Wise or good decisions display success in judgement while ineffective or bad decisions are notable chances to grow and learn. Decision making in an organization set-up is important and more specifically to the units entailed in that organization. One of the key aspects to effective decision making and implementation is communication among the parties involved. Decision making takes into account knowing whether to decide, then when and what to decide. It also entails understanding the consequences of the decision made either by an organization or an individual (Leadership.C, 2004). Decision making is considered both a science and an art. The science of the war includes movement rates, fuel consumption and weapon effects which are quantifiable facets of military operations. The art involved in the decision making of military operation includes; group dynamics, impact of leadership, complexity of operations and uncertainty regarding enemy intentions.
Military decision making techniques
The American military is usually referred to as United States Armed Forces and comprises of the following units; navy, army, Marine Corps, air force and coast guard. Military decision making process (MDMP) is one of the major techniques of carrying out decision making especially in the American military units. Menter (2009) claims that MDMP is not new and can be traced back at least 2000 years but much prominence was gained in the early 19th century post-Napoleonic Europe. Soon the process was adapted by the world’s leading powers including the United States and evolved through the First and Second World War.
Another decision making process used by the military leaders is the Troop leading Procedures (TLP). TLP is mostly applicable to leaders at the company level and below. Leadership. C (2004) notes that TLP is designed to support solving tactical problems and leaders at the battalion level and above adopt the MDMP which is designed for organizations with staff. These decision making processes require the Commander in charge to be endowed with excellent leadership skills. Some of the leadership qualities necessary include; loyalty, duty, respect, honor, integrity, personal courage and selfless service. These qualities come in handy for successful implementation of any decisions reached in any military unit.
Military Decision Making Process (MDMP)
MDMP is an important tool used by the military leaders to plan for the military operations. This process is described as single, established and proven that assists the commander and the surbodinates in developing estimates as well as an executable plan. It also enables the commander and the staff to utilize the thoroughness, sound judgement, clarity, logic and professional knowledge to reach a good decision. Menter (2009) notes that, MDMP implies deliberate planning and development of multiple courses of action in order to determine the best course of action for a given situation or circumstance. The process itself comprises of seven major steps, from the recipient of the mission to orders production, with more than forty substeps involved in between.
The main merits of this process is that it analyzes and compares multiple friendly and enemy Course of Action (COA) in order to identify the most effective possible friendly COA (Menter, 2009). The process also enables the commander and the staff to have broad coordination and synchronization in plans and orders. The maximum staff participation in the process helps minimize the chances of undermining any significant aspects of the operation in question. The process is in a position of identifying possible contingencies for branch and subsequence development. One of the greatest weaknesses of MDMP as discussed by Menter (2009) is the large amount of time that is required to conduct a detailed mission analysis. Once large amount of time is spent by the superiors in the planning then it leaves the subordinates with less time for preparation and executions of the plans thus making MDMP ineffective.
Role of the commander and the staff in MDMP
The commander involved in this process is charged with the primary responsibility of determining the procedures to be used in every situation and his or her personal role is pivotal in the whole process right from the beginning to the end. The MDMP conceptual framework analyzes the art and science of war. The process utilizes the commander’s experience, intuition and guidance which are considered as the art of war. This is combined with the science of war which is the staff’s understanding of the procedures, techniques, tactics, methodology and doctrine to be used in this process. Hence the weakness of one party can be compensated by the strengths of the other party. This implies that strong commander’s skills can cover for the weak staffs through engaging in proper planning and establishment of definitive courses of action. Consequently, strong staff involvement can cover up for weak commanders though only to a certain level.
The following is a detailed discussion of the seven steps as postulated by Menter (2009):-
Receive warning order from higher: this is the initial step that is triggered by the reception or expectation of a new mission and consequently some sort of reactions is required thus a warning order is issued to the staff. Some questions need to be resolved at this stage such as who, what, when, where, why and how. The initial assessment of the estimates is conducted. Henderson (2007) defines estimates as formal processes used to analyze a problem from a specific functional area, providing an in-depth staff analysis of the situation. He further classifies estimates into two; Commander’s estimate which provides a broader outlook on the situation by conducting a general analysis of a problem, rather than a detailed analysis. In contrast, the staff estimate guarantees that all the aspects of problem and related issues are analyzed in detail including the operations, medical, maintenance, transportation, logistics and sanitation. Time analysis is also a key aspect at this step. Since MDMP is a time-consuming process then the commander needs not spend too much time on planning while the surbodinates are also required to plan, prepare and execute operation. All these are done in preparation for the next step on mission analysis.
Mission analysis; an attempt is made to define the problem or the mission more clearly. Henderson (2007) argues that the key to a good mission analysis is a clearly defined mission statement. Communication is vital at this stage since it is necessary for the proper understanding of the mission statement and the skills needed to achieve it in the long run. It is a crucial step in MDMP since it permits the commander to commence battlefield visualization which demands an elaborate evaluation of the battle field surroundings and effects such as terrain, weather, demographics and infrastructure. After clearly defining the problem in question, then the process of seeking for the solutions begins. Some of the substeps encompassed at this level include verbal guidance, reexamining the available assets, determining constraints, recognition of essential facts and assumptions, plan use of available time among others.
Course of action development; at this stage the acceptable options that can either solve the problem in question or contribute to the accomplishment of the mission statement if implemented, are identified. Henderson (2007) identifies the characteristics of friendly COAs; suitability (COA can accomplish the mission), feasibility (COA is within the capabilities of organization or agencies), acceptability (COA a means to justify the ends), distinguishable (each COA must distinctly different from others) and completeness (an inclusive review of all options).
Course of Action Analysis or wargaming; this is an elaborate study of each COA by describing which COA attains the mission with less casualties while positioning the force to retain the initiative for future operations. The wargame is a disciplined process that attempts to visualize the flow of the operation. The main objective of wargaming being the stimulation of ideas and provision of insights that the staff might not have otherwise discovered. Wargaming thus has the benefit of providing a mutual vision of the flow of the battle for the commander and the subordinates hence enabling them to expect the events that may occur during the implementation.
Course of Action Comparison; the different COAs are compared while examining their strengths and weakness. The staff examines the acceptable COAs to identify the COA with the maximum probability for success against the most likely threat COA and the most dangerous threat COA. The selected COA should be flexible especially during execution in case of difficulties and also should pose minimum risk to the staff, equipment and mission achievement.
Commander’s decision briefing; after the successful completion of COA analysis and comparison, the staff decides on the preferred COA and makes a recommendation. The staff then briefs the commander on the preferred COA. Alexander (2009) describes COA approval as comprising of three components and decision briefing is the first component of the process of COA approval. Second, the commander decides which COA to approve and eventually, the commander issues the final planning guidance. If the commander rejects the staff preferred COA then the process starts all over again.
Order preparation and production; order production consists of the staff preparing the operation order of plan by converting the selected COA into a clear, concise concept of operations (Alexander 2009). The order mainly deals the enemy situation, higher headquarters mission and the elaborate plans of the mission. This written order is then sent to the parties involved following the execution of the plan. Henderson (2007) suggests that the last phase of the process is conducting a good rehearsal so that all players both understand and execute their portion of the plan. He further clarifies that there are five types of rehearsal; Confirmation Brief, Back Brief, Operation Events Rehearsal, Support Rehearsal, Task or Standard Operating procedure (SOP) rehearsal. The most significant rehearsals are the Operation Events and Support Rehearsal since they effectively facilitate good coordination and synchronization.
Importance of decision making
Decision making is an important aspect of any organization or individual since the present situation of an organization can be attributed to the decisions made in the past whether effective or ineffective decisions. Hence the significance of decision making in the American military within a unit cannot be undermined. As discussed in the MDMP, decision making can be time-consuming. Decision making is one of the avenues for ensuring success of any military operation though no decision is perfect. Thus the commander and the staff are charged with responsibility of making decisions that are meant to contribute to the successful execution of any military operation. MDMP is a well-defined process that has the gains of enabling the staff and the commander to anticipate any risks as well as the projected benefits involved in the operation. Consequently the staff is able to visualize the flow of the battle including the battlefield environments which increases motivation and confidence to undertake the operation among the staff as well as the subordinates.
In conclusion, decision making involves choosing from a wide range of options a course of action that best accomplishes the mission in question. MDMP though it is a time-consuming process contributes to successful military operation and has been used in the past by the American military. Omitting some of the steps in the MDMP is not a solution to large amount of time used. Some solutions to this weakness include commander limiting the list of COAs to be analysed, enhancing the unit commander’s participation and commander adopting a more directive role in guiding the unit. Rehearsals are critical aspects of the process and have the benefits of making every party involved understand the plan as well as the anticipation for the changes in case the plan does not go as on the script.