Bonchek -Lessons from Network Centric Warfare
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Bonchek -Lessons from Network Centric Warfare



Presentation at the Compass Summit on Lessons in Network Centric Warfare

Presentation at the Compass Summit on Lessons in Network Centric Warfare



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  • We are all here because we want to produce some type of large-scale change.In our organizations, our communities, or the planet as a whole.And we would like to harnessnetwork effects to accelerate that change. I have spent the last 15 years trying to understand the network revolution and what it means for leaders, for organizations and for society.Today I’d like to share some perspective I’ve gained during that time working large and small organizations. Then Daniel Ben Horin of Tech Soup Global will join me. What lessons can we learn for large-scale change? What are the principles that can guide us?
  • Middle ages – produce manuscripts one at a time, in Latin, accessible to only a few of the wealthiest and most educated
  • Gutenberg’s printing press – make knowledge available to the masses, and make it possible for anyone to find an audience
  • The democratization of knowledge and the rise of mass literacy had profound effects on civilization, documented by Marshall McLuhan and Elizabeth Eisenstein.
  • Martin Luther – 95 Theses -> Protestant Reformation – 1517
  • Nicolaus Copernicus - On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres – 1543 – astronomy and scientific revolution
  • Sir Isaac Newton – Principia Mathematica – 1687 -
  • The first true banknotes from Europe were issued in Sweden in 1661. Much debate accompanied the issue, with some officials and merchants predicting paper money would herald the downfall of the country’s monetary system. To overcome such objections, the monetary authorities issued the banknotes with no fewer than 16 certifying endorsements from prominent and trustworthy officials – all signed individually by hand. Backed by the government’s guarantee to redeem the banknotes in specie, they were an immediate success, replacing the necessity to carry large, heavy, easily stolen quantities of gold or silver.
  • Thomas Paine – Common Sense – American Revolution - 1776
  • Even through to the modern day, our media have always been broadcast. We have lived in a world of 1-1 or 1-many media for 500 years.
  • The structure of business and management followed. We had technologies for connecting headquarters to the field and the field back to headquarters, but not peer to peer.
  • We have talked about the pivotal role of the industrial revolution on urbanization, globalization, etc. But it would never have happened without the printing press.
  • But all of this has changed, as we now have myriad technologies, services, and networks that give everyone a voice.
  • Now we are all connected through the global grid, a vast network of information, collaboration, and connection.What does this mean for large-scale change?One of the most interesting, and perhaps surprising, examples is the U.S. military over the last decade.
  • We began on 9/11, when the American public woke up to a new reality.And a new enemy.Photo:
  • This was not the enemy we grew up with.We were accustomed to fighting military empires:big, monolithic, hierarchical, easy to seePhoto:
  • But this enemy was invisible. A network of terrorists.Hiding in caves and sneaking through security.Photos:
  • But how do you fight a network?
  • The answer? With a network.
  • The problem was that Al Qaeda had a better network. “If you look at the geography (of al Qaida), there is no place to put a military solution. They are networked and they are all over the world. They are a virtual organization connected by the Internet. They use it to proselytize, recruit, raise money, educate and organize.”Sources:; (takes a network quote)Photo:,-the-newly-appointed-army-officer-in-charge
  • The goal was to shift from superiority of force to superiority of information. Networks of satellites, computers, cell phones, and sensors were all connected together. If you have seen movies like Transformers, where they point a laser and the missile hits exactly that spot, that is what became possible.Photo: Cebrowski and Garstka in "Network-Centric Warfare: Its Origin and Future,“
  • So we went from pure musclepower.Photo: Department of Defense
  • To brainpower. Tt would take intelligence, not just force, to defeat the enemy.Photo:
  • We needed a new kind of doctrine.One that could empower, as well as eradicate. Create, as well as destroy. Photo:
  • ”After the Vietnam War, we purged ourselves of everything that had to do with irregular warfare or insurgency, because it had to do with how we lost that war. In hindsight, that was a bad decision.” Photo:
  • Military organizations have traditionally providedinformation to forces in three ways:1. Commands (directives and guidance);2. Intelligence (information about the adversaryand the environment); and3. Doctrine (how you are going to do it).Commands serve to define the specific task at hand.Intelligence provides information about theenvironment in which the task is to be carried out.Doctrine provides the rules of the game or standardoperating procedures. Doctrine, unlike commands and intelligence, is not provided in real-time, but serves to shape the culture and mindsets of the individuals involved.Thus, information has, until recently, been inseparable from commanders, command structures, and command systems.Doctrine is “the concise expression of how Army forces contribute to unified action in campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements. . . . Army doctrine provides a common language and a common understanding of how Army forces conduct operations.” Tenet 1: A robustly networked force improves information sharing.Tenet 2: Information sharing and collaboration enhance the quality of information and shared situational awareness.Tenet 3: Shared situational awareness enables self-synchronizationTenet 4: These, in turn, dramatically increase mission effectiveness
  • Shared Situational Awareness"the perception of elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future“ (Endsley)"knowing what is going on so you can figure out what to do“ (Adam), E.C. (1993). Fighter cockpits of the future. Proceedings of 12th IEEE/AIAA Digital Avionics Systems Conference (DASC), 318–323.Endsley, M.R. (1995b). Toward a theory of situation awareness in dynamic systems. Human Factors 37(1), 32–64.One reason we say that no plan survives initial contact with the enemy is because situational awareness does not. In platform-centric military operations, situationalawareness steadily deteriorates.
  • Self-Synchronization is the ability of a well-informed force to organize and synchronizecomplex warfare activities from the bottom up.
  • Decide on locations with input from our partners and local citizens and informed by intel and security assessments.”Notes:Had written Ph.D. on lessons of VietnamCommanded 101st Airborne Division in initial invasion 2003Responsibile for governing Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. Asked “What have you done for the people of Iraq today?” Built up Iraqi security forcesEarned the moniker MalikDaoud (King David)This type of warfare was also network-centric, but this time focused on social networks, not technology networks.Photo:
  • June 23, 2010, President Obama announced that he would nominate Petraeus to succeed General Stanley A. McChrystal as the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan.
  • In addition to a new doctrine, Petraeus also reinvented the training program and simulation centers for a very different type of warfare. “They must be prepared to help reestablish institutions and local security forces and assist in rebuilding infrastructure and basic services. They must be able to facilitate establishing local governance and the rule of law.” Photo also for overview
  • When General David Petraeus came home from his second tour of duty in Iraq, he helped create a new doctrine for counter-insurgency.Now Director of the CIA as of September 6, 2011
  • Surge was announced in January 2007, with General Petraeus put in charge as Commander of the Iraqi forces.There was an explicit change in focus - "to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security“Instead of seeing every Iraqi as a potential enemy, newfocuson building relationships and getting cooperation from the Iraqis against Al Qaeda and minimizing the number of enemies for U.S. forces. [Wikipedia]
  •“We have to understand the people, their culture,their social structures and how systems to support them aresupposed to work – and how they do work.”‘In counterinsurgency, the side that learns faster and adapts more rapidly – the better learning organization – usually wins’
  • Photo:“It’s an attempt at explaining why we’ve seen such a drop in violence in Iraq in recent months, and why it took so long to see a shift. My short answer: the U.S. dropped its somewhat techno-centric approach to prosecuting the war—and started focusing on Iraq’s social, political, tribal, and cultural networks instead….“Warfare is not network centric.  It's commander centric.  And that commander is enabled by networks.”David PetraeusCOIN – Inroduction , p. xlvi , petreus“Leaders … must ensure that their Soldiers and Marines are ready to be greeted with either a handshake or a hand grenade.”Noah Shachtman
  • Designers of Large Scale ChangeDavid PetraeusMark ZuckerbergHoward Schultz

Bonchek -Lessons from Network Centric Warfare Bonchek -Lessons from Network Centric Warfare Presentation Transcript

  • LeadingLarge-Scale ChangeLessons from Network- Centric Warfare Mark S. Bonchek, Ph.D. @MarkBonchek
  • In the Middle Ages, knowledge was reserved for the few.
  • Gutenberg’s printing press made knowledge available to all. 1439
  • Mass literacy and the democratization of knowledge reshaped society.
  • Martin Luther and the Protestant ReformationMartin Luther ‘s 95 Theses - 1517
  • Copernicus and the Renaissance 1543
  • Newton and the Scientific Revolution 1687
  • Paper Money and the Banking System Swedish Daler - 1666
  • Thomas Paine and the American Revolution 1776
  • Since Gutenberg, our media have been broadcast: print, radio, TV, and film.
  • This “one-to-many” mindset is reflected in our hierarchies.
  • Mass production creates supply. Mass marketing creates demand.
  • Social media is fundamentally different.
  • We are now all connected in a global web of mass collaboration.
  • What does this mean for large-scale change?Can hierarchies transform into networks ?Are there examples for us to follow?
  • On 9/11, America woke up to a new reality, and a new enemy.
  • This new enemy was different than the one we had trained for.
  • This one hid in caves and walked through security.
  • We knew how to fight an army.But how do you fight a network?
  • We knew how to fight an army.But how do you fight a network? With a network.
  • We had a better hierarchy, but Al Qaeda had a better network. “It does take a network to beat a network and our network must be better.” General John Abizaid “This enemy is better networked than we are.”
  • We started by focusing on the technology.“Military operations increasingly will capitalize on theadvances and advantages of information technology.”
  • We looked to replace superiority of force …
  • … with superiority of information.
  • But better information wasn’t enough.“Network-centric warfare solves a problemI dont have — fighting some conventional enemy— and helps only a little with a problem I do have:how to build a societyin the face oftechnology-enabled,super-empoweredindividuals.” Lt Colonel John Nagl
  • We needed a new doctrine to guide new behaviors.“We put an Army on the battlefieldthat doesn’t have any doctrine, norwas it educated and trained, to dealwith an insurgency.”General Jack KeaneFmr Vice Chief of StaffU.S. Army
  • A new doctrine was created for network-centric warfare. NATO’s Definition of Doctrine "Fundamental principles by which the military forces guide their actions in support of objectives. It is authoritative but requires judgment in application."
  • It begins with information. Tenet 1 A robustly networked forceimproves information sharing.
  • Uses collaboration to create a common understanding. Tenet 2 Information sharing and collaboration enhance the quality of information andshared situational awareness.
  • Which enables the organization to behave as if centrally coordinated. Tenet 3 Shared situational awareness enables self-synchronization.
  • But with the agility of a distributed network. Tenet 4 These, in turn, dramaticallyincrease mission effectiveness.
  • General Petraeus emphasized the importance of human networks.“The people are thecenter of gravity.”“Provide them securityand earn their trustand confidence.”“Target the wholenetwork, not justindividuals.” General David Petraeus
  • The mission shifted from defeating an enemy to rebuilding a country."Its not about uswinning hearts andminds, its about theAfghan governmentwinning hearts andminds.” General David Petraeus
  • The roles of the soldiers changed.“Soldiers andmarines areexpected to benation buildersas well aswarriors.”COIN Field Manual
  • This new approach reshaped the training of soldiers.
  • And generated dramatically different results. SHIFT
  • The network-centric approach requires a particular mindset.Lessons Learned• Focus on the People “The human terrain is the decisive terrain.”• Work across Boundaries “We cannot afford the walls that previously existed.”• Exercise Initiative “In the absence of guidance or orders, determine what they should have been and execute aggressively”• Live our Values “No excuse to compromise on what we know is right”
  • Technology and relationships must reinforce each together. “You have your social networks and technological networks. You need to have both.” John Garstka Office of Force Transformation
  • For the first time in history, we have the tools to design and manage large-scale social systems.What are the principles of this new social architecture?
  • This presentation was delivered at theCompass Summit in October 2011.To view the video, and for more onnetwork leadership and large-scale change,please visit