Design: How, Not Why

By Bullock, Xander; Vitor, Bruce | Military Review, March-April 2010 | Go to article overview

Design: How, Not Why


Bullock, Xander, Vitor, Bruce, Military Review


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

To regard thinking as a skill rather than a gift is the first step towards doing something to improve that skill.

--Edward de Bono, Practical Thinking

NEARLY EVERY CONTEMPORARY ARTICLE on operational "design" addresses the question, "Why design?" This article discusses "how to design" instead and addresses the concepts of design needed for that enterprise. We base this discussion on the educational experiences gleaned from the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) and observations during involvement in the Army's Unified Quest 2009 exercise. Our ideas are underpinned by a broad theoretical, philosophical, historical, and doctrinal education at SAMS and by discussions with staff officers from Army component commands.

Central to the debate over design is the integration of its philosophy and capability into military command and control practices and Army culture. Design aids in understanding, visualizing, and describing complex situations and has tremendous potential to help the Army contend with the challenges of the 21st century in a more comprehensive way. Applying the tenets listed in field manual (FM) 6-0, Mission Command, this article aims to move forward by answering the questions "How does one incorporate design into a unit?" (command) and "How does one lead design?" (control).

Moving from Theory to Practice

Design is a part of Army doctrine now and will to expand in the future. There are references to campaign design as far back as the 1980s in FM 100-5, Operations. Recently, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) codified design, including sections in FM 3-0, Operations; FM 3-07, Stability Operations; FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency; and TRADOC Pamphlet 525-5-500, Commander's Appreciation and Campaign Design. Several military officers and theorists have written on design, and this discourse has further developed involved concepts. Such articles have contributed to an evolutionary process resulting in the drafting of Field Manual Interim (FMI) 5-2, Design. While still under refinement, design has gained traction. SAMS, Army Central Command, and Special Operations Command are among the organizations currently using design to manage and solve complex operational problems.

Command and culture. The first conception of design is that it is a nuanced cognitive approach and adaptive leadership model that helps to define, frame, and manage complex problems. Successful employment of design will require a shift from the current power leadership model and culture in the U.S. Army, which is optimized to address technical problem solving. Design requires a more open and collaborative command culture, one that is adaptive and more capable of contending with the complex challenges that we are encountering in the contemporary operating environment. (1) The Army defines design as "an approach to critical and creative thinking that enables a commander to create understanding about a unique situation and to visualize and describe how to generate change." (2) The commander is central to the design approach and must create the right unit culture to allow a free and open exchange of ideas without fear of reprisal.

Military commanders expecting to employ design methods should create a framework for iterative learning within the unit and lead the learning. Leading the learning is the essence of orchestrating adaptive work in complex problem management. Application of design theory to the art of command is difficult, as both design philosophy and the art of command are nuanced intangibles. Incorporating design leads to harvesting the corporate intellect of an organization because it involves sharing understanding. A culture of critical and creative thinking is necessary.

Design team to harvest corporate intellect. The challenges in contemporary conflicts are complex and eclipse the intellectual capability and development of any one commander. …

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