Operational Design, Taming Wicked Problems, and Lawfare


This paper examines operational design as one aspect of a larger design-thinking domain. Design and designing are firmly established within the literature and describe those actions and endeavours associated with creating form and/or function—the object at the centre of the writers’ attention has a purpose and its purposefulness can be measured objectively. Operational design, on the other hand, is a relatively new term and is used within a military context to describe a form of operational planning that is more attentive to the inner subtleties of an area of interest and necessarily postpones the development of courses of action until after the subject has been thoroughly and comprehensively appreciated. It acknowledges the key characteristics of wickedness and messiness that also frustrate efforts to achieve outcomes in heavily contested social contexts—conflict. In these contexts, there is a rich presence of those who oppose, those who are neutral, and those who support—all must be attended to. Ultimately, all conflict is a clash of wills and a search for asymmetry; operational design and growing the practise of lawfare, therefore, aids the development, sequencing, and execution of least effort activities to achieve specified outcomes. The method presented does not seek to replace current military planning process; it does, however, offer a valuable companion method for situations of great complexity and ambiguity, where imaginative thinking, including the use of lawfare, may be appropriate.

Strategic-Intelligence Analysis: Contributions from an Operational-Design Orientation


To ensure actions are ‘purposeful’—that is, that they achieve the intended outcome— planners rely on sound intelligence to develop courses of action. Intelligence requirements and subsequent collection in support of any planning effort should be informed by an appreciation of what that effort is seeking to achieve and specifications of what should be collected.

Getting to Purposeful Information Operations: The Application of Effects-Based Approaches


The literature on Effects–Based Operations (EBO) continues to be dominated by theory, with limited evidence of (successful) practical application reported.   This situation is entirely acceptable in the early formative stages of any new concept, as first hesitant steps are taken and the authority of a shared idea gradually develops. EBO is now a global phenomenon.    The effects must have primacy in shaping the actions that are taken. EBO practitioners, particularly those within the information operations domain, need those hands-on executable actions that can be taken to solve problems in the real world.  Furthermore, these executable actions can only be enabled through the possession of specific capabilities.   The paper offers a systems approach that includes a problem space, a solution space and a design space that may bring the necessary totality to the subject, guarding against premature use of means that appear to fit well with the context – a fixation with efficiency rather than effectiveness.   The paper argues that an examination of the systemic interactions amongst factors may deepen planners’ or policy-makers’ understanding of why a region or area of interest behaves the way it does, before they attempt to change it. A method is detailed that couples effects statements and means and highlights capability requirements. A case study example is provided using North Korea. 

Sustainability of the Afghan Law Enforcement and Security Forces: A ‘Wicked, Messy Problem’


Aside from the challenges associated with establishing and maintaining security within Afghanistan, government officials are faced with the additional and equally complex tasks of implementing and maintaining appropriate sustainability measures over the longer term. This paper explores the subject of Afghan security force sustainability using General Morphological Analysis (GMA)—a method that has proven to be highly suited to the detailed analysis of wicked, messy problems. The paper acknowledges that the sustainability problem in Afghanistan exhibits systemic features that conspire to cause underperformance and, if an appropriate level of sustainability is to be achieved, these systems-based elements must be managed. 

Journal of Information Warfare

The definitive publication for the best and latest research and analysis on information warfare, information operations, and cyber crime. Available in traditional hard copy or online.















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The definitive publication for the best and latest research and analysis on information warfare, information operations, and cyber crime. Available in traditional hard copy or online.


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