A Systemic Concept for Operational Design: a Robust Tool Law Enforcement Should Use in Preparing for Chaotic Crisis

Design Planning Continuum

To comprehend and cope with our environment we develop mental patterns or concepts of meaning. … We destroy and create these patterns to permit us to both shape and be shaped by a changing environment. … We cannot avoid this kind of activity if we intend to survive on our own terms. ~John R. Boyd, Destruction and Creation

I came across a great paper titled; “A Systemic Concept for Operational Design” by John Schmitt who is also the author of one of my favorite reads “Mastering Tactics” a book I have had for about a dozen years or so and the book that was instrumental in my adaptation to experiential learning and tactical decision games as tools to creating and nurturing strategic and tactical decision makers. This work led me to the work of Col John Boyd and his followers and a continuing cycle since of learning, unlearning and relearning.

Speaking of the Boydian followers this article “A Systemic Concept for Operational Design” I shared with the Boyd community and it has sparked a great deal of conversation on the uses of this concept, Operational Design that concentrates on formulating the problem to be solved rather than on developing potential solutions. This is not performing mission analysis as described in current planning procedures, but involves hypothesizing the causes and dynamics of the situation. And helps bridge the gap to planning by identifying the problem first and its causes through robust conversation and debate that leads to courses of action more effective and safe while dealing with complex and chaotic crises. My thinking is its work law enforcement should study in our efforts to continually learn and improve our planning, preparation and response.

Commanders at all levels today face highly complex, dynamic and novel problem situations which they are called on to resolve, but for which the known and practiced solutions of doctrine will not suffice. These situations cover a wide range and variety, extending well beyond conventional combat. They are fundamentally social problems, comprising numerous individuals interacting in countless ways according to various motivations. Involving the interplay of human will, intellect, and creativity, these situations are essentially unknowable: no amount of information collection or analysis will reveal objective truth or provide the ability to predict events with certitude. Despite the most careful observation, these situations maintain the ability to surprise. They change unpredictably over time. In this environment, past experience can provide only limited insight into a, new situation. Commanders cannot apply the time-tested methods learned from experience with the confidence they will work as they have in the past. Under these conditions, before they can begin to apply established techniques effectively, commanders must first be able to form an understanding of a situation on its own terms and conceive an approach for dealing with that situation uniquely.

Continue reading John S. Schmitt’s, A Systemic Concept for Operational Design published by the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Concepts and Plans Division, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab in August 2006

Stay Oriented!