Breaking Down Walls and Building Staff Integration

by Nicholas Spicocchi

“How we organize physical space says a lot about how we think people behave; but how people behave is often a by-product of how we set up physical space.”

 -GEN (R) Stanley McChrystal, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

Minimizing stove-piped information, building shared understanding, and synchronizing Warfighting Functions (WfF) are goals many brigade and battalion staffs aim to achieve. However, the standard physical layout in garrison remains compartmentalized and decentralized; separate buildings or offices with isolated staff sections  is the norm for most of these organizations. Equally, they are often comfortable with these physical barriers. However, these barriers manifest in numerous challenges when integrating  the command post for tactical exercises and operations. If the organizational goal remains integration and synchronization, why do we continue to burden ourselves with a structure that does not inherently facilitate the intended outcome? Instead of organizing garrison staff into stove-piped sections, units will operate more effectively by developing a battle rhythm that permits accomplishment of administrative requirements.

Integrating staff sections in garrison allows for coherent effort gain in the tactical command post setting and provides a foundation for cohesive and synchronized operations. In a Brigade Main Command Post (CP), the current operations section (CUOPs), Plans, Administrative and Logistics Operations Center (ALOC), and Brigade Intelligence Support Element (BISE) generally are shared spaces for WfFs. No physical space is exclusive to any staff section or function. The increased interaction inherently leads to improved information sharing, communication, and shared understanding. 

Failing to build brigade or battalion staff cohesion potentially leads to inaccurate assessments, degraded execution of subordinate organizations, and catastrophic loss of Soldiers’ lives while they execute operations. Some units currently assume the execution of training exercises will suffice, but an integrated garrison design optimizes the opportunity for staff synchronization. Replicating the integrated working groups in garrison office space acclimates the staff to a more cohesive work environment and reduces friction during field training exercises.   

Although Army doctrine and MTOE documents provide a basis for tactical command post structure, they are not blueprints for execution. Ultimately, the commander directs the structure and organization based on their vision and operational requirements. While normally directed towards tactical mission command optimization, this concept is equally suited for synchronization of staff elements in a garrison environment. Positioning staff in a design that allows for integration as well as execution of daily operations is essential.

For example, the S1 section cannot wholly detach itself from a space to perform administrative personnel services without degrading processes or interrupting operations of other sections. The integrated layout must account for personnel or tasks that still require a separate area. Including primary staff in garrison structural reorganization planning will improve buy-in and address concerns with staff-specific functions.

As with any change to the “way it’s always been done,” not all staff members will support evolution. Concerns will arise regarding encroachment of space, personnel management, and the ability to execute section-specific garrison tasks. For example, sustainment personnel may organize in CUOPs, Plans, and ALOC cells in the new structure. Compared to the original design, the S4 will inherently lose some of their ability to easily direct or interface with this group. A way to mitigate the issue would be to establish battle rhythm events to allow sections to hold meetings with their staff to prioritize efforts and direct garrison administrative task completion. The example exemplifies the need to assess the capabilities gained or lessened with such change. Again, the importance of staff input during planning of reorganization is key to a successful transition.  

Units currently utilizing this structure tend to exhibit improved functional staff capabilities of the CUOPs, Plans, and ALOC cells and a more seamless transition from garrison to tactical employment. Personnel and sections also benefit from a greater understanding of the capabilities and requirements of their adjacent sections. In this model, the staff will understand how they affect and are affected by others, which is imperative in a tactical environment. By simply removing physical barriers such as walls, doors, and stairs, the simple face-to-face interaction typical of a Main CP or TAC will ultimately build staff cohesion.

 

Figure 1: Command Post Organizational Design. 

Figure 1 from FM 6-0, Commander and Staff Organization and Operations, provides a framework for command post organizational design. This figure illustrates integrated cells as a collection of the various WfFs to plan and execute current operations, future operations, and plans. This design allows idea generation for staff’s implementation in a garrison environment at the brigade and battalion levels. The intent is not to prescribe a blueprint to success for every organization as not all headquarters buildings are the same. Physical space and connectivity provide a limitation that staff elements need to address in the planning phase. Tailoring the setup to integrate a common picture and build shared understanding should be one of the driving factors for unit-specific design. 

Integration and synchronization require repetition and familiarity that do not happen immediately upon deployment to the field and organization into a Main CP and/or TAC. Initiation must happen before our Soldiers’ lives are at stake during combat operations. Their foundations are cultivated through consistent interaction with a conducive physical layout in any garrison or tactical environment. Maximizing opportunities to excel as an organized staff underpins the purpose of reinventing how we look at structuring the garrison’s physical layout.

 

Maj. Nicholas Spicocchi is an Infantry Officer currently attending the Command and General Staff Officer College. He previously commanded at the company level and served as the Brigade Chief of Operations for the IRONHORSE Brigade Combat Team (1ABCT, 1CD). He earned his master’s degree in Adult Learning and Leadership from Kansas State University.

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