Academic journal article Military Review

Unleashing Design: Planning and the Art of Battle Command

Academic journal article Military Review

Unleashing Design: Planning and the Art of Battle Command

Article excerpt

Design is neither a process nor a checklist. It is a critical and creative thinking methodology to help commanders understand the environment, analyze problems, and consider potential approaches so they can exploit opportunities, identify vulnerabilities, and anticipate transitions during a campaign.

--FM 5-0, The Operations Process


WITH THE PUBLICATION ofthe most recent edition of Field Manual (FM) 5-0, The Operations Process, our doctrine is on the cusp of what is arguably the most significant change to our planning methodology in more than a generation. While our proven methods for conducting deliberate planning have changed little since being introduced, the world around us has experienced fundamental paradigm shifts that threaten to invalidate those traditional methods. Although our Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) remains an indispensable model for the problems posed by a bipolar security environment, it fails to provide the advanced cognitive tools necessary to solve the complex, ill-structured problems common to contemporary operations. The introduction of design in FM 5-0 addresses that gap in our doctrine, while providing a sound approach to address the challenges inherent to 21st-century conflict.

FM 5-0 defines design as "a methodology for applying critical and creative thinking to understand, visualize, and describe complex, ill-structured problems and develop approaches to solve them." (1) Unlike formal, detailed planning, design is not a process but an approach to organizing the higher-order, more conceptual activities of battle command. It is an iterative activity occurring throughout the operations process "before and during detailed planning, through preparation, and during execution and assessment." (2)

Why Design?

Design is not a function to be accomplished, but rather a living process. It should reflect ongoing learning and adaptation ... It is dynamic, even as the environment and ... understanding of the environment is dynamic.

--FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency

Army doctrine draws a fine distinction in planning, recognizing that it consists of two separate, but closely related, components: design, which represents the conceptual component of planning, and detailed planning, conducted through formal processes such as the MDMP or the Joint Operations Planning Process (JOPP). (3) Design is not a replacement for such processes, nor is it intended to replicate any of the established detailed planning steps. Instead, design complements traditional planning processes (see Figure 1). In an era when operations are typically affected by far more factors than at any time in our history, design offers the thinking tools necessary to develop a deeper understanding of the context of the situation, identify the underlying causes of conflict, and formulate flexible approaches to solve them. (4)

Many of the concepts underpinning design are not new. For years, intuitive senior commanders have used the fundamentals of design to improve their understanding of the operational environment, form teams of select individuals to assist in providing analysis and advice, and leverage dialog and assessment to build learning organizations. The introduction of a doctrinal approach in FM 5-0 marks the codification of a design methodology that complements and reinforces the successful articulation of battle command.

Other models emerged in the past decade that promised to optimize our ability to formulate solutions to the complex, ill-structured problems becoming increasingly common. Effects-based operations (EBO) drew on complexity theory and closed-systems analysis to offer a holistic view of the operational environment in its constituent, interrelated parts. While the Air Force successfully implemented a model of EBO based on structural complexity, it was not well suited to the interactive nature of operations among the people. …

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