Conducting decision-centered design requires a thorough understanding of a diverse set of team and individual methods and models. This understanding is an integral prerequisite for eliciting the critical information and data necessary to provide real-world, scientifically anchored solutions. Since no single method or model covers all aspects of team interactions, we adopt a comprehensive approach not “wedded” to one particular discipline. We tailor our approach to the specific project at hand.


NATO Reachback

NATO is experimenting with the concept of using “reachback” to reduce the number of troops they place directly in harm’s way. With the reachback concept, limited staff is assigned to these forward units. Reliable and robust coordination and collaboration mechanisms to the parent headquarters are required to support execution of the assigned mission.

TDS’s challenge was to observe and assess the adequacy of the proposed organization, process/tasking and technology between the deployed unit and the headquarters during a three week exercise in Italy . Our report included staffing recommendations, identification of the types of tasks that should or should not be “distributed,” and the levels of collaborative technology that will be required to support reachback


Warfighting-Peacekeeping Continuum

Modern conflicts are no longer single-mission endeavors. Most of them involve a variety of mission types that fall along various places on a “warfighting-to-peacekeeping continuum.” Training soldiers for a particular type of mission is challenging enough but when a “Fog of Mission” exists, it becomes extremely difficult. “Fog of Mission” is a term we are using to capture the very complex decision scenarios that soldiers involved in modern day operations confront. At the war fighting end of the spectrum, in classic battle, you will have forward lines of your own troops where everyone on the other side of the line is bad and all on this side are good. In today’s warfighting – peacekeeping continuum, the majority of the mission is in the gray area where there are no longer clear, easy distinctions. The decisions are burdened with ambiguous information and uncertainty. If the soldiers only interpret the cues from a hostile frame of mind, we can overlook many potential opportunities to establish our credibility, to make friends…to advance the peace. If you miss hostile clues you can be killed. TDS and Aptima, Inc. are currently working on several projects where we are attempting to better understand the complexities of this continuum, the type of training that will best support the “sub missions” and whether the training various nations currently receive should drive how we configure the teams for these complex environments.

Multi-National Experiment 3

Multi-National Experiment 3 (MNE3) was a very challenging project for TDS. During this experiment, all three “legs” of the OPT Triangle were varied. The experimental design introduced a new organizational structure, a new approach to planning including new tasks and processes, and a variety of new technologies. Of the individuals evaluating the exercise, all (except TDS) were given specific data collection assignments (e.g., see how many times they use a particular tool). TDS’s assignment was a bit more vague; “Can you try to look at the whole thing…make some sense out the whole picture?” Since we argue that it is critical to look at the dynamic interactions and interrelationships that exist in the OPT Triangle, we were more than happy to accept the assignment. Our final report tied observations of problems and successes to a variety of cognitive models of teams, decision making, problem detection, etc. and identified strengths and weaknesses of the organization, processes, and technologies as they were employed during MNE3. Recommendations for future exercises were presented based on these observations.

The MNE3 was a multinational, coalition, distributed exercise/experiment with participants being located in about a half dozen counties world-wide. TDS observed the NATO Response Force headquarters in Germany.

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© Marv Thordsen, 2004