Small Wars Journal

Military ‘Deep Dives’ and Organizational Management: The Continuing Hazards of Hubris, Centralized Hierarchies, and Insular Perspectives

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 3:27pm

Military ‘Deep Dives’ and Organizational Management: The Continuing Hazards of Hubris, Centralized Hierarchies, and Insular Perspectives

Ben Zweibelson 

“One of my favorite perks was picking out an issue and doing what I called a “deep dive.” It’s spotting a challenge where you think you can make a difference… then throwing the weight of your position behind it.”[1]

Jack Welch, General Electric CEO, Chairman 1981-2001

[International Joint Command] would do deep-dives where their cross-functional [future planning] group would make detailed slide presentations on very specific, relevant subjects. I found them to be about educating key leaders within the IJC, they were useful in providing information...but they were not really for decisions."[2]

Anonymous Regional Command Planner, Afghanistan 2012.

“Hubristic CEOs…tend to pay no heed to other sources of information and viewpoints, especially when these are in conflict with their convictions.”[3]

Pasquale Picone, Giovanni Dagnino, & Anna Mina

Within military coalitions and governmental organizations, the term ‘deep dive’ continues to gain in popularity and design application for complex conflict environments. This approach for exploring complex issues with a combination of specialized research, time, resources, and a formal senior level decision at the conclusion appears to originate from influential business practice and academia in the past decade. This is indicative of common military and government agency practice to draw inspiration from successful business practices, and vice-versa.[4]  Yet a careful examination of what business professionals define as a ‘deep dive’ reveals that the military’s version is not necessarily an imitation of the original business deep dive. It is entirely different application with the same name, or “a copy without an original.”[5] For military and governmental agencies drawn to this concept, the ‘deep dive’ practice has become something distinct in design, providing fertile ground for critical reflection and inquiry on military organizational behaviors.

The Business Inspiration: Deep Dives for Radical Organizational Change

The business world has a particular definition on what a deep dive consists of that reflects organizational culture and the economics of for-profit organizations seeking design solutions.[6] CEOs and senior leaders within a large firm will “bypass the entire managerial hierarchy” for complex issues that are not in a crisis-reaction state but require bold initiative. The senior leader “defines concrete objectives of corporate projects directly” and “sponsor and select those initiatives personally.”[7] Finally, that leader remains highly involved as a powerful presence throughout the entire process well into the final stages of project implementation.

The senior leader bypasses the managerial hierarchy in order to break her organization out of habitual or institutional mindsets and procedures. Thus, they dive deeply into their organization, cutting through much of it to get down to where “the rubber meets the road” to stimulate change. By transforming the organization through new activities, the firm reconfigures the existing interdependences and processes that were the foundation of the ‘old way’ of doing business. Thus, a deep dive requires senior leadership with a distinct vision to first recognize the barriers to organizational change, bypass those and channel clear guidance to subordinate personnel that subsequently take action.[8] The rest of the organization follows through the radical adjustment of organizational function, with that senior leader deeply involved throughout the transformation.

Taking an example from business, Steve Jobs transformed Apple from a company that built high-end tailored computers into a global multi-media player, phone, and entertainment content provider that “brought aesthetics and fashion in product design to mass consumers”.[9] He did this through his direct involvement, which included bypassing the managerial hierarchy, transforming company objectives, and radically adjusting the organizational culture through extensive and visionary involvement.[10] While this process works for business models, do military and other governmental agencies apply the ‘deep dive’ concept as effectively? More importantly, does the business-model deep dive approach itself offer any utility to military applications, or are other options viable for the messy and complex conflict environments the military encounters?

The Military Application: Diving Deep for Institutional Self Interests

For those in governmental, diplomatic, and operational level military organizations, the notion of conducting a deep dive is now a regular feature. Although non-doctrinal, the term ‘deep-dive’ has gained popularity over the past decade of persistent conflict and denotes the organization’s iterative focus on specific problems or elements within a larger problem set for group analysis and decision-making. An organization tasked with drug cartel problems may conduct deep dives on the entire production process of a particular drug, or perhaps focus on the agriculture and growth cycle prior to harvesting. Another organization targeting tribal warlords within a land-locked Asian region might ‘deep dive’ into tribal histories, local economic processes, or ideological tensions.

Senior military and government leaders depend on their staff to produce the best options for critical, strategic decisions that may be game-changers, so they hardly focus ‘deep dives’ on trivial subjects. Both the concept of deep dives as well as the organizational process requires investigation, as these organizational processes and cognitive mindsets establish what we consider a productive meeting and exchange of ideas. Further, the frequent application of a practice tends to build repetition and an organizational hostility to alternative processes that require a re-tooling, or even an ‘un-learning’ of your organization in order to get over a significant conceptual hurdle.[11] Complex, messy problems tend to do this to us, whether confronting an emergent drug war in Mexico, an enduring counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, or adaptive humanitarian and medical assistance to treat disease outbreaks in Africa.

The military trend of ‘deep dives’ are generally unproductive and inhibit critical and creative thinking, as this paper will explain.[12] Further, they often facilitate massive echo-chambers for institutionalisms, group-think, and extremely linear decision-making for senior leaders facing dynamic, complex situations.[13] However, we conduct ‘deep dives’ because it is in our organizational nature to do so, as military and governmental agencies prefer to function within a particular mindset that embraces the hierarchical structure, [14] centralized authority [15] and linear decision-making [16]  within our governmental functions. These core processes constitute the bulk of our doctrine, professional education, practice, language, and methodologies. [17]

Introducing Another Methodology: The Strategic Charrette

The dissimilar fields of design and community organizing provide us with another option beyond the deep dive approach. This alternative concept is generically termed a ‘charrette.’ For military and governmental applications, I introduce the term ‘strategic charrette’.[18] The ‘strategic charrette’ as described in this article offers leaders another design approach that addresses several military sociological issues. It avoids some of the institutional pitfalls associated with ‘deep dives’ and embraces several critical counter-institutional elements that require high-level guidance and implementation. I will further postulate that middle management cannot execute strategic charrettes without senior leader buy-in. Institutional culture change from the pitfalls of deep-dives cannot occur without genuine leadership, guidance, and careful organizational shaping by senior leaders for strategic charrettes to seed and blossom. However, charrettes are disruptive to how the military prefers to operate and will be highly difficult to implement without significant senior leader participation throughout the process. How they should participate in a charrette is the part that will upset the most apple carts.

Defining the Deep Dive and the Preferred Mindset of the Military

All of the deep dives that I participated in were in a three or four-star General Officer headquarters for a military organization from 2011-2012.  Researching for this article, I held conversations with several colleagues in other governmental agencies and across the military community of operational level planners. They too agreed that the deep dive is an increasingly popular strategic venue across a variety of governmental and military disciplines.[19] For most military ‘deep dives’, a specialized staff element or planning team such as a Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG) or Commander’s Action Group (CAG)[20] take a complex situation and apply elements of reductionism and categorization to focus down into a specific element, genre, group, or system behavior in order to “dive deeply” and gain greater understanding through analysis.[21] Whether the topic is how to reduce Afghan Army logistics hardware within their ‘Tashkil’ (unit authorization) [22] or a closer look at how the Afghan poppy season fills Taliban coffers, the overarching element of any deep dive is that it is a focused perspective in isolation from the larger system.[23] In other words, we tend to rip components off the bicycle to understand them in the hopes that we can subsequently understand the entire bicycle collectively.[24]

Organizational theorists use the term ‘functionalism’ to frame this mindset where the analytical framework remains universal, where we do analysis through categorization and reduction, and where there is an emphasis on the scientific process and convergent analytical processes. [25] Using the mindset of functionalism exclusively in generating strategic options may not be helpful in all but the most simplistic and linear of problem sets.[26] Thus, the entire endeavor of military ‘deep dives’ is at risk of being a counter-productive exercise that we tend to use more often as we continue to face messy situations and complex strategic environments that reject categorization and reduction. Worse, the institutionalisms associated with why we are drawn to deep dive sessions illustrates some of the less functional yet deeply cherished and ritualized behaviors of our organizations and how we prefer to view the world.

In addition to the reductionist element, military and governmental deep dives possess a second element of self-relevance for the institution, often from the narrow perspective or protected territory of a sub-group or niche organization. Thus, an Afghan Army advising team promotes their efforts when tasked with a deep dive on Afghan Army elements just as a counter-narcotic task force within a larger organization will promote their relevant actions and work concerning the Afghan poppy crop prevention for the fiscal year. There is a strong element of ‘where you stand depends on where you sit’ with respect to your organization, branch, service, function, rank, and identity. RAND analyst Carl Builder studied United States military services in the late 1980s and proposed a valid argument that institutionalisms and the drive for continued self-relevance motivates the Army, Navy, and Air Force to engage in behaviors and develop plans that are potentially detrimental to overarching national objectives yet always supportive to that service’s future status and worth.[27] This combination of reductionism coupled with institutional self-relevance (hubris) becomes counter-productive for an organization. Simultaneously, the military ‘deep dive’ decouples from the original version implicitly and moves towards institutional self-interests.[28]

Military deep dives contain the elements of reductionism, institutional self-relevance including micro-level sections and task forces with narrow views or limited agendas. The practice of codification into doctrine and rigid behaviors translates to gains in repetition and reliable universal application, yet losses in creativity, adaptation, and novel improvisation.[29] ‘Stay in your lane’, ‘stick to the script’ and ‘follow the rules’ are common manifestations of this mindset and many of these established patterns are so taken for granted that “they are not recognized as inhibiting the implementation of [any] new practice.”[30]

Based on my own experiences as a military planner, many military deep dives follow a standard formula of functionalist analysis in isolation where specialized planning team products remain “close-hold” until approved by the section’s decision maker.[31]  The concepts are presented in the standard passive manner of PowerPoint slide decks, scripted briefings, and large audiences seated by hierarchical position for design topics. Below are two excerpts from deep dive experiences I had as a strategic-level planner for NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A). I attended numerous International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and NTM-A ‘deep dives’ in both formal briefings as well as events such as weekly updates over video-conference devices.

One element of our organization oversaw the advising and training of the Afghan Army, however all logistics, equipment supply, and infrastructure was generally managed by a separate element. Both the Army advising and logistics groups were principled by General Officers that worked for our 3-Star Commanding Officer. The Army element conducted their own deep dive and generated some significant recommendations in streamlining Afghan Army equipment and logistics structure, and set up a formal slide presentation to the Commander with all other NATO elements present, including DCOM-Programs, the other element responsible for equipping the Afghan Security Forces. During the briefing, the senior DCOM-Programs personnel became increasingly alarmed and frustrated. They complained during the meeting that they “had not been consulted” and “had not even seen these slides until last night.” In a critically revealing comment, the deep dive lead planner explained that “the slides could not be released until approved by our boss first [their General Officer]. Quickly, their General made some comments that silenced the Programs opposition in that forum, and the briefer assisted in cutting down discourse by reminding the audience there were more slides and limited time. The brief concluded with a “decision point” slide for the Commanding General, and has he looked around the room and asked the audience if there were any more comments or concerns, nervous eyes darted about but nothing further was said. Additionally, there was no longer any time left in the meeting, and the General that had pre-screened his planning group’s product ahead of the rest of the audience was poised ready to defend any opposition from the gathering of lower-ranked personnel not associated with his sub-element in NTM-A. 

The above anecdote reflects my limited perspective and is by no means the definitive statement on military deep-dives. However, I offer this example because it reinforces several critical elements that make deep dives generally less effective than other options available. The following tensions appear valid for the popular military deep dive variation and are presented in question format.

Did the military hierarchy remain solidly intact for the process?

Was a small planning group isolated from the larger organization?

Were products “close-hold” until approved by some decision-maker?

Was a regimented slideshow used that drove discussion and the agenda?

Was there assigned seating based on status, rank, and position?

Was the planning team a close-knit group from the same organization?

Did the output or proposal result in reinforcing the relevance of the group?

Were dissenting positions invited during the process and during the brief?

A colleague of mine that also performed as a strategic-level planner Afghanistan stated the following about three deep dives he attended. His recollections further illustrate some of these patterns of behavior. Again, both his and my anecdotes are not intended to question any individual successes or failures in Afghanistan, rather to demonstrate repetitive patterns where select phenomenon are observable within most military deep dive sessions.

The first one was a deep-dive into the operations order after we had finished the mission analysis step. It resulted in the Commanding General talking to his chief advisor for an hour with the rest of the audience silent and standing by. Ultimately, we were not given any real guidance other than we could not change the structure of the organization, and we did not get an opportunity to present the slides or discuss anything.

The second deep dive I attended was where I had a speaking role as a lead strategic planner and it was to our senior Commander on our completed Operations Order. The Senior General asked me a pointed, critical question about why we were not successful thus far with earlier planning efforts. I answered him with my gut feelings on what changes in this order might increase our learning, but my answer implied a lack of success on previous efforts by elements represented in the room by other General Officers. I know this sounds funny, but it was an attempt to build a learning organization first- so we could learn…That resulted in the other Generals rapidly taking the brief over and telling him [the ISAF Commander] that we were doing all kinds of new and wondrous things and that surely the war would be won in a year or two, or at least a little longer than any of them would be deployed for. The ISAF Commander then said he had heard it all before and asked what we were doing differently; he asked this rhetorically I guess because he left right after that. My candid actions in that meeting caused some bridges to be burned due to my efforts to actually raise some critical comments about how and why we plan.

The third deep-dive I participated in was done by the Afghan National Police advising element [called Deputy Command-Police]. It was a chance for the Police Deputy Commanding General to brag to his boss about all the great things his group had been doing over the past year with the Afghan police. I attended because I had been involved in the Police as well as out of curiosity. We got about as deep as someone can wherein no one said a single critical thing and although there were about 30 PowerPoint slides, we never got past the fifth one. The Commanding General had a discussion with the other General and his chief advisor for an hour about an unrelated subject, and once time ran out, we were done. The audience was unable to participate, and the content was entirely self-congratulatory for that Police element.

These recollections above from a fellow military planner help demonstrate some of the inefficiencies and other patterns of organizational behavior that do the opposite of what the business model deep-dive process originally sought. The military deep-dive has become its own creature, a species distinguishable from the business model parent, and planners may feel trapped into only using similar processes that reinforce many institutionalisms.[32] However, there is an alternative.

Why the ‘Strategic Charrette’ Brings Design above the Institutional Barriers

Charrettes function quite differently than deep dives whether we use the original business model or the deviant military model. They embrace a different mindset, function under a distinct set of operating factors that are rather contradictory for business, military, government planners, and staffs to consider. A charrette shares the core deep dive element where the senior leader becomes heavily involved in the process from start to final implementation, albeit in a distinct manner. [33]

A charrette originated from a French term for a 19th century practice of architecture students around Paris frantically cramming for their final project. On the final day it was due, a small cart (charrette) would collect them, often still scribbling in their final changes, and transport them to the university.[34] Today, the charrette is a useful metaphor for what is a collaborative process to solve a complex problem through forum, diversity, creativity, and a non-hierarchical format that embraces critical reflection.

The charrette is most associated with architectural, engineering, and design fields “in which architects and planners collaborate with groups of people- often the general public- to solve a design problem.”[35] Urban planners and leaders that require public or large audience concurrence with a project use the charrette process to gain public input to provide a voice to minority or dissenting positions. By involving the public and generating transparency in the project, they attempt to tap into the collaborative brainstorming sessions to generate creative and feasible solutions that work for the client as well as those users impacted by the transformation.

The charrette process requires an emphasis on collaboration and innovation without the classic barriers of institutionalism and the hierarchical structure that centralizes decision-making.[36] Thus, the charrette seeks out minority positions and dissenting voices whereas in other approaches those positions are either marginalized or excluded from the discussion.[37] This is counter-culture to the traditional master-planning and top-down centralized approaches that include the deep dive methodology. While the traditional charrette works for architectural, design, and public-works considerations, applying the charrette methodology to military organizations requires some adjustments. This article proposes the term ‘strategic charrette’ to distinguish this version from the classic charrette.

The strategic charrette requires us to acknowledge and confront several key phenomena in the military institution that if left unchecked will inhibit any charrette process from functioning. As stated earlier, the military hierarchy is often rigid, where rank, position, and status factor strongly into relationships, discourse, and perceptions.[38] Our reductionist tendency within military and governmental agencies favors compartmentalization and isolation, with small teams and planning cells operating and employing numerous defenses to keep discourse and participation at a “need to know” basis.[39] We have classification levels for security, and even within this we employ what is derogatively referred to as the practice of ‘stove-piping’ information and discourse so that while the direct hierarchy maintains centralized decision-making, the larger organization is unaware until after the fact.

We also tend to equate right and wrong with rank, status and position at times; this often occurs with ambiguous or complex problems that feature no clear answers initially.[40] This is more pronounced in situations where a senior decision maker might be a political appointee in disagreement with another who has ‘risen through the system’ through accomplishments and experience. These are not necessarily good or bad things, but they require examination as part of the organization’s sociological framework.

A strategic charrette needs to create an environment where the rigid military hierarchy and centralized decision-making is tempered to encourage design. Clearly, no one in an organization forgets for a second who the General or Undersecretary is regardless of whether it is ‘Hawaiian Shirt Friday’ or not…what we want to encourage is a heightened awareness of the group where discourse advances due to sound argument and no fear of reprisal. A strategic charrette needs a wide, diverse audience that extends beyond the core organization and into the larger spectrum of actors, clients, customers, and participants. For instance, any strategic charrette concerning the Mexican-American border and drug violence that does not include political, military, business and law enforcement leadership from both sides of the border potentially inhibits that critical collaborative element. Or, designing military operations in Afghanistan without including the Afghan Army and Police is equally detrimental due to the marginalization of vital perspectives and voices. Ebola containment and treatment strategies that exclude ‘Doctors without Borders’ or the medical professionals and local governmental agencies from the designing process makes for fragile and likely incomplete critical and creative thinking.

Lastly, the charrette is more about the process and the activity of sensemaking instead of jumping ahead to making decisions.[41] While outputs are critical to validate the concept, a room full of white boards and a variety of participants tend to generate richer discourse and creative innovations. Traditional military decision-making process and military deep-dive approaches often produce extensive and detailed briefings, reports, and directions in isolation. Furthermore, the senior leader cannot issue initial guidance and later return to receive the formal briefing at the end of the collaboration. This defeats the entire notion of not just the charrette process, but also the original business model of the deep dive.

The military deep dive unfortunately reflects processes that reinforce existing practices of the military organization and inhibit any radical transformation or creativity that breaks with previous mindsets.[42] If a topic is important enough for a senior leader to desire radical transformation and truly innovative approaches in response to messy or ill-structured problems, that leader must roll up her sleeves and “get deep” into the process for the long-haul. Clearing the schedule is extremely difficult in today’s high-pace information age; however the never-ending cycle of formal briefings and “next slide, please” are no substitution for that senior leader immersing himself in a strategic charrette process or even a variation of the business model ‘deep dive’.

Suggestions on Executing a Strategic Charrette

For senior strategic leaders in governmental, military, or similar managerial positions that seek to implement a strategic charrettes, there are several suggestions to consider. First, radical change is unwelcome and often disastrous if not implemented with a deliberate, thoughtful, and careful manner. Switching from the rather routine and institutionally approved deep dive approach of reductionism, overt description of a problem with linear decision-making to the open-ended and plural democratic flavor of a charrette will upset many apple carts.[43] Thus, even the most aggressive middle management cannot make this change without senior leadership endorsement and complete support. In other words, in order to appreciate the pitfalls of the military hierarchical structure and implement temporary processes that circumvent these obstacles, the very leadership that enforce the hierarchy must concur with the charrette structure.[44] Without this first step, all of this is really a theoretical exercise with military sociology.

Once the leader identifies a general issue that requires a strategic charrette approach, they should build the team by seeking the wider audience of collaboration and diversity of perspectives. Clearly, operational security factors in here, yet there are many creative ways to discuss classified or restricted topics without violating the security classification. I would argue that the forces of institutionalism and the desires for self-relevance bear a far greater share of blame here in preventing diversity in planning teams. Collaboration outside of one’s organization forces a military hierarchy to share decision-making, and the wider the spectrum of actors and agencies, the greater the need for compromise and plural democratic processes versus centralized decision making. A leader developing a strategic charrette needs to embrace this aspect and encourage as wide an assortment of voices and perspectives as possible.

The framework for executing a strategic charrette requires a planning team, ideally composed of planners from multiple agencies that are flexible, cooperative, and utilize discourse and group collaboration to generate strategic options. While the business model ‘deep dive’ features the senior leader as the driving force and principle decision-maker guiding the process, a strategic charrette cannot follow suit. Instead, utilizing a ‘plural democracy’ and seeking prolonged discourse for items of significant contention provides a better approach for creativity and innovation.[45] This is difficult due to the conditioning culture of military and governmental agencies; however the charrette planning team leaders can mitigate this through careful and critical reflection upon themselves and their organizations.

A strategic charrette, due to the inter-agency and collaborative composition of actors, requires a neutral location as well as other select factors to decouple some of the forcing functions of our own institutionalisms. Members of the charrette could dress in civilian attire and use first names only, in an effort to mitigate the aforementioned problems of rank and position inhibiting discourse and collaboration. Instead of “eagle beats oak leaf”, a strategic charrette would see “concept A has the approval of a greater majority than concept B, while concept C features a concentration of the two largest agencies’ agendas” outcomes.[46] This change in uniform and employment of non-title names does not imply disrespect or a decrease in professionalism; it is one of many approaches to marginalize some institutionalisms.[47]

The working environment should favor whiteboards or drawing surfaces instead of computer stations, cubicles, and multiple rooms that compartmentalize the group.[48] A larger workspace should increase the ability for multiple combinations of various actors to generate discussion and explore options. Whiteboards and other ‘blank canvas’ surfaces offer collaboration and experimentation where there are no slide formats or channelizing constructs. Furthermore, building and briefing slides puts one person in control and the majority in a passive state; whiteboards encourage groups to stand up and participate. Charrette organizers might break a large group up into teams for various sessions; however the entire team needs to return to a larger non-hierarchical group for key presentations and decisions on the deliverable.

For final deliverables, some sort of point paper or presentation in an appropriate medium should occur, however a strategic charrette should not produce a massive slideshow or a formal and highly rehearsed briefing where the team loses sight of the process. The final product must achieve approval from the majority of the group, and minority voiced concerns need to be incorporated in some relevant fashion into the end-state. This takes a combination of nurturing the emergence of sound arguments and conducting political deal making for serious tensions. Considering the cherished status of many institutionalisms and organizationally associated behaviors, any creative solution that involves dismantling key processes or changing doctrine will face an uphill battle.[49]

The charrette process allows proposals from minority viewpoints to gain a foothold in discourse where in other approaches such as military decision-making or deep dives they are routinely silenced. As Chairman Welch stated in the opening quote of this article, he dives deep and then “throws the weight of his position” behind pushing his idea in a hierarchically structured (albeit circumvented in some ways) organization. How can a dissenting opinion or alternatively creative approach dare to challenge the boss in this process? A strategic charrette, conducted carefully, will prevent the hierarchy from “throwing weight” and encourage extensive discourse from a wide spectrum of relevant actors through collaboration and innovation.

Not every position is useful, and some voices inject irrelevant or incompatible propositions…it is therefore up to the lead charrette planners to shape the process artfully to blend dissent with critical inquiry, and combine institutional strengths with creative risks. Senior leadership ultimately requires presentation of the charrette results in an acceptable format, and the organization phase back into the classic hierarchy with centralized control. The temporary plural democratic structure of the strategic charrette along with the suggested civilian attire and first names is only executed within the charrette to break through traditional barriers within the military institution.

Diving Deep or Riding a Charrette: What Kind of Journey are We Willing to Take?

While some problem-sets require a military or governmental organization to approach them with classical methodologies such as the military decision making model, or employ self-relevant processes such as ‘deep dives’ that work within existing hierarchies and structures, sometimes we need to break off on a different trail. The strategic charrette model offered in this article provides senior decision makers and governmental leaders with another process that functions counter-culture to accepted military methodologies and procedures. Sometimes, injecting a radically different perspective is just what an organization needs when they experience the negative effects of static mindsets and goal displacement.

By goal displacement, I refer to the organizational theory definition where “complying with the bureaucratic processes becomes the objective rather than focusing on organizational goals and values.”[50] Often, we are unable to replace our accepted processes to experiment with new ones because we don’t know how to “drop our tools” and let go of procedures, doctrine, and practices that dominate our profession.[51] The charrette is very different from military decision-making as well as hierarchically charged ‘deep dives’ of either business or military varieties. Yet that may be enough to drive your organization to discover a deeper understanding and novel solution to a complex, messy situation.

End Notes

[1] Jack Welch, John Byrne, Jack: Straight From the Gut (Warner Business Books, 2001). Quoted in Howard H. Yu & Joseph L. Bower, “Taking a “Deep Dive”: What Only a Top Leader Can Do”, draft paper, (Harvard Business School, Boston: 2010) p. 2.

[2] Personal interview with a fellow former ISAF planner and School of Advanced Military Studies graduate conducted on 25 June, 2013. He maintained a generally positive view on the military version of the deep dive.

[3] Pasquale Picone, Giovanni Dagnino, Anna Mina, “The Origin of Failure: A Multidisciplinary Appraisal of the Hubris Hypothesis and Proposed Research Agenda”, The Academy of Management Perspectives (Vo. 28, No. 4, 2014) p. 456.

[4] Paul DiMaggio, Walter Powell. “The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 48, Issue 2 (1983), 152-154.

[5] Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (translated by Sheila Faria Glaser), (The University of Michigan Press, 2001).152-153. “We will live in this world, which for us has all the disquieting strangeness of the desert and of the simulacrum…only the vertiginous seduction of a dying system remains.”

[6] This business model does not directly translate into military and governmental applications due to intrinsic differences between government agencies and capitalistic entities.

[7] Yu, Bower, 6.

[8] Picone, Dagnino, Mina, p. 455 (Table 2). The authors observe as a positive aspect to leadership hubris that “CEOs persistently focus on their own fixed goals and strategies and keep on pursing them.”

[9] Yu, Bower, p.4.

[10] Walter Isaacson, “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs,” Harvard Business Review, April 2012, (accessed on 25 June 2013).

[11] Michael Reed, “Reflections on the ‘Realist Turn’ in Organization and Management Studies”, Journal of Management Studies, 42:8, December 2005, p.1622.

[12] ‘Henry Mintzberg, “The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning,” Harvard Business Review, January-February 1994, p.108. “let conventional planners organize it, and watch how quickly the event becomes formalized (mission statements in the morning, assessment of corporate strengths and weaknesses in the afternoon…"

[13] M. Reed, 1622-1623. See also: Arkalgud Ramaprasad, Ian Mitroff, “On formulating strategic problems,” Academy of Management Review, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1984, p.597-605. See also: Christopher B. Bingham, “the Process of Schema Emergence: Assimilation, Deconstruction, Unitization and the Plurality of Analogies,” Academy of Management Journal, (Vol. 56, No. 1, 2013), p. 27. Bingham explores how “prior technical solutions” shape how an organization selects analogies.

[14] David Silverman, The Theory of Organisations: A Sociological Framework (London: Heinemann, 1970) p. 131. See also: George Reed, Leadership and Systems Thinking, Defense AT&L: May-June 2006, p.10-13.

[15] Ori Brafman, Rod Beckstrom. The Starfish and the Spider, New York, Penguin, 2006.

[16] M. Reed, 1621-1643. See also: Mark Rutgers, “Be Rational! But what does it mean?” Journal of Management History, (1999), Vol. 5, No. 1, p. 27.

[17] Christopher Paparone, “Resurrection is Emancipation: Exploring “Strategy” as a Dead Metaphor,” Small Wars Journal, 24 June 2013, (Last accessed 25 June 2013).

[18] Andrew Mara, Using charrettes to perform civic engagement in technical communication classrooms and workplaces. Technical Communication Quarterly, Vol.15 (2), 215-236. See also: Jeanne Liedtka, In defense of strategy as design. California Management Review, Vol. 42 (3) 2000, 8-30.

[19] The professionals I consulted while researching deep-dives for this article consist of a Lieutenant Colonel who served on a Corps level staff, a Major with previous operational planner experience in a Joint organization, and several military academic professionals with various intra-governmental, Joint, and service experiences. I have kept their stories generic and removed any references to specific people or sensitive issues. None of these professionals had entirely negative or positive opinions of deep dives.

[20] The U.S. Army authorizes Division-level and higher headquarters and staffs to feature a Commander’s Action Group (CAG) and/or Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG) for planning purposes. These teams are often between 10-30 personnel and feature specialized planners, graduates of the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies (or service equivalent), functional area strategists, and often have representation from Department of State or similar governmental agencies. The CAG/SIG operates as per the direct guidance of the General Officer in command in a variety of capacities but generally deal with high-level planning. They also are called ‘Commander’s Initiative Group’ or CIGs in some organizations.

[21] ‘Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan, (New York: Random House, 2007), p. 16. “Categorizing always produces reduction in true complexity.” See also: Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life, (New York: Doubleday, 1996), p. 29. “In the analytic, or reductionist approach, the parts themselves cannot be analyzed any further, except by reducing them to still smaller parts.”

[22] ‘Tashkil’ is the Afghan term for the assigned resources such as personnel, equipment, and major end items for Afghan security forces. It articulates the personnel, equipment, and major resources authorized and assigned so that the organization can accomplish specific tasks and missions.

[23] ‘Henry Mintzberg, “The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning,” Harvard Business Review, January-February 1994, p. 108. “Planning has always been about analysis- about breaking down a goal or set of intentions into steps, formalizing those steps so that they can be implemented almost automatically…”

[24] David Wastell, “Archarios: A Dialogue between Socrates and a Novice Manager on the Relevance of Design to Management Practice and Education”, Academy of Management Learning & Education (Vol. 13, No. 4, 2014) p. 649. The author narrates an imagined discussion and discusses the appeal of categorization here.  

[25] Majken Shultz, Mary Jo Hatch, “Living with Multiple Paradigms: The Case of Paradigm Interplay in Organizational Culture Studies,” Academy of Management Review, Vol. 21, No. 2, 1996, 537.

[26] Arkalgud Ramaprasad, Ian Mitroff, “On formulating strategic problems,” Academy of Management Review, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1984, 597-605.

[27] Carl H. Builder, The Masks of War; American Military Styles in Strategy and Analysis, (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1989).

[28] Maria Gondo, John Amis. “Variations in Practice Adoption: The Roles of Conscious Reflection and Disclosure,” Academy of Management Review, (Vol. 38, No. 2, 2013), p. 233. The authors use the term “unintentional decoupling” to explain how “some elements of the organization may be unintentionally retained, preventing the [new] practice from being fully integrated into the day-to-day work of the organization.”  See also: Picone, Dagnino, Mina, p. 450.

[29] Karl Weick, Managing as Designing, ed. Richard J. Boland Jr, Fred Collopy, (Stanford Business Books, 2004), p. 44.  

[30] Gondo, Amis. p. 232.  See also: Helen Gunter, “Critical Approaches to Leadership in Education,” Journal of Educational Enquiry, (Vol. 2, No. 2, 2001) p. 102.

[31] Eric B. Dent, “Complexity Science: a Worldview Shift,” Emergence, (Vol. 1, No. 4, 1999) p. 14. See also: Wastell, p. 650.

[32] Jason Jay, “Navigating Paradox as a Mechanism of Change and Innovation in Hybrid Organizations,” Academy of Management Journal, (Vol. 56, No. 1, 2013) p. 140.

[33] Jeanne Liedtka. “In Defense of Strategy as a Design,” California Management Review, (Vol. 42, No. 3,  2000), p. 19. “Charrettes are intensive brain-storming/planning sessions in which groups of stakeholders come together. Their intention is to share, critique, and invent in a way that accelerates the development of large-scale projects.”

[34] Mara, p. 221.

[35] Ibid, p. 221.

[36] Eric B. Dent, “Complexity Science: a Worldview Shift,” Emergence, (1999) vol. 1(4), 5.

[37] Mara,221.

[38] Christopher Paparone, “Resurrection is Emancipation: Exploring “Strategy” as a Dead Metaphor,” Small Wars Journal, 24 June 2013, (accessed 25 June 2013).

[39] Shimon Naveh, Jim Schneider, Timothy Challans, The Structure of Operational Revolution; A Prolegomena (Booz, Allen, Hamilton, 2009),23. “Just as literacy facilitates bureaucratic, administrative centralization, it also makes possible the codification and logical centralization of doctrine.” See also: Peter Berger, Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality (Anchor Books, New York, 1967). Berger and Luckmann make the case that all knowledge is socially constructed within groups and societies, and over time are institutionalized into vast, complex, and expanding bureaucracies.

[40] Picone, Dagnino, Mina, p. 456. See also: Pasquale Gagliardi, The Revenge of Gratuitousness on Utilitarianism; an Investigation into the Causes and Consequences of a Collective Repression,” Journal of Management Inquiry, (Vol. 14 No. 4, December 2005) p. 309-315. Gagliardi argues that organizations have needs that cannot be legitimately expressed, so they disguise themselves and become blended into organizational culture so that the organization demands a behavior or action without realizing that it is harming itself. Outdated traditions, expensive social events, and military rituals that cost more than they provide are all examples of this behavior.

[41] Karl Weick, Managing as Designing, ed. Richard J. Boland Jr, Fred Collopy, (Stanford Business Books, 2004), p. 48. Weick discusses how design constructs “focus the activity of design on sensemaking rather than decision making.”  

[42] Bruno Latour, “Visualisation and Cognition: Drawing Things Together,” Knowledge and Society: Studies in the Sociology of Culture and Present (1986), p. 7-11.

[43] Karl Weick, Managing as Designing, ed. Richard J. Boland Jr, Fred Collopy, (Stanford Business Books, 2004), p. 47. “If managers keep imposing machine metaphors and mechanistic assumptions onto events in an effort to stabilize them, predict them, and control them, then categories, stereotypes, schemas, routines, and formalization seem like useful tools.”  

[44] Karl E. Weick, “Improvisation as a Mindset for Organizational Analysis,” Organizational Science, (Vol. 9, No. 5, September-October 1998) p. 551. Weick discusses improvisation and how organizations are tempted to avoid it by following “the chronic temptation to fall back on well-rehearsed fragments to cope with current problems even though these problems don’t exactly match those present at the time of the earlier rehearsal.”

[45] E.R. Alexander, “The Planner Prince: Interdependence, Rationalities, and Post-Communicative Practice,” Planning Theory & Practice (Vol. 2, No. 3, 2001) p. 311-324. Alexander argues that planning situations requires a fusion of consensual (Foucauldian) theory and Machiavellian ‘realpolitik’ through interdependence and strategic maneuvering within the organization. See also: John Molineux, Tim Haslett, The Use of Soft Systems Methodology to Enhance Group Creativity (Springer Science and Business Media, 2007) p. 477-496.

[46] Molineux, Haslett, p. 479. Molineux and Haslett argue that organizations with an overt emphasis on control may impact employee creativity negatively.

[47] Mats Alvesson, Dan Karreman, Constructing Mystery: Empirical Matters in Theory Development,” Academy of Management Review (Vol. 32, No. 4, 2007) p. 1265-1281. The authors discuss the “acts of construction” where the framework of the researcher and the social reality of language, concepts, and social contexts are inescapably combined within the process.

[48] Isaacson. “[Steve Jobs] would stand in front of a whiteboard (he loved whiteboards, because they gave him complete control of a situation and they engendered focus) and ask “What are the 10 things we should be doing next?”

[49] Silverman, p. 134. “The fact that the stock of knowledge upon which action is based tends to change rather slowly reflects the vested interest that we all have…which daily confirms the non-problematic nature of our definitions of ourselves.” See also: John Nagl, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife; Counterinsurgency Lessons From Malaya and Vietnam (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002) p. 9.  

[50] George Reed, Leadership and Systems Thinking, Defense AT&L: May-June 2006, 10-11.

[51] Karl E. Weick. “Drop Your Tools: An Allegory for Organizational Studies,” Administrative Science Quarterly (Vol. 41, 1996), p. 306. 


About the Author(s)

Ben Zweibelson is the Program Director for Design and Innovation at the Joint Special Operations University and is a doctoral student at Lancaster University. A retired U.S. Army Infantry officer and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Ben has provided design education across USSOCOM, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Government, academia and industry as well as internationally. He was named “design conference ambassador” for the second year in a row for the upcoming IMDC, and has recently lectured on design at the Polish and Danish War Colleges, the Canadian Forces College, NATO Schools at Oberammergau, the National Counterterrorism Center, the IBM capstone SPADE conference for NATO in Copenhagen, as well as numerous Special Operations and strategic level defense assets in 2018. He resides in Tampa, Florida with his wife and three children. He can be reached at




Mon, 06/01/2015 - 10:18am

Thanks for your comments and feedback. As you picked up, my article here was centered on the deeper philosophical questions on strategy and organization; the relationships within and how/why we produce strategic approaches. Deep dives are a telling component on how the military as an organization prefers to view reality and approach strategy making. It becomes a very "ends-centric" output focused matter, with the expectation that the future should be more or less like the past, and generic patterns of strategic models can be batched like recipe books awaiting clever cooks.

What I suggest as an alternative (the strategic charrette being the model for demonstrating the process therein) is a process-oriented strategic approach for the organization. Where this is critical is the subjective and "in-time" contextual nuances that are, at the highest levels of knowledge production, decidedly dissimilar from how the military prefers to view reality. One is decidedly analytical and systematic- strategy is a matter of constructing ends-ways-means and reverse engineering a generic plan that might apply in any condition universally. The other is strategy in action; knowledge and an organization oriented systemically, where each context is unique and the strategic direction is often emergent, where novel creation does tip over sacred cows and cherished apple carts because they need to be knocked over to provide the organization freedom of movement cognitively.

Thus, some of your comments were geared towards the objective side of these strategic paradigms- whereas I would caution ever relying upon entirely objective (or entirely subjective, for that matter) logics. Instead, we must prime the organization for a highly flexible and multiparadigmatic strategic approach. Deep dives are the security blankets of an organization resistant to change; one that demands complexity get in step with the drummer and follow the plan. Charrettes challenge and transform the knowledge production within the organization by addressing the deeper processes we use implicitly, and often hubristically. The charette concept itself is discarded once the organization makes sense of the deeper "why/how" and gains greater appreciation and reflective practice.

What really intrigues me is what is beyond the charette for the military. Someone else will create new paths, and those journeys will take the organization into uncharted cognitive locations. That is exciting; that is where the next strategic development will happen.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/25/2015 - 3:09am

In reply to by acraw

acraw--impressed by the dedication to bring home those that did not return for whatever the reason--still have six MAVC-SOG friends from 69/70 carried as MIA as they never returned from the NVN/Laos border areas.

Side story--but true--check the history of a certain 5th SFGA Commander who was alleged to have shot a VN senior interpreter working at our Hdqs who was a triple agent who caused the loss of 10 SF MACV-SOG team members--six my friends.

Check exactly how the senior military leadership treated him and then check to see if they uttered a single word about the five lost MACV-SOG teams-not a single breath was wasted.

BUT here is my serious complaint--the brave new world of the 21st century has a new fighting style--UW--and if we do not change our Staff decision making processes you will be bringing home far more that now.

That I believe is the tenor of Bens' article--if you go back into his SWJ articles and read his responses look for poking the bear comments and then ask him if he has seen and been around Commanders of that type since say 2012 who believe that soldiers should fear their officers and the Staff should fear their Commander.

DoD has not seen the new style of warfare and truly does not understand what will be hitting them---Iraq went totally south using the "old style", Syrian resistance regardless of political color is "winning using the new style"---IS is "winning with the new style" and definitely Russia is on a role with it.

And the culture continues to flounder--and look for answers which it does not have.

BTW--do understand the GS side of the problem as I was once in it and jumped ship- retired and started working again as my own boss--the "system" is self generating and guess what --check the number of LTC/COLs that jumped ship--ie retired straight into 12/13 and 14 positions-which they had to a degree created while in the service exactly tailored to their resume/experience.

All they did was take their culture they refused to change as they themselves would have been forced to change straight into the civilian GS world--that is why it is so unresponsive, unmanageable and self protecting.


Sun, 05/24/2015 - 3:18pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


I think it's best if I stay away from over commenting on the sequestration game the Admin played with the "drawdown". It's a tactic that's a double edged sword, as the Admins favored Government agencies and Departments are vulnerable to a GOP Executive using the same gimmick… only less of the public would notice if the Department of Labor, or of Education, were forced to close their doors.

That aside, this time last year, Sec. Hegel announced a top down reorganization of the $100 mil a year Pentagon office I and my people have been trying to get to change their ways for half a decade. With one tenth of one percent of their annual budget, and ONE full time paid staffer (everyone else are stringers or volunteers) our Foundation out-preformed that DoD bureaucracy by 2000% (no that's not a typo!). At the beginning, we undertook the gig as a demonstration…. along the lines of what I recommended above. And a year ago, I had every reason to be optimistic that the bureaucracy was being forced to change.

Nope. The guy the SecDef appointed to oversee the process was sound, but inexperienced. He didn't keep anyone from the DoD Inspector Generals office with him to keep the bureaucrats and factions from lobbying him day in and day out. Nor did he ever actually meet with myself or my team, even though he only got the job because of US! LOL. Then Hegel was on his way out… soon to resign. And what was supposed to be a reorganization became a farce… now instead of wasting $100 million a year NOT doing their jobs, that same office has a budget of $200 million! ROFL!!! And the WORST A@*hole in the entire outfit now runs the show!

The bright side is that all these jokers did was buy themselves two or three more years before the next Audit, and the Generals took our advice in adopting a performance metric that these Bureaucrats couldn't deliver if they had $400 million a year. Sure… it's a waste of a half a billion of the Pentagons budget. But the mission IS IMPORTANT, if not very sexy. We know what we can deliver OFF the books, and so does the brass and IG…

So this DoD offices culture was and is a text book case of ingrained resistance to change, or accountability. It's been forty years and counting and they STILL don't do their jobs. But from the General's perspective, what is the brass supposed to do? The bureaucrats and civilian specialists are unionized, with indexed salaries and the whole cushy package… they're employees of the Pentagon, not soldiers. But they WILL change. Not for another three years…

Outlaw: What the office in question does is recover POWs/MIAs and "war remains"… i.e. men who aren't MIA at all, they're KIAs whose remains were lost or unrecovered. Last year our Foundation and another non-profit recovered so many U.S. Marines, they STILL haven't finished giving them all the honor burials at Arlington they deserve (scheduling bureaucrats). Meanwhile, we've found 20-40+ MORE Marines, WITH dog tags, and are in the process of getting them home as I write… we've had to get a larger storage facility because our current one is already at capacity while we WAIT for this Pentagon office to "take official custody" of these Marines so their families can be notified and they can finally return home (we're told "late June").

You get it? LATE JUNE! We have U.S. Marines remains on ice, some for going on six or seven months, who are neither "Unknown Soldiers" nor MIAs. We're NOT ALLOWED to bring them Home to America ourselves… regulations. And while my people are WORKING through Memorial Day in horrible conditions to recover more American soldiers who gave their lives for our Country, the F@#ing bureaucrats are taking a long F@*ing weekend!

So… yeah, I empathize with your disgust. But not with your despair. This isn't the first DoD or Federal bureaucracy I've tackled, and it probably won't be the last. (shhh… I'm a ringer. lol). The Old Men are selective and cautious about the bureaucratic battles they choose to tackle, but it does happen. If you said more should change at a greater pace… well, I'd agree with you, but I'm not exactly well loved around the beltway, so it's not as though my opinion carries much weight.

Anyway… worrying about ones next gig or fight is a good way to lose the one your currently trying to finish.

Good Luck, and happy Memorial Day

Alexander Scott Crawford

Outlaw 09

Sun, 05/24/2015 - 3:34am

In reply to by acraw

acraw---your comments are both correct and to the point--but and there is always a but in any decision making process--until the current military culture is changed nothing will happen.

This culture is being reinforced not changed by the drawdown of officers and enlisted personnel that is ongoing now--and a military that goes through a massive drawdown as is in gear which by the way also occurred after Desert Storm--leaves a silent killer in place.

Mediocrity. IE those that will do nothing as doing something actually is viewed as jeopardizing their further careers.

What is needed to be implemented for a total culture change is to create a fear free, built on trust open dialogue ability for Staffs to make decisions--it was attempted by the outgoing JCoS Dempsey-called Mission Command but in reality since 2012 it has largely failed.

Why because the ingrained culture viewed it as a threat.

Until the culture changes --what Ben is really talking about between the lines will never occur.

Mr. Zweibelson,

Your article was informative, well thought out, and perhaps should be re-read before I share my impressions.

What stood out immediately was a sense of difficulty on your part in identifying the most apropos disciplines to use in analogies. As I read your commentary, it seemed to me the military examples pointed to two or three outside referents: a) Complex System Analysis; b) Systems and Operations Engineering; and c) Meta-logics as applied to scientific processes and other difficult problems (the last is a bit obscure). The second (b) is what was borrowed and applied to broader business practice as more MBA's have been exposed to engineering methods (including computer science).

It's common for teams of engineers, when tasked with some project with a chaotic and seemingly unmanageable number of variables, to carve off different aspects or categories of problems… perhaps a technical hurdle, or a likely problem aside from the purer engineering, like ergonomics or etc. will be set aside to be revisited. Because engineering processes place a high value on avoiding unnecessarily jargon or overly technical language due to an assumption non-engineers eyes will glaze over otherwise, and because the methods have evolved to produce tangible deliverables (an actual product or application or prototype that has to work), you might find a lot of productive and useful tricks that are directly applicable, and familiar, to military audiences.

Along this line of thought, and based on my own experiences trying to convince very entrenched and hidebound military bureaucracies to not recoil in horror at this or that heresy I'm proposing (in their eyes), I think it's critical that you revise your process to include a vital additional element. As is, you seem to expect people who have a dog in the fight to respond rationally and objectively to change based on the soundness of your logic and argument. To again return to engineering principles: demonstration almost always makes a stronger case than exposition and hypothesis. If from the beginning one is looking at a complex problem with an eye on efficiencies that can be implemented on a small scale, or prototyped ahead of time, the whole process becomes less… revolutionary, or abstract because the goal is to insert the "thin edge of the wedge" into a process or system. It also discourages overtly radical proposals until something more modest and less ambitious proves to have merit (proof of concept pilot projects often fail, or don't pan out as planned.)

In terms of how you've expressed the analytical and methodological process, here's a link for an overview of "Abductive reasoning". As a casual introduction, I recommend the essay, "How to Make Our Ideas Clear", by C.S. Pierce (the originator of the concept, as well as the 'founder' of Pragmatism.)

Keep up the interesting work, and good luck.


A. Scott Crawford

Outlaw 09

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 10:00am

Ben-- a good SF friend has been saying this since 2010--and he is so correct.

"UW is about people. Not paper, procedures, programs or plans."

No amount of "deep drives" will ever come close to reality when "people" are involved.


I made a short argument in a post under "Defense in the Next Decade" that loosely parallels your argument about the services focusing on maintaining relevance. In my view they look at the problem in a way that transforms it into something that conforms to their toolkit (Karl Marx would agree). I think my biggest rub with your arguments (in this paper and others) is that you tend to assert that process will overcome organizational culture and human nature. At the end of the day dysfunctional egos, organizational culture (protection/competition), and bureaucratic processes (funding, personnel, etc.) needed to actually execute still exist.

Please don't read that as attack on your argument, rather I just think your argument is incomplete. Having worked on a couple of major transformational issues, including the Global SOF Network, I saw the process you proposed in action. SOCOM had a commander who was comfortable operating outside the bureaucracy and empowering his action figures to pursue his vision. However, humans being humans, these action figures started taking the path of least resistance (I think we're all Buddhists at heart). For example, when a staff member, and admittedly many of them were overly bureaucratic turf protectors that needed to be moved on, challenged the GSN proposal they were simply bypassed. There was a lot of collaboration, but those leading the effort had a vision and they wanted to make one size fit all. As you stated it had to fit into a nice PowerPoint presentation. A great concept in my view, but watching it evolve from conception to execution, it tended to start off as a strategic charrette and evolve into more of a traditional deep dive to move forward. Human nature and organizational culture cannot be overcome by implementing new processes alone.

In the U.S. military we're generally collaborative, but we're also competitive and scheming. In the competition of ideas it may not be the best idea that sees the light of day, but rather the idea that best conforms to service culture. No one is guilty of being stupid, the reality is we are all part of a system that only has so much flex. I disagree that divergent ideas are not permitted, I see divergent ideas all the time in military journals; however, having a divergent idea differs from actually selling the idea and then developing a road map to execute it. Therefore, I think real change in the military will generally be directed by civilian (political, not OSD) leadership.

I know I have repeated this ad nauseam, but I still think there is much wisdom in the argument that we should disband units/organizations after 20 years and then rebuild them based on new realities.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 7:30am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

We could make the above scenario a tad more realistic by saying the Staff regardless of level has the advise and assist mission and cannot get involved in the combat decisions of the Ukraine. Ukrainian loses are average 4-6 KIA and 10-20 WIA daily.

Now think 1776 instead of 2015. AND every decision made has an internationally political impact regardless how small.

1. Ukrainian army is in the middle for rebuilding and restructuring after decades of neglect--extremely good resiliency after one year of fighting--went from rag tag to actually holding their own.

2. they have to control and defend a contact line the length of say the Texas Mexican border and are not allowed by international agreement to go offensive and or return fire unless on the verge of major attacks

3. their General Staff is/has been poor for strategic planning--ragged at best--at the BN level quite good

4. facing a well armed 30K plus mercenary army with over 700 tanks and hundreds of artillery and MRLSs-10K Russian troops are also in the mix with two Russian Spetsnaz BDEs rotating BNs in every three-four months-UA has limited AT defenses --Russian mercenaries and Russian troops have six well thought through avenues of attack but with the long contact line and limited Ukrainian troops they could cross in countless locations to gain territory

AND heavy drone use by the Russians with 12 or more flights per day along the entire contact line.

5. you must be in and or near forward contact lines--daily over 50-150 tons of artillery, mortar and rockets rain into the UA positions along with ground probes almost daily

5. Ukrainian government is struggling financially and a strong supply and support is missing --being conducted largely by volunteers--medical evac is by ground --corruption even now is an issue

6. there is no air superiority--SEAD cannot be conducted, and there is limited drone availability--Russians have total air supremacy and complete AD control--no air ground attack ability by UF

7. US intel cannot be shared due to fear of Russian FSB/SVR/GRU penetration of UA and general Staff

8. protection of civilians and IDPs are critical as is the critical infrastructure--humanitarian aid from international and national sources is a priority

9. you are fending off daily "weaponized information attacks" both national and international--Russian mercenaries and troops are using extensive deception and camouflage

10.cyber warfare--an issue for connectivity

11. three distinct periods of the day for shellings and ground attacks so it is a full 24 X 7 operation

12. high level of journalists including Russians are coming and going and you have no control over this--host nation does

AND on top of that you have proRussian supporters (ex Ukrainian police, military officers, State Security officers conducting limited to regular sabotage attacks in the cities and towns and you have Spetsnaz conducting raids, ambushes, sniper attacks and recon missions both in front of you and behind you and the State Security Service with their Alpha teams of the Ukraine is/are penetrated by FSB/GRU.

And thrown in--a constant stream of information on everything ongoing--social media turns out to be the fastest source not sometimes not fact checked or is being controlled by Russian trolls.

There are never ever two days alike.

Does one even have time or the resources for a "deep dive"???

For more information on the two captured Russian Spetsnaz intel types.

Secret Service of Ukraine's report on Russian soldiers in Ukraine

Outlaw 09

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 5:12am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Ben--here is just an average 5 minutes via social media reporting that hopefully a BN, BDE, Div might see on the military network reporting side.

Perfect example of the spectrum of areas inside non linear warfare a Staff has to calculate in planning and that is just in 5 minutes and no Deep drive can hold against the time pace as it would be old before it was even read/presented.

So a deep understanding of UW doctrine--the UW doctrine in the case Russia and UW experience is the only way to filter what you the Staff and Commander are "seeing" in order to "understand".

Russia manufactures bullets/shell casings without any marking to use in Ukraine.… …

NOTE: Spetsnaz TTP--indicator of their presence in the battle space

Not an exact science, but appearance of Russian war reporters is usually an ominous sign... Many are now heading for Lugansk

NOTE: Russian journalists in the battle space--indicator of coming attacks and "weaponization of information campaign being planned"

Dzerzhynsk center @dimetros7776 2 #OSCE cars cruise around. "It's late, why not yesterday? wait for evening, don't go away"

NOTE: Official monitoring teams roaming as well--complaints from the civilian population about their being shelled

Yesterday russian "Vesti" TVnews: EU provides no financial aid for Ukraine. Today: EU provides over €1 bln aid

NOTE: "Weaponization of information"--targeting aggressed nation and their supporters.

Ukrainian soldier was executed in the forest of LC-militia.

NOTE: War crimes being committed almost daily--their impact nationally/internationally--how to investigate and record--tie into monitoring teams

Aftermath of yesterday's shelling at the coke plant.

NOTE: Destruction of critical economic infrastructure

BTW the unmarked shell casings are a TTP of a US Army unit that's existence was only declassified on 1 January 2015.

BUT it was known to the GRU who now controls all of the Russia SF since they watched that unit like a hawk from the 50s until it's stand down in 1985--just how many 2s would know that today?

Outlaw 09

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 4:30am

Ben--great to see you back at SWJ.

Just a few comments.

IMHO Mission Command has failed basically as you mentioned a number of times-- if the bear is poked--the corporate culture has not changed a millimeter from 2013--in order to have an effective Staff planning cycle at any level one must have a fear free/trust free open dialogue environment and the culture will not allow that.

Secondly, all current Staffs have little to no deep understanding/experiences in the 21st century concepts of the UW doctrine non linear warfare ie the "means" tied to supporting the political warfare ie the "end state" which is based on both publicly and privately stated geo political goals.

COIN experience might get you maybe into the door entrance, but not much further.

Currently we see three different version of UW/political warfare doctrine being practiced daily right now--Russian, Iranian and the Chinese.

Try a DD or a planning session on just one day or week's worth of ground/political activity in the Ukraine--where there is a fully combined/integrated UW/conventional intel operations driven campaign underway in the middle of a 5M civilian population with a developed infrastructure. All doctrinally driven in a eight step phase concept that is based on an effective "whole of government approach" that works while we could never get it off the ground.

Totally supported by the newest and greatest Russian mil tech available with a massive unparalleled "weaponization of information" where we are not even in the game.

With our democratic system we cannot even begin to replicate the info war that has been unleashed by Russia nor their cyber side as well--both core elements in their eight step UW doctrinal phases.

None of the five DATE scenarios that were to be the training backbone for the coming years comes anywhere close to one day on the ground in the Ukraine and that is the reality of the 21st century in the warfare arena.

So again it is great that DD is an ego massage for Commanders and their Staffs but in the world of non linear warfare (UW) it simply will not suffice as a planning tool where political/military changes come hourly.

If you are ever in Berlin --let me know.