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Army Design Methodology

At first glance, the Army Design Methodology (ADM) seems to be a convoluted and typically optional pre-stage of Mission Analysis within the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP). But the ADM is distinctly separate in goals, detail, and scope. At its heart, the ADM allows a commander and his staff to view a problem via three lenses: Operational Environment (which includes the Current and Desired End State), Problem Framing, and Operational Approach. To help our organization grasp these concepts, this paper uses two main historical examples.

First, to break out of a military paradigm mindset, it provides an analogous story of the space race to explain what the ADM is and is not. Second, this paper uses the ADM to analyze two key portions of the Franco-Prussian War. It weaves in theory and doctrine throughout to give multiple, but complimentary angles to assist in understanding and showcase how best our organization can use the ADM. As a caveat, since these historical examples were prior to the development of the ADM, they should be read as allegories, not direct representations.

The key doctrinal ADM terms are placed in italics. In the late 1950’s, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, setting off the space race. The US administration’s response can be thought of in terms of the ADM. First, the government analyzed the Operational Environment, looking at the Current State of both nations (education levels, technology, number and type of experts) and then developed a Desired End State (a man on the moon). Next, Problem Framing occurred. The main problem identified was: neither technology, experience, or know-how existed on how to achieve the Desired End State.

To bridge this gap on a conceptual level, America developed an Operational Approach of a countrywide emphasis on math and science education and launched the Apollo Program which was designed to get astronauts into space and then eventually land on the moon. Only then, after a richer grasp of the terrain, did the US administration switch to detailed plans (akin to MDMP) with NASA to develop rocket technology, mission command centers, and other space program specific solutions.

What did not happen was the analysis of a directed mission or the entrance into a lockstep model of problem solving as would have been the case in the MDMP. The administration was not given a concept of what to do, a timeline to accomplish it, and an arrayal of forces, all of which are key inputs for Mission Analysis. Looking at doctrine then, the ADM is far more conceptual, open, and free-flowing. An excellent descriptor of what design does is that it: “encourages an open dialogue based on the competition of ideas, in order to develop the best possible understanding of the situation and develop ways to deal with it.

It produces a series of improving hypotheses about what the problem is and how to solve it, and encourages an organizational atmosphere open to challenges to the hypothesis so that the organization’s approach remains relevant and correctly aimed and focused. ” Here one can see that design focuses far more on comprehension or framing a problem than in a precise system of solving a problem. MDMP solves an equation for the “x” variable whereas the ADM seeks to understand where “x” is in the system, how “x” interacts with other variables, and if “x” is even the right variable to solve.

Properly viewed then, design is not a replacement of the MDMP, nor a critic of it, but rather a complimentary way of how an organization can best support the commander do his critical tasks of understanding, visualizing, and describing an issue, problem, or milieu. A historical echo from the Franco-Prussian War provides other examples of how the ADM plays out. Beginning with the Operational Environment, in the late 1860’s Prussia wanted to unify and possibly expand its borders, an extension of its same desires following the war with Austria in 1866.

The Current State was a unified northern Prussian/German nation and the Desired End State was: 1) a defeated France, 2) the absorption of the southern independent German states, and 3) gaining the Alsace-Loraine region, currently under French control. In Problem Framing, Otto Von Bismarck grappled with how to accomplish this in a fashion where the rest of the European powers and Russia would not see Prussia as the aggressor and play into fears that the balance of power would be upset. Bismarck wanted to avoid a strong coalition against his ambitions and his country.

Conceptually then, Bismarck’s Operational Approach was to lure or deceive France somehow into attacking or declaring war on Prussia. Bismarck reasoned no European power would deny him the right to defend his lands and that the southern German states would ally with him to defeat France. Flashing forward in time towards the outbreak of hostilities, Bismarck shifted to what we would recognize as the detailed orders process of MDMP, focusing on the march to Paris and the defeat of French military forces. However, Bismarck fell victim to catastrophic success.

At the Battle of Sedan he soundly beat one French army and captured Napoleon III, the commander of French forces and leader of France. Bismarck’s forces previously surrounded another French army at Metz and lay siege. Rather than this ending the war, a new government in Paris formed and international pressure increased against Prussia to cease fighting. This radically changed most of the outputs of the previous ADM. Now, for the Operational Environment in the Current State, Bismarck had the southern German states join his cause, the French armies beaten, their country’s leader in his possession, and international fear of his power . . but no victory.

The Desired End State remained possession of the Alsace-Loraine, but the new Parisian government refused negotiations. So, Bismarck’s Problem Framing led him to a new dilemma. Bismarck was no longer trying to prevent a growing fear in his neighbors in regards to Prussia’s power, but reacting to that fear. Europe now saw an upset to the Westphalian balance and pressure would grow quickly to cease hostilities. Prussia needed to tie things up with haste.

His Operational Approach then was to lay siege to Paris, subdue and impose victory on the new Paris government, stave off other European powers via diplomacy, and crush all resistance in France. From the above examples, it should be evident that the three lenses are not stand alone thoughts, but bleed together. To paraphrase ATP 5-0. 1, the three lenses relationships to each other is as such: what pertinent elements exist that influence where I am at and where I am going (Operational Environment)? What is going to get in the way of me getting to where I want to go (Problem Framing)?

And, what am I going to do in light of all this (Operational Approach)? Answers to these questions can be large or small; military, political, or economic; short-term or long-term. The ADM does not demand that these answer be novel or innovative. For example, since realpolitik – with states jostling for power via armies, diplomacy, and economic desire – existed for centuries in Europe and was the baseline for their formation, Bismarck and his staff’s analysis of the situation was sound. Or, as Clausewitz wrote: “Politics is the womb in which war develops.

In fact Clausewitz, writing a generation earlier, stated that the defeat of France lie in beating her army and conquering France. What the ADM does demand is strong-sense critical thinking; evaluating all positions, especially your own. Another benefit of the ADM is that it does not have to be transferred immediately to the MDMP. Not all problem sets demand an immediate solution. The understanding developed by one staff could be transferred later in the future to a new staff with a fresh set of eyes . . . and a new set of facts, relationships, and other injects.

This is yet another distinction of the ADM that often pulls it out of the tactical level and up to the operational or even strategic. In conclusion, the Army Design Methodology is a stand-alone tool to approach a given situation, problem, or environment. It actively encourages discursive and eclectic thoughts, visualizations, and dialogue. It is not wedded to a process or typeset or even a military specific domain, but is rather holistic and flexible. The ADM can, however, dramatically guide the MDMP process. For these reasons, the ADM is a useful tool for this organization.

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