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Thread: Causal Link Diagram -- AFG Information

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    Council Member Spud's Avatar
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    Default Causal Link Diagram -- AFG Information

    Hi Guys

    we're head down in 'design' problem at the moment and I had to map the Info element of the current AFG mission as best I could. In our intial work we identified info as a key leverage point and the boss wanted us to expand on that. It's pretty rudimentary (needs to be UNCLAS) and may also be an Aussie view of things but is there anything blindingly obvious I've missed?

    Comments appreciated as my weekend is going to be spent looking at this.

    Jas
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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default IW in Afghanistan

    Spud,

    From this faraway "armchair" I'd have a look at the commentary on: http://blog.freerangeinternational.com/ and add a box on what the Afghans use as information sources now. With the caveat that literacy is low; importance of the oral tradition and non-Western ways of communicating e.g. songs.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-31-2009 at 12:32 PM.

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    Council Member pakphile's Avatar
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    I am not sure of the context for this diagram, but it does seem to be either very inwardly ISAF focused or has a lot going on inside the Afg Pop Percep box that is not visible. Perception of what? ISAF? or Karzai? IMHO Afg views are only marginally influenced by 'strat com' initiatives. Afg perception is largely influenced by how closely related you are to the opinion giver. Bloodlines need to be factored in. It is not enough to have 'cultural understanding' way up in the far right quadrant. Culture itself should be front and center because it drives everyone's view of who is good and who is bad, irrespective of what they may do or say.

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Jas,

    Your link diagram made me dizzy. It is a great product for a western engineer using the military decision making process to find a rational solution, but what does it have to do with influencing the average afghani?

    More to the point, how does this help overcome the fact that most afghani's are xenophobic and have a long history of resisting foreign armies? Sorry to be pessimistic. I wish that I had an alternate solution for you.

    Mike

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    The purpose of design is to help you understand problems better. If this product helps you understand the problem better, then it is a good tool. Similarly, if it helps you explain what you understand to those who don't, it is a good tool.

    If it just adds one more layer of complexity and confusion for those who are already confused and overwhelmed with complexity, then you missed the mark.


    So, I guess my question would be if you brought this to me is, "in 4-5 points, tell me the 'so what,' what did you learn from building this product and what does it indicate we should be doing differently and why."
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Spud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    The purpose of design is to help you understand problems better. If this product helps you understand the problem better, then it is a good tool. Similarly, if it helps you explain what you understand to those who don't, it is a good tool.

    If it just adds one more layer of complexity and confusion for those who are already confused and overwhelmed with complexity, then you missed the mark.


    So, I guess my question would be if you brought this to me is, "in 4-5 points, tell me the 'so what,' what did you learn from building this product and what does it indicate we should be doing differently and why."
    Sir

    you've hit the nail on the head and pretty much summed up my issues with 'design' focus we're heading along where apparently it is more about the 'journey of discovery' than it is about any deliverable. More importantly the acty we're undertaking now is purposely not seeking any solutions (which just makes my head hurt) rather it is just looking to show the process (its a pilot program).

    When I started this I immediately went one level down and started looking at things like expanding Rana FM into our AO or establishing our own variant of it IOT 'start the conversation' that is then reinforced through interaction etc. Apparently I was thinking like a planner and not a designer.

    As for the 4-5 points ... the info fight is always going to be contested in a Coalition environment and the more effort we put into coordination the better (which we and most ISAF elements currently blow off)

    We need less focus on the media and more on the organisations/people the media use as sources. The best we should be hoping for is balanced coverage rather than trying to achieve the exulted "positive media coverage" -- journo's 8 years in don't work that way.

    Without decent evaluation of the information domain it is all for nought.

    If we can enhance the perception of the AFG population towards our actions (not just through info activities) it will have a positive relationship towards increasing global perceptions.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Well, at the operator level, my recommendation for good messaging is to make this small tweak to MDMP:

    During MA, have the entire team drill into the question of "what message do we want this operation to communicate?" Then, coming up with a proposal, provide it to the commander during the MA brief along with the intel dump and the proposed restated mission.

    Then, when the commander gives his planning guidance, he needs to give his message guidance at the same time. As the ops guys work up COAs, they shape them to communicate that message; and as they build their COA comparison matrix, they include the criteria (and it should be weighted) of "COA communicates the desired Strat Com"

    Then when you brief the COAs to the commander, the message is woven in, and is not a strap-on product that you had the PSYOP guys work up in a corner somewhere.

    Key to remember is that good messaging is 80% what you do, and only 20% what you say. Build your message into what you do.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Well, at the operator level, my recommendation for good messaging is to make this small tweak to MDMP:

    During MA, have the entire team drill into the question of "what message do we want this operation to communicate?" Then, coming up with a proposal, provide it to the commander during the MA brief along with the intel dump and the proposed restated mission.

    Then, when the commander gives his planning guidance, he needs to give his message guidance at the same time. As the ops guys work up COAs, they shape them to communicate that message; and as they build their COA comparison matrix, they include the criteria (and it should be weighted) of "COA communicates the desired Strat Com"

    Then when you brief the COAs to the commander, the message is woven in, and is not a strap-on product that you had the PSYOP guys work up in a corner somewhere.

    Key to remember is that good messaging is 80% what you do, and only 20% what you say. Build your message into what you do.
    Jas' process is tied into the systems engineer approach to solving wicked problems. It's not that the process is bad; it's that it usually neglects to include the real issues.

    One of these issues is what Col Jones asked, "So what?"

    Another is what I initially asked, "How does this help us to go past Afghan xenophobia?"

    v/r

    Mike

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Good guide when less pressure

    Spud and others,

    When it comes to these issues (Info Ops) I always defer to this academic website, by Professor Philip Taylor, at Leeds University for help: http://ics.leeds.ac.uk/papers/index.cfm?outfit=pmt

    davidbfpo

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    Ha! You may have tried hard to make my brain explode, but this still doesn't beat the infamous "spaghetti mind ####" designed by a USN aviator that's making the rounds in Kabul right now!

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    Council Member Spud's Avatar
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    Default Final

    If anyone is all that interested ... here's what we came up with in the end.

    Caveats
    • It supports the design team's articulation of the problem and so may not make much sense to the rest of you.
    • This is a breakout of one node on a larger "spaghetti mind ####" diagram built using MIDLIFE-S as a construct -- essentially it looks at establishing and maintaining the dominant narrative (a key node in the larger diagram). For those that aren’t aware the ‘Dominant Narrative” has become the new buzzword in aall of recent doctrine development. Everyone’s knows we need it but no one has ever really mapped out what that means.
    • Is based at ISAF but from an Aussie perspective
    • Is influenced heavily by a few bottles of 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon -- I suggest you probably need the same to appreciate its full utility

    Jas
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    Are system dynamics models, influence diagrams or concept maps actually used? I can definitely see the use for design (a picture speaks a thousand words), but how does this translate into planning?

    I guess drilling-down on the subissues involved (like brainstorming approaches to busting xenophobia suggested by MikeF) is the next step. Would Col Jones's "so what?" translate into some form of action items? How would all this knowledge be captured?

    v/r
    - Dustin

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    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default In Re: Spud

    I know I'm late to the discussion and the product is briefed (ergo most likely OBE)...

    Can't agree with BW more... and essentially I think the big missing node in your diagram is Coalition Operations (because as BW says, the nature of our actions has an information quality all their own... and is far more important) and unless the communications and operations planning/execution are intrinsicly linked and coherent... there is no amount of STRATCOM/Messaging/Perception Shaping you can do to overcome that incongruency...

    I think that has been the real purpose of the COIN guidance that Petraeus and subsequently McCrystal and Odierno published...

    Best of luck working with "Design"....
    Hacksaw
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    Council Member Spud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hacksaw View Post
    I know I'm late to the discussion and the product is briefed (ergo most likely OBE)...

    Can't agree with BW more... and essentially I think the big missing node in your diagram is Coalition Operations (because as BW says, the nature of our actions has an information quality all their own... and is far more important) and unless the communications and operations planning/execution are intrinsicly linked and coherent... there is no amount of STRATCOM/Messaging/Perception Shaping you can do to overcome that incongruency...

    I think that has been the real purpose of the COIN guidance that Petraeus and subsequently McCrystal and Odierno published...

    Best of luck working with "Design"....
    It is in our final as attached in my second post above ... the big black line which when I brief is the major point of emphasis ... all the words in the world matter little if what the Afghans see doesn't match.

    Thanks all for your help. Briefing a 3-star today so I'll let you know how it goes.

    And as for design ... I'm the monkey that gets to tell him the concept is great if the design team transitions to become the plans team. We're still yet to work out how to effectively transfer all the knowledge the design team accumulates if we have to H/O to another group. In my gut design has just become what the IPB and MA should always have been but … I’m just a simple guy.

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    Council Member Spud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by burkestar View Post
    Are system dynamics models, influence diagrams or concept maps actually used? I can definitely see the use for design (a picture speaks a thousand words), but how does this translate into planning?

    I guess drilling-down on the subissues involved (like brainstorming approaches to busting xenophobia suggested by MikeF) is the next step. Would Col Jones's "so what?" translate into some form of action items? How would all this knowledge be captured?

    v/r
    - Dustin
    For us this whole design process has been about devloping understanding. The diagrams are more for the team than they are for briefing. We understand what they mean but passing that on is difficult. Our key outputs have been a written design narrative (an articulation of the journey we undertook) and a design concept that supposedly a plans team can read and then get on with (I'm yet to be convinced of this aspect).

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    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default Enlightened grasshopper

    Quote Originally Posted by Spud View Post
    In my gut design has just become what the IPB and MA should always have been but … I’m just a simple guy.

    Grasshopper you have learned the deep/dirty secret.... I have yet to participate in or see the outcome of a design process that I didn't reach the same conclusion...

    Of course this is not a popular opinion at the Intellectual Center of the Army... More than a few advocates have described in excrutiating detail that design goes beyond and yet not as far as MA... "Deep understanding of the situation"... what a crock of BS...

    If a planner wasn't seeking as deep an understanding of the situation as he possibly could... in the time allotted... to better understand the mission and range of possible solutions, they were negligent...Period...

    that said, if the nature of our organizational culture has reached a point in which MA had become a finger drill and Design is needed to pull it back into a thinking man's (gender non-specific) business - fine... I guess, but...

    We are experimenting with this idea of design in time constrained environments.... huh... if design is a process of exploration to develop a deep understanding of the situation (as opposed to mission)... it is by its nature time intensive - so before we have even codified the process we are distorting it beyond recognition
    Hacksaw
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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hacksaw View Post
    Grasshopper you have learned the deep/dirty secret.... I have yet to participate in or see the outcome of a design process that I didn't reach the same conclusion...

    Of course this is not a popular opinion at the Intellectual Center of the Army... More than a few advocates have described in excrutiating detail that design goes beyond and yet not as far as MA... "Deep understanding of the situation"... what a crock of BS...

    If a planner wasn't seeking as deep an understanding of the situation as he possibly could... in the time allotted... to better understand the mission and range of possible solutions, they were negligent...Period...

    that said, if the nature of our organizational culture has reached a point in which MA had become a finger drill and Design is needed to pull it back into a thinking man's (gender non-specific) business - fine... I guess, but...

    We are experimenting with this idea of design in time constrained environments.... huh... if design is a process of exploration to develop a deep understanding of the situation (as opposed to mission)... it is by its nature time intensive - so before we have even codified the process we are distorting it beyond recognition
    There's a whole lot of wisdom in that post. After studying wicked problems, casual loop diagrams, scientific method, engineering method, and countless others, I returned to the initial conclusion that IF you get the facts and assumptions right, then IPB and MA give you the answers.

    All too often, facts and assumptions are hand-waved or ignored b/c they are not politically correct.

    For instance, try this one in your MA process:

    Fact-
    1. Afghans are highly xenophobic and do not want foreigners in their land.

    That won't make the boss happy, but by understanding, you can work it into your influence plan and have amazing results. I learned this one by dealing with Sunnis in Iraq. Their jaws dropped to the floor when I opened a very hostile engagement with this statement,

    "I realize that y'all are in a civil war right now and the Shia gov't is attacking you and witholding funds so you are frustated and siding with AQI. I'm not taking a side. I'm here to help y'all mediate your differences. If you attack me, then I will crush you. I will bring the full weight of the American arsenal down on your village. If you cooperate, then I will pressure the Shias as well and we will try to make a better future for both of your children."

    It helped me to broker past the perceptions and get on with negotiations. You can't ignore the elephant in the room. If I was in Afghan right now, I'd be drinking chai and listening to war stories about how they used to fight the Russians.

    Mike

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