“In the heat of battle, the mind tends to lose its balance. Too many things confront you at the same time, unexpected setbacks, doubts and criticisms from your own allies. There’s a danger of responding emotionally, with fear, depression or frustration. It is vital to keep your presence of mind, maintaining your mental powers whatever the circumstances. You must actively resist the emotional pull of the moment, staying decisive, confident, and aggressive no matter what hits you. Make the mind tougher by exposing it to adversity. Learn to detach yourself from the chaos of the battlefield. Let others lose their heads; your presence of mind will steer you clear of their influence and keep you on course.” ~Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War
The third issue of People Ideas and Hardware in That Order the LESC Newsletter the Tactical Concept of the week is Strategy. Strategy has several meanings and is a process, a constant adaptation to shifting conditions and circumstances in a world where chance, uncertainty and ambiguity dominate. Strategy helps us see opportunities so we in our efforts to win without conflict or escalating violence. Then apply the resources we have people, ideas and the hardware (tools) to seize the INTIATIVE!” Strategy is the first component in the trinity of strategy, operational art and tactics.
Our normal response in crisis situations is usually focused on the tactical side of things. The methods we use in an attempt to gain control. However without a strategy, the process of a clear goal for a particular set of circumstances and operational elements a (body of knowledge) that gives us an understanding of the how and what of the situation and the potential methods and outcomes, dealing with unpredictable behavior, people in conflict or about to commit violence we are missing valuable information and hence the ability to perform at our most effective level. Tactics are built on the strategic and operational elements and if applied without some semblance of an adaptive plan (strategy) and knowledge of conflict and competitive situations, the tactics are often applied with varied results that often end in the loss of life or people seriously injured. It’s my belief we can be better at what we know how to do if we apply strategic principles to our efforts. Let’s look at the concept of strategy a bit deeper.
Tactical Concept of the Week
Strategy: One of the best definitions of strategy I have seen that applies to what we in law enforcement, security and the military do is; “That which persuades an individual or group of individuals to do what we want them to do. Meanwhile, keeping in mind, in all likelihood our opponents are trying to enforce a similar program on us. In conflict this may require that we: Deny our opponents the opportunity to achieve their goals, or deny them the ability to survive on their own terms, or deny them the right to survive at all.”
COL John Boyd in his Discourse on Winning and Losing stated; “strategy and how organizations can survive and improve our abilities to shape and adapt to unfolding circumstances, so that we (as individuals or as groups or as a culture or as a nation state) can survive on our own terms.“
Gary Gagliardi of the Science of Strategy Institute explains strategy like this: “Strategy is used to leverage what we cannot control. In dynamic, external environments, most of what happens isn’t controlled or planned by anyone. In these environments, everyone’s plans collide resulting in what no one planned. Chaos arises because people are competing, the critical resources are contested, and the key decisions of customers, competitors, and potential partners are outside of our control. In these external environments, we don’t have the time or information to plan our way through our decisions. We need the instant strategic insight into rapidly changing conditions to make the right decision. “
Strategy is a system, a system for advancing positions through thinking, but not just thinking, it also includes decision making and taking action. Strategy is based on the laws of nature and the way we analyze and advance our positions. Strategy is a method for making better decisions responding to a specific crisis or situation. Strategy is the process of observation, orientation, decision and action cycles or as Sun Tzu who developed strategy over 2,500 years ago called the steps of strategy; listen, aim, move and claim. Using the system of strategy and your natural abilities enhances decision making through knowledge of what your situation is. This allows you to know where to invest resources and exploit opportunities allowing you to change the situation putting you in a more advantageous position.
Strategy is used in a vast array of organizations, businesses and learning institutions to position themselves at an advantage so they may exploit opportunities when they present themselves.
Utility of Strategy
My question is; why aren’t we in the protection professions utilizing the utility of strategy to position ourselves more advantageously in the complex and uncertain types of crises we respond to? It seems that often times we just respond and depend on luck and the law of chance instead of an adaptable strategy. Yes we put plans together and have policies and procedures written we claim to guide us but are these plans, policies and procedures, really applicable to the types of calls we handle and the fast paced rapidly changing conditions that take place with walking, talking, moving and thinking adversaries?
Our instincts tell us fight or flight; we either run from the situation or threaten conflict by responding in an aggressive manner to discourage others from carrying out their threatening actions. Sometimes this works to our advantage, but a strategy will help us leverage the ability to fight our instincts and respond with what actually works. This could be to take aggressive action or to wait and negotiate etc. But the give and take, the flow of strategy will help you make progress in any given set of circumstances and complete your mission and goals.
It is also important to note planning is not strategy; the two concepts are often viewed as one in the same. Planning works in controlled environment and planning has specific goals, where strategy works in contested environments and has a general mission. This does not mean we do not plan, we do indeed. But it is important to understand the difference between strategy and planning. You can put a crises response plan together with specific tasks (establish command and control, identify the kill zone, establish inner and outer perimeters, establish command post, staging areas and request additional resources) along with a to do list of who will do what and when.
Use Strategy for the unexpected, unpredictable and complex crises
When an actual unexpected, unpredictable crises occurs the plan, has to be adapted to the changes taking place in the environment and climate of the situation. Nothing ever goes as planned and this is where strategy comes into play. As information is gathered and decisions are made, our adversary adapts and changes as well. This creates new opportunities and the abilities to advance our position. This interaction and give and take creates new positions which are constantly created by change. Strategy helps us weigh time and risk and adapt our plan accordingly to the climate and environment, utilizing methods and tactics unitized through leadership to complete our mission. We get into trouble with strict adherence to a plan in environments that clearly require adaptation and flexibility. He who adapts, gains the advantage. It’s important to always remember both the friendly and adversarial roles and how they may affect the situation when implementing strategy.
I think and I believe most officers would agree, a review of the actual incidents we respond to, where violence and conflict are present would show luck and chance, not strategy and tactics as the prevailing factor in the outcomes of crisis response. This in my view is not good enough. Not good enough if we truly value officer and citizen safety. Luck and chance are great and I would not knock lady luck off my shoulder in the mist of crises if it were on our side, but a good adaptable strategy would ensure a more effective and safe response and keep those responding to dangerous situations at the position of advantage throughout the situation.
An example of how strategy may work in our environment:
You receive a call for an elderly man who has just found out he has two-weeks to live. He has barricaded himself inside the house with his wife inside. The report states he has knives and his threatening himself. You have the location and it is now your job to respond and resolve the situation. Now what? How do you handle this situation?
You arrive on scene and the male is inside the home with his wife. In this actual incident the officers responding four of them; took the tactical approach and entered the front door and pulled the wife to safety and stood 6-8 feet away from the elderly man and spoke to him face to face as he used duct tape to tape knives together a pair for each hand as he stated he will hurt himself or anyone who tried to stop him. He then asked officers to shoot him.
The officers stayed inside and negotiated with the man for approximately two hours and eventually walked him out safely. In the end the result was a good one and one that warranted praise for the efforts and risk the officers took to resolve this peacefully and without harm coming to anyone. My question for you was this best, was this safest strategy? Could we have done it better if we used the concept of strategy in dealing with this scenario?
Would a better strategy have been to set up a perimeter initially and then engage in negotiation? Or if we went inside initially as these fine officers did would it have been a better strategy to back out and set up once the seriousness of the situation was known?
An understanding of strategy and the operational art (knowledge) of these types of situations (barricaded, distraught, emotionally disturbed person) combined with an escalation of violence (taping knives together with threats to do harm), would have or should have told the responding officers that negotiation usually (in the majority of cases) works in gain the advantage and a safe resolution in these types of situations. What was the overriding objective and mission in this case? Would it be to go get him or should be set him up to get him using containment and interaction along with a response team (available and on scene) or made up of patrol officers to engage if the violence escalated?
When we question scenarios like this it is in an effort to learn, unlearn and relearn so we get better at what we do. We develop better strategy and tactics if we learn as much as we possibly can from our experiences. We owe it to ourselves to do so. Strategy is a process for improving our position in competitive, rapidly changing situations. To develop strategy you must know what its parts are and how they work together, this takes continuous effort and strength of character because change is constant and certain.
A good strategy is for leadership to understand the threats we face, and train the frontline of their agencies so they can deal with these types of high risk incidents effectively. A good strategy is to get good quality training for responding personnel. Training is what makes effective adaptive personnel. Training is far more valuable than policy and procedure because in most cases policy and procedure has nothing to do with effective response to dangerous circumstances. There is too much chance, uncertainty and chaos in these dynamic type situations to be bogged down solely in policy and procedure which in the end slows down decision making and leaves the frontline personnel unsure of how to handle the situation.
A good strategy would be for frontline personnel to strive for more knowledge and learn as much as possible from the experiences they have while responding to calls. There are several ways to gather and enhance this knowledge without expensive and long drawn out training programs. Utilizing tactical decision exercises and decision making critiques are just a couple of examples. Yes this should come from the leadership of the organization, but it must as well come from personal initiative.
Officer survival and safety is a big topic of discussion in our professions but it takes more than talking about it. We must develop a strategy to win through understanding conflict, violence and strategy so we indeed depend on decision making and skill, instead of good luck and habits that just may get you hurt.
A little fun: Can we drop formalities, have fun and still be professional?
Some of you may be wondering what the hell Paris Hilton’s picture is doing in a strategy and tactics newsletter? First and foremost she is reading Sun Tzu’s 2,500 year old treatise on strategy the Art of War which gets one to thinking and to ask the question; if she is learning the art of strategy why are those who need it to stay safe and resolve conflict not as focused as she appears in the photograph? Secondly I just love the picture and had to share.
Information and Intelligence
The articles, police, security, university and campus related news and related reports as well as the programs of instruction posted in this newsletter are believed by me to be of value to those who protect and serve and will keep the process of evolutionary learning and adaptability alive and well in our professions so we train to make a difference! A difference in how we, observe our surroundings and orient to the whole situation as it unfolds. In an effort to make good intuitive and explicit decisions based on time and risk that can be adapted and applied through various actions while enhancing officer safety and the safety of those we protect.
Please remember the newsletter is linked to the WWW.LESC.NET the LESC blog, where we can discuss these issues and any other topic you would like to bring up. In the end learning, education and training are linked and it takes collaborative efforts by all to make the difference that is needed.
Recommended Books to Enhance Awareness, Adaptability, Decision Making and Preparedness (new recommendations in each issue of the newsletter)
LESC Upcoming Programs of Instruction
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