for military planning, there is the human desire to finally relax from the mental stress. You mustn’t forget that while you and your colleagues may have the greatest understanding of the plan at hand and what must be done, there may be many staff personnel who weren’t involved in planning and numerous subordinates that are still somewhat in the dark. Getting them onboard early and updated as often as possible through the process will help ensure unity of effort when time comes to execute. Relaxation may be warranted, but planning is still occurring elsewhere and developing a shared understanding should be a constant effort.

7) Orders Production, Dissemination, and Transition


This final step of MDMP includes the actual publication and distribution to all parties of the finalized OPORD and all its attachments. Before that occurs, however, two more activities must occur: reconciliation and the crosswalk.


  • Plans and Orders Reconciliation


Reconciliation involves the vetting of everyone’s contributions to the order, their products and map sketches, to ensure they are complete and that all information is correct and matching. What I mean to say is that there is a lot of information, and especially detail, that are written up in these orders and their products. It is easy for a tired staff member to introduce errors or for guidance to have been misinterpreted so we must review all the documents to ensure mistakes were not made.


For example, the grid location of various unit initial coordinates and their objectives will be stated in the order, we must verify these grids are correct. If someone was incorrect on a stated grid location, we need to see if that error was transcribed onto the map sketch. Also, it is common that paragraphs in the order may not have been updated since course of action development, based on guidance produced during wargaming, and still have old information present. Basically, with dozens of people writing up hundreds of bits of information by themselves, it isn’t outside the realm of probability that someone will make a clerical error or be mistaken about approved guidance, and it is through reconciliation that we verify everything is correct and all the data we are publishing match up.


  • Plans and Orders Crosswalk


While we talked a lot about keeping our subordinates informed, we only tangentially discussed our own higher echolon’s mission and that of our adjacent unit. More often than not, an Army commander’s unit is but one of many that are working towards a shared objective and intent for their higher echelon’s commander. We strive to ensure our subordinates are unified in their efforts to accomplish our overarching objectives, but we ourselves need to be unified along with our sister organizations in support of our own higher headquarters. The crosswalk seeks to achieve a unity of effort within our echelon by reviewing our plan alongside our adjacent units to ensure we aren’t encroaching on each other's boundaries or otherwise negatively impacting each other's operations. Most importantly, it also verifies that our plan actually seeks to achieve the essential tasks that were placed upon us by our higher organization, something that they stated needed to occur for their own success.


That being said, once all this is complete, the commander takes a final look at the draft plan. They make any final corrections that need to occur, and approve the orders to be published and distributed to the rest of the organization; especially to the subordinate commanders and their staff. While subordinates work to finish up their MDMP and publish their plans; ideally they are already part of the way there thanks to constant updates through the use of WARNORDs, our organization is able to begin its preparation for execution based on guidance put forth in the plan.


However, dear reader, you may have been reading this entire section on MDMP, and may have been asking yourself: how can we employ these planning concepts without the use of staff? Through the use of Troop Leading Procedures, the ideal planning process for when you don't have the staff to dedicate to gathering information and your organization is much too small to warrant extended planning times. 

Troop Leading Procedures (TLPs)

Not all businesses are large multiple-department organizations with numerous subordinate regional and branch offices, retailers, or franchises. In the United States at the very least as of 2023 AD, based on information from the U.S Chamber of Commerce, small businesses make up 99.9% of all businesses within America with a total number of around 33.2 million. They employ around 46% of all Americans in the private sector, and provide 43.5% of the nation’s gross domestic product.


Usually small businesses are labeled as such when they are independent from larger business organizations and employ less than 500 people. Now, within the U.S. Army, a unit with around 500 Soldiers would be considered a little less than a battalion-sized organization. Echelons at the battalion-level consist of around 4-5 companies of around 100 to 150 Soldiers; depending on the type of battalion and companies in question. For the Small Business Administration to label a small business as having less than 500 employees, it can make our discussion on what planning processes to use a little difficult. The reason being that, while a battalion-sized organization is staffed with personnel and doctrinally designated to conduct MDMP as their primary planning process, company-sized organizations are not.


I would argue that, if your business is so small that it doesn’t have designated individuals whose job it is to fulfill various roles that support the pillars of business, then MDMP may not work for you. For example, if you don’t have people charged with fulfilling the roles of important functions of business; such as operations, finance, logistics, marketing, safety, environmental protection, customer relations, and employee welfare, then there wouldn’t be anyone to conduct your mission analysis. The value of MDMP for the Army is in its ability to generate multiple courses of action derived from the shared experiences and competencies of multiple individuals with their own subject matter expertise directly tied to important warfighting functions of military operations. For business, if you don’t have the broad cadre of subject matter experts within your organization that can represent its business functions then you don’t have the people needed to provide these well developed plans for your operations.


For company-sized units within the Army, they use what we call Troop Leading Procedures, or TLPs, instead. While the company can leverage the knowledge of the commander, first sergeant, executive officer, platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, fire support officer, and supply sergeant, often the company commander themselves does most of the planning. The reason for this is because the company is already at the bottom-end of the command hierarchy; platoon leaders don’t hold command authority, so company commanders are limited in time when it comes to planning. Additionally, the rest of the company and platoon leadership is focused on using this limited time to prepare their Soldiers for operations so that usually leaves the commander to develop a plan on their own.


Regardless of time and support, if 1) your business doesn’t have the staff to dedicate to conducting analysis and helping generate options for planning, 2) your business doesn’t have a professionally diverse staff (operations, finance, marketing, etc.), or 3) you are a smaller department of a large business, then TLPs are your best bet for business planning. TLP consists of eight steps, and when compared to MDMP, the process of conducting TLPs is rather simple; so we’ll keep it simple. But do note, while I may say “commander” at many points when discussing the activities of TLP, it is also used by all leaders supervising Soldiers below the company; such as platoons, squads, crews, and teams. The eight steps of the troop leading procedures are:


  1. Receive Mission

  2. Issue a WARNORD

  3. Make a Tentative Plan

  4. Initiate Movement

  5. Conduct Reconnaissance

  6. Complete the Plan

  7. Issue the Order

  8. Supervise and Refine


And now we will quickly go over each step to familiarize you with the process and what TLPs provide low-level leadership.


1) Receive the Mission


Just as in MDMP, receipt of mission usually comes in the form of a WARNORD from higher. For a company, the battalion WARNORDs will be sent to them at various times; each with progressively greater information and detail on what is going to be expected in the form of tasks and time for execution. In the first WARNORD from the battalion, since the battalion hasn’t conducted mission analysis, often the company commander will be trying to figure out what battalion’s higher headquarters; the brigade, is asking of the battalion and then anticipate what the battalion may ask of the company as well as the tentative planning timeline. Afterwards, after mission analysis, the second battalion WARNORD will consist of the battalion's proposed problem and mission statements as well as the commander's intent for operations and tasks that may have been assigned. The third WARNORD from the battalion, done after course of action approval, will provide the draft concept for operations, schemes of maneuver and support, as well as sketches for operations. Finally, the published OPORD will be provided with all of its products in their finalized version.


From the beginning of TLP until the end, the company commander will be constantly receiving WARNORDs that drip feed them details on their upcoming mission. They are constantly having to anticipate what will be expected of them and adjusting that expectation as new information is delivered. They have to do this because time is often limited and if they waited for complete information, if they could ever get complete information, they may not have enough time for planning, and this includes their subordinate platoons. Just as division, brigades, and battalions are conducting simultaneous planning at multiple echelons through the use of WARNORDs, so too does the company, platoon, and squads; the only difference is that battalion and higher are using MDMP while company and lower are using TLPs.


For small businesses, departments, retailers, and franchises, just as it is for an army company, you may be drip-fed information on upcoming changes. Also, you may be aware of changes in the marketplace that make you feel that change is coming or is necessary, and you want to get ahead of that change yourself. Regardless, this compulsion to change business operations will be a catalyst to begin TLPs when you don’t have the means to conduct MDMP.


2) Issue a WARNORD


Just as with MDMP, pushing information through WARNORDs is the best way to promote simultaneous planning. The company-level WARNORD will include as much detail as possible from the battalion WARNORD, which commonly includes:


  • The mission or nature of the operation.

  • The time and place for issuing the OPORD.

  • Units or elements participating in the operation.

  • Specific tasks not addressed by unit standard operating procedures.

  • The timeline for the operation. (Fm5-0 7-6)


In a business setting, keeping one’s people abreast of upcoming changes should be apparent. Especially when the change requires preparation and execution of one’s employees or contractors, or when a significant amount of buy-in may be required in order for the plan to be successful. There is also the benefit of being able to initiate a certain level of movement before beginning development of the plan, just as the initial WARNORD in MDMP could dictate certain tasks; like information collection, to be conducted immediately as it will be necessary for mission analysis and to answer priority information requirements for the commander. 


For a business example, when I initially took over duties as the brokerage manager and owner of a real estate brokerage in the State of Oregon, I had to quickly assign my virtual assistant and managing principal brokers to reorganize the supervisory relationships of the whole brokerage after the hospitalization of the previous brokerage manager and owner. This was a necessary movement to maintain supervisory requirements put forth by laws and regulations to allow our agents to continue to do business, while I was busy planning to save the business; subsequently running between the hospital, the estate and small business lawyer, the banks, and the Oregon Real Estate Agency.


3) Make a Tentative Plan


Since expert support is limited; and often time as well, the company commander conducts their planning in a more abbreviated fashion then we see in MDMP. The third step of TLP, making a tentative plan, incorporates MDMP’s steps 2 through 6. Since the area of operations and the scope of what an individual company-sized unit can achieve is limited, the lack of diverse options coming from multiple individuals isn’t that big of an issue. Most of the critical activities that the organization will need to do, its essential tasks assigned to it by the battalion, will be known and supported by higher command anyway, so the company commander merely is looking to put their organization into a position of advantage to accomplish those tasks while minimizing risks.


Indeed, most and the time, company-level and below tasks are relatively straightforward to plan, and the commander is more concerned that they have developed a proper scheme of maneuver and sustainment. The company commander will often leave the tactical planning to the platoon they assign to accomplish them, while the commander ensures they are supported. For example, the company commander would be less concerned about tactical-aspects of planning how to clear homes and cordon off streets, but they would be more concerned on whether they have the personnel and equipment to do so, and assigning those tasks accordingly. In a sense, it could be like a restaurant owner or manager ensuring that the freezers and supply closets are properly stocked and employee schedules are properly balanced to support continuous operations, while leaving the daily operations of who is taking orders, making food, and cleaning tables up to the shift manager and team leads.


Basically, making plans at the company-level and below is not as complex or uncertain as it would be in higher echelons. As long as the commander understands the elements of a good plan for their level, then developing a workable and valid course of action should be doable for them. We will go over those very elements quickly to give you an understanding of what, usually, one person has to critically think about when developing their plan. You should see how, in fact, these elements are often pretty straightforward and something we all may do when developing a simple plan by ourselves.


  • Mission Analysis: Conducting an initial assessment of their area of operations, assigned tasks, and nearby concerns that may impact their operations can help them develop their mission variables (METT-TC) that will assist them in developing their plan. Understanding how these mission variables will impact the conduct and effects of the actions they will undertake to accomplish the mission will help inform the commander whether those actions may actually achieve the desired results, and maybe illuminate to them what they should do instead if they don’t appear to achieve those results.


  • Course of Action Development: With a better understanding from mission analysis, the commander will probably already be envisioning how they can solve the problems they identified. 

    • Analyze Relative Combat Power: Task that they will need to accomplish, combat or non-combat, will require personnel and resources. Comparing and contrasting adversary capabilities, or task requirements, will inform the commander of how support any specific task they are required to tackle.

    • Generate Options: Seeing all the problems laid out in front of them, understanding the resources that would need to be employed to tackle them, they start developing solutions to those problems.

    • Develop an Initial Concept of Operations: Seeing all the different options developed to solve these various problems they start sequencing how they would go about dealing with them. They may discover that the sequence of events necessary to solve a series of problems requires more personnel and/or resources than they have. In this case, they may change out options for those that require less assets so that they can support other actions that are deemed more critical. In an asset-limited environment, commanders will need to prioritize what gets done based on a sort of cost-benefit analysis.

    • Assign Responsibilities: Having an idea of what the operation will look like, they start assigning specific units to support specific actions. The company commander will divide up the tasks along the concept of the operation to the platoons that would most logically support them in time, space, and assets.

    • Prepare Course of Action Statement and Sketch: They  then write up all of this into written statements that discuss the anticipated flow of the operation as well as a map sketch to help visualize how it would look.


  • Analyze Courses of Action: If time allows, the commander can wargame the courses of action they developed with key junior leaders, such as platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, squad leaders, and team chiefs. This would allow subordinates to interject if they notice a problem with the plan, such as a potential conflict with timing of actions not being taken into consideration or possible difficulties with support for troops in contact with enemy forces. Sometimes, however, the commander will need to conduct their wargame by themselves, and attempt to root out any friction points or conflicts that were overlooked.


  • Course of Action Comparison and Selection: The commander, having envisioned how their courses of action would unfold, selects the best course of action based on:

    • The likelihood of its mission success.

    • The time available to execute the operation.

    • The risks associated with the course of action’s execution.

    • The nature and complexity of the tasks assigned to subordinate units.

    • The number of projected casualties that would be suffered.

    • The posturing of the unit after mission completion in preparation for future operations.


4) Initiate Movement


Often these small units are executing their planning process much closer to the time of execution from their higher echelon. There are situations in which in order to actually accomplish a mission within the constraints of time that are placed upon them that they will need to begin moving personnel and resources into position to support an operation before a plan is even published. In a hypothetical situation when an action needs to be executed within a few hours, a unit may need to preposition forces or have them staged and ready for movement  as soon as the plan has been finalized and briefed. The fundamental aspect of initiating movement is that time doesn’t allow for inaction while waiting for planning to be completed. Basically, if a leader can figure out when specified and implied tasks need to be accomplished, during the development of the tentative plan, they can take a calculated risk by beginning to support a course of action that isn’t fully developed through initial movement.


5) Conduct Reconnaissance


The process of conducting reconnaissance is important to these smaller units as it is often the only way they can gather information necessary to answer any gaps of information the commander may have and clear up some assumptions they have been working under. The Army will always suggest that leaders conduct an in-person reconnaissance of the area of operations themselves, but only if time and the operational environment permit it. Obviously, if the mission requires taking a piece of key terrain or urban area from enemy control the commander can’t simply waltz into the area, but they have other options; such as observing from a greater distance, use of unmanned aerial surveillance if they have them, the use of aerial photography, or at the very least a topographic map. The greater understanding of where the execution of the operation will occur the better the leader’s plan can be shaped around that understanding, and for a business leader; who doesn’t have to worry about being killed when they recon their own factory floor or go out to the field to recon a potential real estate purchase, then these in-person observations are far more valuable and informative as they develop their plans for future operations.


6) Complete the Plan


The commander utilizes the information derived from the reconnaissance to finalize the plan. Before the recon there were many questions about the area of operations that were unknown to them, and hopefully through their observations of the area they were able to answer some of those questions. If there are still unknowns then the leader will need to implement some form of mitigation technique should the unknown prove to be something hazardous, but that is the nature of warfare and uncertainty is something they must take into account. Additionally, alongside writing up the plan itself, they also finish up the map overlays of movements, actions, and targets to be engaged with various forms of fire support available. As opposed to some businesses where the owner or manager develops their plan and immediately executes, a military leader; always concerned about the uncertainty and ambiguity of the environment and the danger this places on the lives of their people, treats their plan as a living document. They allow their plan to change up to the point it must be executed, only then finalized after they have gone through the effort to clear up as much of the uncertainty of their battlespace. Later, when they supervise the rehearsals of the plan and witness its execution, they are still able to refine the plan if they have the means to do so.

Darkhorse in the Desert.jpg

Darkhorse in the Desert

Marines with Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, observe a terrain model at Marine Corps  Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Nov. 14, 2018. The terrain model provides an accurate visual representation of the objective area for Marines prior to execution of the mission.  Photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck

7) Issue the Order


When the commander is ready to issue the order, often the best location to conduct the briefing to subordinate leadership or the formation, depending on the number of personnel and practicality, would be within view of the area of operations itself. If not practical due to time and threats, they then use what we call sand tables or terrain models, which are physical layouts that represent terrain, units, objectives, and other graphics meant to help inform the audience. If you have ever seen a military movie or show where a leader uses rocks, sticks, or other objects to represent buildings and hills and/or drawing lines in the dirt to represent roads or directions of movement, you may be familiar. At the very least, a map with a graphic overlay will provide the necessary understanding of the operation, even if it isn’t as informative as the other methods. What can’t be done is to brief the mission without some visualization because it is difficult for an individual to understand the relationship between routes, objectives, and terrain without seeing them juxtaposed with each other.

8) Supervise and Refine


During TLP, just as was done during MDMP, the commander tries to stick to the one-thirds two-thirds rule, giving their subordinates as much time to conduct their own planning. At the company-level and below, since these represent the frontline fighting capabilities of the U.S. Army, the one-thirds two-thirds rule seeks to give them as much opportunity to prepare and rehearse their mission in the time available before execution. Commanders and subordinate leaders will supervise the conduct of these preparations and rehearsals to ensure the Soldiers are able to accomplish the assigned tasks, identify weaknesses that may have not been identified during planning, improve shared understanding of the concept through physical training, and build up confidence. If there are problems, the commander and leadership are able to refine the plan to improve its likelihood of success, given what they have seen. This would be akin to a floor manager providing guidance on a new production process and observing that process on a larger scale to see how numerous employees would perform, and then adjusting the process when reality is made evident.

Other Planning Processes

The U.S. Army has other planning processes based on how operational and mission variables impact the ability to solve problems. The problem's time and complexity, the size and diversity of the friendly capabilities, and the difficulties of the threats and hazards present will determine which process is best. We had MDMP as a general planning process for battalions and above and TLPs for companies and below, but we have the more simplistic process of Army Problem Solving (APS) as well as Army Design Methodology (ADM) for more ambiguous operational environments. However, I don’t necessarily want to dig into them in detail as for the sake of the application of Army concepts for developing business planning processes for operations, I believe MDMP and TLPs provide the lion’s share of value to the business sector.


I do want to show, however, what the main planning processes used by the other armed services are and how they compare to MDMP. You no doubt understand that these different military organizations fulfill their purpose through different means and ways of warfare, yet the process by which they all plan their operations is practically the same; though some terminology may differ. It starts with an assessment of the situation, the development, assessment, and selection of a plan, and then the publication and distribution of that plan to staff and subordinates.

TABLE 3.0.10: Main Planning Processes of the Services

Table 3-0-10.png

Regardless of the process, a plan is produced and then executed upon in order to shape the conditions of the environment towards a desired endstate. The plan seeks to achieve the purpose of the organization through its use of ways and means, but this implies that the plan we produce can actually achieve the results we want. This asks the question:

What are the ways we can implement our plans and shape our environment to achieve our purpose, accomplish our goals, and make a profit?

Simple, through the achievement of desired effects. Understanding that things change as a result of cause and effect, if we want things to change towards our desired ends then we need to be the ones that deliver the causes that create the effects that get us to that end. All things in the universe are bound by cause and effect, and the same is true for war and business as they are but a facet of humanity bound by the same fundamental forces of the universe that dictate all things. The only problem is that for us, trying to shape our environment through the use of plans, there are so many variables at play that it can be difficult to produce the desired effects. If every effect that occurs is the collective consequence of numerous causes, and these numerous causes are varied in their influence and sometimes unknowable to the observer, then it would seem difficult to actually create a desired effect. And this is true, and if our goal were to create a perfectly exact effect, it would have to be done down to the very atoms themselves.


In reality, however, humans are very much content with achieving approximately what they set out to accomplish. Goals, quotas, metrics, and whatever measurement we use to assess the actions that lead us to our desired ends are merely methods to inform us of our progress. Achieving an 8% increase in market share for the calendar year when the goal was a 10% increase doesn’t necessarily spell doom for your plan, only that it informs you that somewhere within the planning, preparation, and execution of that plan that information was missing, incorrect, or deemed irrelevant. If you had an omnipotent understanding of the marketplace, knowing all of the possible variable causes that shaped the effect that is market share, then you would have known that an 8% increase was all you would get with the plan you developed. Having a goal within the realm of reasonableness allows for planning to move forward to something achievable. Having a goal produced through marketplace analysis, and then assessing performance after that goal is either achieved or not, allows planners to gather more information about the cause-and-effect relationships of marketplace variables to see how accurate their initial planning was.


And it is here that we start getting into another pillar of business: marketing, which provides guidance on how to engage market forces to produce those desired effects through business operations. While we may use the term “pillar” as a structural analogy to describe aspects of business that are so important to the functioning of business that their failure could cause the collapse of the whole endeavor, I must note that these pillars should not be seen as isolated from one another, but instead as differing systems within the organization that are interconnected and complimentary. Operations and marketing are perceived as separate systems due to the nature of their work and the outputs they provide the organization, but to imagine that the output of operations, such as its products and services, would not be informed and shaped by the outputs of marketing; such as its market analysis and insight into consumer pain points, would be foolish.

If an analogy helps, consider the pillars of business to be the systems of the body, which are systems of organs and structures. The development of a great product or service through the operations function can compensate for poor consumer relations in much the same way great muscular strength can compensate for poor cardiovascular health. They can accomplish objectives in spite of the negative effects of weaker systems, but they could do so much more if weak systems were improved. That being said, this chapter is on operations, but I will touch on this marketing-driven concept here in order to build familiarity with it, and its great impact on operations warrants its discussion in this chapter. I will expound upon it when we get to the next Chapter 3.1 Business Marketing with Military Concepts because as with most aspects of an effective organization, it is when the different functions of that business work in tandem towards a shared goal that greatness truly shines. The marketing concept I will be talking about for the rest of this chapter on operations is targeting.

Sword and Buckler.jpg

Swordmans holding up a buckler (targe). Picture from Wikicommons.

BullsEye Targets.jpg

The modern interpretation of the bull's eye target likely originated from medieval archers engaging bucklers (targe) for practice and competition. The word "target" would come from the Middle French word "targe." Naturally, to hit a target, one needed both intent and skill. Picture from Wikicommons.

Targeting working group identifies sources of instability.jpg

Targeting working group identifies sources of instability

Whether we engage a targeting with lethal effects from bullets, blades, or bombs; or we engage them with non-lethal effects from leaflets, payments, or electronic attacks, it requires intent and skill. The precision of the tool, the accuracy of its user, and the understanding of the environment will determine if the desired effects are achieved. Photo by 1st Lt. Ellen C. Brabo


If we want a certain outcome, we will look to change the environment through targeting. We identify those elements of the environment we need to change, classify them as targets, and determine when and how to engage them. We use metrics as indicators to show us how effectively we affect these targets and, thereby, how effectively we are changing the environment. This applies to both military and business operations.  Picture from Wikicommons.

The term “targeting” and “targets'' has its origin in various old European languages, but they generally referred to small circular shields such as the buckler, called targe in Middle French, of which was used to deflect blows and protect vital organs of the body. Naturally, for an archer to have struck such a small target consistently the archer must have had great accuracy and skill. As target practice used cheaper wood, hay, wicker, and paper targets they also adopted the circular style of the targe as a show of that skill. The adoption of the term “target” for military purposes referred to the things we intentionally focused on effecting; often with lethal and destructive means but also non-lethal means in today’s environment. For business purposes it focused on a particular metric or consumer we wish to affect; often through business operations and marketing respectively. Regardless, “target” in all ways usually focuses on something specific that we are focused on affecting in some way. And in the realm of traditionally military terms, the business world had taken the term “target” with great enthusiasm.


Insert pics of buckler, bull's eye target, and business and military targeting.


From Jeffrey K. Liker and Gary L. Convis in their book The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership they stated:


Target is an important word. Ultimately, each team member in each work group must be able to understand in concrete terms what the target is and how she is doing relative to the target. Think about any sport: if the targets were not clear, we would be without focus. In some cases, the gap between the target and the actual can be clear as the work is being performed - for example, through a simple counter that shows the number of units produced compared to the target based on the takt. (pg 170)


For them, a target was a metric-based goal. During Toyota’s daily meetings amongst managers, targets were set juxtaposed to actual production, and if targets were not met, then managers proposed solutions to correct what may have gone wrong. The targets in this case are merely a tool to judge progress towards a desired end, such as reduced defects during the assemblage of vehicles on the production line.


The term “targeting,” the process of selecting targets, comes up in the process of segmenting the market to better engage customers. From Monash University’s Business School, they define “targeting strategy” as:


The selection of potential customers to whom a business wishes to sell products or services. The targeting strategy involves segmenting the market, choosing which segments of the market are appropriate, and determining the products that will be in each segment.

While the marketing function of business will apply its targeting strategy to find the most effective way to promote products and services to these different sectors: mass, segmented, concentrated, or tailored/micro marketing, the operations function can take these segments and apply value to their offering specific to the audience. Operations is able to create a premium, exclusive, limited, and luxury product that produces great profit margins in limited quantities to the affluent yet smaller segment while providing a more functional, utilitarian, and cost-effective product that has lesser profits but in higher quantities to the middle-class. In this usage, targeting is implied to be the process of analyzing and segregating people into different groups in order to more effectively engage them, both for marketing and operations.

The Monash Business School further defines these segmented groups as a “target audience” or “target population” as they are the “intended recipient of an advertisement or message.” The intention of further labeling these groups or individuals as “targets” is for the purpose of focusing marketing upon them in order to compel them to purchase the goods or services that operations provide. In both instances, these targets are the people we want to influence through marketing. Operations provided the value-added object, but through targeted marketing the marketing function is able to either successfully or unsuccessfully elicit a desired response; the purchase.


However, target and targeting are being used as descriptive nouns, but Monash does have a definition for “target” by itself; three definitions to be exact:


  1. Any objective of economic policy.

  2. The value of an economic variable that policy makers regard as ideal and use as the basis for setting policy. Contrasts with instruments.

  3. The level of an exchange rate that guides exchange market intervention by a central bank or exchange stabilization fund


In this case, the Monash Business School sees targets, not in relation to consumers, but as a metric-based tool; similar to Toyata’s use of the term. The metric is used to guide policy and action in order to influence conditions towards a desired end; such as economic policy. The fact that they don’t imply that targets can also refer to the groups and individuals of the target audience that are selected and engaged by a business’ targeting strategy, I would simply attribute to optics. It sounds aggressive and harsh, even if the targeting is intended to produce a mutually beneficial arrangement. Many prefer to use the term “influencing” even though ultimately the ends, ways, and means are the same as that of targeting. Targeting sounds manipulative even though that is what we are seeking to do through influencing. Being labeled a “target” sounds objectifying even though “influencers” would still refer to their fans, members, and audiences by those terms that are equally objectifying.


One of the best sources I have found that employs targets and targeting in the business sense, however, comes from a book called Marketing Management 16th Edition by Philip Kotler and Alexander Chernenko of Northwestern University and Kevin Lane Keller of Dartmouth College. In Chapter 2, in a subsection called “Developing the Marketing Strategy,” they discuss target markets when they say:


The target market in which a company aims to create and capture value comprises five factors: the customers whose needs the company intends to fulfill, the competitors that aim to fulfill the same needs of the same target customers, the collaborators that help the company fulfill the needs of customers, the company that develops and manages the offering, and the context that will affect how the company develops and manages the offering. (pg 59)


The authors call these the “Five Cs” the customers, the collaborators, the competitors, the company, and the context. However, they don’t just refer to the customers as customers but instead as “target customers” as they are the individuals or organizations within the marketplace that use their products or services to have their needs fulfilled. And more specifically they state:


Two key principles determine the choice of target customers: The company and its collaborators must be able to create superior value for target customers relative to the competition, and the target customers chosen should be able to create value for the company and its collaborators. (60)


This statement satisfies the purpose of business, which we stated in Chapter 2.5 The Purpose of Warfare that a business’ purpose was “to compel another to provide net value through cooperative forms of influence which are socially acceptable.” Engaging and offering value propositions with businesses and customers in a B2B or B2C relationship is a socially acceptable form of cooperative influence. When the business provides value to the target with goods and services, and the company and collaborators receive value back from the target, we have successfully compelled a net value transaction. It is essential to identify the type of customer that will support your particular business plan and potentially alter it if the pool of target customers isn’t enough to support the operating expenses and produce a decent profit margin.


But let’s look at those Five Cs and expound upon them as this will come up a little later. Based on the authors' perspective on these five factors they discussed their relationship thusly:

  1. Customers: They are the individuals or organizations whose needs we seek to fulfill and who we engage with in a value proposition for the benefit of both parties. It is often best to segment customers into different categories and target them with offers specific to their needs instead of trying to provide the same product or offer to all. The purpose of business is to ultimately provide for the needs of the customers, to provide value, so understanding what they perceive as valuable will be important in shaping operations to provide it.

  2. Collaborators: These are the people and businesses that we engage with in order to make our value offer (our product or service) of much greater value. This can include improving the quality of the offer as a collaborator may be able to make a subcomponent or provide a better experience to the customer than we can in-house. This can also include reducing the overall cost of the value offer (creating savings for the customer or increasing profit margins) as the collaborator may be able to provide a product or service at reduced expense. Regardless, they engage with us for their own benefit and have an interest in our value offer to customers as it will mean continued beneficial collaboration with our company into the future.

  3. Competitors: These are those that also seek to fulfill the same need that your business seeks to provide the customer-base. It is important to note that it isn’t just competitors that provide the same product or service, but any entity that fulfills the need; even if accomplished in a different manner. For example, a turn of the 20th-Century horse-salesman had competition with other horse salesmen, but also the burgeoning automobile industry that fulfilled customer needs for transportation.

  4. Company: The company includes not just the parent company, but also any subsidiary that makes the offering for the product. For the author, the company is the one that “develops and manages a given market offering.” Since the company must organize and direct its people and capital towards the production of goods and services that meet consumer needs it is the company that also must control how it targets consumers in the marketplace to ensure marketing and operations are synergized.

  5. Context: Finally, environmental considerations encompass the company's and its collaborators' marketplace. It includes many of its own factors such as sociocultural, technological, regulatory, economic, and physical variables, just like those operational variables we discussed previously in this chapter. The nature of the environment shapes the way value propositions are perceived.


The authors believe that these are important aspects of a business model because identifying these five factors leads to the development of a better value proposition. It is a business marketing function activity that then drives a business’ operations function which produces the value to the customer.  By identifying targets, tailoring offers to what those targets need, and then executing the plan the business can accomplish its purpose. Indeed, they say this as much when they themselves state:


Targeting is the process of identifying customers for whom the company will optimize its offering. Simply put, targeting reflects the company’s choice of which customers it will prioritize and which customers it will ignore when designing, communicating, and deriving its offering. (pg 145)


Regardless of how different business authors define them, the terms target and targeting have an overarching and simplistic definition that I would like to apply. For War Is My Business a “target” is a specifically selected object from which we seek to elicit a desired response or create a desired effect, and “targeting” is the process by which we select and categorize our targets. This can apply not only to businesses in how we engage our customers and clients or in how we guide our performance metrics but also in other aspects of human endeavors, such as sports, romance, and warfare.


But we still haven’t answered the question of how we produce the desired effects that our plans require to be successful, only that we now have terms for those we seek to influence to produce those effects; the targets. This is where we go into the process of how we identify targets; leverage tools to shape a response and produce an effect; and how we assess that effects were actually produced. And all this is achieved through the “targeting process” of which the operations function and the marketing function of business are linked. However, the targeting process is naturally a military-term for how we do that very thing in order to produce battlefield effects and influence key leaders to shape our environments towards our desired ends.


Army Techniques Publications 3-60: Targeting from May of 2015 provides these definitions for targets and targeting:


A target is:

  1. An entity or object that performs a function for the adversary considered for possible engagement or other action.

  2. In intelligence usage, a country, area, installation, agency, or a person against which intelligence operations are directed.

  3. An area designated and numbered for future firing.

  4. In gunfire support usage, an impact burst that hits the target.


Targets include mobile and stationary forces, equipment, and facilities that an enemy commander can use to conduct operations. Targeting is the process of selecting and prioritizing targets and matching the appropriate response to them considering operational requirements and capabilities. The emphasis of targeting is on identifying enemy resources (targets) that if destroyed or degraded will contribute to the success of the friendly commander’s mission. The expected results of a successful attack eliminating a resource begin to place limits on the enemy commander’s available tactical options. Targeting personnel identify critical target subsets that when successfully acquired and attacked significantly diminish enemy capabilities. Denying critical resources to the enemy makes him vulnerable and expands friendly opportunities for success in battle. Successful targeting requires that the commander synchronize information related capabilities, intelligence, maneuver, fire support systems, nonlethal effects, and special operations forces to attack and eliminate critical targets using the most effective system in the right time and place. Targeting is a complex and multidiscipline effort that requires coordinated interaction among many command and staff elements. (1-1)


Now, for the average businessperson, they may read this and not see where the value lies in this statement since they may be focused on the destructive and militaristic nature of the means that are implied. Indeed, when we say we are going to “destroy the competition” we mean it in the figurative sense, so this literal interpretation would seem irrelevant. But if you have been reading the various chapters of War Is My Business up to this point, then you know that it isn’t the means of warfare that matter but the process that dictates how those means are employed to accomplish objectives that are valuable for business. We produce those effects our business plans require through targeting, or more specifically the targeting process. 


There are a lot of potential targets in the battlespace, just like there are a lot of potential customers in the marketplace, but our resources and time are limited so we can’t possibly engage all of them. Army organizations set up a targeting working group, which selects subject matter experts and representatives from various organizations and warfighting functions to provide diverse perspectives and develop a comprehensive and well-rounded targeting process. Not all targets are created equal, so we need guidelines for selecting potential targets to affect. The targeting process, conducted through a targeting working group, achieves the greatest potential for creating desired effects if it adheres to five guidelines:

  1. Targeting achieves the commander’s objectives: Through the unity of their command and their ability to focus the efforts of their staff and subordinates, the commander creates a unity of effort for all the functions of their organization. In targeting, the staff seeks to achieve desired effects that support these objectives in effective and complementary ways. They understand the concept of operations; how the commander seeks to shape the environment and accomplish their mission, and ensure that the effects produced are productive towards those ends and not counterproductive; such as when seeking to avoid violating rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict.

  2. Targeting seeks to create desired effects: Creating an effect is simply acknowledging that our actions produce certain consequences. Some effects are positive, some are negative, and some have little to no effect on our efforts to shape the environment. What matters is ensuring that the consequences of the actions we take increase the probability of our success and that we shape our actions accordingly to produce certain effects that do just that.

  3. Targeting directs lethal and nonlethal effects: Targeting not only focuses the effects of actions that come from the use of bullets and bombs, but also other non-lethal military means such as leaflets, electronic warfare, and messaging campaigns. Additionally, non-lethal effects include support from non-military agencies and organizations whose actions can produce effects in our battlespace; such as humanitarian aid, training of host nation police, and financial grants to local businesses for economic and agricultural development. The targeting process seeks to identify all the important targets that need to be affected, determines the desired effects that shape the environment towards a successful end state, and then directs the achievement of those effects through the capabilities available.

  4. Targeting is a fundamental task of the fires warfighting function: While the commander pretty much has the final say in what actually gets executed, the commander needs subject matter experts to help develop a shared understanding of the operational environment and develop courses of action based on this understanding. This is true for practically all functions within a military organization, including targeting. But, like targeting, all functions have a lead that guides the work done and facilitates the outputs of products and guidance for operations. In the case of the targeting working group, the lead is the fires warfighting function because of their intimate knowledge of lethal and non-lethal effects and how they can be utilized to support the commander's maneuver plan (i.e. the combat plan for frontline combat forces like the infantry and tanks).

  5. Targeting creates effects systematically: Targets are often plentiful while resources are limited. We seek to create effects that cascade beyond where we create them, meaning that the effect itself occurs in relation to something greater. Using electronic jamming on an enemy command post or communication relay degrades enemy command and control capabilities for their whole organization. Destroying enemy vehicles or personnel isn’t simply just racking up a kill count, but instead it is a calculation of enemy combat power that they will no longer be able to leverage against us. Destroying a key enemy leader isn’t the end-all, but instead has a significant military and political effect. The military doesn’t kill and destroy for the sake of killing and destruction alone, but as a means to an end. But to achieve that end, the effects of military action, be they lethal or non-lethal, need to be viewed as having a systemic impact for all parties involved.

The targeting working group must understand and take these guidelines to heart in order to effectively engage in the targeting process. A process that seeks to provide guidance to the operations process that itself seeks to shape the environment towards a desired endstate. Without them, the selection and engagement of targets in the battlespace is only tangential to accomplishing the mission. Actions without a higher purpose. However, these five guidelines for targeting, used by the U.S. Army, share much in common with the “Five Cs” discussed by Kotler, Keller, and Chernev just a few paragraphs ago.


That targeting seeks to achieve the commander’s objectives is important, not because the commander is a privileged person who is owed our subordination, but because they themselves serve the objectives of their higher organization and that their mission seeks to shape the environment through the use of the military arm of national power. In this way, as mentioned in Chapter 2.0: On Violence; in that violence is a tool of influence, and Chapter 2.4: The Purpose of Warfare; in that the military serves as the state’s mechanism to employ violence against others for the purpose of influencing them, any military’s mission is, or should, be shaped on achieving the needs of that state that deployed them. A military organization doesn’t organize itself, man its ranks, equip its personnel, train them in arms, deploy them overseas, and engage in life and death struggles for the sake of conflict alone, but as a means to an end determined by the state. In this capacity, it is the needs of the state that matters, as the state is the customer whose needs are fulfilled through what the military can provide it; options.


That targeting seeks to create a desired effect is important, not because we simply want to do certain things, but because focusing on effects instead of just the capabilities that we use will open us up to other avenues, other tools, to achieve the same desired effect. There is a wealth of options available to a military organization, from lethal and non-lethal capabilities that are organic to the organization, as well as external joint, partner, and host nation military capabilities, as well as non-governmental, that could be leveraged to produce these effects. In this way, a military organization can better achieve the overarching political objective through similar or different organizations, is comparable to a business satisfying the needs of customers through the the contributions of either collaborators or even competitors.


That targeting directs lethal and non-lethal effects is important, not because subordinate and partner military organization can’t produce desired effects on their own, but because to truly create a unified effort to accomplish an overarching plan that involves everyone there needs to be a process in place that guides the actions that occur to create those effects within the environment. The targeting process takes into account numerous operational and mission variables that shape our actions, and an organization operating independently of a unified effort could see their actions having negative or counterproductive effects even if they intended the opposite. In this way, the focus is on a process that unifies the actions of all contributing organizations, in a similar way the company may develop and manage its market offering based on its understanding of the marketplace and ensure that departments within the company and franchisees are directed accordingly.


That targeting is a fundamental task of the fires warfighting function is important, not because it is irrelevant to the other warfighting functions, but because the fires warfighting function by its nature, through its own subject matter expertise in providing lethal and non-lethal effects and liaisons with joint force capabilities, makes it the ideal candidate to take charge and lead the process. And this process will involve, in some capacity, all of the warfighting functions of a military organization as it takes the whole organization to actually deliver desired effects upon the battlefield. While the fires warfighting function is a specified function within an Army organization that takes the lead in targeting, we do often see targeting in business led by the marketing function as they have the best understanding of the context of the market environment and they can guide the company to develop and manage the market offering through the operations function of that business.


That targeting creates effects systemically is important, not because we want to make things more complicated to justify our budgets and requests for greater and more varied capabilities that produce different effects, but because all things in this universe are systemically link in one way or another; and none more so than in the social institutions and technologies that we create that allow people to wage and conduct warfare. We don’t destroy, neutralize, or suppress an enemy force simply because we desire to, but because of the follow-on, second and third-order effects that would occur for all involved. A destroyed enemy tank platoon at a particular time and place may compel an anticipated response, such as the enemy diverting of other assets to compensate or withdrawing from the area, either of which can provide us an advantage. Also, a destroyed tank platoon not only means that they can’t use those same tanks to interfere in our operations, but replacing them would cost the enemy capital, time, and personnel. Targeting seeks to create systemic effects because that is how we defeat our adversaries, by shaping the environment into one that is unacceptable or untenable for them. But to do this we have to understand the variables of the environment and the mission to accomplish this systemic effect, just as a business needs to under the context of the environment to truly develop a market offering the customers desire.

In the conduct of operations, it is the successful engagement of targets and the creation of desired effects from those engagements that shape the conditions of the environment closer to desired ends. We know that in business, as it is in warfare, we engage in actions that are intended to achieve results that are beneficial to the functioning of the organization itself. Or simply put, we know that if we want things to change for the better, we need to act to make them better. But the real conundrum that we face in business is that there are many variables that we could influence, but not enough resources to engage them all and a potentially limited understanding of those variables to actually create the effects we want. So we ask ourselves various questions:


  • What things should we focus on and what should we bypass?

  • How do we effectively assess the nature of the things we decide to target so that we can apply the effects we need to achieve our ends?

  • How do we determine how much of which resource to dedicate to influencing that target?

  • How do we determine whether our actions achieved the desired effect, and what to do if it didn’t?


The answer to these questions comes from the targeting process’ method for integrating targeting into the operations process. The method we use is the Decide, Detect, Deliver, and Assess (D3A) methodology. D3A has various inputs that go into the methodology that help drive its understanding of the operational environment and what targeting can do to shape it, which then results in the subsequent outputs it produces that guide the actual execution of operations to achieve the change. This is where business can benefit, in a methodology that can give tangible products that help planners, operations officers, and managers at all levels produce, engage, and assess the effects of their actions upon the marketplace for the accomplishment of the business plan.



Now, the four functions of D3A are designed to incorporate targeting into the overall operations plan to " facilitate the engagement of the right target with the right asset at the right time.” As a result, during the military decision making process (MDMP), the process by which the U.S. Army develops its courses of action, the Decide function of D3A takes place during the entirety of MDMP, while the other three functions; Detect, Deliver, and Assess, occur during the actual preparation and execution of the operation itself. While MDMP’s mission analysis step is helping to build the understanding of the operational environment for staff developing courses of action it is also helping develop the understanding of relationships that potential targets have with each other and the rest of the environment as well.


One of the most important inputs into D3A that occurs during the decide function of the methodology is the high-payoff target list (HPTL). An HPTL is a list of those high payoff targets that the commander wants prioritized by phases of the operation, because sometimes an important target early on in an operation may no longer be important later on. A high-payoff target is a high-value target that the commander determines is important to defeat because its loss will increase the likelihood of friendly forces succeeding in their operations. And a high-value target are those assets of the enemy that they have available which are necessary for the enemy commander to accomplish their mission. To reiterate this in another way:


  1. During mission analysis, we identified the high-value targets of the enemy, the things we want to affect.

  2. During course of action development and analysis, the commander identifies those high-value targets, the ones that are of greatest threat to the friendly plan, and designates them as high-payoff targets.

  3. Also during course of action development and analysis, as we develop a better understanding of how friendly operations will unfold we prioritize those high-payoff targets based on which phase of the operation we should focus on defeating them and create the HPTL.

  4. The HPTL that is produced will guide the rest of the targeting process. All planned and unplanned engagements will be shaped by this focus on critical enemy capabilities that the commander needs to be influenced to succeed.


In simple terms, we target directly those things we have determined are critical to mission success because the plan informed us. In business, we see that there is sometimes a disconnect between the overall business plan developed by business leadership and the target metrics and audiences that marketing focuses on. It is important in business, as it is in military operations, that the decision for what should and shouldn't be targeted be guided by the plan instead of a general sense or feeling of what should be done. Not that the marketers are wrong, as their familiarity and constant contact with marketplace variables may truly be informing them of reality, but that there becomes a disconnect between marketing and operations. Just as military intelligence that feeds the targeting working group information could lead them to the conclusion that the current guidance from operations won’t actually achieve the desired ends, so too can marketers come to a different conclusion about what needs to occur to make a profit. But in the Army’s case, if the differing conclusion is apparently correct then it compels the reworking of the operations plan itself and isn't just the targeting working group and its assets doing their own thing.


For example, if the operations function of a business is focused on producing value for Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers, their plan will guide marketers to make a value proposition geared toward that target audience. Marketers, in turn, may see that target audience as not being profitable enough to meet desired profit margins, and instead decided to start marking value to Millennials and Zoomers because they believe their limited marketing budget will provide better returns if they target them instead. Now, the marketers may be correct, but the business’ operations function is still operating as if they are providing their products or services to older folks instead of these younger ones. Both operations and marketers will have failed because operations will not be creating the desired effects on this new target audience. What should occur is that this realization of the marketplace environment compels the development of a new course of action for the business, so that operations and marketing are re-aligned and working in concert with one another and not against each other.


With the HPTL in hand, we understand what we need to target to achieve the friendly commander’s objectives, accomplish our mission, and achieve the military’s purpose. But knowing what we must affect still leaves us with the question of how we actually go about doing it. Yes, we decided what certain targets need to be engaged, but we haven’t decided on how to actually engage them and what effects we need to produce from those engagements. This is similar in the business world where management develops metric-based targets and informs the employees and contractors what they are without guidance on how to get them.


This very issue is brought up in Joyce Nilsson Orsini’s book, The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality in which she discusses Deming’s “14 Points of Management.” The tenth point states:


Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the workforce… What do you get from goals without any help? Zero defects, increased productivity? What you get out of it is failure to accomplish goals. Well of course. There’s nothing there to help anybody… a numerical goal for the rank and file is wrong, as it does not tell anyone how to achieve it. They even have a negative effect through frustration. They are management’s lazy way out. They indicate desperation and incompetence of management. (pgs 136-141)


There is no point in establishing targets without having the means and ways to engage them. Without guidance on how to handle targets, the organization has effectively voiced a problem that needs to be corrected without providing a solution. Deming is naturally perturbed that the managers sometimes think simply stating what things need to be will mean the functions of business will churn and adapt to meet that need. A factory manager stating they want zero serious injuries or fatalities on their floor doesn’t mean much to the team leaders and workers. Obviously, we know workers don’t want to be maimed or killed, but the statement doesn’t compel the change necessary to achieve unless you provide the solutions yourself, or even better, get junior leaders involved in figuring out potential solutions to implement that will meet the target you have set.


For the U.S. Army, however, because the nature of our work requires us to coordinate massive formations of costly equipment in dangerous environments with finite resources, we not only have a process for developing the guidance of how, when, and, where to engage targets, but this guidance is published alongside our regular orders production process at the end of MDMP. This guidance comes in the form of actual informational products that can be easily referenced and are developed during the decide phase of D3A and continually refined in later phases as necessary.


These products are developed from the HPTL and give guidance on how, where, and with what assets we should use to apply effects upon these different high-payoff targets. The following three targeting products are the ones I find most useful for the business world. I will shortly discuss them as to their function in operations and how they can be used in a business operations setting.


Attack Guidance Matrix


The attack guidance matrix provides guidance for when a target should be engaged, how the organization will engage it, the desired effects to be achieved, and any special instructions or remarks related to the engagement of that target. By itself, the attack guidance matrix is limited in its usefulness to actual operations, but its value comes in the planning for operations. Approved by the commander, this guidance helps focus the staff's planning around particular capabilities and assets in order to expedite planning and prioritize dedicating finite resources to the most practical and achievable effects on high-payoff targets. There are often many different types of high-payoff targets and many more tools we have to engage them with, but trying to pair and plan for how we would engage every type of high-payoff target with every capability would be wasteful. You will be able to achieve an effect more efficiently on certain target types with certain capabilities and in specific ways, and the attack guidance matrix provides that information upfront so that we don’t waste planning time on inefficient methods of generating effects.


On the attack guidance matrix, we lay things out accordingly:

  1. High-payoff target: The type of target will compel us to create a specific effect to support the commanders’ objectives, which will then drive our decision on what system we will use to achieve the “how,” which is the effect itself.

  2. When: This provides guidance on when the target should be engaged upon detection. Generally speaking, this serves mainly to inform staff about whether they should take their time planning a strike upon the target versus attacking it with the means available as soon as possible.

  3. How: This references the means by which the effect will be created upon the target. This could include lethal means, such as artillery, air strikes, cruise missiles, and even direct engagements with infantry and tanks. It can also include non-lethal means, such as electronic warfare, leaflet drops, psychology operations, and even a regular old meet-and-greet.

  4. Effect: The effects discussed here are the desired effects the commander requires to be created upon this high-payoff target. Often these effects are based on tactical mission tasks, and it can include lethal and non-lethal effects; which could include destroy, neutralize, suppress, deny, disrupt, delay, degrade, deceive, interdict, and exploit.

  5. Remarks: The remarks section covers any additional guidance the commander and staff determine is important in regard to the engagement of a particular high-payoff target. This could include instructions for coordination or any restrictions that may be placed on the engagement, such as limiting the engagement to certain munition types or only attacking during nighttime.

TABLE 3.0.11: Attack Guidance Matrix

Table 3-0-11.png

Target Selection Standards


Target selection standards provide guidance on two important pieces of criteria needed before we engage a detected high-payoff target: timeliness and accuracy. Timeliness relates to the amount of time allowed between the detection of the high-payoff target and the order to engage it with the delivery asset that will be producing the effect. Accuracy relates to the maximum allowable error in target location. The purpose of this is in relation to actionable information.


Timeliness is important in relation to military targets because the enemy moves its assets, so the older the information the more likely the enemy has moved it. Certain assets, such as vehicles and personnel, can be moved quickly, whereas field command posts and stockpiles would take longer to pack up, and fixed fighting positions and structures don’t move at all. So, hour-old intel about the location of an enemy tank platoon should not be engaged as those tanks could have moved, but an hour since an enemy command post was detected could be engaged.


Accuracy is important in relation to military targets due to the size of the target and the detection asset. Naturally, a small point target, like a bunker, a vehicle, or even an individual will require a more accurate grid coordinate or target acquisition assets to create an effect with certain means, but larger targets, such as enemy formations or camps don’t need to be as accurate. Also, we need to account for the inherent inaccuracy of certain detection assets as advanced technologies like satellite imagery and laser designators could provide up to a meter in error, but old-fashioned visual acquisition and map spotting at best should be treated with an error of up to one hundred meters.


One example we see of target selection standards in the business sector is actually in the real estate industry in how we conduct comparative market analyses or appraisals. To make the best valuation on a property, which helps achieve our purpose of providing the client with an accurate purchase price to negotiate from, we look to comparable properties in the area of the subject property. These comparables are our targets. Timeliness comes into play when we are looking at the time since comparable properties were sold on the market, and a similar property that sold more than six months ago may not provide you an accurate estimate of what the subject property could sell for at present. Accuracy comes into play when we look at the property's location relative to the subject property, as the closer it is, the more viable it is as a comparable.

TABLE 3.0.12: Target Selection Standards

Table 3-0-12.png

Target Synchronization Matrix:


The target synchronization matrix seeks to synchronize all assets involved in the targeting methodology to engage each category of high-payoff target, even going as deep as distinguishing specific systems within that category. Subsequently, the target synch matrix uses the same D3A method for the collaboration of capabilities to find high-payoff targets, create those desired effects upon them, and determine whether the effects we intended were successfully delivered. It doesn’t simply state that we are going to find a high-payoff target but states the tools we will use to detect them. It doesn’t simply state that we will deliver the effects, but who and with what system those effects will be delivered. It doesn’t simply state that we will have achieved the desired effects upon our action, but gives us guidance on what tools we will use to assess if the delivery was effective and if we have truly achieved those desired effects.


Like many of the products developed by the targeting working group, they can be tailored to the needs of the commander and staff. Much coordination occurs when trying to synchronize multiple assets during the various targeting phases in order to complete the cycle. As a result, target synchronization matrices can be either simple or complex, but they still follow the D3A methodology to ensure we have accounted for what we are doing during each phase of targeting. For any organization, it is easy to talk about engaging in targeting and meeting the intended effects but drop the ball on actually carrying things through to completion. But this matrix forces us to carry out our actions on each high-payoff target to its completion. 


On the matrix, the decide phase shows us the priority the commander has placed on a particular category of high-payoff targets, such as fire support, air defense, reconnaissance, maneuver forces, and even critical civil leaders and institutions. Each category is further broken down into specific high-payoff targets that fall within that category because certain targets within that category may warrant a more specific approach to delivering effects against them. Following that, we have the detect, deliver, and assess phases, each displaying the primary assets used to provide the capability for the phase and the organization that would provide that asset and act as lead for that related task.

TABLE 3.0.13: Target Synchronization Matrix

Table 3-0-13.png

In this example, if we decide our highest priority is the engagement of enemy fire support systems, we need a method to detect those fire support systems. We determined that the best way to detect enemy artillery was by leveraging the organic counter-fire radar capability of the division artillery. Also, because enemy fire support assets are such a high priority, we have also leveraged other detection tools, including higher organizational intelligence assets and our own electronic detection assets from our direct support military intelligence unit. Understanding the desired effect we want to achieve on the target, for the deliver phase, we decide the most efficient way to achieve those effects is with the 155mm self-propelled howitzer of the brigade combat team with an alternative delivery system being the field artillery brigade’s multiple launch rocket system should the howitzer be unable to engage when needed. Finally, for the assess phase we utilize those same counter-fire radars of the division artillery and our intelligence assets to make our assessment based on measures of performance and effectiveness that can help inform us if our actions have produced desirable effects.


The value of the target sync matrix in a business setting is in its ability to force us to walk through the entire targeting process for the effects we seek to achieve in the marketplace. Let’s say you have determined that a high-payoff target for your business, a target that you need to achieve to meet your mission, is to improve product quality. You must determine how you will detect quality in your products and who will be responsible for that task. You will need to determine how you deliver that effect of improvement upon your production line and who will be in charge of that task. Then, you must determine how to assess whether the effects were achieved and who will be in charge.

The following is an overly simplified example of all three products utilized for a fictional non-descript business. These will be too general and non-specific to be helpful because you need to really drill down to business-specific equipment and industry-specific institutions, just like the assets and agencies shown on the previous military target synch matrix. For example, you should specify by name the systems, departments, and industry/business forms and reports that you would actually use. That being said, in order to make it more applicable to a general audience, I have avoided digging too deep into specifics for any particular industry. I will leave the specifics up to you to develop for your organization.

TABLE 3.0.14:Attack Guidance Matrix & Target Selection Standards - Business Example

Table 3-0-14.png

TABLE 3.0.15: Target Synchronization Matrix - Business Example

Table 3-0-15.png



As we move out of MDMP and into the conduct of the operations function of the organization, business, or military, we prepare to set the conditions to shape the environment. What we mean to say is that the entire purpose of operations is the shaping of conditions towards a desired end, and in the case of business that is to influence the market in such a way that customers accept the value proposition of the business and enter into a transaction which then nets the business a profit at the end. It is the ends that matter, the actions that get us to that end, and the detect phase of D3A, where we seek out the opportunities to shape conditions with the guidance produced from the decision phase.


For the military application of the targeting methodology, the operations warfighting function is the lead element in coordinating with all organizations that provide detection assets to the hunt for high-payoff targets. The intelligence officers and their warfighting function are charged with the collection and management of information, and this includes the collection of not only information requirements for the commander and staff but also the information gained from detection efforts as we seek out high-payoff targets. The reason the intelligence warfighting function isn’t also leading the effort in coordinating with the detection assets has multiple potential reasons not specific in doctrine but could be based on these reasons:


  1. Operations is in charge of synchronizing the activities along all echelons and needs to ensure that their activities are still aligned with the higher headquarters' concept of the operations.

  2. Operations manages and directs activities within the organization’s battlespace and must be aware of detection activities to ensure their efforts are aligned with the overall plan.

  3. Operations synchronize the movement, security, and support of many of the detection assets that may be utilized for finding these high-payoff targets with assistance from the appropriate warfighting functions like movement and maneuver, protection, and sustainment.


Regardless of who is in charge of detection, the purpose of the detection phase remains the same: find high-payoff targets. Following the products produced in the decide phase, as we prepare for operations we can further refine these products as we learn a little more about the operational environment and as assets and capabilities are given or taken away from our organization by external requirements and battlefield necessity. For example, we may have intended to use a counter-fire radar for detection of enemy artillery when they fired, but we soon discover that our radars were damaged in transit, necessitating repairs of unknown duration, or that the canopy of the forest we are moving through obscures our radar and reduces its effectiveness too much for it to be a reliable detection tool for this phase of the operation. Throughout all of the conduct of an operation, we are periodically reassessing our own products and refining them as necessary to reflect the reality of what we are experiencing on the ground.


But once on the ground and actively seeking out these high-payoff targets, once we find them we need to process the information before we move onto the delivery of effects. The way we process the information is basically a four-step process:


  1. Gather essential information on the target: Here we collect the information related to the target to include who reported the information, the date and time of the detection, what the target was doing, its size, location and altitude, inherent location error related to the detection tool, how long the target as been at that location, as well as whether it is moving or stationary. With all this information we can utilize the attack guidance matrix or the target synch matrix to make initial suggestions for how we should engage the target.

  2. Develop the target: Based on the previous information and suggestions we develop the products necessary to engage the target. This could be as simple as utilizing artillery and putting in a request for fire support to be prosecuted immediately, or it could go through a whole developmental process where packets are produced for the higher-ups to approve detailed and coordinated strikes involving collateral damage estimations, tailored weapons packages, and numerous agencies becoming involved.

  3. Vet the target: There is a further vetting process that affirms the accuracy of the information used for the prosecution of the target. For those quick engagements, such as artillery and mortar fire missions, it can be a straightforward clearance of fire procedure to ensure no friendly forces or collateral concerns are being inadvertently targeted. For those targeting packets that are developed, however, the intelligence officer vetting the information may conduct their own collateral damage estimate, pull and reaffirm the accuracy of grid coordinates, and even reassess the importance of the target and its systemic effect upon the environment.

  4. Validate the target: There is a final validation step in which the effects and legal concerns are addressed, and we determine all of the potential ramifications related to operational and mission variables and how our actions will be perceived. For those quick missions, this takes the form of simply checking any fire support coordination measures that may be violated during the delivery of the effects, as these would include important cultural and civil sites, structures, and other critical areas that could inadvertently impact friendly operations in a negative way. For planned targets, they can continue their deep dive into the systemic impact on operational variables beyond just the military aspect.


In business, we do need a method to gather information that will serve as the metrics we use to determine what actions we should engage in and then juxtapose them with the results of those actions to see if we achieved what we sought to do. That the operations function of business should control or coordinate the methods that the business uses to get the information should be based on whether they are best suited to do so for the overall purpose of the business. If the task was given to the marketing function and its marketing or customer relations officers to manage, they must understand that the information being gathered will be geared towards shaping the operations functions of the business in order to produce the market offering in such a way that it meets the needs of the customer.


It may still be necessary for the operations function to manage the whole effort because there is more to target than just the target audience. The business must target certain non-customer-related conditions, such as recruiting, retention, safety, logistics, production throughput, quality, and budget. While each function of the business can act as the lead agency or organization gathering the information from these various targets, you should still have a single function that coordinates it to facilitate collaboration in related areas and promote knowledge management and information sharing. The operations function makes rational sense since it is the function of the business actually developing the market offering. Just avoid the habit of letting each individual function stovepipe itself with its own concerns or you risk losing unity of effort within the organization.



The delivery of lethal and non-lethal effects upon targets can be relatively straightforward. The most important aspect of the delivery is that it is done in accordance with the intended effect. Meaning that the engagement of the target was predicated on achieving a desired effect, which would shape conditions towards a desired end. A desired effect is intended to move us towards a desired end so our delivery of that effect must not forget that intent. What complicates things during the delivery of the effect is either 1) our pre-planned or preferred delivery system is no longer available or capable of creating the desired effect or 2) we gain a greater understanding of the environment to the extent we realize the desired effect we intended may actually be counterproductive to achieving our desired ends.


In the first case, we must dynamically reevaluate our means and ways available to achieve the desired effects. We look to our various delivery systems to see what we can do, and if we can’t achieve the desired effect, we could still create another effect that is productive to our efforts. For example, we have an objective to secure a small town from enemy control and one of our high-payoff targets is the maneuver forces that would be holding that town during this phase of the operation. We identified an enemy tank platoon and intended to destroy it with anti-tank missiles from an attack helicopter, but the weather turned bad, and they couldn’t fly. We still intend to destroy them, so we then look at our artillery using 155mm cluster munitions, but we assess that their close proximity to a residential area poses too heavy a risk to non-combatants. We assess that destroying them at this time without the use of precision-guided munitions or direct-fire weapons is too dangerous to our overall mission, but our objective to secure the town is still necessary. Instead of the desired effect of destroying the tank platoon, we will instead attempt to create the desired effect of defeat. Defeat is a tactical mission task that implies that the enemy can't engage in their intended duties, and we will attempt to achieve this by compelling them to surrender via a leaflet drop. By dropping leaflets over the area we can compel them to surrender by informing them of our impending attack, giving them a means to signal their surrender, and if they don’t, they will be destroyed in a direct fire engagement with our forces as they assault the town. Whatever stays and fights will be destroyed by our own forces, but if some surrender, it will reduce their combat power as a whole, which will help in our effort to secure the town. Naturally, there will be an assumption of risk with the leaflet drop as we will lose the element of surprise and some enemies will stay and fight instead of being destroyed outright, but the positives include less risk to collateral concerns as we inform them of the attack as well so they can avoid the crossfire and some enemy may actually surrender which can be better than directly engaging them in a straight up tank fight.


In the second case, based on the information being collected and distilled into actionable intelligence by the intelligence warfighting function, we may discover something about operational or mission variables that was not known, or couldn’t have been known, during planning. We intend to create desired effects that shape these variables in such a way that move us closer to achieving our objectives, but if the variables are actually different than initially believed our desired effects may not actually be counterproductive to ultimate goals. In the aforementioned example of the enemy tank platoon occupying a town we need to secure, our initial intention was to destroy them. Imagine if we discovered that that tank platoon was manned by friendly partisans of the town who took them from the enemy, or they were a separatist faction of the enemy military aligned with our strategic objectives. We are now in a more advantageous position to secure the town than initially anticipated, and by destroying them, we would actually be assisting the enemy and harming our relationship with this friendly faction.


The important thing to note about the delivery of desired effects to businesses that engage in the targeting process and the D3A methodology is that the action itself, like the tools used, is incidental to the effects created, from the perspective of planners at least. It is the effects that matter and not how those effects were achieved unless the nature of how they were achieved also adds to the effect. I alluded to this in Chapter 2.4: The Purpose of Warfare, when I discussed that the perception of the use of the military element of national power carries its own stigma compared to the other elements of national power. You can kill thousands just as easily by applying economic sanctions on an enemy that needs food imports, but killing those same thousands through military action creates a different perception, a whole new series of effects. The same applies to the means used within military operations as well, such as using host nation forces or partisans to engage the enemy instead of our own forces. Collateral damage caused by one’s own people fighting for their own homes will be perceived differently by the population than if that damage was caused by American forces doing the same exact thing. Just as you personally would feel different if someone else broke something you owned than if you broke it yourself. Same action; different effects.


The nature of the means and ways used to create desired effects only matters when not realizing their nature means you don’t actually create desired effects. So, when we look to the delivery phase, as we constantly do throughout the entire targeting process, we are focused on creating desired effects that achieve the commander's objectives, pushing us closer to our desired ends. The delivery phase, however, is our last chance to vet or verify that our actions will create the desired effects we want and if those effects are still desirable based on our current understanding of the environment. Once you engage in the action there is no going back. An effect will occur, and if the effect is undesirable, it is because your understanding of the environment and the nature of the ways and means was not developed enough. When the effect is created, whatever it may manifest itself as, you will need to respond accordingly, either continuing the mission or exploiting an opportunity if the effect is positive, or adjusting your mission and doing damage control if it is negative.


For businesses, the important thing to remember is that every action creates an effect. It will be up to both business leaders and their people to decide where and how they will act to create specific effects. Their actions, alongside all other actions currently being done within the marketplace or within the business itself, will have some combined effect. If you do nothing, the conditions will continue based on the effects of all other actions. Within the business itself, you may witness employees engaging in activities you believe will create negative effects on your business. They could be engaging in workplace banter that appears inappropriate or engaging in activities that appear dangerous. You may feel hesitant to speak up or put your foot down to stop such activities as you are concerned it will sour your reputation and/or create a working environment that is too strict. If you do nothing, the current actions will continue to play out and create effects. Those effects could amount to nothing, to a fun and enjoyable work environment for the people, or to harassment complaints, injury, and death. Doing something about it could amount to a prudish and unfun environment where they don’t like you very much, but you reduce the likelihood of their creating undesired effects. Alternatively, you can shape the nature of your action by getting junior leaders involved, sharing your concerns with them, and engaging them to develop their own actions that help reduce the potential adverse effects of directly engaging them. What matters is the desired effects, not the means and ways that create them, unless they too create undesired effects. Remember this before you act, before you “deliver the effect.”



The assess phase of D3A generally covers two situations: the assessment of the effect delivered and the assessment of overall strategic objectives in relation to the effects delivered. In the first situation, we are merely trying to see if the desired effect was achieved and/or to what extent other effects may have been created. In the second situation, we look at the effects produced, how they have shaped operational and mission variables, and what they mean to achieving overall strategic objectives. How we assess may differ slightly between the military and businesses, but the intent remains the same.


When a business’ operation function engages in a particular action, we need a way to ensure that the action achieves the desired effect. For example, if we desire to reduce workplace injuries by instituting a pre-shift stretching routine for workers, we need to determine whether or not it actually achieved that effect. The most logical assessment tool for this situation would probably be metrics-based, comparing and contrasting the number and severity of injuries before and after this new routine was implemented. You must determine if any other effects were produced, such as reduced or increased production and the workforce's morale. Then, you need to assess how this impacts the overall accomplishment of the business’s strategic objectives: its overall purpose. If your assessment finds issues with the effects created, how they impact other variables, and the accomplishment of your objectives, you will need to determine how to adjust.


Every enemy vehicle destroyed and personnel killed is a capability taken away from the adversary's influence on the battlefield. We do not destroy and kill because we want to, only as a means to an end. But, beyond destroying and killing, we must track the metrics. To understand how we have impacted the enemy and improved our probability of success, we need to track our progress in some fashion. Enemy tanks, trucks, and personnel are finite, and we can estimate enemy combat power as we conduct our operations. Picture from Wikicommons.

Russian Tank Battalion.png

If we know the enemy's order of battle, then as their equipment is destroyed we can assess their combat power. Also, if we know what they have, and a new vehicle type is made present in the battlespace, then it can also inform us of the presence of a new enemy organization.

On the military-side, our most common assessment comes from our combat operations, so we have methods focused on gauging our success through these means. The most prominent method we have is through a battle damage assessment (BDA) in which at the completion of the action our assessment tool provides details to headquarters and staff at the extent of the damage inflicted. We have both known and estimated BDA based on what our observations and knowledge can inform us. For example, if we attack two enemy T-80 main battle tanks and we see that their turrets have been blown off and have burst into flames then we known we have destroyed them, but we also know that a T-80 has three crewman so we can estimate that they have all been killed in the attack for a final BDA of “2x T-80s destroyed, estimate 6x casualties.”


The value of the BDA, other than being informative about having handled an immediate threat, is that it helps inform us of the current impact on the enemy's combat power. Often, in a high-intensity conflict against another nation, if we know the unit we are facing we understand how they are organized. If intelligence identifies the enemy operating in our area as the 20th Armored Division then we may also be able to actually have the entire organizational layout of the unit down to numbers of personnel and types of equipment. If we anticipate that the 20th Armored Division was at 100% strength when we engaged them and they had 60x T-80s within the division then the previous BDA informs our intelligence warfighting function that we only have 58 more with which we have to contend. And this can apply to all equipment; such as artillery, infantry fighting vehicles, trucks, air defense, and number of personnel. As the battles continue, and BDA is rolling into the staff over time, we can update the tracker by scratching off the equipment we have taken out of the fight and provide estimates on the enemy’s strength at any particular time.

BDA can also provide insight into the physical damage caused to sub-components of a system and the functioning of integrated systems. For example, while a tank may not have been destroyed outright, you may have been able to damage the tracks on the tank to the point where it can no longer move and will need to be repaired; that is a mobility-kill. You can damage the tank’s cannon to the point it can no longer shoot: a firepower-kill. Or you can kill or wound the crew while leaving the tank undamaged: a crew-kill. For an integrated system, an example could include an air defense array with multiple air defense missile launchers tied into an air defense radar system. If the radar were destroyed, the launchers would be temporarily unable to fire until the radar was repaired or replaced. In either situation, an effect didn’t need to be applied to the whole, only an element of the whole, and in doing so it created a systemic effect that could prevent that whole system from achieving its purpose.


Understanding the nature of systemic effects is important not only for impacting a target system but also for protecting one's own systems from negative systemic effects. For example, often in business, we use the term “throughput” to describe the amount of materials, items, or people that are pushed through a process or system. Often, we see it in the form of manufacturing where the raw components are treated as inputs, transformed and assembled, and then the outputs are shipped to retailers or the end users. It also applies to people who are processed through a system, such as ticketing gates at theme parks or medical stations at a hospital. The throughput is the total quantity completed at the end of the process or system within a given time, and we look to sub-elements of that system for bottlenecks, which are points in a process or system that cause congestion, and we seek to improve them to increase that throughput.


If you have a high-payoff target for your business that you seek to improve, understanding the nature of systemic effects might compel you to look into the systems and processes related to that target to see if there may be a specific bottleneck that could be affected by your efforts. A manufacturing business that seeks to improve the throughput of a component that will be sent to other businesses could attempt to identify all the potential bottlenecks within their manufacturing process, but they could also look externally to see if things could be improved with collaborators. For example,  a business could deliver its components through in-house delivery services. They could increase the number of trucks and drivers in their fleets, increasing the number of components that could be delivered, or they could outsource and collaborate with an external delivery service that could do the same thing for cheaper.


The Army engages in two other aspects of a combat assessment alongside BDA. One is the munitions effectiveness assessment, where we determine how effective the delivery system and its munitions were in actually achieving the effect. This is similar to a return on investment calculation, where we see if what was used was worth it and if we could improve the delivery to improve the effect. The other aspect is re-engagement recommendations, where we determine whether or not we hit the target again with the same or adjusted parameters. These both are relatively straightforward in the business sense, where we determine whether the capital and effort we spend are achieving our goals and if we should adjust how they are spent to produce better effects, and whether to re-engage in a particular action, like duplicating or adjusting an email distribution to a same email distribution list. These assessments help military and business organizations develop measures of performance (MOP) and effectiveness (MOE).


MOPs and MOEs are probably the most useful tools for guiding an organization to perform a certain way in order to achieve a desired effect. MOPs are used to determine what we need to do to achieve certain effects, and measures of effectiveness are used to determine if the effects were achieved and are moving us toward our desired ends by referencing certain indicators. As stated explicitly in Army Technical Publication 6-01.1: Techniques for Effective Knowledge Management they describe these elements as such:


A measure of effectiveness is a criterion used to assess changes in system behavior, capability, or operational environment that is tied to measuring the attainment of an end state, achievement of an objective, or creation of an effect. Measures of effectiveness are quantitative measures that give some insight into how effectively a unit is performing a function or activity. 


A measure of performance is a criterion used to assess friendly actions that is tied to measuring task accomplishment. Several measures of performance may be related to the achievement of a particular measure of effectiveness.


Indicators inform measures of effectiveness to provide a mechanism to assess progress toward a desired end state. They should include both quantitative (observation-based) and qualitative (opinion or judgment-based) indicators. (pg 5-3)


The difference between an MOE and a desired effect is that often we may not be able to observe a desired effect directly. We will have to use indicators to inform us of the possibility of having created a desired effect. For example, if we had the desired effect of disrupting enemy communications and were to use electronic jamming to prevent the enemy from communicating out from their command post, obviously we wouldn’t be able to witness their staff struggling to troubleshoot their systems. We could instead utilize signals intelligence to detect electromagnetic waves emanating from their command post and use that as an indicator, with the measure of effectiveness being related to a percentage reduction of communications tied to those waves, such as a reduction of electromagnetic emissions by 75%.


The difference between a MOP and the guidance put out on the attack guidance matrix and target synchronization matrix is that the MOP is usually specific on how the engagement should be executed to achieve the desired effect. For example, if we seek to engage a fleeting target that could quickly move after detection, we may specify the duration it should take before that target is attacked. If our counter-fire radar detects enemy artillery firing, we could specify in our MOP that to achieve the desired effect we need to fire three volleys from a battalion of our own artillery at that target within 180 seconds of detection. Remember, a MOP is merely guidance on what we need to do to achieve a MOE, which could include multiple MOPs depending on the systems being used. If the indicators we use inform us that a MOE has not achieved the desired effect, we could assess that our MOP is not correct and we should adjust it based on the data.


As mentioned, the benefit of MOPs and MOEs is that they provide actionable guidance that can be employed even at the lowest levels of an organization. For a business that desires to improve customer experiences, an employee can’t do much with such lofty targets developed for strategic and operational objectives; they need actual direction for their level.  This is why you may often see a timer counting out the seconds since the order was placed on the digital order displays that fast-food workers reference while filling out customer orders. In one way or another, they are probably employing a measure of performance related to the time it takes to complete an order and get the food into the hands of the customer, which in turn is tied into a measure of effectiveness related to the percentage of orders completed within the desired time tolerance and customers reviews; which would be the indicators. Again, the MOE and its indicators are not the desired effect; only what we would use to determine if the desired effect was achieved. To determine actual customer satisfaction we would need to be able to read the minds of each customer to see if they are satisfied.


When developing these assessment metrics, you must ensure that they meet four criteria for them to be useful.


  1. They must be relevant to the targeting process and follow the targeting guidelines.

  2. They must be measurable in some capacity, even the qualitative metrics, as we need to be able to measure progress toward a desired end state.

  3. They must be responsive in order for them to be useful, meaning that an assessment metric mustn’t take too long before we can actually reference it.

  4. They must be resourced with the available means because there is little use for a metric when we don't have the tool to measure it.


Here are a few potential business examples of MOPs and MOEs being utilized, as well as the potential indicators, and we’ll reference the previously developed business example of the target synchronization matrix (TABLE 3.0.15:) to build them.

TABLE 3.0.16: Example MOPs, MOEs, and Indicators

Table 3-0-16.png

Remember, regardless of who is conducting the assessment, the purpose of the assessment is to determine if desired effects were created and provide us greater insight into how our actions have shaped the environment. The ultimate goal is the desired end state, not necessarily the ways and means we used to get there unless they themselves alter our ability to achieve that end state.


What matters is that the positives and negatives of any action the business decides to engage in are appropriately accounted for in that 1) they achieve the objectives of the business, 2) they actually create the desired effects, 3) they utilize a process to direct the actions that create those desired effects, 4) that the business empowers one of its leaders or departments with the task of guiding this targeting process, and 5) that they take into account the systemic nature of the effects they produce on all systems directly or tangentially related to subject at hand.


The targeting process allows planners to focus their efforts on particular individuals and audiences within a business or the marketplace. We are limited in our time and resources so we must focus on achieving effects in those places that will provide us the greatest opportunity to shape the environment to meet our business objectives. The targeting methodology of D3A provides us a framework for which we can coordinate the efforts of our planners so that they can decide which potential targets are optimal, detect how we will identify when they can engage them, deliver the desired effects upon them, and assess the results of our efforts and their impact on the marketplace. These methods and processes are not alien concepts to the business world, and their fundamental nature may be a more fleshed-out form of human problem solving, but I found their value to be how they force us to think through actually accomplishing a business plan.


This section’s question was in relation to achieving the effects that the business plan requires, and while the Army's targeting process is simple in its implementation, it can provide great depth to the execution of a plan. It forces leaders and planners to ask the important questions about how we are actually going to accomplish the plan we set out to execute. Like the incessant child that keeps asking, “Why, why, why?” the targeting process and its methodology ask us these incessant questions about our actions:


  • What are we looking to target?

  • Why are they being targeted?

  • How does targeting them support our objectives?

  • How are we going to target them?

  • What if we can’t detect them?

  • How do we know if our action will create desired effects?

  • How do we figure out if the desired effects were achieved?

  • How did our effects shape the environment?

  • Are we closer to our desired end state than before?

  • What more should be done?

  • Can we still achieve our objectives with our available means?

  • Do we need to leverage the means and ways of our partners?

  • How do we coordinate for many different assets from many organizations?


Utilizing the targeting process and the targeting methodology, following the targeting guidelines, while simultaneously developing and executing your business plan will help ensure that your actions and their effects are tied directly to the business objectives laid out in that plan. This is how business operations achieve the purpose of the business. The operations function of a business guides its actions in a tailored way to produce specific effects within the marketplace, often in the form of creating a product or service that provides tailored market offerings to specific types of customers and clients. In other words, specified actions against specified targets for desired effects. The military uses these processes to achieve its purpose: to compel another group towards a desired policy change through the use or threatened use of violent forms of influence. Businesses can also use this to accomplish their purpose: to compel another to provide net value through cooperative forms of influence which are socially acceptable. If one removes the martial veneer, targeting’s value to the private sector, if not any human endeavor, should be evident.

Conclusion on Business Operations

A business seeks to achieve its purpose: getting that sale, satisfying the customer, and making that profit. It does so through the operations function of the business, I would argue its most critical pillar. All the functions of business are essential, in fact, required, for the business to achieve its purpose, but it is through the operations function of a business that it creates the market offer for customers, clients, and other businesses to throw their hard-earned capital at to acquire. The other functions of the business; marketing, finance, legal, etc., have their time to shine and take charge, but it is in service to the business as a whole, and at the center of that business is the business plan, a product of the operations function which directs that actions of the business.

This is the same for military operations, where we achieve our purpose with our actions to shape the environment through the use of threatened use violence. While its militaristic attributes create the veneer that would appear to set it apart from business operations, it merely belies the true nature of operations in general. That fundamental human behavior shapes institutions and how we conduct ourselves within and in spite of social expectations. To reiterate an important quote from Michael L. Walzer that I used back in Chapter 2.4: The Purpose of Warfare, from his book, Just and Unjust Wars, where he stated:


Here the case is the same as with other human activities (politics and commerce, for example). It's not what people do, the physical motions they go through, that are crucial, but the institutions, practices, conventions, that they make. Hence the social and historical conditions that “modify” war are not to be considered as accidental or external to war itself, for war is a social creation. What is war and what is not war is in fact something that people decide. (pg 24)


To close out this section, I would like to summarize the answers provided to the questions made during this chapter.


What are business operations and operations management?


  • Business operations is the function of a business that creates value for the market offering which is the product or service the business provides to accomplish its purpose. The management of operations is the means by which business leaders can create value by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to business operations.


What can military operations and the management of military operations tell us about business operations?


  • The military itself creates value through the use or threatened use of violence, which shapes conditions within an operational environment that is desirable to the state that the military serves. It is through military operations that conditions are shaped, and it is through our management of operations that we seek to ensure they are shaped according to our desired ends. The concepts developed through military operations have uses in the business world.


How can we make a large business more effective in achieving its purpose?


  • Organizing our businesses into echelons so that we have leaders with a manageable span of control, often no more than six to eight subordinate leaders who are directly supervised and managed. This helps leaders avoid being overwhelmed in trying to manage too many moving pieces and instead empowers subordinate leaders to take control of their own sub-organizations similarly.


  • To maintain unified effort and synergy between multiple echelons, the leaders of each lower echelon nests their mission and objectives with those of their higher echelon. This way subordinates do not inadvertently engage in counterproductive actions that would hurt the whole effort of the organization as it executes its purpose.

  • To help nest multiple organizations and staff together a battle rhythm is used to coordinate and synchronize inputs, outputs, meetings, and events.


  • We employ mission command to empower our junior leaders through shared understanding and trust in their competency.


What does it mean to “add value” and how do we do it?


  • In business terms, we add value when the operations function of a business alters, inspects, stores, and transports goods and/or provides these as a service, as an aspect of its market offering. However, the value depends on customers' needs based on marketplace conditions. To figure out these conditions and how best we can shape them we employ the subject matter expertise of our staff and organize them into separate functions to delineate duties and responsibilities, much the same way an Army organization breaks itself up into warfighting functions.


How can we understand our market more effectively to achieve our purpose?


  • Through the guidance of those separate functions of business, operations, marketing, and finance they can analyze the nature and impact of marketplace variables on business operations. Shaping operations to produce a tailored market offering that satisfies the needs of customers in such a marketplace requires a systemic understanding of each variable. While the business world may use the PESTEL model to help develop this insight, it is operational in nature and not directly applicable to team or individual applications. The military simultaneously employs operational and mission variables, in the form of PMESII-PT and METT-TC, to bridge operational concerns to tactical actions.


How do we develop plans that are effective in achieving our purpose, especially in an uncertain market?


  • For larger organizations with sufficient staff, a step-action planning process that develops multiple courses of action based on an in-depth analysis of the environment is ideal. The Army’s MDMP process provides such a method that also allows for simultaneous planning throughout multiple echelons of an organization via the one-thirds two-thirds rule.


  • For smaller organizations that don’t have the staff, an abbreviated step-action planning process, like Army TLPs, can help develop a workable course of action that allows for coordinating and rehearsing important actions and ensuring critical resources are in place to support those actions.


What are the ways we can implement our plans and shape our environment to achieve our purpose, accomplish our goals, and make a profit?


  • The creation of desired effects through the targeting process is how we get to our desired ends. The targeting process and its methodology guide our actions based on what is needed to achieve the plan and how our actions influence and are shaped by the conditions of the environment.


  • Following the targeting guidelines will ensure that actions are tied directly to the plan. A plan is developed to ensure operational conditions are shaped according to desired ends. These guidelines ensure that effects are tied to objectives, that we seek to create desired effects for these objectives, that we direct all actions used to create these effects, that we identify those to take charge of the targeting process, and that we understand and account for the nature of systems and how effects impact the whole.


I hope that during this lengthy chapter on business operations, if not having witnessed it in any of the other chapters, you will have noticed our fundamental human nature has been made manifest in the ways we organize ourselves, shape our operations, develop our plans, and seek to influence the world around us; be it the marketplace or the battlefield. Having seen these commonalities, I further hope you can find some value in the military’s use of its operational doctrine to improve your business operations and even seek it out on your own. That being said, this closes out our discussion on operations. However, we will now transition into our discussion about marketing. This is an ideal follow-up because of marketing's close connection with operations. This is because planning and targeting itself ties into the marketing function of a business, as much of the information gained about the market feeds the operation function’s planning and targeting processes.

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