What the Hell Does Sun Tzu and Col John Boyd Got to do With IT? | Law Enforcement & Security Consulting

I am often asked by those in the law enforcement and security  professions; Freddie what the hell does Sun Tzu’s theories such as; “Know yourself and Know your Enemy, You  will be safe in every battle” and John Boyd’s OODA Loop and People, Ideas and Hardware have to do with what we do, policing and keeping the homeland secure? We get the call…respond and deal with it, why do we need to know this? How can Boyd and Sun Tzu make a difference?

The answer lies within the questions asked.  To be successful in the implementation of strategy and applying tactics to a given set of circumstances depends on knowledge and decision making and skill of both in the adversarial situation. We often depend upon good luck, which is often confused with good tactics. This is not acceptable if we truly value officer and citizenry safety.  To be ready and prepared conflict must be understood in its entirety, as much as is humanly possible if we are to be successful at resolving it and staying safe while doing so. Sun Tzu and John Boyd’s Theories are about gathering knowledge and understanding of all the dimensions of conflict and how they affect us and the adversary in a competitive environment.

In an effort to understand Sun Tzu and John Boyd ideas first lets look at the definition of conflict: “The essence of conflict is a struggle between two hostile, independent and irreconcilable wills, trying to impose itself on the other. Conflict is fundamentally an interactive social process. Conflict is thus a process of continuous mutual adaptation, of give and take, move and counter move. It is critical to keep in mind that the adversary is not an inanimate object to be acted upon but an independent and animate force with its own objectives and plans.While we try to impose our will on the adversary, he resists us and seeks to impose his own will on us.” 

Within this paragraph describing conflict there is a lot of stuff going on here and it covers exactly the types of conditions we face when responding to hostile situations. It also begins to answer the questions posed as to; what the hell does Sun Tzu and John Boyd got to do with it? You can see conflict is about knowing yourself and the adversary, its about people, their ideas and the tools (hardware) they may use to assist in carrying out a crime or threat. Appreciating this dynamic interplay between opposing human wills is essential to understanding the fundamental nature of conflict. That’s what the theories of Sun Tzu and John Boyd are about, the three dimensions of conflict moral, mental and physical and how they apply to BOTH sides of the equation, the friendly and adversarial in the competitive arena. Both the Big Picture and the Subtle Details That make up Conflict!

The  ancient theories of Sun Tzu and the modern theories of Col John Boyd who was greatly influenced by Sun Tzu’s work and the mix of old and new ideas allows for adaptability in changing conditions and  teaches the strategy and tactics essential to detecting, avoiding, defusing and resolving conflict.

Jobs to be done by law enforcement and security that benefit from Theories of Sun Tzu and COL John Boyd:

  • Handling dynamic and hostile encounters
    • manmade
    • mother nature
    • The Unknown and Unexpected 
  • Patrol and security procedures
    • initiative driven patrol
    • problem solving
    • information gathering
    • knowledge of environment
    • tactical response and approaches
    • emergency response driving 
  • Response to variety calls for service
  • Detection and Prevention of crime through initiative and execution
  • Emergency Adaptation
  • Evacuations
  • Investigations
  • Solve conventional and unconventional threats and problems
    • Strategic adaptation
    • Operational adaptation
    • Tactical adaptation

Theories of Sun Tzu and COL John Boyd reinforce knowledge of what to do and how to do it better through: 

  • Deep understanding of Conflict and its three dimensions
    • Mental, Moral and Physical
    • Philosophy
    • Climate
    • Ground
    • Leadership
    • Methods
  • True Situational awareness and management
    • Observation, orientation, decision and action (Boyd Cycle)
    • Threat assessment and intervention
    • Rapid decision making
    • Initiative driven action
  • Develops adaptive frontline officers and Adaptive Leaders
    • Minimizes Complacency
    • Enhances safety
    • Encourage and enhances teamwork
    • Improves overall performance of law enforcement & security professionals
    • Holds everyone to Higher Standards
  • Motivates and improves morale which leads to:
    • insight
    • imagination
    • initiative

The strategies of Sun Tzu and John Boyd have been proven under the pressure of dynamic conflict in warfare. Yet their goals were always to attempt to win without conflict if at all possible because the cost of lives is so high. So to be effective you must not only understand the theories, you must also be able to translate the theories to the environment you are in. The theories are adaptable to any competitive situation professionally or personally. That is what makes them so powerful.

That is our focus here on this site to build knowledge in these time tested ancient and modern theories and show how they apply to the law enforcement and security professions on the frontline. In doing so we build professionals who understand the complete competitive environment and climate of conflict, which is, riddled with uncertainty, disorder, chaos,unpredictability, risk and danger. Then adapt this knowledge to position ourselves, communicate and use interpersonal skills to gather more information and attempt to gain voluntary compliance and a peaceful resolution. As well as the ability to adapt and force, physical or as a last resort deadly force when despite our best efforts our adversary brings conflict to the level where life and death are on the line.

What the hell does Sun Tzu and Col John Boyd got tot do with It?

Answer; Everything!

My philosophy and that of Law Enforcement and Security Consulting is teaching the strategy and tactics essential to detecting, avoiding, defusing and resolving conflict to leadership and frontline personnel of law enforcement and security.

We complete this mission through training, research, experience , communication, feedback as well as maintaining an active blog to share valuable information on a variety of topics to include Recognizing the Signs and Signals of Crime and Danger, Handling Dynamic Encounters Adaptability and a Flexible Response and Critical Decision Making Under Pressure. These are written with Sun Tzu, John Boyd and how they apply to our professions in mind. They work if we take action to learn and apply them.

The last few months I have posted  a series of several articles on both John Boyd and Sun Tzu as they apply to law enforcement and security. Please take a look and get involved in the continued learning and evolve as a professional through conditioning. The mind needs it as much as as the body! Please make any comments, thoughts, suggestions or ask any questions that may arise while reading articles and posts on this site.   

“The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation.” ~ Jacob Bronowski

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