Sun Tzu's Series Part 5: Methods: Implementing Strategy...Through Presence of Mind and Sound Tactics

Finally you have your military methods. They shape your organization. They come from your management philosophy. You must master their use. ~Sun TzuACTIVE SHOOTER 2 103

Thus far we have discussed Sun Tzu’s theories on philosophy, climate, ground and leadership and there importance in developing a strategy to win without conflict. Here we focus on methods which are developed and learned based our organizational and individual philosophy and how that philosophy is emboldened by strong character leadership, which in turn effects our perception and understanding of the climate and ground and directly effects the decisions and actions we take in a given situation. This is why Sun Tzu discusses the importance of the “five factors” for they allow us to understand the situation and develop an adaptive response in accordance with our overall philosophy.

Methods are the tactics we utilize to accomplish our mission. Methods and tactics we employ,  implement strategy. It is important to remember that the methods we utilize must take into consideration the mental, moral and physical dimensions of conflict which is what Sun Tzu’s five factors allude too.

Law Enforcement and Security example:

Officers receive a radio call to respond to a certain location, a single family dwelling, for a domestic disturbance between a woman and a man. The dispatcher informs responding units, of the following; there was yelling and screaming in the background and that the woman on the phone was the victim and was very upset and crying on the phone. The victim made the statement “My old man is beating me, he’s drunk and says he has a gun, and if the COPS show up there will be dead COPS.” The phone then goes abruptly dead.

In this “real life example” as simple as it is written here, two officers responded and drove directly into the driveway of this incident. Got out of their patrol cars and were gunned down ambush style. Both officers died. Let’s analyze and discuss their methods in this situation in an effort to understand where the five factors fit in to strategy, decision making and what methods could have prevented this tragic scenario ending as it did.

The philosophy of most law enforcement and security agencies is to “protect and serve” and solve the problems within their jurisdictional authority without escalating conflict. We discussed in an earlier post on climate that Sun Tzu’s philosophy was to win without conflict, however in some of the calls and problems we respond to, conflict is already in a full swing, emotions are high and violence has already occurred. In simple terms the climate is BAD, in progress, escalating and dangerous, as in this set of circumstances described above.

In this example above based on the organizational philosophy to protect and serve and the obvious bad, dangerous, climate that included; violence against a woman that was continuing and a direct threat to responding officers “My old man is beating me, he’s drunk and says he has a gun, and if the COPS show up, there will be dead COPS.” At this point we know two things; we have a bad situation taking place and it evolving. Our philosophy is to resolve it if at all possible without the further escalation of violence. Discussing philosophy and climate what different methods could have been deployed in an effort to deescalate the situation and help the responding officers gather more information?

What sticks out in my mind as methods to utilize is a more indirect approach, of stopping down the street and setting up an inner perimeter in an attempt to isolate and contain the subject. Then quickly discuss the strategy and tactics you think would work best, based on this situation. For example; how about we walk up clandestinely utilizing, cover and concealment to see if we can hear or see anything that gives us a better feel for the situation, a better understanding of the climate as it is now, not 30 seconds ago, but now.

These simple tactics alone could have possibly allowed the responding officers to locate the armed person before he knew they were there, giving the advantage through the element of surprise (method). If not, it would have most definitely helped the responding officers learn more about the ground, the dwelling house and the landscape and terrain around it. They also could have possibly heard more of what’s going on inside whether or not conflict is still unfolding violently or possibly deescalating due to the call to the police? If they hear or see none of this, it’s now quiet and know sounds or voices coming from the house, these simple methods still put the officer in a more advantageous position because they have the option to get more help, back-up, tactical teams, negotiators and medical assistance if necessary. They could put a call into the house and begin negotiations or talk the subject out? Proper methods, tactics employed create an advantage these must be based on the five factors working in unison to develop the appropriate understanding and response. We must get ourselves mentally prepared to be able to adapt to situations as they unfold in high risk situations that require action. Action is not a reckless responding always in the forward direction. Action is, seeking the advantageous position so we win!

Every situation is different and requires the ability to think on your feet and adapt to the situation. This is where another of the five factors, leadership comes into play. Leaders must set the organizational climate and allow frontline personnel the ability to adapt and be innovative with responses. This will help alleviate a complacent or the mindset of an expected response. Leaders must train, educate and support their frontline personnel so they are prepared for the unexpected and adapt accordingly.

The methods that were employed by these officers who sadly sacrificed their lives in the line of duty were employed based on yesterday’s response. The lack of utilizing methods is prevalent in our professions because we think speed is moving fast physically. It is not always, speed is presence of mind and making rapid decisions to put yourself in a position of advantage.

The vast majority of domestic disputes or any call for that matter end without out incident and are resolved peacefully without conflict. But we must keep in mind yesterday’s methods, tactics may not work today. You must fight complacency refresh the mind and react to the present moment. We must remember to utilize methods based on our overall strategy and as Sun Tzu states; "Victory comes from knowing when to attack and when to avoid battle." Set up the situation through good sound tactics and the advantage will be yours.

“Anyone can plan a campaign, but few are capable of waging war, because only a true military genius can handle the developments and circumstances. ~Napoleon Bonaparte

In the next few posts we will talk of specific methods to utilize such as: awareness, positioning, communication, deception to gain voluntary compliance, and for when all else fails and climate changes for the worse, physical force methods of controlling conflict.