Make. A. Damn. Decision.

BJ Armstrong has, among other writings, a nice little piece on Admiral William Sims over at USNI Blog, which includes this wonderful snippet:

Sims had the ability, essential to a naval officer, of making decisions and making them quickly if necessary. He expected the same of those under him. There are several versions of a story which illustrates this characteristic. The captain of a destroyer on his way from Newport to Charleston sent this dispatch to Sims, whose flagship was anchored in Chesapeake Bay. “My starboard engine is disabled, shall I continue to Charleston under one engine or put in to Lynnhaven Roads and effect repairs?” Promptly came the answer from Sims, “Yes.” The puzzled skipper sent another dispatch saying he did not understand and repeated his original query. This time, equally promptly came the reply, “No.” I once intercepted a message from Sims to one of his destroyer captains tersely instructing the officer, “Don’t ask questions, act.”

One of the most difficult things to instill in a leader is decisiveness. Much is written about the need for leaders to inspire teams, and establish goals and build consensus and whatnot. And those are indeed facets of leadership. But one key task a leader must execute is to simply make a decision.

Make. A. Damn. Decision.

That’s not to say that decisions should be made rashly. As in so much else, the Army has a process to support decision making, named, rather unimaginatively The Military Decision Making Process.

Copy/Pasta from Wiki:

  1. Receipt of Mission
  2. Mission Analysis
  3. Course of action (COA) Development
  4. COA Analysis (aka Wargaming)
  5. COA Comparison
  6. COA Approval
  7. Orders Production

That seems simple enough. You receive a mission from your higher headquarters, figure out what it is exactly you are to accomplish, and kick around different possible ways to accomplish the mission. Decide which plan to go with, then put the word out to everyone how to go about it.

Ah… if only…

[scribd id=255476045 key=key-DXhKZ4pANMqLNh3iTqAT mode=scroll]

One of the possible traps of MDMP may be familiar to many outside the military- paralysis by analysis. It’s very easy for staffs and commanders to focus on the Process part of MDMP and forget the whole point is the Decision part.

Another problem is, some people are simply afraid to commit themselves to a course of action. Every decision has consequences, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Indeed, usually there are both good and bad consequences to making a decision. There is always a desire to gain one more piece of information, examine one more possible course of action. And so, they fail to decide. Which is a decision all its own.

Which brings us to this:

“By the spring of 2014, the ISIS captors, we’re told, felt so confident in their situation that there was very little visible security around the hostages. And by May, eight Western hostages were held together in one location,” Herridge said.

Via Ace.

There may well have been issues that argued against attempting a rescue of Ms. Mueller and the other hostages. Hostage rescue attempts are very high risk under the best of circumstances. But, at least in hindsight, the risks certainly are less than the near certainty of execution at the hands of Islamic fiends. One finds it difficult, especially in light of the dithering shown by Obama in authorizing the raid on the Bin Laden compound, to believe that Obama made a rational decision to not attempt a rescue, but instead simply made the default decision to do nothing.

8 thoughts on “Make. A. Damn. Decision.”

  1. Do-gooder Eloi who would never have been captured if they’d stayed the hell away from the Middle East like any sane American civilian would are not worth the bones of a single American grenadier.

  2. Many people who are unable to make a decision are that way because their supervisors/superiors/seniors/whatever have thumped them too many times for making decisions that they wouldn’t have made, and find themselves second-guessed. On a separate note, the MDMP is not really for deciding whether to act or not, but to find the most effective plan for action, once action is decided upon.

    1. The current Decider doesn’t have that problem. He has not been thumped for making decisions. He has simply never had to make a decision, and has never been held accountable for the quality or timeliness of anything he does or does not do. Not even in the past six years, God help us all.

  3. ALWAYS have a throw away COA in MDMP. Example- Alpha Co will initiate a rhinoceros stampede in the vicinity and direction of the enemy MLR. Said stampede will clear all obstacles and degrade enemy capabilities NLT 62.5% allwoing friendly freedom of maneuver.
    When questioned as to where Alpha Co will procure said rhinoceroses (rhinoceri?) simply state “Significant challenges exist” or “Analytical rigor has not been completed”

    1. HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! I think I will invoke the rhino stampede COA this afternoon! It ought to be in the JP 5-0!

  4. For another take on the decision making process, check out “Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions”. The author interviewed people who had to make decisions under stress, like firemen and first responders, and offers an alternative to the classic MDMP.

    1. To be fair, MDMP is not the model for making decisions at lower levels below, say, battalion level. That’s an artifact both of the fact that lower levels don’t have staffs, and of the time generally available for decision making. A battalion might have 24 hours to staff a problem. That’s more than enough time to run MDMP.

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