November 5, 2021
Faster Decisions & Improved Team Collaboration: How to
November 5, 2021
Business Operations, Management
Imagine a military regiment holding a position of key tactical importance, let’s say a bridge.
Situational awareness is crucial. The success of the operation depends on access to
information that can inform situational awareness, and provide tactical & strategic
advantage. In other words, a situation where information is nothing short of vital.
Such a regiment would have access to a large-scale technological intelligence network:
aircraft spotters, satellite-mounted motion sensors, heat detectors, and communication
eavesdroppers. Commanders with high-bandwidth taps into the supporting intelligence
network should have access to vital information to enable decision-making while in the field.
Now let’s imagine that an opposing force seven times the size of this regiment began
approaching from three directions. Such a force should not be difficult to detect given the
field intelligence available; yet that’s exactly what happened according to David Talbot’s story
published in 2004’s MIT Technology Review about the U.S. Army’s 69th Armor Regiment
holding a key bridge on the Euphrates River in 2003.
This story perfectly illustrates the problem of vertical vs horizontal knowledge.
The problem was, front-line troops had terrible situational awareness because the flow of
information was inhibited by a vertical command-and-control structure (rather than a
Information had to travel up the chain of command so that major commanders in the rear
could interpret it, and then send their decisions back down the line. This resulted in huge
latency; the information was there, it just wasn’t getting to the people who needed it when it
Talbot’s story goes on to contrast the organizational structure of SPEC-OPS forces organized
into small teams of two-dozen; rather than being linked to a single