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Why effects can sometimes be better than objectives

Written by on 21 March 2011

The military developed the use of ‘Effects Based Planning’, which is a process, which defines outcomes in terms of effects rather than a string of objectives that need to be achieved before success can be realised. The use of the effects methodology is a conceptual extension of the decentralised empowerment of mission command. The key concept is the ability to visualise an end state that has meaning rather than objectives that may change or become irrelevant within a changing context.

The comprehensive approach and effects based planning

During, and after the Balkans UN intervention, the recognition of the complexity of an internal, civil conflict, combined with increased interest within the international community, initiated the development of a “wider” military planning analysis. The military had been tasked with an intervention in the Balkans that had a much wider remit. As the military struggled to reinstate peace and rebuild the region into a functioning state, it became clear that there were many factors that simply lay beyond the military planning experience. These factors had a critical impact on developing a successful outcome; as a result the comprehensive approach was born.

Effects’ based planning is critical to the comprehensive approach

The nature of the comprehensive approach considers many complex issues involved with state building. Therefore, sometimes the operational priorities may well conflict or at least compete with each other. Developing an effects approach enables planners to achieve that desired outcome by utilising diverse assets. Therefore, troops may be employed in a duel role, providing security and building infrastructure.

Importance of defining effects

Defining effects within a comprehensive approach allows for a wider perspective and more robust solutions through the allocation of dual tasks. This process also retains a focus on available assets for tasks and often, planning has been limited to assets that are available in order to deliver a plan. This limits the cognitive analytical approach that should seek for solutions that may have involved assets that are not organically owned by the initialling organisation. Effects facilitate a multi-asset, multi-organisational response by considering the outcomes rather than the assets.

How effects based planning facilitates contribution to positive outcomes

By decoupling the planning process set within a wider context and the traditional focus on asset allocation, it is found that the framework from which non-state actors can feel free to contribute within the narrower confines of their organisational remit, the identification of NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations – e.g. the Red Cross).

Unifying thinking across the organisation

Unifying thinking across the organisation helps to define relationships with other agencies. By unifying shared outcomes within an effects based planning methodology, the response can be more unified even among organisations that otherwise may resist working together.

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