View Full Version : Decision Making and Planning

04-08-2007, 07:08 PM
This document considers the OODA cycle in planning, and provides a tool for digesting situations stretching in time and complexity. A few potential uses are exemplified, but it can easily be used in even more interesting manners.

I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts. Useful? Criticism? Stating the obvious? What more do you think is needed?

I started writing this yesterday and do not consider myself an expert, so take it with a grain of salt.

Decision Making and Planning (http://martin.persenius.net/decision_making_and_planning.pdf) in PDF.

04-09-2007, 02:44 PM
Can you provide the source of the document you provided the link to?


04-09-2007, 03:13 PM
I wrote it. My full name is in the top right corner of the text. It is hosted on my cousin's server. I developed the proposed methodology and mention sources in the text for providing a frame of reference for perceiving and understanding it. It is an attempt at merging the 4GW and EBO discussions by putting decision making in the context of planning.

It is not an all-ends solution and certainly has to be tempered by each person's experience and needs. It is a big bite for my small mouth, why I hope that your comments will improve it. I have identified a few places where style could be changed and where clarification would benefit, but all frank criticism is welcome.

It is based on my studies and personal experience (in particular in regards to people). I am young and do not have experience with war. I think the planning framework holds true for most (all?) activities and is not restricted to war. Personal studies are in regards to conflict and various sciences. School studies are economics and languages. Work history includes programming.


04-09-2007, 04:06 PM

Good article

I'm going to be rambling...so stand by for heavy rolls as the ship turns about...:D

I think you should have recognitional decision making included in the paper, without it, getting inside the target's OODA usually leads to reactive vice proactive decision making.

We have been using simulations to build experiences in support of the Marine Corps Planning Process which is heavily involved analytical decision making. Ultimately by building up experiences the Marines have additional recognition 'files' in thier memories to access which ultimately provide a faster decision making cycle.

Something that also has effect is a clear Commander's Intent for the operational abilities of the unit. Without a clear end state on the strategic level, often you will find fast OODAs that don't support the strategic end state. This ulitmately leads to bogging down the unit OODAs to the point that they are reactive to the adversary's actions.

04-09-2007, 05:36 PM
Anything that mentions Bruce Siddle's book has to be good. I will get some comments back to you.

04-09-2007, 06:03 PM

I haven't read much on OODA except Boyd's lectures and Howe's and Hammond's books. Do you have a source where I can read up on recognitional decision making? The intent of the article is to foster a proactive planning process, so maybe I'm missing something when I only briefly mentioned what I think you're saying. There are a lot of ideas skipped over, for example you may want to plan for future circumstances that the adversary will bring about, or you could bring up perspectives, deception, or paradigmatic evolution. It's really quite adaptable.

Recognitional decision making does sound very similar to what is expressed in Siddle's and Howe's books. Basically, with experience, you will see the enemy's position and perceive his possible tactics upon which you can retrieve from memory your own aggressive tactics to take the initiative. Is that what you meant?

Good point on commander's intent. I think the top-down approach and briefness caused the miss. I wanted an introduction to the concept, and it's the first time I write this kind of thing. Actually, the follow-on to commander's intent would be to consider how to design multi level plans and strategic maneuverability. I think it can fairly easily be adapted already as it is written today. The thought crossed my mind, but I didn't want to break anything expensive since most of the case studies I would have to use would either be imaginary (and thus not as credible) or real, active and looking to the future. I have studied history and could provide cursory overviews from a multitude of wars, but not the kind of in depth analysis that would prove it really useful. And that is a somewhat bigger project than two days... MUCH bigger risk of stepping on my crank. :)

Still, I will consider how to bring in commander's intent and heavier emphasis on proactive decision making. It may take a week due to school studies, etc.

bismarck17: Got it on the good advice of experienced people.

Thanks a lot for the responses! Keep 'em comin'...

04-09-2007, 06:33 PM
Martin, here is a link to the Air War College section on decision making.

As you will see there is a lot of information here related to your subject, sure you can find something you can use here.

Also here is a great paper you may like about Targeting. Sort of goes with what you are trying to do,at least I think it does. Good Luck http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj00/win00/szafranski.htm

04-09-2007, 06:36 PM
On the other hand, I think Commander's intent is a bit what remains unsaid.

If you look at the cycle, what Commander's intent implies is that the starting point or objectives are modified or set in some way and the circumstances you want to bring about have to fit within them. This is also mentioned in the third point of the filtering process, "Are there secondary or tertiary effects that are contra productive to the end state?"

Doing different plans for different levels is thus a matter of cycling the loop, similar to in the temporal aspect mentioned. Of course, there are more considerations that have to be taken into account when making a real plan, but as a concept that is what happens.

You are right that it could have been written out more clearly and expanded.

04-09-2007, 06:38 PM
Thanks slapout, I will check it out.

04-10-2007, 05:47 PM
A girl friend of mine stumbled across this and pointed out that when you get advice from people you may want to be quiet in considering it instead of debating right away. Sorry about that! I just got eager hearing of your experiences and opinions, but I do listen attentively. :)

I will do some reading on the links provided in order to understand what obstacles lie ahead, and what the needs are.

Suggestions and criticism are welcome.

04-10-2007, 06:38 PM

Here's some good reading:

A principal aim of command and control is to enhance the commander’s ability to make sound and timely decisions. As we might expect, the defining features of command and control—uncertainty and time—exert a significant influence on decisionmaking.15 All decisions must be made in the face of uncertainty. Theoretically, we can reduce uncertainty by gaining more information, but any such decrease in uncertainty occurs at the expense of time. And as we have already mentioned, it is not so much the amount of information that matters, but the right elements of information available at the right time and place.

There are two basic theories on how we make decisions.16 The traditional view is that decisionmaking is an analytical process based on generating several different options, comparing all the options according to some set of criteria, and identifying the best option. The basic idea is that comparing multiple options concurrently will produce the optimal solution. As a result, analytical decisionmaking tends to be methodical and time-consuming. Theoretically, reasoning power matters more than experience.

The other basic approach, called intuitive decisionmaking, rejects the computational approach of the analytical method and instead relies on an experienced commander’s (and staff’s) intuitive ability to recognize the key elements of a particular problem and arrive at the proper decision. Intuitive decisionmaking thus replaces methodical analysis with an intuitive skill for pattern-recognition based on experience and judgment. The intuitive approach focuses on situation as-sessment instead of on the comparison of multiple options. Intuitive decisionmaking aims at “satisficing,” finding the first solution which will satisfactorily solve the problem, rather than on optimizing, as the analytical approach attempts to do.17 The intuitive approach is based on the belief that, war being ultimately an art rather than a science, there is no absolutely right answer to any problem. Intuitive decisionmaking works on the further belief that, due to the judgment gained by experience, training, and reflection, the commander will generate a workable first solution, and therefore it is not necessary to generate multiple options. Because it does not involve comparing multiple options, intuitive decisionmaking is generally much faster than analytical decisionmaking. If time permits, the commander may further evaluate this decision; if it proves defective, the commander moves on to the next reasonable solution.

Each approach has different strengths and weaknesses, and determining which approach is better in a given situation depends on the nature of the situation, particularly on how much time and information are available. The analytical approach may be appropriate for prehostility decisions about mobilization or contingency planning when time is not a factor and extensive information can be gathered. It may be useful in situations in which it is necessary to document or justify a decision or in decisions requiring complicated computations which simply cannot be done intuitively (such as in making decisions about supply rates). It may be appropriate when choosing from among several existing alternatives, as in equipment acquisition, for example. Finally, an analytical approach may have some merit in situations in which commanders are inexperienced or in which they face never-be- fore-experienced problems. However, that said, the intuitive approach is more appropriate for the vast majority of typical tactical or operational decisions—decisions made in the fluid, rapidly changing conditions of war when time and uncertainty are critical factors, and creativity is a desirable trait.18

We frequently associate intuitive decisionmaking with rapid/time-sensitive planning and analytical decisionmaking with deliberate planning. This may often be the case but not necessarily. For example, a thorough, deliberate planning effort in advance of a crisis can provide the situational awareness that allows a commander to exercise effective intuitive decisionmaking. Conversely, the analytical approach of developing and selecting from several courses of action may be done rapidly. The point is that the planning model or process we choose, and the decisionmaking approach that supports it, should be based upon the situation, the time available, the knowledge and situational awareness of the organization, and the commander’s involvement in the planning and decision- making process. While the two approaches to decisionmaking are conceptually distinct, they are rarely mutually exclusive in practice.

Our view of the true nature of war leads us to one of two responses to dealing with the fundamental problem of command: either pursuing certainty or coping with uncertainty. These responses lead to two distinctly different theories of command and control. Each theory in turn imposes its own requirements on the various aspects of command and control—decisionmaking, communications, information management, planning, organization, training, education, doctrine, and so on—and so forms the basis for a distinct and comprehensive approach to command and control. The question is: Which approach do we adopt? The Marine Corps’ concept of command and control is based on accepting uncertainty as an undeniable fact and being able to operate effectively despite it. The Marine Corps’ command and control system is thus built around mission command and control which allows us to create tempo, flexibility, and the ability to exploit opportunities but which also requires us to decentralize and rely on low-level initiative. In the next chapter, we will discuss the features of such a command and control system.


04-11-2007, 08:48 AM
Currently planned updates:

Introduce difference between analytical and recognitional decision making. They are now in a mix.
Make a clearer distinction between decision making and planning.
Better explain how decision making and the planning concept converge. The distinctions in usage may now not immediately apparent which misrepresents it a bit, including in regards to speed and usage.
Write a better explanation of how CCFO is used in detecting adversary plans, still have emphasis on letting reader construct their own flexible framework. It now only explains the planning process of a person or group, procedures for perceiving those of adversaries have been left to the reader.
In general be clearer.Still have more to read. Thanks a bunch!

05-04-2007, 01:41 PM
I have given this a lot of thought and I have come to the conclusion that there should be three improvements and two in-depth analyses.

The text was really just a skimming introduction to an abstraction of the planning process and attempt to see how a number of popular theories converge. How you use it depends on your purposes. For example, while it can be used as a small aide in perceiving how an environment is being shaped and what might be the circumstances we need to plan for or adapt to, it is still an abstraction and is in a tactical sense not necessarily, not even usually, as fast as making a regular quick plan, perhaps based on recognition decision making. This is more operational and strategic. That is also one of the places where the text is in need of improvement - in better laying out in a methodological sense where this tool fits in the arsenal. The matter of fact is that all planning is about using a different approach or perspective when going through the OODA cycle. Planning cannot, or at least should not, be done without some form of situational awareness and a thought process that lays out the pieces of a plan and maps that to the situation, or however you're thinking.

I feel that this leads to the second improvement and in-depth usage example needed. As it stands, it does not much explain how to use it in a more advanced fashion. Of particular interest is paradigmatic evolution. Considering my lack of in-situation perspective of historical events, it would be better to dwell in psychology.

The third improvement needed is detection of adversary plans, but I do not feel ready to say much on it yet and I think that if you're really interested this theory as it is today does not add very much and how you use it again depends on what you need it for. "The way is in training"...

In other words, I am going to leave this as an introduction. I think it would be valuable with a real meat show, but as the conniving bastage I am, I want to be more steps ahead before doing that. I need to figure out a few more things. It may turn up as a self-development book or something.

Thanks for taking the time to read it and giving suggestions. It offered something to think about and a little bit of experience with how it was received.

Martin (and I could remove that silly remark about models and frameworks in the beginning of the text...)