Vision, Determination, and Faith


The Texas Public Policy Foundation held their Orientation meeting this week. Representative Scott Turner was the keynote speaker. Take a half an hour and prepare to be challenged and inspired.


Boyd and Beyond 2013 Agenda


Boyd and Beyond 2013, 11 & 12 October, Quantico, VA


0730-0800 Introduction, Stan Coerr

0800-0900 Michael Niehuser (1 hour) The Colonel John R. Boyd Oral History Project:  A Search for The Truth

0920-1020 Francis J.H. Park (1 hour) How The USMC Came to Maneuver Warfare

1040-1140 Jim Burton — Recollections of John Boyd

Lunch brought in

1215-1315 Michael Moore (1 hour) Boyd and the Big Picture

1335-1405 Andrew Dziengeleski (35 min) Operational Planning in Afghanistan or How John Boyd Rolled Over in His Grave

1420-1450 Mark Hart (30 min) A Graphics Version of Operating Inside Adversary’s OODA Loops

1605-1650 Alexander Olesker (45 min) Counter-deception in the Information Age


0800 – 0900 Dean Lenane (1 hour) Using Boyd in Business

0915-1000 Bob Weiman (45 min) Strategic Legalism Indicator of Bad Strategy According to Boyd

1015-1115 Carlos Balarezo & Robert Paterson (1 hour) Get Inside Your Own OODA Loop: A Practical Tool

Lunch brought in

1145-1245 Dave Diehl (1 hour) Boyd & the Cyber Domain

1300-1400 Jim Roche (1 hour) Boyd, Neuroscience, and the Decision Cycle

1415-1515 Pete Turner (1 hour) Mass Communications in Support of Political Development


Slots remain to attend but if you have not, RSVP via email.

Cross posted at Zenpundit.












Our daughter commenced the eighth grade last week, and mentioned in passing at dinner on the second day of school she’d learned a new word. “Paradigm,” she said, and proceeded to provide a precise dictionary definition:

From Google definition










The word “paradigm” is ubiquitous among modern management lingo, but how often to we stop and examine what the word really means?

In June I had a post called, “More Better,” Ideals, and To Be or To Do. From a “paradigm” perspective, do you work in place where the habits of thought and practice encourage you to do your best? What is your “model, pattern, example, exemplar, template, or standard?” If excellence is not the standard, what are you doing to change the paradigm. The legendary management consultant and bestselling author, the late Dr. Steven Covey was fond of saying, “You can’t talk yourself out of something you behaved yourself into.”

To achieve a paradigm of excellence, we must do “more better.”


Boyd and Beyond 2013, 11 & 12 October at Quantico, VA


Photo credit: Zenpundit












Greetings! Boyd and Beyond 2013 is 66 days from today. Stan and I are assembling a schedule. These are the speakers who are confirmed: Carlos Balarezo & Rob Paterson, Dean Lenane, Bob Weiman, Terry Barnhart, Andrew Dziengeleski, Pete Turner, Marshall Wallace, Alex Olesker and Michael Moore. There is a possibility Jim Burton will be with us this year, but this is not confirmed. Those listed to speak, please send Stan and I an email with your title (even if you’ve already done so) and duration. Most have asked for an hour, but please confirm. If you have a topic and wish to present, please let Stan and I know.

Stan says we we will be in the ‘Friday room” at the Command and Staff College both days, and that parking will be a challenge on Friday due to construction.

If you haven’t RSVP’d, please do so as space will be at a premium.

Cross-posted at Zenpundit.


The Doctrine of Completed Staff Work










About twenty years ago a colleague gave me a copy of a mimeographed paper discussing completed staff work. I was searching my files a few days ago and found the copy. It is shared here courtesy of the website.

The following memorandum has been reproduced countless times by military and civilian organizations since World War II and has become a widely accepted definition of what effective staff members do.  The original source of the memorandum is unclear.  Some reports indicate that the memo was issued in January 1942 by the Provost Marshal General, U.S. Army.  It has also bee attributed to Brigadier G.E.R. Smith, a member of the Royal Canadian Army, who released it in 1943, while he was serving as Deputy Director of Supplies and Transport, First Canadian Army.


1. The doctrine of “completed staff work” will be the doctrine of this office.

2. “Completed Staff Work” is the study of a problem, and presentation of a solution, by a staff officer, in such form that all that remains to be done on the part of the head of the staff division, or the commander, is to indicate his approval or disapproval of the completed action. The words “completed staff action” are emphasized because the more difficult the problem is the more the tendency is to present the problem to the chief in piece-meal fashion. It is your duty as a staff officer to work out the details. You should not consult your chief in the determination of those details, no matter how perplexing they may be. You may and should consult other staff officers. The product, whether it involves the pronouncement of a new policy or affect an established one, should when presented to the chief for approval or disapproval, be worked out in finished form.

3. The impulse which often comes to the inexperienced staff officer to ask the chief what to do, recurs more often when the problem is difficult. It is accompanied by a feeling of mental frustration. It is so easy to ask the chief what to do, and it appears so easy if you do not know your job. It is your job to advise your chief what he ought to do, not to ask him what you ought to do. He needs your answers, not questions. Your job is to study, write, restudy and rewrite until you have evolved a single proposed action – the best one of all you have considered. Your chief merely approves or disapproves.

4. Do not worry your chief with long explanations and memoranda. Writing a memorandum to your chief does not constitute completed staff work, but writing a memorandum for your chief to send to someone else does. Your view should be placed before him in finished form so that he can make them his views by simply signing his name. In most instances, competed staff work results in a single document prepared for the signature of the chief, without accompanying comment. If the proper result is reached, the chief will usually recognize it at once. If he wants comment or explanation, he will ask for it.

5. The theory of completed staff work does not preclude a “rough draft”, but the rough draft must not be a half-baked idea.  It must be completed in every respect except that it lacks the requisite number of copies and need not be neat. But a rough draft must not be used as an excuse for shifting to the chief the burden of formulating the action.

6. The “completed staff work” theory may result in more work for the staff officer, but it results in more freedom for the chief. This is as it should be. Further, it accomplishes two things:

a. The chief is protected from half-baked ideas, voluminous memoranda, and immature oral presentations.

b. The staff officer who has a real idea to sell is enabled to more readily to find a market.

7. When you have finished your “completed staff work” the final test is this:  If you were the chief would you be willing to sign the paper you have prepared, and stake your professional reputation on its being right?  If the answer is negative, take it back and work it over because it is not yet “completed staff work”



Happy Independence Day!


God Bless America!




“More Better,” Ideals, and To Be or To Do










Several years ago I frequented a barber shop owned by a Vietnamese immigrant named, Tom. Tom had been in the United States for over a decade, but hadn’t mastered very much English. However, that didn’t seem to be holding him back as he had/has a thriving business, and does a good job at a good price. The signature conclusion of Tom’s haircuts was rotate the barber chair so the customer could look in the mirror and either approve or disapprove of his work. This conclusion was always accompanied with him saying with hearty enthusiasm, “more better!” (I always liked to think Tom’s use of “more better” was sourced from his naturalization classes and our Constitution’s Preamble, “to form a more perfect Union…”)

“More better” and “more perfect” aren’t ideal grammar, but point towards ideals for which we strive to meet or achieve. Just about everyone has a concept of perfection or excellence, and like many things worth achieving the translation of concept to reality doesn’t come easy. As famed American author, the late-Norman Maclean writes in his classic A River Runs Through It:

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”

For me, to be or to do is guided by a core of ideals, or principles of excellence, that when practiced over a lifetime will result in work(s) of grace and art:

    • Honesty: with self and colleagues. In the realm of the science, honesty with physics. Just because something can be written doesn’t mean Mother Nature will comply.
    • Courage: to do the right thing, to speak truth to power, to take informed unpopular positions, and to take risks.
    • Conviction: know your stuff! Work to learn every facet of your area of responsibility, plus more by being curious.
    • Curiosity: as Einstein said, “never stop questioning.” In fact, get accustomed to practicing five iterations of why. This is but one method, there are more, and you can find what works for you with a bit of curiosity and imagination.
    • Persistence: never give up, focus, learn, and achieve: do, contribute.
    • Optimism: exponentially easier when we “do” our best, because;
    • Humility: we all fail, and if we’re not failing we’re not “doing” anything.

This is hard work for most of us because it is easier “to be” fill-in-the-blank than to do and practice these principles. Few would object to these ideals, and most will admire the practitioner some of the time, but not always. Some leaders, colleagues, and systems of organization prefer the party-line to the truth or differences of opinion, and reward honesty with an environment that requires courage to persist and remain. So it is important to know your stuff before you speak or act. You will fail, but fail smart by learning from failure, and don’t give up. All any of us can do is our best, and only you know what your best is…which brings us back to honesty. More often than not, when we examine the gap between what we do and our best, we will find things we can do, questions we can ask, things we can learn to do “more better.”

To be or to do, which way will you go?


Boyd and Beyond 2013


Photo credit: Zenpundit












Dates for Boyd and Beyond 2013 at Quantico, Virginia, are 11 and 12 October 2013.

More details to follow.


Stress and Success


Stress and Success, Fast Fixes for Turbulent Times, by Jonathan Brown

Jonathan is a fellow admirer of the work of the late Colonel John R. Boyd. He spoke at last year’s Boyd and Beyond 2012 event (my brief review here and zenpundit’s here) at Quantico.

From the description at Amazon:

The book helps people to dramatically improve their ability to handle stress and to use it to become more successful. It helps you to understand how and why a situation is likely to be stressful and what you can do to shape your environment to get stress that helps you to be successful.

I ordered my copy today and look forward to Jonathan’s ideas.


The Best Books I Read in 2012










Defining “the best” is at best subjective. In no particular order save the first two, these are the best books I read in 2012:

Best Non-Fiction: Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command, Jon Tetsuro Sumida

Best Biography: The Last Lion, Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965, William Manchester and Paul Reid

National Security Dilemmas, Colin Gray

America in Arms, John McAuley Palmer

Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Admirals, Walter Borneman

Creating a Lean R&D System, Terence Barnhart

The Twilight War, David Crist

Catherine The Great, Robert K.Massie

Rubicon, Tom Holland

Honorable Mentions:

The First Battle, Otto Lehrack

Master and Commander, Patrick O’Brian

Clausewitz’s On War, A Biography, Hew Strachan

John Quincy Adams, Harlow Giles Unger

Cross-posted at Zenpundit.