It is the Army’s primary mission to organize, train, and equip forces to conduct prompt and sustained land combat operations (ADRP 6-0, 1-1). To accomplish its mission, the Army utilizes its concept of unified land operations. Unified Land Operations, applicable to all Army operations is the seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative to gain and maintain a position of relative advantage. Such advantage provides a structure to prevent or deter conflict, prevail in war, and create the conditions for a favorable conflict resolution (ADP 3-0, p.
9). Critical thinking becomes a vital role when decisive actions need to be executed where it is guided by mission command.
Mission Command is the structure that enables commanders to exercise authority and direction. This structure is built on the commander’s intent, mission type orders and decentralized/centralized execution. Agile and adaptive leaders understanding the commander’s intent and context of the mission executed their objective. Commanders and Leaders at all levels apply critical and creative thinking to their understanding and decision making.
Importance of Critical Thinking for Military Commanders
The development of critical thinking skills has been imperative and a success for the Unites States Army. As the military entered into a new era of war fighting, critical thinking has become essential to help Army forces function effectively and accomplish missions within a mission command structure. Commanders and Leaders at all levels have adopted different decision-making practices. This research paper will present the role of critical thinking and how it facilitates understanding and support the different decision-making approaches in a mission command structure.
Critical thinking and creative thinking is applied when commanders and leaders need to understand the mission and are drawn to make effective decisions. “Critical thinking examines a problem in depth from multiple points of view (ADRP 6-0, 2-7).” Here, critical thinkers need to determine if there sufficient justification to accept the conclusion as true based on a given inference or argument. Critical thinkers need to be well informed in order to make judgments and decisions. “Critical thinkers are purposeful and reflective thinkers who apply judgment about what to believe or what to do in response to known facts, observations, experience, oral or written information sources, or arguments (ADRP 6-0, 2-7).” As mentioned creative thinking is also a key to the understanding and for an effective decision-making approach for commanders and leaders. “Creative thinking involves thinking in new, innovative ways while capitalizing on imagination, insight and novel ideas.” Whether we are faced with similar problems we encountered in the past, or faced with new ones; new and creative solutions can be applied.
If we utilize the same solutions, an enemy will acknowledge, adapt and overcome the unchallenged solution. Creative thinking will lead to new insights, novel approaches, fresh perspectives, and new ways of understanding and conceiving things. Implementing critical thinking and creative thinking, commanders and leaders are able to better understand and support their decision-making approach. These Decisions are how commanders and leaders put their outcome into action. In order to reach a decision, the proper decision-making approach must be applied for the situation. Commanders or leaders will apply a systematic analytic decision-making or an intuitive decision-making approach. Different situations will dictate what approach will be suitable.
Analytic Decision Making
Analytic decision making allows commanders and leaders to gather information from various sources that are provided to them as well as their own experiences if necessary. Once information has been obtained, several alternative solutions are then generated. These solutions, referred as options, will then be compared and evaluated until the best course of action has been decided. “It aims to produce the optimal solution by comparing options (ADRP 6-0, 2-8).” According to mission command, analytic decision making is: Methodical and allows the breakdown of tasks into recognizable elements. Ensures commanders and leaders consider, analyze, and evaluate relevant factors, employing techniques such as war-gaming. Provides a systematic approach when the decision involves processing large amounts of information. Helps resolve conflicts among courses of action.
Gives inexperienced personnel a logically structured approach. Depending on the situation commanders and leaders are faced with, analytic decision making can be applied. But, because there are often large amounts of information gathered that needs to be clearly evaluated before a decision can be made, it is time consuming. If the conditions of the mission change, such information will require a complete reevaluation, which can delay decisions. Where there are rapidly changing situations that require quick effective decisions, analytic decision making will not apply. (ADRP 6-0, 2-9).
Intuitive Decision Making
Decisions made by using intuitive decision making are determined based on knowledge, judgment, experience, education, intelligence, boldness, perception, and character. (ADRP 6-0, 2-47) Because it is based on these elements, unlike analytical decision making, intuitive is a more rapid approach to making a quicker decision. Intuitive decision making is often done at the lowest levels of command. According to mission command this approach: Focuses on assessment of the situation more than on comparing multiple options. Is effective when time is short.
Relies on a commander’s experience and ability to recognize the key elements and implications of a particular problem or situation. Tends to focus on the larger picture more than the individual components. When there are rapid changing situations and decisions need to be made right away, commanders and leaders will apply intuitive decision making approach.
Commanders and leaders mix theses two approaches “to help them remain objective and make timely and effective decisions” (ADRP 6-0, 2-49). In a mission command structure, commanders and leaders avoid making decisions solely by intuition; they incorporate some analysis into their decisions. Decisions should not be rushed or over-thought. A wrong decision can be fatal if critical thinking and creative thinking skills are not used when commanders and leaders need to make a decision thru an analytical or intuitive approach.
In a mission command structure, commanders and leaders decisions are based on the mixture of analytic and intuitive decision making. To facilitate in the decision making, commanders and leaders need to apply his/her critical and creative thinking skills. These skills are imperative to help make well round decisions for any type of mission. If wrong decisions are formulated it can be fatal, becoming an advantage to the enemy. These decisions not only affect the outcome, but it affects the service members who carry out the mission. Our service members’ decisions on the field are influenced by the decisions made by the commanders and leaders. The development of these skills is instrumental for commanders and leaders at all levels.
The development of critical thinking skills has become a paramount to the military. One of the key characteristics in the job description of a military leader is, decision-making. But with no such skills, full effective decisions will not exist. Critical thinking as well as creative thinking is imperative to the success of the United States Army and it has been incorporated into the Professional Military Education for leaders at all levels. “Critical thinking means the ability to construct and defend as argument using reason, applying intellectual standards and epistemic responsibility, and recognizing and countering logical fallacies as we see them in others and ourselves (Colonel Thomas M. Williams).”
- Benson, Colonel Bill. (2012). The Evolution of Army Doctrine for Success in the 21st Century. Military Review: March/April 2012. Vol 92 Issue 2, p2. Retrieved From http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_201206 30MC_art010.pdf
- Conley, Kathleen. (2013). Operationalizing Mission Command. Leveraging Theory to Achieve Capability. JFQ: Joint Force Quarterly 2013 1st Quarter. Issue 68, p32. Retrieved from http://www.ndu.edu/press/lib/pdf/jfq-68/JFQ-68_32- 35_Conley.pdf
- Department of the Army Headquarters. (2011). Unified Land Operations. Army Doctrine Publication 3-0. Retrieved from http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/adp3_0.pdf
- Department of the Army Headquarters. (2012). Mission Command. Army Doctrine Release Publication 6-0. Retrieved from https://armypubs.us.army.mil/doctrine/index.html
- Sharpe Jr., James D.; Creviston, Thomas E. (2013). Understanding Mission Command.
- Army Sustainment; July-September 2013. Vol. 45 Issue 4, p10. Retrieved from http://www.army.mil/article/106872
- William, Colonel Thomas M. U.S. Army Reserve. (2013). Education for Critical Thinking. Military Review. Retrieved from http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20130228_art011.pdf
- Benson, Colonel Bill. (2012). The Evolution of Army Doctrine for Success in the 21st Century. Military Review; March/April 2012, Vol.92 Issue 2, p2. Retrieved From http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_201206 30MC_art010.pdf
This article discusses the U.S. Army doctrine from the early 21st century. It provides the history and the evolution of the Army doctrine. It describes the publication “AirLand Battle”
that was published in 1982, the transition of the doctrine in the 1990’s, through the publication of “Unified Land Operations” in 2011. It describes unified land operations the “seizing, retaining,
and exploiting the initiative to gain and maintain a position of advantage provides a battlefield framework and logic that nests unified land operations within the joint operational construct of
unified action and provides a structure that allows commanders to effectively and accurately describe their intent in time, space, purpose, and priority, which are guided by Mission
- Conley, Kathleen. (2013). Operationalizing Mission Command. Leveraging Theory to Achieve Capability. JFQ: Joint Force Quarterly; 2013 1st Quarter, Issue 68, p32. Retrieved from http://www.ndu.edu/press/lib/pdf/jfq-68/JFQ-68_32- 35_Conley.pdf
This article is the result of the Mission Command White Paper published by General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. It illustrates communication at all levels within military groups for better understanding and effective completion of missions. Mission Command will take on a more dynamic approach, developing ever greater adaptability, critical thinking and independent rapid decision-making. The principles of Mission Command are being currently being utilized in combat and other activities by many leaders and organizations.
- HeadQuarters, Department of the Army. (2011). Unified Land Operations. Army Doctrine Publication 3-0. Retrieved from http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/adp3_0.pdf
This is an Army Doctrine Publication the presents the Army on guidance and direction for conducting operations on land, and provides the foundation for developing other principles, tactics, and techniques. The introduction included is a brief description of what the Army calls Unified Land Operations; applicable to all Army operations is the seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative to gain and maintain a position of relative advantage. Such advantage provides a structure to prevent or deter conflict, prevail in war, and create the conditions for a favorable conflict resolution (ADP 3-0, p. 9). In order to create favorable conflict resolution there needs to be a decision making and understanding of the mission. With Unified Land Operations, critical thinking becomes a vital role when decisive actions need to be executed where it is guided by mission command.
- HeadQuarters, Department of the Army. (2012). Mission Command. Army Doctrine Release Publication 6-0. Retrieved from https://armypubs.us.army.mil/doctrine/index.html
This is an Army Doctrine publication that establishes guidance on command, control, and the mission command war- fighting function. This army doctrine guides the Army forces to function effectively and accomplish missions. Mission Command is broken down into three categories. For this research paper, the focus will be on the understanding and decision-making for commanders and staff through critical thinking. The development of critical thinking skills has been imperative and a success for the Unites States Army. As the military entered into a new era of war fighting, critical thinking has become essential to help Army forces function effectively and accomplish missions within a mission command structure. Commanders and Leaders at all levels have adopted different decision-making practices.
- Sharpe Jr., James D.; Creviston, Thomas E. (2013). Understanding Mission Command.
- Army Sustainment; July-September 2013, Vol. 45 Issue 4, p10. Retrieved from http://www.army.mil/article/106872
This article focuses on the background of mission command of the U.S. Army. It states the mission command is a warfighting function and the philosophy of the Army’s command described within the revision of Army Doctrine Publication 6-0, Mission Command. It discusses mission command history; trust in the doctrine of mission command, and decentralized execution.