Small Wars Journal

A Primer for Generating Force Integrated Strategy to Campaign Plan Development

Fri, 04/29/2011 - 8:49am

A Primer for Generating Force Integrated Strategy to Campaign Plan Development

by Rob Thornton

Download the Full Article: A Primer for Generating Force Integrated Strategy to Campaign Plan Development

This paper is designed to assist organizations responsible for strategic planning in understanding how a process can be used to develop a business strategy and how it can be used to operationalize that strategy into FY (Fiscal Year) campaign plans within the Generating Force. The paper does not seek to distinguish who has authority to make a strategy with respect to establishing an overarching course that guides actions, rather it seeks to assist those charged with strategic planning in distinguishing why the Generating Force may require specific processes based on the nature of its roles, responsibilities and the constraints, limitations and conditions that affect it.

Download the Full Article: A Primer for Generating Force Integrated Strategy to Campaign Plan Development

Rob Thornton, USA Retired, served in both Operating Force and Generating Force units and completed his service as a Functional Area 59.

About the Author(s)

Rob Thornton, USA Retired, served in both Operating Force and Generating Force units and completed his service as a Functional Area 59.


Rob Thornton (not verified)

Thu, 05/05/2011 - 5:14pm

Its a valid point - most of the goals leaders take on in the GF exceed a 12 month span (capability development, BRAC, inactivation(s), transformation, etc.) because by the nature of the GF these goals involve change in what the GF provides for the OF. Arguably many organizations in the GF dont have a good mechanism for tossing a well defined objective over the fence to the implementer with a complete plan that provides the required resources and has metrics to tell you if what you are doing is having the desired effect - and if not is it because you are not doing something well enough or may in fact not even be doing the right things.

So the question may be why do we still look at things from a 12 month (be it annual or by FY) perspective?

This may just be cultural, but for whatever reason getting GF planning into a mindset where it is not constrained by a 12 month funding period seems a hard sell. I suspect it may have something to do with the reluctance to really program funds into a budget cycle based on priorities that requires you to qualify each new good idea as it arrives (why am I doing this vs. that) - and then kill or delay some other project that formerly had precedence in order to free up required resources. There seems to be comfort having an ability to add new things based on preference or unanticipated direction from higher and just take what $$$s remain in the wallet without re-evaluation of what was already on the plate. That said, reform and fiscal discipline probably has to start from the top in order to break out of an annual cycle and transition from the "would like to do" (or would like to haves) to requirements that are tied to achieving a strategic vision.

One way to do this might be to adopt a true/pure portfolio, program and project approach. To do this you would might also organize around something more akin to a true "projectized" structure vs. organizing the GF commands like OF commands. This would provide flexibility around how the organization organized the people who do the work and carry it to completion. I think this would help the organization break away from the constraints of a 12 month calendar and its impacts on resourcing as project teams could monitor costs and keep stakeholders informed, while the program manager manages related projects and keeps the budget office updated and presents other decision makers with the impacts on other projects and programs that lead to choices on how you spend your $$$.

Ultimately though I think the constraint of a 12 month calendar is more a choice vs. being related to broader budget cycles and gets to the issues of culture (and fiscal discipline). I think one thing that would be of great help is a better understanding of how we think about the GF and its roles in supporting the OF. By considering the culture issue the rest of the DOTMLPF issues that provide the right capabilities needed in the GF to fulfill its role can be examined and if required changed. Broadly, it requires an understanding that most things in the GF happen at something more akin to a glacial pace - but in a fairly well defined set of conditions vs. occurring as actions on the objective in much less defined conditions.

Best, Rob

Rick Bennett

Thu, 05/05/2011 - 1:50pm

I find the title to be misleading since the only campaign objective that is met at the conclusion of an annual "campaign plan" is the calendar running out. I thought that we had advanced planning to the point that goals were the target of campaigns and the manager behind each campaign was expected to program resources across the arbitrary accounting barriers (including the calendar) to support those under him laboring toward the goal.

Rob Thornton (not verified)

Tue, 05/03/2011 - 1:54pm

I think the most important thing for Generating Force planning, given the nature of their role, is to provide the structure to integrate portfolio choices (the "what" to do) with the management of programs and projects. I think there is a need in the portfolio selection to address complexity - which I think really gets after why one thing is selected vice another. However, after the choice has been made, there is a need for process that ultimately keeps it in scope and on budget, and allows the revisiting of previous decisions with the knowledge obtained through metrics about what is working and what is not. Because the conditions, roles, and measures of success are different between the Generating Force and the Operating Force then the processes used may need to be examined to determine if they support those differences.

There is nothing new in what is described in the article, it is an adaptation of the well documented and proven project management body of knowledge (PMBOK) - I just modified it slightly so it fits some of our military terms and concepts. A process along these lines would seem to fit the Generating Forces role of the taking care of the business of the business.

Whereas in the OF the question asked first is "did you accomplish X?", the question increasingly asked first in the GF is "how much does it cost?" and "what does it get me?"

No matter if it is the development of some new capability, a BRAC action, a re-stationing action, a deactivation, etc. these actions occur in a more controlled set of conditions than OF objectives. The risk here is less about political interference / resistance, and more about how it occurs during implementation with respect to scope creep, delays, over budget, etc. This impacts other programs and portfolio initiatives that also have an identified scope, cost and quality, and creates a cycle where resources already programmed to meet other requirements are put at undue risk and may present the executive with a set of decisions that could have been avoided had the process accounted for it. This does not mean that there will not be some stakeholders who create friction in regards to the decision, but that because in most cases an executive at some level creates a policy or signs legislation that eventually those decisions will be accepted. All of these goals and objectives eventually need to move from decision to implementation, and implementation seems to be where the greater amount of risk resides wrt to the GF return on investment.

In the past the work that provides a map to why decisions were made, how they were made, the metrics that told you if you were doing the right things and doing them right, and the cost estimates that allowed budgeting to occur seem either not to have occurred, or were not documented and shared in a manner that proved useful when previous decisions needed to be re-visited. Often it seems we cross tracks without knowledge that they are in fact our own. Often our CBAs (Cost Benefit Analyses) are woefully off the mark because the true work breakdown structure was not accounted for, and the various cost increases were overlooked.

I think the takeaway is that we really need to look at the functional differences between the OF and the GF, and we need to consider the DOTMLPF requirements in that context. The overall fiscal constraints are increasing and we need processes that ensure we get the best capability for every dollar we are provided. We need to be able to select goals in the GF that support out vision of supporting the OF and transition them from our GF strategy to a plan of implementation that keeps track of where the bodies are buried and builds in both fiscal accountability for promised levels of efficiency and effectiveness. From my observation we lack a process that does that and drives the needed training and education requirements for our GF workforce. Something along the lines of PM may not be the right process, but from my perspective it seems to be a good fit given the nature of the Generating Forces role, the measures of success it is graded on, and in light of the need for increased fiscal accountability in what promises to be a more scrutinized DoD budget.

While you summed up "ORSA style" planning quite well, I fear that the underlying paradigm (the "machine") has its drawbacks when it comes to complexity and uncertainty.

Several contemporary management writers have pointed out the pitfalls of this sort of planning. Noteworthy are Mintzberg's Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning and Morgan's Images of Organization.

I htink if you had considered these critiques (among others) in your paper, you may have presented a more balanced view.