Step II: Mission Analysis
In America, first you get the mission, then you get analysis, and then you get the power.
In America, first you get the mission, then you get analysis, and then you get the power.
Step 2: Mission Analysis
Welcome back to our second installment of how the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP) can help your organization develop a strategic vision or plan for a major upcoming event. During this step, we’ll explain how Army organizations do the following:
At the end of day, Step II boils down to one simple imperative: enable leadership to understand what their organization must accomplish and enable them to make the best decisions to achieve their objectives. To that end, time to crack open an energy drink, chow down on super-processed food that will last for 30 years and fire up a red lens flashlight. We’re fixin’ to analyze the hell out of some missions.
After we finished screaming into the abyss about the designs and wants of our higher headquarters, we began analyzing the mission to better understand what we needed to do. We also identified the variables that could prevent us from achieving our objective. Mission Analysis is a substantial effort and produces everything from detailed terrain analysis, weather data, and anticipated enemy courses of action. Depending on the Army organization’s size, these outputs range from a few paragraphs to 100-page documents with cross-reference annexes. And while some of you might be fascinated by a soil density’s effects on tracked vehicles during the monsoon season, we’ll focus on the items that are relevant to this discussion.
Step II begins with drafting a problem statement that helps your team understand what they must accomplish during a particular moment in space and time. Problem statements are typically questions that ask how an organization transitions the current circumstances into a situation that achieves a desired outcome or closes a gap. Ideally, the problem statement is limited to one or two sentences and serves as the foundation for your team’s future efforts. While entire books explain how to effectively draft problem statements, we’ve used the following format:
|How does (your organization) achieve (desired outcome in space and time) using (available resources) before (suspense date) without (briefly describe the greatest risk)?|
|Alpha Company Example|
|How does Alpha Company establish a blocking position at Checkpoint 2A with the attached mechanized infantry platoon and a host nation police detachment prior to 1000 tomorrow and prevent the enemy from launching an early counterattack against Bravo Company?|
Next, we needed to understand the immediate environmental factors that could affect our ability to accomplish our mission. To help us understand these variables, we applied a construct with these attributes: facts, assumptions, constraints, and limitations. Some teams also add risks and mitigations as a fifth construct. This analysis helped us better understand the mission’s nuances and potential challenges that could impact our ability to achieve a desired endstate. To better understand this construct, let’s revisit our friends in Alpha Company during their preparation to establish a blocking position at Checkpoint 2A. Their mission analysis could look something like this:
We typically used something like the following graphic to communicate our analysis to our leadership:
Another crucial component of Mission Analysis is developing a mission statement or updating the initial draft from Step I. A mission statement consists of the 5Ws (who, what, when, where, and why) and explains two things: a task and the purpose. Differently stated, the mission statement tells your subordinates what you are asking them to do will achieve a result that contributes to the entire organization’s success. An example of a mission statement looks something like this:
“Alpha Company establishes a blocking position at Checkpoint 2A on Highway 202 no later than 1000 on 18 NOV 2018 in order to protect Bravo Company’s eastern flank.”
The final, and perhaps the most critical, piece of Mission Analysis is providing updated commander’s guidance. During Step I, you gave your team planning guidance. Now, you need to provide them with guidance to conduct the actual operation influenced by the understanding developed during Step II. An effective technique from our past lives includes defining the following: your desired endstate, the key tasks for your organization (pick the most important task and call it your “decisive effort” or something to that effect), and critical information requirements that could change in your current course of action (important information that requires a phone call vice an email).
In Army Adventure World, staffs package this information into a document called Warning Order #2 which they distribute to subordinate units. We do want to reiterate that while MDMP is regimented Army practice with prescribed outputs, you can tailor the information flow and presentation to align with your internal operations. Further, this discussion describes of the tip of the iceberg of Mission Analysis, but should you wish dive deeper into the MDMP rabbit hole, the Combined Arms Center offers an excellent in-depth explanation in their MDMP Handbook (available at https://usacac.army.mil/sites/default/files/publications/15-06_0.pdf).
Poorly understanding what your team must do will compound problems over time. It’s difficult to explain why your team spent a ton of time and money performing a task that your leadership did not want or an effort that produced a thing that nobody needs. Below are some best practices to consider that could prevent those inconvenient scenarios:
|Good Ideas||Bad Ideas|
|Thoroughly read and understand your leadership’s strategic guidance or equivalent documents.||Read the executive summary, deem yourself a genius, and move on to the next problem.|
|Seek clarification and eliminate as much ambiguity as possible.||Assume that you know what your boss wants and make an unpleasant discovery late in the process.|
|Respect your competition and understand their strengths and weaknesses.||Determine that your competition doesn’t want to make money and has no plans to steal your customers.|
|Review your team’s performance during past efforts and apply both successful practices and corrective actions.||Take the “it will work this time” approach because your customers love you and can’t wait to give you their money.|
|If possible, run your initial plan by your leadership to get a quick sanity check.||Embrace the Colonel Kurtz Method from Apocalypse Now.|
|When drafting the mission statement, realize that the purpose is more important than the task. The purpose of your operation must align with your leadership’s goals but your task can change in response to recent developments.||After the current task is clearly not achieving the purpose, refuse to take a different approach and tell yourself, “My team isn’t working hard enough. Calling them in on Saturday should fix the problem. I’ll bring donuts to boost morale. My team loves me and I’m an amazing leader…and very handsome and humble.”|
Let’s conduct a brief mission analysis using a scenario relevant to dealership operations. To that end, we’ll revisit the Takata airbag recall mentioned in the previous step.
Let’s first begin with defining a problem statement that will help your team repair the gasoline-fueled death traps in which your customers are riding. Using the format defined in the previous section, your problem statement could sound something like this:
|How does (your organization) achieve (desired outcome in space and time) using (specific resources) before (suspense date) without (briefly describe the greatest risk)?|
|Main Street Toyota Problem Statement Example|
|How does Main Street Toyota achieve the OEM compliance standard using our sales team augmented with Auto Labs’s Sophi CX before the end of 2QFY23 without failing to meet our customer engagement goal of 80%?|
Next, you must define your facts, assumptions, constraints, limitations, and risks. Toyota issued a recall for the Takata airbag in 1999 (fact). Our dealership will make $1000 for each RO (assumption). We must replace the Takata airbag with a new airbag that meets safety certifications (constraint). We cannot replace the Takata airbag with another Takata airbag (limitation). If we do not engage 80% of our customers by the end of the quarter, we will fail to meet the OEM’s compliance standards (risk). Therefore, we will establish a goal of contacting 20 customers a day and help them schedule appointments (mitigation).
Now it’s time to define your mission statement by applying the “5Ws” construct to the Takata airbag recall effort. Ideally, you’ve sketched a draft during Step I, so the actual statement requires nothing more than some refinement. Therefore, your mission statement for the Takata airbag recall could look something like this:
|(Who is performing the task) + (what are they doing) + (when are they doing it) + (where are they doing it) = (Why they are doing it)|
|Main Street Toyota Mission Statement Example|
|Main Street Toyota conducts Toyota’s Takata airbag safety recall in 2QFY23 at both dealership locations in order to achieve OEM compliance and promote safe vehicle operations.|
Finally, you should provide your intent to describe your reasoning for asking your team to perform a certain task. Yes, you are the boss and they’ll likely do what you say regardless, but providing them with the “why” enables them to understand how their actions directly contribute to the organization’s aggregate success. Remember, your intent describes your desired endstate and delineates the priority tasks that mitigate the key risks. The format below can help you achieve that end.
|Leader Intent for Takata Airbag Recall|
|Broad Description of Success (restate the purpose): We achieve our OEM compliance rate of Takata airbag replacement to keep our customers and our community safe.|
|Organization: Main Street Toyota exceeds OEM compliance rate and successfully integrates Auto Labs CX into service operations; internal processes refined and updated to achieve success during similar operations in the future.
Customers: Understand that we are committed to their safety and view our team as their primary choice for auto maintenance and repair.
Competition: Our outreach program and customer advocacy increase our client base with 25 new customers who previously relied upon our competition for auto care.
|Decisive Operation (thing that must happen to be successful): Engage 80% of our customer base by the end of 2QFY23.
Key Task 1: Integrate Auto Labs CX into service operations.
Key Task 2: Establish weekly glidepath to measure progress toward achieving OEM compliance.
Key Task 3: Evaluate current systems and processes to identify corrective actions that will optimize similar efforts in the future.
|Essential Elements of Information (things you need to know immediately)|
That wraps our discussion on Step II of MDMP. At the conclusion of this step, you and your team have completed the analysis to issue an informed problem statement, mission statement, and leader’s intent. These three products collate into an azimuth that will lead and direct your team towards achieving the desired outcomes. It is worth mentioning that this azimuth is not concrete and or immune to change. Future steps will define contingencies and branch plans but continue to bear in mind that the last time a plan held true to its original form throughout its duration was the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 game plan. So tune in next time for our discussion on Step III: Course of Action Development.
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