OR/MS Today - August 2004

The Sense-and-Respond Enterprise

Why the U.S. Marine Corps should embrace the new paradigm.

By Maj. Mark J. Menotti

What is an adaptive enterprise? What does it mean to be a "sense-and-respond" organization? These terms are becoming quite popular within the business community, and the terminology has also piqued the interest of many government agencies as well. However on several occasions, well-meaning individuals are incorrectly labeling ideas under these titles. This article will provide a condensed version of what it means to use these titles and explain why the U.S. Marine Corps should consider redesigning its current structure in order to become a "sense-and-respond" organization.

During his 30-plus year career with IBM, the last decade of which he served as the director of Strategic Studies at IBM's Advanced Business Institute, Steve Haeckel developed sense-and-respond (S&R) as a managerial framework for large enterprises facing increasingly unpredictable, rapid and often discontinuous change. Haeckel drew on work in complexity theory at the Santa Fe Institute, linguistics, anthropology and Russell Ackoff's work in general systems theory.

Ackoff's book, "The Democratic Corporation," provides a clear articulation of the definition and nature of systems. Ackoff, Peter Senge and others used the lens of systems knowledge to diagnose and recommend remedies to a wide range of business issues. This approach has come to be known generically as "systems thinking."

Haeckel used Ackoff's definition of systems and explication of how they work as the foundation for a set of principles for adaptive enterprise design. Haeckel argues that businesses and organizations should be designed and managed as systems, as opposed to, for example, hierarchical structures of authority linked by cross-enterprise processes. In his studies regarding future business trends in a global marketplace, Haeckel recognized that adaptiveness — which is appropriate response to change — is a more difficult challenge than flexibility, agility or rapid responsiveness to the customer. To address this challenge, he developed the concept of designing a business as an adaptive system. Haeckel coined the terms "adaptive enterprise," as well as "sense-and-respond" organizations to describe the concepts and principles of adaptive design and management. In his 1999 book, "Adaptive Enterprise: Creating and Leading Sense & Respond Organizations," the book jacket summarizes Haeckel's perception of the problem and the outline of his solution:

"Unpredictable, discontinuous change is an unavoidable consequence of doing business in the Information Age. Because this intense turbulence demands fast — even instantaneous — response, many large companies are fragmenting themselves into smaller, quick-response units. But in doing so, they relinquish important advantages of scale and scope. Is it possible to have it both ways? Can large, complex firms adapt successfully and systematically to unexpected change? Yes, says Steve Haeckel, but only if leaders learn how to manage their organizations as adaptive systems.

"Haeckel updates the concept of the corporation for the Information Age with a radical and comprehensive rethinking of organizational strategy, structure and leadership. He outlines the new sense-and-respond business model that is helping companies systematically cope with the unexpected. Haeckel argues that when unpredictability is a given, the only strategy that makes sense is a strategy to become adaptive — to sense early and respond quickly to abrupt changes in individual customer needs. As a result, a firm's operations must be driven by current customer requests — implicit as well as articulated — rather than by plans to make and sell what customers are forecasted to want in the future" [1].

Haeckel names five new competencies that an adaptive enterprise is required to have in order for it to be considered truly a sense-and-respond business model. These five competencies include: 1) knowing earlier, 2) managing-by-wire, 3) designing a business as a system, 4) dispatching capabilities from the customer request back (e.g., coordination), and 5) context-giving leadership. We'll discuss each of these competencies in order to educate the audience on what products, technologies, education and coaching are currently available in the marketplace; furthermore, we'll discuss what future products will be forthcoming. In the end, we hope to demonstrate the relevance and importance of becoming a sense-and-respond organization in today's fast-paced society as well as how we can apply these principles to a military organization in order to meet the Secretary of Defense's requirement for "transformation."

To understand the first two competencies mentioned above, we look to a famous American airman who first developed a decision-making cycle. In his attempt to explain the wartime combat success of U.S. fighter pilots over their North Korean counterparts during the Korean War, Col. John Boyd (Ret., USAF) deduced a concept titled the "OODA Loop." The OODA Loop decision-making concept is an acronym that stands for "observation, orientation, decision and act;" to simplify, the OODA Loop essentially states that if one makes informed decisions and actions faster than one's enemy, then he/she will outperform the enemy.

Informed decisions are calculated by sensing and observing the enemy's actions to external events, and then balancing those observations against one's contextual understanding of the enemy's characteristics and culture. Through this contextual and interpretive "lens," a decision-maker is then given multiple courses of action from which to choose that calculates in past actions and effects from historical data. An effects-based decision is then made and action is taken on one's enemy. As the speed of this OODA Loop cycle increases, the enemy will continually remain — both tactically and intellectually — a "step behind."

Haeckel studied Col. Boyd's OODA Loop concept and recognized its applicability towards achieving a more flexible and responsive business design. Haeckel "civilianized" the OODA Loop cycle into business terminology and renamed it the SIDA Loop; SIDA stands for "sensing, interpreting, deciding and acting." Within this SIDA Loop are two key concepts: 1) knowing earlier (sensing and interpreting) and 2) managing-by-wire (MBW). Let's explore these key concepts further.

Knowing Earlier

The benefits of "knowing earlier (sensing and interpreting)" seem self-evident. It allows you to get an edge on your competition and to manage a business more effectively. This can be done a number of ways. For example, nanotechnology currently being developed will allow for machines to be self-automated and connected. Within many university research labs like those at the University of California-Berkeley, MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) — which is the integration of mechanical elements, sensors, actuators and electronics on a common silicon substrate through microfabrication technology — promises to revolutionize nearly every product category by bringing together silicon-based microelectronics with micromachining technology, making possible the realization of complete systems-on-a-chip [2]. Microelectronic integrated circuits can be thought of as the "brains" of a system, and MEMS augments this decision-making capability with "eyes" and "arms" to allow microsystems to sense and control the environment. Sensors gather information from the environment through measuring mechanical, thermal, biological, chemical, optical and magnetic phenomena. The electronics then process the information derived from the sensors and through some decision-making capability direct the actuators to respond by moving, positioning, regulating, pumping and filtering, thereby controlling the environment for some desired outcome or purpose. Similarly, the development of "smart dust" by IBM's Research Labs allows for miniature sensors to communicate and configure themselves into a network on-the-fly when scattered at random; this concept has great potential for enhancing in-theater networks [3].

With regards to existing logistical sensor technologies, there are currently products on the market such as radio-frequency identification tags (RFIDs), total asset visibility/real-time location systems (TAV/RTLS) and data mining tools; each of these products will be discussed. First, RFIDs can be thought of as bar codes that operate at a distance. They can be active or passive and provide a labeling mechanism that allows you to get information — such as serial number, contents of a container, price and location. An active RFID system consists of three components: 1) antenna, 2) transceiver (with decoder) and 3) transponder (tag). The active system emits a signal that can range up to 700 meters, and its transmission is captured by a wireless local area network (WLAN) receiver [4]. A passive RFID system requires that a user scan the tag from a relatively close distance (few meters); a bar code is considered to be the least sophisticated ID system that is a distant cousin (the dumber cousin) from the RFID. RFID has now moved from inventory control and tracking to micro-payments (e.g., Exxon-Mobil's Speed Pass) and homeland security. The uses of RFID will expand dramatically as costs continue to drop, and it is used in combination with other technologies, such as global positioning systems. Some IBM partners in this area of expertise include Intermec, Alien Technologies, Wherenet and FEIG; together, an integrated solution is achieved for the customer [5].

TAV/RTLS products are essentially the databanks wherein RFID sensors and WLANs send their signals. They provide fully automatic real-time data updates (configurable from every few seconds to several minutes), very accurate (within 10 feet) locations and are totally automatic (no labor required). TAV/RTLS improve inventory control measures and in-transit visibility of requisitions; in doing so, this system answers three basic questions:

  • What equipment and supplies are currently in my inventory?
  • Where is a particular piece of equipment or item of supply within my warehouse or yard?
  • What is the status and location of the requisition on order at any given time?

IBM has great depth in this arena to include a current TAV project with the Department of the Navy titled "E-Logistics on Demand."

Finally, the value of data mining tools needs to be addressed. As one might expect, the sheer volume of data that businesses and organizations produce nowadays can easily overwhelm an individual. According to Haeckel, "Data mining tools and methods include a collection of sophisticated mathematical algorithms to so-called neural networks that attempt to find patterns in large aggregations of data." This analysis of the patterns then attempts to find meaning out of apparent noise, which is then used by humans in formulating an appropriate response.


The concept of managing-by-wire (MBW) is a direct derivative of the fly-by-wire (FBW) concept used during the advent of jet engine technology in the 1950s. To digress slightly, dramatic improvements in jet engine performance during this period increased the speed of fighter planes to a level that made it impossible for pilots to keep up with external events. The response to this technological improvement was to enable the pilots to assimilate information faster through the use of new technology that would allow them to react in time and maintain control of the plane at such high speeds. This new technology took the pilots' actions and translated them into sophisticated software that then allowed the plane to perform myriad intricate commands that magnified a coordinated response from the plane to a level higher than what a human is capable of doing in the same amount of time. In other words, the new technology enabled the pilots to "fly-by-wire."

According to Haeckel, "Today's fighter pilots do not fly airplanes; they fly informational representations of them. This is called 'flying by wire.' It is important to distinguish fly-by-wire, which augments a pilot's function, from autopilot, which automates it. Autopilot systems are much more limited in the number of situations that can be handled and are used only in stable environments. Fly-by-wire systems integrate the pilot's accountabilities and ad hoc activities with software that translates pilot decisions into the instructions that actually modify the plane's behavior. A wide degree of freedom in pilot behavior, including override capability, is a standard feature of such designs" [6].

Now that we've defined FBW, the concept of MBW can be stated as "the capability of managing a business by managing an informational representation of it." Once again, Haeckel provides us with something to ponder:

"Imagine an enterprise design model that defines the behavior of an entire business. Imagine making this model a part of the corporate informational infrastructure, implementing it on technology that connects all relevant sources and users of information and affords maximum sharing among all parts of the firm. Managers could respond to the read-outs appearing on the console, modifying the flight plan en route based on changes in external conditions, monitoring the performance of delegated responsibilities, sending coordinated directions to subsidiary functions, and experiencing exhilaration upon their execution. It constitutes institutional memory and intelligence, which augment management's ability to run the business" [6].

So, the question then becomes, How close are we to managing-by-wire? Let's examine what technologies are currently available in the market now as well as what is being developed.

Autonomic logistics is a broad term used to describe technologies that predict failure in operating systems, monitor stockage levels in consumables, automatically report impending failures and order replacements without human intervention. These technologies could have huge payoffs in both military and commercial logistics, possibly leading to the day when supplies automatically will flow to the consumer and war fighters before they run out. Today, a jet plane monitor can indicate that an engine part has failed, and a message can then be automatically relayed to people on the ground. Subsequently, maintenance personnel are then able to replace the unit when the plane lands. The message from the jet can also trigger a procurement action — the ordering of any spare parts that need to be replaced in the inventory. Thus, the engine sensors "sensed" a failure and the system "responded" to that sensing [7]. This example demonstrates Haeckel's SIDA Loop in action.

There are a number of manufacturers who currently provide this brand of autonomic actions, including Caterpillar and Honeywell. In fact, Honeywell has an interesting proposal regarding autonomic logistics in that it has coined a "one-off" production response for its customers. In other words, they are currently proposing that should a part fail and need replacing, then they will send the part — not out of their inventory stocks — but rather it will come right off the production line and be sent to the consumer within 72 hours of notification [8].

Autonomic logistics can come in other forms such as telematics or remote diagnostics. Telematics deals with transmitting data from vehicles, as well as electronic and mechanical components back to centralized servers for the purpose of logistics, command and control, and anticipating vehicle fleet maintenance requirements. IBM has a telematics device that displays how a user can take an electronic or mechanical device such as a motor or engine, connect it to a diagnostics data output device, then to a laptop PC and monitor performance, as well as the on-board diagnostics and prognostics data of that motor.

The IBM telematics demonstration serves as a prime example of how we can use real-time data to track vehicle location via a geo-positional system and monitor engine performance as well as lifecycle maintenance milestones of that motor, such as routine preventive maintenance, hours operated, miles driven, fuel and oil consumed, engine and oil temperature, oil pressure, tire pressure, emissions, and MTBF (mean time between failure) or even rounds or ammo expended. This technology can then be used by logisticians, planners, motor vehicle operators and maintenance personnel to monitor diagnostics and prognostics anywhere in the world, via a local "ruggedized" PC/laptop or PDA terminal. Moreover, it could also share that data with other organizations (e.g., suppliers or military higher headquarters) through various communications means, including wireless, via local LAN or satellite uplink. In this scenario, telematics data can even be used in a "disconnected" environment where no wireless coverage exists, and then synchronized when wireless coverage is once again regained [9].

To address communications shortfalls experienced by some customers, IBM has packaged a communications suite called Secure Wireless Infrastructure System — previously called First Responder — that is compact, light-weight, encrypted, scalable, ruggedized and loaded with bandwidth. In partnership with companies such as Cryptek, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Cisco Systems and others, IBM's communications solution includes satellite and voice-over-Internet-protocol phones, as well as wireless and wired LANs allowing for secure voice and data communications anywhere in the world. IBM can maintain a cache of terminals built to customer specifications and make the assets available to the customer within 24 hours of notice — "on demand." This communications suite ties in nicely to the telematics tool mentioned previously [9].

Remote diagnostics encompasses using available information technology, sophisticated algorithms and the Internet in order to monitor high-value equipment and machinery around the clock from virtually anywhere. Hospitals currently use this service provided by General Electric in order to keep their CAT scans and MRI machines up and running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Operators can contact a "hotline" in order for a technician to walk them through fixing the critical machine [7]. Again, both telematics and remote diagnostics fall under the autonomic logistics header and are solid examples of currently available technology that both "senses" and "responds" to technological failures.

Finally, we will explore IT backbones currently being developed by IBM that will make the MBW concept much more ubiquitous in the government and commercial sectors. The autonomic logistics devices mentioned previously are a step in the right direction towards obtaining a sense-and-respond organization. However, they don't take full advantage of institutional knowledge that is available. Haeckel defines the current problem facing many businesses and government today:

"Connecting determines what the firm can institutionally sense. In the 1970s, networks sprang up in multiple places for multiple purposes. As a result, many companies today are criss-crossed by dozens of independent networks that are incompatible technically and thus actually inhibit, rather than promote, information sharing. Separate networks reinforce the tribal mentality that exists in functional hierarchies, with the result that in many organizations the left hand rarely knows what the right is doing. This 'lobotomization' of the corporate intellect remains perhaps the single largest impediment to realizing the potential of technology to help manage large companies" [6].

Software makers are working to imbue supply-chain management tools with artificial intelligence that will allow leaders to make better choices, share information throughout the value chain and learn from past mistakes. Autonomous agents or sensors placed at key nodes throughout the organization will feed into this software in real time, which in turn allows more accurate decisions to be made. This is analogous to how a beehive works wherein hundreds of bees go out into the world and collect pollen to make honey. Programs such as IBM's SAR Blue Enterprise and INFORMS Istanbul 2003 are embedded with artificial intelligence that compares current business conditions to historical ones and then forecasts what's likely to happen next. "It doesn't simply react, but rather it anticipates," states Grace Lin, a former senior manager at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center [10, 11].

SAR Blue Enterprise can sense a multitude of changes in the business environment, such as market conditions and operational issues, faster than competitors. Before issues become problematic, it can formulate smart responses by adjusting policies, strategies, processes and operations. Similarly, INFORMS Istanbul 2003 combines supply-chain visibility, business process integration and event-based management in a way that optimizes supply-chain management. A prototype of this software will be available later this year, and a commercial version is expected within five years (10).

Becoming a sense-and-respond organization has many aspects to it; the SIDA Loop wherein leaders are able to know earlier and respond more quickly than their competitors is vital to its success. However, the SIDA Loop is only part of the equation to being a sense-and-respond enterprise. Building your business as a system with appropriate coordination and

context-giving leadership helps to avoid suboptimization of the full S&R capabilities. Let's explore this further.

Designing a Business as a System

As we discussed at the beginning of this paper, today's business and battlefield environments are increasingly unpredictable and susceptible to rapid change. The ability to adapt and succeed in this type of environment stems from good systems design of one's organizational structure and not from good process design of its functionality. What does that mean exactly?

Process design requires predicting in advance the inputs, desired output and best way of producing the output. Good process design is also characterized by increases in the speed, accuracy and efficiency of business operations when the inputs and the best ways of doing things are known and sufficiently stable. Yet, inputs are not always known or stable — what then? To further complicate the issue, when one part of the system is improved independent of all other elements, suboptimization occurs, which, although common, can be counterproductive and costly; this is essentially the opposite effect of creating synergy within an organization. Continuous changes in customer preferences, market and battlefield conditions, as well as evolving innovation in available capabilities, dictate that success increasingly depends upon improvisational procedures, which are best done through good system design.

In a sense-and-respond world, organizations must develop and/or adopt new principles, competencies, accountabilities, context and structure in order to survive. It requires the ability to integrate all business functions — at the last possible moment and as close to the customer as possible — in order to create an optimized, efficient and well-coordinated system, which discourages the application of best practices to any specific component and eliminates functional silos and blinders. Consequently, this system is designed as a collection of business functions and elements that produces more than the sum of its parts. Haeckel further analyzes this general system design:

"If a business is designed as a system, it will automatically create synergy. Synergy is something very different from 'more of the same.' Because synergy is a system-level result, it differs qualitatively from the outcomes contributed by any of the parts. The result is a preference-creating experience, a system-level effect, produced by the way products, services and ambience interact with one another and with the customer" [12].

If a business or organization wants to produce synergy with its employees, products and places, it must understand and design the interactions amongst them, rather than the actions of them. In other words, a sense-and-respond organization is an "effects-based" structure that is designed as a "roles and accountability" system. However before we delve into this system design any further, let's first discuss the role that an organization's top leadership has with regards to developing context for the organization.

Context-Giving Leadership

In a sense-and-respond system, senior organizational leadership provides their employees with the proper context in order for the employees to execute their roles; the proper context consists of providing employees with a statement of purpose (or reason-for-being), governing principles (e.g., boundaries), guiding principles and a "role and accountability" structural design. Leaders then populate key roles with competent people and trust in them to run operations without the senior leader's interference or oversight. In this type of structural model, top leaders focus on the interactions between key roles and not on what their specific actions are. While this may sound a bit like taking a page from Machiavelli's "The Prince" in terms of "the ends justify the means," it is, in fact, not that severe. Why? As indicated above, subordinate actions are guided by a common purpose (e.g., the "reason-for-being") established by top leadership along with governing and guiding principles that influence but do not dictate the actions of employees.

The organization's "reason-for-being," or purpose, should be expressed specifically as the primary purpose or the ultimate function of the sense-and-respond enterprise. It should specify how critical elements interact — not specify how work is done — and should state what the system exists to do — not what it must do to exist. A S&R system facilitates widely distributed decision-making and allows each role to design and lead subsystem roles they are accountable for. Coherent behavior is ensured by all in accordance with established "rules of engagement" — sometimes called governing principles or boundaries.

Haeckel elaborates: "In order to compete in an on-demand or S&R business environment, a business model is needed to provide a systems context within which to improvise. This context is what conveys 'know-why' throughout the organization, enabling anticipation, coordination and adaptive coherent responses in unpredictable environments. It is an important insight for business executives to 'know why, not how.' Know-how is procedural knowledge, which is action-centered and based on practice. But it is know-why that distinguishes a business from other talented operations enabling them to better anticipate what will happen next not by projecting historical trends, but by deriving meaning in real time from what is happening now. Such knowledge enables one to react faster not because it increases their speed, but because it decreases the time it takes to adapt to developments. Knowing why makes it possible to know earlier and respond faster. When everyone knows why, it is because leaders have become good architects who articulate and propagate their intent as a system context, rather than as an action plan" [12].

An excellent S&R leader is also a decision-maker who makes organizational decisions that are based on recognizing emerging patterns faster than others. Timely and accurate pattern recognition and interpretation enable one to anticipate and quickly respond to what is happening in an unpredictable environment. The patterns that he or she recognizes are system patterns and not activity sequences. Because of this pattern-recognizing ability to rapidly size up the implications of a given situation, strong S&R leaders know something much more important: they know earlier than anyone else the meaning of what is happening — now.

In a military organization, we might define the "reason-for-being" as the ability of that organization to fight and win wars; perhaps, it also has a flavor of what we define as Commander's Intent — providing the ultimate purpose behind a mission. Guiding principles might look like our joint and service doctrines that influence how we see the battlefield. For example, in "MCDP-1, Warfighting" and "MCDP-3, Tactics," the U.S. Marine Corp's doctrines profess the benefits of maneuver warfare wherein friendly forces bypass enemy strengths and exploit gaps in the enemy's defense by going after enemy command-and-control facilities and logistical chains [13, 14]. These principles guide us but do not dictate or compel our actions. Governing principles or boundaries might surface under operational "rules of engagement" wherein certain restrictions are placed on the military's actions (e.g., adherence to the Geneva Convention). Hopefully, these examples provide some form of context to the discussion.

This discussion on "context-giving leadership" should sound familiar to many in uniform as we look towards the future of warfare and recognize that the likelihood towards more missions concerning urban combat and other asymmetrical threats become more prevalent (Gen. Krulak's Three-Block War discussion comes to mind [15]). The ability to decentralize decision-making to the lowest level, providing subordinates with commonly understood mission statements and a Commander's Intent to guide their actions, and placing competent leaders in accountable roles are characteristically compatible with how the U.S. Marine Corps views its approach to leadership development. Let's examine the roles and accountability design further.

Roles and Accountability

In team sports, each team member has an individual role designed within the system, striving for the same desired and understood organizational outcome. Although the opposition can be inconsistent given a litany of influential factors and levels of competency, each role evolves or adapts to the predictable as well as the unpredictable in order for the team to survive and defeat any adversary. An understanding of each individual's role and their interaction with other roles is paramount to the team's success and in achieving its common purpose — to be both harmonious and victorious. Haeckel elaborates: "In the sense-and-respond model of adaptive business designs, clarity about accountability is achieved by defining the work of persons exclusively in terms of the roles they play. Roles, in turn, are defined exclusively by the outcomes that relate them to other roles" [12].

Each role in the design is accountable for producing outcomes or effects for other roles. In business, every outcome relates a defined customer role to a defined supplier role. The design specifies the interactions between the roles, not their activities. The benefits of this design include ensuring organizational alignment, reduced transaction costs, the inclusion of partners and suppliers in decision-making, preparedness for change, and clarity about accountabilities, authorities and roles.

With universally understood boundaries (e.g., governing principles) and an understanding of individual roles, all of the system's elements function with a common purpose to produce a common outcome. Of course, this type of systems design requires that the organization's top leadership populate roles with competent leaders and managers, as previously stated. Likewise, these roles must have the authority to negotiate and coordinate amongst each other when conflicts arise in order to achieve the desired output.

Designing a business as an adaptive system of roles and accountabilities makes it possible to change business models much more rapidly. Within IBM, there are two experts — Joe Arteaga and Dan Forno — who have helped other companies and internal IBM business sectors to create this role and accountability system design. For example, Forno redesigned IBM's Global Services' (IGS) "Workforce Deployment Process" using the principles of S&R. IGS is the world's largest business and technology services provider with more than $36 billion in revenue and 175,000 employees. Its principle lines of business include strategic outsourcing, business consulting and integrated technology services. The problems that Global Services faced were significant: increasing speed of business, constant change, demanding customers, funding challenges, dynamic priority changes, lengthy cycle times and projected declines in revenue and profit. Using Haeckel's principles of an adaptive enterprise, Forno reflected on his redesign approach:

"Creating the reason for being, governing principles, high-level business design with roles, outcomes, conditions of satisfaction, establishing sensors and managing the outcomes versus the roles themselves provides the ingredients for managing the context and coordination within the adapting organization. ...Overall, the biggest difference is that the organization's leaders get more focused on delivering outcomes versus how they are delivered. Ensuring you put the right people in roles helps make that a reality. Leveraging everything that goes into that person and supporting that role (e.g., methodologies, underlying processes, etc.) provides the basis for such trust. This also frees the organization to accomplish what it is capable of and seems to speed execution and increase the sheer number of outcomes accomplished in any given period. ...The senior leadership all begin to support the team's efforts" [16].

What were the results that Forno achieved in Global Services? Customer satisfaction was up significantly, internal morale was up, and business results were up (139 percent more profits, 106 percent increase in growth, lower costs and reduced cycle times) because employees were "free to act" — unencumbered by the internal micromanaging tendencies of most organizations [16].

Within the Secretary of Defense's Office of Force Transformation (OFT), a flagship transformation project called "Sense-and-Respond Logistics" is being led by Navy Capt. Linda Lewandowski, to understand the direct benefits to the military's transformation efforts if the "sense-and-respond" organizational model was adopted by the logistical "arms" of the U.S. military services. In fact, Haeckel — currently advising the OFT staff on S&R — emphasized how an S&R business design addresses network-centric warfare challenges in the following ways:

  • "Massively distributed decision-making is a feature of role and accountability designs. Each role shown is accountable for designing and leading the subsystem role he/she is accountable for, and to deliver the outcomes committed.
  • Local self-synchronization is achieved by the instance-by-instance response designs of local commanders, who dispatch resources using a technology-supported commitment management system.
  • Shared situational awareness is achieved because each role-specific heads-up-display is supported by a common data store, and where appropriate, by common interpretive models.
  • Speed of command and tempo are substantially enhanced by role-specific manage-by-wire support that enables accountable individuals to iterate through their SIDA (OODA) loops faster.
  • Coherent behavior at scale is enabled by the fact that the " who-owes-what-to-whom" role and accountability design is a system design; by the common data store; and by the commitment management support system that ensures that all agreed outcomes are inspected for consistency with the current ROEs (governing principles plus lower-level spins and tweaks)" [17].

There have been further discussions regarding what a military S&R organizational design might look like exactly. Bearing in mind that it's desirable to have an effects-based system, a concept titled the "Battlefield Triumvirate" has been developed that is worth considering [18, 19]. In this design, there would likely be three main roles that would need to be populated: 1) local effects commander, 2) combat package commander and 3) sustainment commander. Subject to further discussions and wargaming efforts, the local effects commander might have the organic capabilities of a straight-leg infantry battalion. The combat package commander might own, coordinate, commit, negotiate and deconflict all indirect-fire (e.g., artillery, naval gunfire, close-air support) weapons platforms as well as significant motorized direct-fire weapons platforms (e.g., CAAT, LAV, AAVs, tanks, etc.). Finally, the sustainment commander might have the organic capabilities of an MEU service support group (MSSG).

Of course, there would be an intelligence commander's role somewhere in this structure as it has become painfully and increasingly obvious of the need for a coherent and coordinated common operating picture available to the other significant roles annotated above in order to harmonize efforts, create organizational synergy and increase the lethality of this new military S&R structure.

Based off the Department of Navy's vision of sea-basing our logistical assets as defined in expeditionary maneuver warfare and operational maneuver from the sea literature, let's further examine the battlefield triumvirate structure in an S&R military model example [20, 21]. We can imagine that through autonomic logistical actions (e.g., telematics) a repair part on a tank is sensed as failing and requiring replacement; therefore, a signal is sent back to the sea base in order to call forward the required repair part in order to perform preventive maintenance. We can also imagine that a local effects commander is intending on engaging mechanized enemy forces in open terrain and therefore wants all of his mechanized assets in action for the battle.

Through viewing his "heads-up-display," the local effects commander is able to retrieve the latest information in terms of disposition of enemy and friendly forces. He contacts the sustainment commander to see if he can expedite the repair of the downed tank and/or source a replacement tank from elsewhere within the region. Through use of their IT-enabled commitment management software, the two commanders are able to negotiate a sufficient resolution to the issue. Additional negotiation might be achieved by including the combat package commander in the discussion as perhaps he or she could provide an adequate substitution for the loss of a tank (e.g., commit use of two A-10 Warthogs for the mission). Keeping in mind the context-giving leadership provided by their top commander, these three roles interact in order to achieve success on the battlefield.

Dispatching Capabilities from the Customer Request Back

As was indicated earlier, an adaptive business system is an assemblage of modular, functional capabilities and roles, which are dispatched and coordinated in response to current customer requests. With operations, decisions and resources driven in response to current customer needs, today's business organizations are potentially reconfigured by every new customer request. The prosecution of modern warfare is characteristically the same in terms of unpredictability and ever-changing requirements; thus, flexibility must be inherent to any adaptive enterprise system.

Accountability is to the customer; it is defined by specified negotiated commitments between customer and supplier roles. Within a business environment, this means that power shifts from the suppliers towards customers; likewise, the business focus shifts from an organization's internal performance metrics to the customers' metrics of success. Markets and industries become defined in terms of customers and customer-value propositions rather than products that they offer. Outcomes are continually reviewed, negotiated and renegotiated with the customer. Ultimately, success is determined by the effects produced for the customer and is expressed in terms of increased customer satisfaction; customer loyalty and cooperation become valued over competition. This customer-centric (or customer-back) philosophy provides the foundation for the S&R adaptive business design.

An interesting issue for a military organization is to determine "who is the customer?" Certainly, there are internal customers; but are there others? As Army Brig. Gen. Robert Mansfield noted in a December 2002 brief during an OFT S&R conference, the military's customer is also the enemy. Though this sounds bizarre, it makes sense because effects on the enemy would be the logical design point for an S&R military model. But in this case, the effects produce negative value for the customer (e.g., deterrence, denial of access, destruction of forces, etc.).

In support of this S&R model, an organization must reconfigure itself to become a technology-based commitment management system. IBM's Arteaga has developed just such a framework. Named the "Commitment Management Protocol," this prototype software is Lotus Notes-based and promotes coordination and negotiation within an organization [22]. Specifically, it leverages a rigorous commitment management protocol to keep track of the status of negotiations, propagates the governing principles to ensure compliance of every commitment within organizational policies, and provides a system-level view of the status of "who owes what to whom." Through use of this software, leaders who populate the key effects-based roles can see, among other things, where breakdowns occur most often (e.g., pattern recognition), and use that information to adapt their role and accountability designs, repopulate roles or both, in order to improve the effectiveness of the organization and achieve customer satisfaction.

To provide a coherent framework for the dynamic, late-binding integration of multiple subsystems (e.g., roles), a business' IT architecture should mirror and support the leadership's role and accountability organizational design. The IT architecture should also be capable of "real-time" data sharing and allow for continuous reengineering. It becomes a customized system that allows rapid design, implementation, modification and execution of business processes. Instead of defining tasks, it marries all components of the system in terms of their functionality or outcomes and explains why each component exists. This S&R approach emphasizes customer relationships, intellectual resources, mass customization, economies of scale and returns on investment.


So, one may ask how — exactly — is the S&R paradigm relevant to the United States Marine Corps? In my opinion, adopting and embracing these types of products, technologies and effects-based organizational structure strengthen our warfighting lethality and bring about economies of scale in an unprecedented manner. Imagine the power of knowing earlier than your enemy about what was coming next; having computer software that recognized emerging patterns and provided you with several courses of action to make; and sharing this information — real time — amongst adjacent and higher echelon units in order to achieve a "common operating picture" that empowers separate units on the battlefield to work synergistically and harmoniously towards killing the enemy forces that are faced. That type of speed of decision-making and action would create a generational transformation in the art of warfare; and, albeit that type of paradigm shift is indeed "transformational," it is considered a worthy endeavor. There are those who label fourth-generational warfare ("4GW") as the emergence and fighting of asymmetrical threats. What better organizational structure could be developed to combat the asymmetric threat than one that is systematically geared towards quickly responding to unpredictable events?

Haeckel's provocative introduction of the five new competencies that an adaptive enterprise is required to have in order for it to be considered truly a S&R business model are quite remarkable. Ultimately, the adoption of the S&R framework (along with its products and technologies) will expedite the Marine Corps' transformation and works in sync with the Department of Navy's "expeditionary maneuver warfare" and "operational maneuver from the sea" capstone concepts.


  1. Haeckel, Steve H., 1999, "Adaptive Enterprise — Creating and Leading Sense-and-Respond Organizations," Harvard Business School Press.
  2. Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center (BSAC) at the University of California: www.memsnet.org/mems/what-is.html.
  3. "Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and Smart Dust," slide show by Dr. Alex Morrow, IBM Research Center, March 31, 2004.
  4. "Yard Management: A Case for RTLS," Wherenet sales pamphlet, March 2003.
  5. "RFID for CPG Supply Chain and Retail in-Store Operations," IBM PowerPoint brief.
  6. Haeckel, Steve H. and Nolan, Richard L., 1996, "Managing By Wire: Using I/T to Transform a Business From 'Make-and-Sell' to 'Sense-and-Respond'" from: "Competing in the Information Age: Strategic Alignment in Practice," edited by Jerry N. Luftman, Oxford University Press, Inc.
  7. "Transforming Government Supply Chain Management," IBM Center for the Business of Government book, edited by Dr. Jacques S. Gansler (University of Maryland) and Robert E. Luby Jr. (IBM Business Consulting Services). Copyright © 2004 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
  8. "Proposal to U.S. Navy for Sense & Respond eXperiment (SRX): 'On Demand' Effects from Network Centric Warfare," Honeywell March 2004 PowerPoint brief.
  9. "On Demand Services to the Last Tactical Mile," slide show by Richard Stewart, IBM Business Consulting Services (March 2004).
  10. Lin, Grace, Buckley, Steve, et al., 2002, "Sense & Respond Business Enterprise," OR/MS Today (April 2002).
  11. "INFORMS Istanbul 2003: Sense and Respond Supply Chain Management" slide show by Marcus Ettl and Kaan Katircioglu, IBM Research Center (July 2003).
  12. Haeckel, Steve H., 2003, "Leading on Demand Businesses — Executives as Architects," IBM Systems Journal, Vol. 42, No. 3 (March 20, 2003).
  13. "MCDP-1: Warfighting," USMC Doctrine (June 20, 1997).
  14. "MCDP-3: Tactics," USMC Doctrine (July 30, 1997).
  15. "CMC White Letter: No. 3-98 'Sustaining the Transformation — The Three Block War'" (June 26, 1998).
  16. "Personal Experiences in Using Adaptive Management Principles in IBM," slide show by Daniel J. Forno, vice president, IBM Global Services Adaptive Work Force (Dec. 3, 2003).
  17. "Becoming a Sense & Respond Organization," slide show by Steve Haeckel (Jan. 29, 2004).
  18. Farrell Jr., Lawrence P., 2003, "Logistics Superiority—Improving a Strong Suit," National Defense Magazine (April 2003).
  19. "Battlefield Triumvirate," brainstorming session between Capt. Linda Lewandowski (OFT) and Steve Haeckel, December 2003.
  20. "Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare: Scalable, Tailorable, Joint Integrated, Strategically Agile," USMC Doctrine (Nov. 10, 2001).
  21. "Operational Maneuver From the Sea: A Concept for the Projection of Naval Power Ashore," USMC Doctrine (1999).
  22. "Commitment Management — Leadership Through Outcome Management (Version 1.1)," slide show by Joe Arteaga (Aug. 1, 2001).

U.S. Marine Maj. Mark J. Menotti, who recently transferred to Manpower, HQMC, Quantico, Va., wrote this article during a one-year U.S. Marine Corp Fellowship with IBM.

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