My analysis about patterns of mission of control of US Army to improve Agile

In this story, I propose to analyze the mission control of US Army as exposed in the Army Doctrine Publication ADP 6–0 Mission Command, and to understand what can be useful for Agile contexts. It’s a personal analysis and comments are very welcome.

First, let’s understand the global philosophy of US Army.

Unified Land Operations is one of the foundation of Mission Command philosophy, which is guided by principles.

It’s executed through the Mission Command warfighting function.

A series of mutually supported tasks (command tasks, staff tasks, and additional tasks) enabled by a Mission Command System.

The US army model

What Unified Land Operations teaches us

The organization’s mission and vision are shared at the Operations level of the organization. This is found in Agile. But it deserves to be implemented and reinforced more often.

What the nature of operations teaches us

Participants are characterized by continuous and mutual adaptation. As dev teams should continuously adapt. Mutual adaptation is an interesting concept as it highlights that people are dependent each other. So they should mutual adapt too.

US Army recognizes the complexity, ever-changing, and uncertain operational environments. It’s similar to the organization as considered by Agile and Lean.

What mission command philosophy teaches us

The commander (the manager) communicates a clear intent by providing a mission order. The goal of this mission order is to empower agile and adaptive leaders for the operations. It can be adapted to companies by saying that: the top management gives a mission to agile and adaptive leaders. These leaders can conduct the project to reach the goal of the mission. The team takes initiatives but is disciplined.

To make cohesive teams, the team must have mutual trust. In Agile, we often talk about the trust from the manager, but the mutual trust is very important too.

US Army introduces the concept of disciplined initiative. It means the team acts in the absence of orders or when the orders no longer fit the situation. Adapted to Agile, we could consider that Agile teams should exercise disciplined initiative.

The team must have a shared understanding. It’s a key point in Agile.

The team must be cohesive. Could an Agile team be efficient if the team is not cohesive? Can anyone be part of an Agile team?

The team is authorized by taking risks but these risks must be prudent.

What Mission command warfighting function teaches us

Science of control, at the center of US Army, balance the art of command between the manager and engineers. In Agile projects too, the control should be balanced.

What the different tasks teaches us

In the US Army vision, command tasks (manager tasks) and staff tasks (engineer tasks) are clearly defined:

  • the manager leads by understanding, visualizing, describing, directing, leading, and assessing the activities,
  • the engineers provide support by planing, preparing, executing, and assessing.

The manager inform and influence audiences (for example the top management) and the engineers conduct the activities.

Other tasks are considered as additional. For Agile, we could think about infrastructure, operations, security, network, support.

What Mission Command System teaches us

All that is enabled by a system including people, networks, information systems, processes, procedures, facilities, and equipments. These elements are fundamentals.

In my opinion, this US army model opens opens up interesting guidelines for reflection and work for Agile contexts.


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