What Are The Force Multipliers That Allow Police Organizations to Operate at Rapid OODA Loop Tempos? | Law Enforcement & Security Consulting

When teaching, writing about and discussing adaptive leadership, the critical questions that often ariseare, what type of organization operates at rapid OODA Loop tempos and how do we implement it? How are we suppose to size up situations, focus our efforts, so they are safe and effective with mission type orders and mutual trust? How do we develop an organizational climate for operational success?

Ultimately, a culture or climate that encourages people to use their initiatives to further the goals of the organization. Under such a culture, people will solve the technical & operational problems. The force multipliers I want to discuss in this post are and com from John Boyd’s work are, the ability to size up situations (Fingerspitzengefühl), mutual trust (Einheit), focus of effort (Schwerpunkt), and mission-type order (Auftragstaktik). Boyd termed these the “Principles of the Blitzkrieg,” which came partly from established German doctrine and partly from extensive interviews during the 1970s, and provide a framework for creating competitive cultures.

According to this scheme, any culture or leadership climate will work if it advances these four attributes. Chet Richards, who worked with John Boyd, developing his ideas says, John Boyd, didn’t like the term “Principles of the Blitzkrieg” because of its connotations. He preferred to call these four force multipliers, “An Organizational Climate for Operational Success,” a practice of breeding and cultivating a culture in which there is an unending quest for perfection. It is ingrained throughout the organization, starts at the top, and pervades every level of the chain of command. You would be surprised, or perhaps not, at the number of leaders who believe this describes their agencies, although they have done nothing to create such an organization. This takes work and a lot of it!

What is a force multiplier, and why are these four attributes we will discuss, so important to a police organizations success?

“A force multiplier is defined as any capability or advantage that, when added to and employed, significantly increases the potential of an individual or organization, and thus enhances the probability of success. A force multiplier can be as diverse as a superior weapon or a better idea. The only requirement is that it provides some markedly greater advantage. The only requirement is that the option provides some markedly greater advantage. To be certain, physical force multipliers are the most well-known, but these types really represent just a small fraction of the possibilities. In point of fact, a force multiplier can be anything that forces adversaries to consider the consequences of their actions. This is why a mere threat can be so powerful.”~ Charles “Sid” Heal

Size Up Situations (Fingerspitzengefühl) – Zen-like quality of intuitive understanding. Ability to sense when the time is ripe for action. Built through years of progressively more challenging experience. Size up, refers to the process of critically evaluating an unfolding situation to estimate priorities, identify hazards and determine an appropriate course of action. The importance of recognizing the underlying factors and influences in play cannot be overstated. Sid Heal discusses this in his book, Field Command:

“imagine, for example, the advantages of recognizing the significance of the element of surprise as a condition of success for the Branch Davidian raid or the futility of a surround and call-out at Columbine. Clearly, some understanding of the nature of what is occurring is of great advantage.”

The ability to ‘size up’ a situation is one of the most valuable traits of police officers. The success of officers on the street or leaders overseeing operations often centers on our ability to read situations as they are unfolding in real time. Carl von Clausewitz called it Coup D’oeil, the art of forming notions. Col John Boyd used the German term, fingerspitzengefühl meaning, fingertip feel or intuitive flair or instinct. As you can imagine our ability to size up situations, observe, orient, decide and act in an effort to exploit weakness in an adversary, while improving our ability to maneuver, and position, resources and, set up future tactical options is paramount to successful outcomes.

“Typically a size up occurs in the earliest stages of a response and is critical for success. Interventions are far more successful if promptly implemented, and the first hour is often the most critical. It is, after all, easier to stop a trickle than a torrent and a flame than an inferno.”~ Charles “Sid” Heal

This timeframe is often referred to as the “golden hour” and is defined as the chaotic stage of an incident in which the crisis is still fluid, meaningful information is difficult to obtain and situational awareness seemingly impossible to establish. In this initial period, it is difficult to determine how to set multiple people, groups and agencies on a path towards resolution. Yet, setting the path to resolution is exactly what we need to do.

“Despite sincere efforts at defining procedures and methods, size ups defy standardization. Rules, procedures, checklists and algorithms are useful only when developed from experience with previous incidents and accompanied with consistent expectations. They fail miserable when a new situation is nontraditional. “~Sid Heal

Mutual Trust (Einheit) – Has the connotation of “mutual trust” and implies a common outlook towards police problems. Built through common experience. In short mutual trust reduces friction and allows us to size up situations from the frontline and develop courses of action, at the organizational level.

“Everyone relies on the arts of war. A united nation is strong. A divided nation is weak. A united army is strong. A divided army is weak. A united force is strong. A divided force is weak. United men are strong. Divided men are weak. A united unit is strong. A divided unit is weak.” ~Sun Tzu, The Art of War 3:1.1-11

Friction may be external, imposed by adversarial action, the terrain, weather, or mere chance. Friction may be self-induced, caused by such factors as lack of a clearly defined goal, lack of coordination, unclear or complicated plans, complex task organizations or command relationships, or complicated technologies. Whatever form it takes, because conflict and violence is a human enterprise, friction will always have a psychological as well as a physical impact.

In real police operations, observations and orientation (analyses) often go nowhere, not giving rise to decisions; decisions are sometimes made out of confusion or emotional and or institutional pressure and in rapid sequence without reference to observation or orientation; and actions both one’s own and the enemy’s, sometimes arise from accident, miscommunication, impulse, or confusion. Also, many decisions give rise to multiple actions, each of which may initiate its own OODA cycle in both the adversary’s and in those police responding. Why developing a climate of mutual trust is so important.

“Both leadership and monitoring are valueless without trust. The “contracts”… of intent and mission express that trust… that his subordinates will understand and carry out his desires and trust by his subordinates that they will be supported when exercising their initiative.” ~Bill Lind Maneuver Warfare Handbook

Mutual trust lubricates our OODA Loop. In the chaos of actual crisis situations, it is essential that every step be as fast and as good quality as it can be, because part of the chaos will inevitably be that the course of action, will not always be predictably the same. Any step can be rate-limiting. In general, anything that increases well-founded trust in subordinates, seniors, peers, self, will improve one or more of the steps in the cycle.

Trust has a reverse side: it must be earned as well as given. We earn the trust of others by demonstrating competence, a sense of responsibility, loyalty, and self-discipline. This last is essential. Discipline, is of fundamental importance in any organizational endeavor, and strict discipline remains a pillar of command authority. But since mission command and control is decentralized rather than centralized and spontaneous rather than coercive, discipline is not only imposed from above; it must also be generated from within.

In order to earn a commanders trust, subordinates must demonstrate the self-discipline to accomplish the mission with minimal supervision and to act always in accord with the larger intent. Commanders, in order to earn subordinates’ trust, must likewise demonstrate that they will provide the subordinate the framework within which to act and will support and protect subordinates in every way as they exercise initiative.

Mutual trust also has a positive effect on morale: it increases the individual’s identity with the group and its goals. Mutual trust thus contributes to a supportive, cooperative environment. Another important role of leadership will be to create a close-knit sense of team, which is essential to developing, trust and understanding within the organization. Leaders should reinforce the common core values, which are the basis for implicit understanding and trust. Trust frees cognitive and motivational resources for ALL steps in the OODA Loops. It builds confidence in one another. “CONFIDENCE” IS JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR “TRUST.”

Focus of effort (Schwerpunkt) – Any concept that gives focus and direction to our efforts. In ambiguous situations, answers the question, “What is to be done?” Focus of effort is the predominant activity or assignment that a commander identifies (see mission-type orders bellow) that must be accomplished to achieve a successful resolution. All other assignments and missions are subordinate. This includes what is known as the main effort, the agency, unit, or component which has been assigned as the primary means to accomplish the commanders mission and intent defined in the focus of effort. The main effort answers the questions of who is to do something? In policing this can be established in the case of pre-planed events or tactical operations, in the case of unexpected events it is predetermined and the responsibility often falls on first responders.

Focus of effort requires, we develop organizational climates where our people feel safe to use their initiative, in accord with our commanders mission and intent. This allows first responding officers the freedom and ability to size up situations, quickly. It requires leadership, that trains and trusts them to do their jobs.

Mission-type orders (Auftragstaktik) – Convey to team members what needs to be accomplished, get their agreement to accomplish it, then hold them strictly responsible for doing it – but don’t prescribe how. This requires very high levels of mutual trust. Mission Type orders are key to the decentralization necessary for a rapid Boyd Cycle. A mission-type order tells the first responders and tactical leaders what his superior wants to accomplish. That is the mission. It leaves the how to accomplish it largely up to the first responders. As the first responder’s situation changes, he does what he thinks is necessary to bring about the result his superior wants. He informs his superior what he has done, but he does not wait for permission before he acts. What would happen to his Boyd Cycle if he did?

A useful way to think of mission-type orders is in terms of contracts between leaders and first responders. There are two contracts. One is long-term. It is based on what we call the commanders intent. This is the commanders long-term vision of what he wants to have happen to the adversary, or the final result he wants. For example, a commander’s intent in a school shooting may be to “restore safety and order back to the school.” The first responder needs to understand this. The contract is simple: the first responders contracts to make his actions serve his superiors intent, what is to be accomplished and the superior contracts to allow his first responders great freedom of action in terms of how this intent is realized.

The mission is a shorter-term contract. It is a slice of the commander’s intent, a slice small enough to be appropriate to the immediate situation of the first responding unit. To continue the school shooting example, the mission may be to “stop the threat and render aid.” The contract is the same: the first responder agrees to make his action support the mission in return for wide-ranging freedom in selecting the means. Mission-type orders are more about mission, intent and the contracts, than about assigning tasks. (More on Mission Type Orders here)

“It is not more command and control that we are after. Instead, we seek to decrease the amount of command and control that we need. We do this by replacing coercive command and control methods with spontaneous, self-disciplined cooperation based on low-level initiative, a commonly understood commander’s intent, mutual trust, and implicit understanding and communications.” ~MCDP 6, Command and Control, p. 6

Another important point from Chet Richards: Since this “climate” permeates the organization, it tends to accelerate OODA loops, from top to bottom. This is far more likely to produce a competitive organization than trying to identify OODA loops one at a time and then devising new processes to speed them up. In any case, under the mission command concept, if people can figure out how to shorten and simplify something, or eliminate it entirely, they just do it. One foolproof way to tell that people have “taken ownership” of a process is that they’re spending time and energy to improve it.

“Military analysts say we [US Navy SEALs] are becoming skilled disciples of John Boyd. That is, we execute the Boyd Loop—observation, orientation, decision, action (OODA—far better and far quicker than our enemies.”~ Dick Couch,

The Finishing School, p. 258

My hope is this post adds value to police agencies and their officers while generating some thoughts and discussions on force multipliers particularly these four; sizing up situations, focus of effort, mutual trust and mission-type orders, so we can speed up our own Boyd Cycles in a way that makes a difference.

Stay Oriented!


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