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Be Like Water (Part 3): Agile from Strategy to Operations

Har Gootzen
October 6, 2022

Strategy is a broad concept and has many nuanced definitions, especially in defense. It is used as a plan, a document, an emergent idea or concept, or a level of crisis or war. Also, the definition is further diluted by the usage of the word as an adjective, a pronoun, and a noun. When discussed in the context of mosaic operations we refer to strategy as the translation of doctrine into a course of action for an operation or a mission. With its optionality focus and agile execution capability the mosaic warfare concept challenges today’s strategy and doctrine practices.

For those, who haven’t read the first two articles in this series: Be Like Water: Mosaic Operations and Be Like Water (Part II): Maneuverability Architecture.

A System of Expedients

It was the Prussian Field-Marshall von Moltke (1800 – 1891) who stated that strategy is “a system of expedients” and that “no plan survives the first contact with the enemy”. Based on this belief Moltke had his staff beforehand developing a series of alternate scenarios for battle. This way his army was prepared for changing circumstances on the battlefield and could switch tactics rapidly. This is also the aim of StratOps in mosaic operations: supporting the evolution of the original guiding plan according to the continually changing circumstances by iteratively linking strategic and tactical planning closely to execution. StratOps deploys technologies, tools and practices to develop strategic and tactical scenario’s and accelerate the delivery of these scenarios to the battlefield. It combines various existing and emerging leadership models and tools (such as Objectives Key Results, Scenario thinking, Future back analysis) into a single automated framework. Our global survey among organization that adopted agile shows that “agile frontrunners” use OKR’s for setting clear business objectives based on outcomes they desire [1]. OKR is an ambitious and aspirational goal at the top level that adds a specific, outcome-based measurement element to track progress.

The following picture shows what a StratOps-cycle could look like. In some form similar cycles are already in place, albeit mostly in single domain, not supported by latest technology (robotics, sensors, digital twinning, etc.), and with a written output in the form operation orders. The StratOps cycle starts with the development or evaluation of multiple strategic scenarios, the course of action (COA), for an operation. With smaller composable force tiles there are many more alternatives on how to configure the mosaic. And with the increase of unmanned platforms today “coding” will gradually replace written operation orders. COA’s are coded in the future joint and multi-domain C2 platforms, which have extensive modeling and simulation functionality. Analysis of scenario’s is done via wargaming, which attempts to visualize the flow of the operation given the mosaic force’s strengths, the dispositions and the enemy’s capabilities, and the impact and requirements of civilians. One of the emerging technologies in this process is the digital twin of the deployment area.

Figure 1. StratOps: delivering on strategy to the battlefield.

Agile strategy chain

With StratOps tying the operational and tactical planning to execution there is a need to extend the realized agility up in the strategic chain and foresee iterations at all levels of conduct of military operations. We distinguish five levels in the conduct of military operations, with Grand Strategy at the top. Grand strategy is to do with everything linked with the maintenance of political independence and territorial integrity and the pursuit of wider national interests. It is about the coordinated use of the three principal instruments of national power: diplomatic, information, military, and economic (DIME) [2]. And is described in national defense strategies, defense industry strategies, innovation strategies, etc. Military strategy is the military component of grand strategy. It is the art of developing and employing military forces consistent with grand strategic objectives. Doctrine is at the crossroads of the military strategic and the operational level. The envisioned StratOps concept then covers the operational level and tactical level. Note that there is no clear boundary between these levels as they gradually overlap. Defense must change its workflows and how it envisions the execution of its business (read: “operations”) to benefit from the automation that mosaic operations bring. However, these are baked into the doctrine which must become transient.  Doctrine is formulated in defense policy papers and service-specific doctrine publications, and is influenced by strategic policy, technology, historical and operational analysis, etc. The written doctrine is the most accepted form of doctrine within Western militaries nowadays and fits well in a predictable environment [3]. This needs to change to support a continuous stream of emergent strategies from experiences harvested in StratOps and mosaic operations. Written doctrine will be gradually replaced with forms that better accommodates an agile approach. Army, Navy, Airforce, Space, and Cyber doctrines will be merged into joint doctrines. The strategic loop from grand strategy to execution and back is shown in the following picture.

Figure 2. Integrating emergent and deliberate strategy.

Priority routing of strategies and innovations

Today´s world is highly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – in short VUCA. In a VUCA world there is no longer a sustainable competitive advantage, and the new path to winning means capturing opportunities quickly, exploiting them decisively and then move on the next one. The concept of mosaic operations is clearly a response to this line of thinking. Mosaic operations inevitably pressures defense organizations to focus on innovation, speed, and the warfighter experience to reset the way they govern their strategic portfolios. It must be possible to create priority lanes in the portfolio process for strategic innovations and emergent strategies. These portfolios in turn should be aligned with a clear vision, objectives, roadmap, and strategy. This requires a focus on three areas to achieve defense agility [4]:

  • strategic portfolio management,
  • the budgeting cycles, and
  • the operating model.

Agile strategic portfolio management is aimed reprioritizing transformation initiatives on a more frequent basis while keeping the warfighter in mind. Organizations succeeding in strategic portfolio management link OKRs to both customer-facing and operational objectives. To achieve this the operating model must tie in innovation as a routine capability.


Even the most sophisticated and commonly aligned strategy will miss its purpose if it is already obsolete when it is released into today’s VUCA world. Emergent strategies rising from mosaic and joint multi-domain operations need to be quickly captured and trigger timely iterations in strategy and doctrine. Formulating the multi-domain aspect of mosaic operations into doctrine can take several years [5]. Deliberate strategy planning must thus become agile and be based on forecasted futures to deal with alternate future outcomes. Strategic Foresight includes a variety of rigorous future analysis and planning methodologies, such as horizon scanning, trend- or threat-sensing, scenario planning and wildcard mapping. These form the basis of strategic stress-testing, strategy planning and roadmapping. At Capgemini we have defined a Strategic Foresight approach which captures VUCA and turns it upside-down from volatility into visionuncertainty into understandingcomplexity into clarity and ambiguity into agility – making future-ready agile planning possible. Combined with our Agile-at-scale and agile portfolio management approaches we can support agile transformations from strategy to operations.

References / Literature

[1] Agile at Scale – Four ways to gain enterprise-wide agility, Capgemini Viewpoint, Capgemini Research Institute, 2019 (link)

[2] Doctrine, Generaal-Majoor der Mariniers, b.d. Kees Homan, Clingendael Spectator magazine, Clingendael – the Netherlands Institute of International Relations  (link)

[3] The Nature of Military Doctrine: A Decade of Study in 1500 Words, Aaron P. Jackson (Joint Operations Planning Specialist, Australian Department of Defence), The Strategy Bridge, November 2017, (link)

[4] Agile Portfolio Management – Achieve agility through all levels of your change portfolio, Capgemini Invent Point-of-View, 2022 (link).

[5] New US Army doctrine coming summer 2022, Jen Judson, article in Defense News, March 2022 (link).

Meet our expert

Har Gootzen

Enterprise Architect, IT Strategist and Solution Director Strategic Deals
Har is an Enterprise Architect, IT Strategist and Solution Director Strategic Deals. He defines architectures and solutions to guide and govern the digital transformation process of organizations. Especially in Defense and Public Security. He is experienced in Agile architectures, Cloud concepts, Product Development, DevOps and Security. Covering both Infrastructure and Applications