An Awkward Tango: Pairing Traditional Military Planning to Design and Why It Currently Fails to Work

  • Ben Zweibelson US Army


Over the past decade, traditional military planning methodology and doctrine has gained an unlikely dance partner- the ambiguous, conceptual, and controversial process commonly called ‘design. Traditional planning reflects a military practice of developing specific, sequential, and highly scientific-based plans that are usually quantifiable or measurable according to an accepted language, format, and professional education. Unlike detailed planning, ‘design’ evokes eclectic combinations of philosophy, social sciences, complexity theory, and often improvised, unscripted approaches in a tailored or “one of a kind” practice, which often works against its acceptance in military applications. The two approaches do not dance well together, yet our western militaries continue to attempt to pair them together in doctrine, education, and practice.

Author Biography

Ben Zweibelson, US Army

Major Ben Zweibelson, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, has over 20 years of combined military service. A graduate of the US Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS), he has been widely published on the topics of military design, operational planning, strategy, counterinsurgency, and security force assistance in journals such as Military Review, National Defense University’s PRISM, the Canadian Military Journal, the Journal of Military Operations, and Small Wars Journal. Select design works of his are included in the 2014 academic curriculums for the US Air War College and the US Naval War College. He is also currently aiding the Dutch Ministry of Defence and the Canadian Forces College on design applications to assist in their military education programs.