by David Walker
This paper argues that the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) contains a number of critical flaws that significantly detract from its utility, and while these flaws could be largely circumvented when planning for conventional operations, they are a major barrier to planning for complex operations characterized by “ill-structured problems” and “persistent conflict” . This paper claims to represent the logical evolution of the MDMP in accordance with TRADOC Pam 525-3-0 The Army Capstone Concept, Operational Adaptability: Operating under Conditions of Uncertainty and Complexity in an Era of Persistent Conflict 2016-2028, which “lays the conceptual foundation for Army modernization”.
The paper argues that the MDMP is burdened by linear procedures that do not reflect natural cognitive processes and proposes an alternative model based on six concurrently developed components derived from the systems approach to problem solving. It is proposed that progress in planning should not be perceived as progression through pre-defined steps, but as the changing state of key attributes of planning models and the environment; attributes such as scope, uncertainty, accuracy, precision, risk, resources, criteria and objectives. While generic pre-defined steps will always be a fallacy, these key attributes are always real and must always form the basis of decision making. In other words our planning model should be descriptive, not prescriptive. By seeking to prescribe a sequence of activities, the MDMP forfeits the ability to properly describe the problem and proposed solutions.
Readers familiar with the latest iteration of FM 5-0 The Operations Process will probably recognize that the introduction of design is intended to mitigate many of the problems described throughout this paper. Design thinking has great potential to enhance our collective sense-making and problem solving, but the current implementation is undermined by attempts to synchronize design thinking methodologies (strictly non-linear) with the old linear planning model. The messy interface between old and new threatens to cause more damage than the new doctrine is worth. Successful implementation of design thinking is dependent on the development of a planning model that supports it, and this paper aims to present such a model.
It is true that the MDMP does work at least moderately well as a tool for expedient decision making under certain conditions. These are:
Objectives are predefined and very simple;
Much of the plan is provided by a superior HQ in the form of specified tasks and control measures;
There is a period of inactivity followed by a defined period of activity (an execution phase); and
Flow of intelligence is primarily top down from a superior HQ to its subordinates.
This paper will demonstrate how the utility of the MDMP is dependent on these conditions and propose a model that is not.