The Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) has always been a fun dog to kick. MDMP can be a laborious process, filled with intricate details, and intense work packed into short spans of time. New staff officers and even experienced commanders bemoan the easy ability to get lost in the details of creating an order before a good order is even created. With all the challenges of the MDMP process, the question must be asked: Is MDMP even worth the trouble?
These criticisms of MDMP are all true, but these criticisms miss the real reasons that make the MDMP so valuable.
99.99% of us won’t be great military planners. No amount of studying military history will make a staff officer into a great military leader. Understanding military history helps staff officers plan, but great military leaders are abysmally rare. The MDMP provides commanders, staff officers, and subordinates a workable framework to create, coordinate, and assign military tasks to a military organization that can be further coordinated, resourced, rehearsed, and war-gamed against competitors to have the greatest probability of success. In short, MDMP helps mediocre military planners (the 99.99% of us that plan and create military operations) create military operations that have the best opportunity of success.
It makes us think about how we contribute to the bigger picture. One of the guiding principles of the MDMP is to help subordinate, adjacent, and enabling military forces to understand how their actions and activities contribute to the success of the supported military commander. MDMP lays out a framework of understanding the supported and supporting military missions as well as providing the all-important Commander’s Intent. The process to fully address and distribute not only the interlocking mission statements but also the Commander’s Intent so subordinate units and soldiers fully understand what success looks like and how to incorporate initiative to support opportunity on the battlefield. When battlefield tasks are paired with understanding, a major value of the MDMP process proves relevant to even modern battlefields.
It gives subordinate, supported, and supporting units an expectation of provided information. In complex and ambiguous situations, an expectation of the information, framework, and clear understandings of the tasks to be accomplished are invaluable. While the MDMP is cumbersome, it does provide information to execute military operations and a standardized description of tasks (doctrine) quite well.
Future improvements for the MDMP need to focus on how to make the MDMP more agile, a faster process for distribution to subordinate and adjacent units, and a way to rapidly update tasks and timings when battlefield conditions and enemy actions transform plans to take advantage of an unexpected opportunity. As I have written before, the Course of Action (COA) development process remains one of the greatest opportunities for technology and battlefield automation to assist in the orders process.
Lt. Col. Chad Storlie (U.S. Army, ret.) is a veteran of Iraq and the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader. He works in marketing technology and teaches as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. He can be reached at Chad.Storlie@gmail.com