Operations and Operational Art and applicability to other business



On Operations: Operational Art and Military Disciplines Kindle Edition

by Brett Friedman (Author)

Link is a primer for the book. On Operations and Operational Art – military terms which roughly equates to method and approach for Operations and for conducting Operations. If that explanation is fuzzy, that is because it is fuzzy. I am just working through the book and there are different approaches in Germany/ Prussia versus more recent US and UK. This post is simply to capture the beginning of what I am learning and of course how this military approach can applied to Banks. More to follow when I have digested and formed conclusions.

Operations and Operational Art
On Operations: Operational Art and Military Disciplines traces the history of the development of military staffs and ideas on the operational level of war and operational art from the Napoleonic Wars to today, viewing them through the lens of Prussia/Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States

I was introduced through a podcast in the screenshot below. I enjoy military history and strategy, and the concepts when abstracted can be applied to many organisations; in my case, Banks.

It is a complex yet fascinating discussion on strategic organisation and the very purpose of Operations as well as the methodology (the Art).

In a Bank context the constructs discussed in the book can very simplistically be applied as:

  • Strategy (objective, desired outcome)
  • Operations (the subject of the Book – Ends, Ways, Means, Risk)
  • Tactics (service, sales, channels)

I found the above primer document at the US Naval War College helpful. Here are two key areas on Operational Art and on the methodology ( the four questions) captured in the Primer.

Operational Art

Before going any further, the first question that must be answered is what is operational art? U.S. Joint doctrine defines operational art as, “The application of creative imagination by commanders and staffs – supported by their skill, knowledge, and experience – to design strategies, campaigns, and major operations and organise and employ military forces.

Operational art integrates ends, ways, and means across the levels of war. ”This “creative imagination” rests upon a foundation of both art and science. Science includes the physics of modern warfare. How long does it take a force to reach a specific location? What is required to sustain a force? What is the seaport and/or airport throughput capacity? What are the enemy’s military capabilities? These types of questions, and thousands of other questions of similar ilk, are the domain of science and are addressed by a myriad of staff estimates.

Art, on the other hand, while often informed by science, relies upon intuition, or what Clausewitz referred to as Coup d’oeil. This aspect of operational art is honed through operational experience and the study of military theory and history. Some examples of intuition include sensing the approaching culmination of an enemy or one’s own force, or envisioning an imaginative approach to strike an enemy or to conceal one’s own force’s vulnerability.

The Four Questions

Closely related to the operational art discussions above are the most essential questions that a commander (and staff officer) should answer when considering any operation;

  1. The objectives? (ENDS)
  2. What sequence of action is most likely to create those conditions? (WAYS)
  3. What resources are required to accomplish that sequence of actions? (MEANS)
  4. What is the likely cost or risk in performing that sequence of actions? (RISK)

Those aspects of Ends, Ways, or Means which are assessed as “out of balance” become Risk. Using the OEF example mentioned earlier, the limited forces (Means) employed by CENTCOM meant that the U.S. would be highly reliant upon surrogate Afghan rebels (Ways) to achieve the ultimate objective (End). This limited option left for little flexibility if the surrogate force faltered or changed allegiances (Risk). Few operations are without risk. It is imperative, however, for an organisation to identify the risks during the planning phase in order to support the commander’s decision process. Based on an understanding of the balancing of the four questions, the commander may offer specific risk mitigation requirements and/or adjustments to one or more of the other elements of the equation (change the force mix, direct a different approach, or perhaps seek a change to the objective). Operational level risk then is defined as risk to mission or risk to force.

Tags #US #military-strategy #operations #operational-art

Leave a Comment