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The fundamental principles of operational decision-making in the French Army

BRENNUS 4.0
Histoire & stratégie
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Operational decision-making culture in the French Army is rooted in the very rich history of ideas and strategic thinking in the West. Operational decision-making deals with any complex reasoning process that can be characterized by four phases: knowledge acquisition, problem modeling, choice and action control.


In recent decades, it has undergone significant changes, mainly due to an acceleration of scientific progress and a commendable desire from military leaders and private and public officials to learn from each other’s good practices. The need for interoperability, for taking into account new forms of conflict and adversity, and the integration of new technologies, have led Western armed forces for nearly three decades to unify their operational reasoning methods that are very strongly inspired by American doctrine. Despite huge progress in new technologies, it cannot be forgotten that decision-making in warfare is fundamentally based on human factors and above all the ability of an operational leader to take into account the inherent complexity and uncertainty of war.

 

The work of most strategists in the past centuries, mainly French, Prussian and British authors, repeatedly underlined several factors that hinder or multiply the ability to develop knowledge, i.e . to understand a situation, as well as to make decisions incombat. These factors mainly relate to uncertainty and theessential importance of intuition for the leader in war to thinkand conduct actions. From this observation, these thinkersdeduced that it is mainly the leader’s subjective analytical skills,his ability to take in the situation at a “glance, that determineshis decision-making ability. It is the leader’s ability to free himselffrom the temptation of absolute rationality, to rely on his intuitionin the face of circumstances and to take risks. While the art ofleadership is fundamentally based on the individual personality ofa leader and the charismatic expression of his intention, it is alsobased on a collective dynamic embodied by the staff. This groupof experts and advisers, both civilian and military, is an essentialtool to assist the military leader in his decision-making process.

In European history, the initial formalization of this type of structuretook place in Austria and France in the 18th century. Under theauthority of Napoleon, one could witness a systematizationof the general staff, although still limited to the drafting of theEmperor’s orders and the administration of the troops. Over time,the notion of “staffspread beyond the military sphere and now isused in many complex organizations (from companies to political parties to administrations) to designate the team of experts who surround the decision-maker.

 

This circulation of the “staffconcept is symptomatic of the mutual influence that has existed for more than a century between military and academic theorists. It was at the turn of the industrial revolution that some capitalist companies sought to move away from the family management model in order to carry out important projects involving a large number of people. Management theorists would then develop organizational models based on military doctrines of operational decision-making processes, their objective being to guarantee entrepreneurs optimal rationality in their choices. However, this rationality remains limited by the uncertainty inherent to the environment, contingencies, competition and the cognitive or emotional limits of the decision-maker.

 

As a result, exchanges between the civil and military worlds have intensified with varying degrees of success over the past century, sometimes generating confusion. Thus, decision-making structures, methods and processes, sometimes well adapted to the business world, now seem to have taken precedence over the real determinants of decision-making in war. Therefore, at the eve of the implementation of new technologies in our processes (big data, artificial intelligence, virtual reality) it is now critical for the military to keep in mind these fundamental principles of operational decision-making.

Séparateur
Titre : The fundamental principles of operational decision-making in the French Army
Auteur(s) : Colonel Fabrice Clée
Séparateur


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