Assessing Strategy


Given shrinking resources and a rapidly changing organizational environment, it is critical that we assess strategic options before implementation.  We  also need to assess current strategies since shrinking resources dictate that we may not be able to do everything that we are doing now.  A critical look can help us achieve in the face of diversity.

The field of economics is all about how people respond to incentives.  Pareto was a great economist who gifted us with the 80/20 rule.  While the percentages are sometimes different, the idea, in terms of our strategies, is that 20 % of what we do yields 80% of the result.  If we are compelled to limit what we are doing, those cuts should not come from the most productive 20% – rather we should identify the least productive activities we are engaged in.

How do we assess strategy and our ability to implement it?

“Therefore measure in terms of five things, use these assessments to make comparisons, and thus find out what the conditions are.  The five things are the way, the weather, the terrain, the leadership, and discipline.”

-Master Sun, The Art of War

The way describes the will of the people.  Does the strategy stand up in the court of law and public opinion?  Will the community be supportive or will they choose to find someone else to provide for their quality of life and take more of your tax base with them?  Will members of the organization support the strategy?  How effective are you at getting people on your side? Poor motivation creates poor performance.

The weather literally means the weather or the seasons.  It impacts everything we do and always bears consideration.  As an example,  a foot post might not be an effective answer in the dead of winter when no one wants to be out anyway – yet doctrine might indicate a foot post.  What response times are you relying on?  Will the weather increase them?  How long have your people been exposed to the elements maintaining a perimeter?  The list of considerations goes on…

The terrain impacts your ability to implement strategy – does it favor you or your opponent.  As a patrol commander in the frigid northeast my Department chose to equip my folks with a couple of Segways.  A great tool given the proper terrain – not so great when you have to put a plow blade on the front of it :).  Was this a good strategy and use of limited resources?

Master Sun described what he meant by assessing leadership.

“Leadership is matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage and sternness.

-Master Sun, The Art of War

Is your leadership capable of implementing the strategies that have been chosen?  If not, can they be developed?  Leadership is an incredibly complex topic all its own but the ability of leadership must always be considered when choosing strategy.

Discipline in this context, according to Master Sun means, “organization, chain of command and logistics.”  Does your organization and command structure support the implementation of the strategy you have chosen.  If not, should permanent changes be made?  Should a temporary task force (organization) be formed to support the strategy?  Have you given your people the tools they need to do the job?

Consider Your Opponent

At the same time that you are making these assessments, you should evaluate your opponent and their strategy.  This will help you determine if your opponent is susceptible to the strategy that you have chosen.

What to do?

At the line and direct level you should confirm that you understand the purpose/direction and motivation of the course set before you by your leaders.  It is your responsibility to assess the strategy in that light and then take positive action accordingly.  You will always know more about effectively achieving the Mission than someone who is not present so implement the strategy in a way that achieves success.

At the organizational level, you should never waste your community’s resources or your people’s time and efforts on a strategy that you have not considered well.  You need to communicate purpose/direction and motivation to enhance the ability of your subordinate leaders to enact your strategy.  You must also ensure that you are constantly evaluating what you have done so that you can improve, and focus  future efforts on the 20% of your activity that produces the 80% of your results.

As always, THANK YOU for your service and BE SAFE!

Please share your experiences with evaluating strategy?  How do you believe that we can improve?


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