With some hesitation to argue with one of the world's foremost strategy practitioners, I take issue with your positions here.

I have never encountered a strategy as a recipe. However, the decisions made at different levels vary greatly. In the American military, we call these levels strategic, operational, and tactical. They all involve decisions under uncertainty but are significantly different. It is nearly always possible to abstract things to such a degree as to render differentiation irrelevant.

Using the military context as is popular with so many business and academic thinkers, let's look at the American Civil War. The confederacy's decision to conduct offensive or defensive operations were strategic. Lee's decision to move north into Pennsylvania was operational (with strategic ramifications). The decision to defend a hill or bypass it is a tactical decision.

All of those decisions involved uncertainty, competition, and constraints but I wouldn't label them the same. One way to consider the decisions is to consider the consequences.

With all due respect to Navy SEALs (yes, I know, they killed bin Laden), what Mark Divine talked about is pretty standard practice in most military operations. In fact, I would argue it's what makes the American military so formidable--the ability, willingness, and encouragement for lower leaders to act decisively. Soviet military doctrine was more analogous to recipe / cook than anything I encountered in the Army.

The frumping example is interesting in that when you have skilled, experienced practitioners, they will understand what needs to be done without giving the specific detail. I'm no logician but you did not make your case.

Lastly, I would submit it's hazardous to judge a process by its outcomes. Good outcomes can result from bad processes just as bad outcomes can happen from good processes. It's necessary to study and analyze the situations to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

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Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Works available on Amazon.

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Mark McMillion

Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Works available on Amazon.