Within militaries worldwide, the process for decision making is highly structured and well thought-out. It is assumed that the decision-making process will be clouded by the “fog of war” and therefore decisions need to be made in a structured, logical way.

Key reasons for this include an acceptance that decisions will need to be made without full or perfect knowledge of what an opponent will do, and also if key leaders are taken out, the process can continue and a decision can be made by those stepping into the breach.

Looking at the circumstances in which the military decision-making process is employed, it is difficult not to draw parallels with the situations being faced by companies the length and breadth of the country due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. As we now turn our eyes to exiting the lockdown phase of the crisis, businesses are considering the circumstances in which they will reopen and how they will adjust to what is being called the “new normal”.

Predicting the future is a dangerous game at the best of times, but there are certainly some elements of the military decision-making process that can be used to offer a framework to help business leaders order their thoughts and put some shape on their plans for the next few uncertain months.

Within military operations, one never fully knows what an enemy force will do exactly, which is why comprehensive scenario planning is undertaken. Whether attacking or defending, different scenarios are teased out from an analysis of both the enemy’s capabilities and those of friendly forces. These scenarios are referred to as Courses of Action (COA) and typically three or so COAs will be selected to be “wargamed” by the commander and their immediate staff.

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This involves the staff splitting into a blue team (representing our forces) and a red team (representing enemy forces) and realistically stepping through the likely situations that will be encountered and the plans to react to those.

Businesses who are considering the future could take a page from the military planners, and conduct their analysis using what the military refers to as the Most Probable Course of Action (MPCOA) and the Most Dangerous Course of Action (MDCOA). Using this framework, businesses can start to map out the extremes of what may be necessary in a best-case scenario and worst-case scenario.



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