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

Ben Zweibelson


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.

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JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.