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Mission Capability Frameworks

Maurice Sikorski - Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mission Capability Frameworks – why build them?

Where a clear, believable, palpable purpose or mission exists for the organization, where its reason for existence and what it is trying to achieve is clear, a multitude of business virtues follow almost automatically. Decision-making can be made easier (at all levels) by being tested against whether or not they advance or inhibit the organization’s purpose. In particular, decision-making around procurement of technology solutions to support or upgrade of operational capability can be linked back to the declared purpose of the organisation.

By analysing the organisational missions, the tasks that are conducted in pursuit of those missions, and operational capabilities needed to execute these tasks, a coherent framework can be developed. Coherence is delivered by assuring that there is explicit and credible tracing between the various components of the framework. The overall approach to defining capabilities is clearly top-down, and through their trace back to missions are an enduring statement of user needs and user requirements, independent of solutions.

As an example, decomposition of high level goals of a policing organisation could give:  

A goal (high level):                              to perceive that the law is being complied with

A task (one aspect):                            to covertly conduct compliance monitoring

A capability (one aspect):                   to be able to prevent unauthorised listening of police radios

Solution (one option):                         encryption of radio voice transmissions

By way of contrast to this mission-driven approach, technology push is a part of a many business strategies employed by suppliers of technology solutions. A technology push implies that a new solution is pushed through R&D, production and sales functions onto the market without proper consideration of whether or not it satisfies a user need. Organisations are frequently required to adapt their operations to suit the delivered system behaviours, which have been conceived without reference to the missions of a particular group.

One approach to organising a framework of operational capabilities for an organisation is to analyse missions by way of a goal-based hierarchy. Using goals as the central concept acknowledges the theoretical basis that states human behaviour is characterized as a perceptually driven system, responding to discrepancies between perceived states of the external world and goal states. The human system reacts to these discrepancies by trying to reduce them. Goals are assigned to specific operators, and goals have associated variables. Operators use these variables to detect the discrepancies of state and undertake tasks to control them.

A solution-free capability framework offers several benefits: -

  • It allows new, possibly disruptive solutions and/ or alternative mature technologies to be tested for effectiveness, impact and value against organisational needs

  • It allows new missions to be inserted and/or adjusted, so that organisational needs and capabilities can be assessed and managed in a structured way

  • It provides a fully traceable step-off point to the analysis of specific capabilities (e.g. communications)  leading to the development of system specifications and subsequent procurement, so that procurement is focused on serving validated needs.

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