Thoughout most of the Initiate Phase, there may not yet be a commitment to any particular underlying mechanism for the study. Candidate mechanisms might, for example, include a historical review, an opinion survey, a simulation study, devlopment of a mathematical model, or an instrumented field trial. That is, a war game may not be the obvious process to deal with the sponsor's questions or problems. Indeed, until the questions or problems have been scoped, wargaming may be only one of several candidate methods that could be applied. The first three steps should be suitable for most types of study, and because this phase is generic in that sense, it is shown in italics in the diagram.
Step 1: Develop the Relationship with the Sponsor
The Executive Team (typically a commander and senior staff for a military organization) may require some convincing that war gaming will resolve some of their obstacles or illuminate some quandary they are confronting. However, it is highly likely that the use of war gaming in the decision-making process will already be a familiar method for the investigation of courses of action (COA) within a military organization. For example, in the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) as used by the US Army, Step 4 of 7 is specifically called 'COA Analysis (Wargame)' (see Figure B-1 for the seven steps and Figure B-5 for Step 4 in FM-5 The Operations Process).
While the specific form of war gaming within MDMP may remain unspecified, at least the existing doctrine specifies that war gaming should be applied. Since other military organizations are familiar with the use of war gaming (or command post exercises) means that the Executive Team will be familiar with the general procedures and the potential value.
Some civilian organizations may be familiar with procedures that are similar to war gaming, e.g., legal scholars review prior case law as hypotheticals of how new evidence might affect an outcome and software engineers use structured walkthroughs to see the branching that might occur in a computer program.
Beyond simply persuading the Executive Team that war gaming would benefit their situation, the relationship between the Executive Team needs periodic attention through to the final step. It may be appealing to gamble that the Executive Team can be excluded until the final step when the report will vindicate the Study Team and convince the Executive Team that the resources for the seminar war game were well spent. However, periodic reviews with the Executive Team should ensure a continuing bond of mutual respect.
Continuous attention to the relationship with the Executive Team can have several additional and more practical benefits for the Study Team. For example, it may be that, as preparations unfold for the seminar war game, the larger context has changed, say due to new information or a change in course at the top. If the Study Team is aware of this as it happens, the direction for the gaming can be adjusted accordingly. Or, it may be that the Study Team finds after the project is underway that it needs access to some special information or to engage some inaccessible individual (with special skills or knowledge); if the Executive Team has been periodically advised of progress and impediments, they may intervene to ease the course of the Study Team.
Note: The horizontal arrow in the diagram to the right of Step 1 indicates that the relationship with the Executive Team will last to the conclusion of the work. Indeed, the long-term trust that the Executive Team will have in the Study Team and their work will depend fundamentally on the successful conclusion of Step 15 and the quality of the final report.
Step 2: Determine the Focus and the Process
Most war games are intended to assist in a decision-making process or in resolving a problem. Establishing the decision alternatives will focus gaming activity on those alternatives, and not on irrelevant alternatives. Using war gaming to resolve a problem may not be as simple: often a problem persists precisely because it cannot or has not been properly described. Gaming can often help to characterize a problem more clearly, with beneficial effects on eventually resolving it. As problem solving may not be as simple as decision making where the alternatives may be evident, this step should include describing the general characteristics of the problem and the constraints on potential solutions as well.
Note that, for gaming to resolve problems, the result from gaming may be no more than determining in greater detail some of the conditions that have led to the problem; an appropriate resolution of the problem may still be unclear, but it may be clearer than without the gaming results.
Also note that, as with many operations research studies, a sponsor's description of a decision or of a problem may be wrong, say because the sponsor is too close to the issues. So some 'negotiations' with the sponsor (or Executive Team) may be required to uncover such issues. In fact such a situation may not be apparent until the conclusion of the last few steps: "Fine, but you've solved the wrong problem". While not the ideal outcome, getting to this stage through seminar war gaming rather than some larger and more expensive project may be a much more efficient investment.
When a project has some of these characteristics, it may be classified as a 'wicked problem'. If this should be the case, techniques associated with soft OR or with problem structuring methods may be useful.
This step should include an estimate of the resources needed to complete the seminar war gaming activity. While this estimate may still be subject to revision a bit later, the general scope of the seminar war game activity should be clearer -- Will it be a small, medium, or large activity? Will it take weeks or months? Will it involve a few people or lots? Can most of the people do it on a part-time basis, or will full-time participation be required? Does the organization already have all the resources needed or will outside assistance be required? Will the participants come from a central location, or will their involvement mean significant travel costs? Will automated tools be required (audio or video recording, models or computer support)?
Step 3: Establish the Project Team and the Study Plan
The Capabilities-Based Assessment (CBA) User’s Guide provides extensive guidance on assembling a study team for a Capabilities-Based Assessment or CBA (in Section 3.1). In many respects a Study Team for war gaming needs similar expertise. The organizational matrix, used for planning purposes, shows roles or the skill sets down the left and potential sources across the top.
Some additional skills or roles not mentioned for CBA but potentially important for seminar gaming include:
• Experts on:
• geographic areas (e.g., country experts),
• specific systems or equipment (e.g., weapon, sensor, or mobility systems), and
• specific geo-political aspects (e.g., foreign policy, foreign aid)
• Support personnel for any unique systems that are used within the seminar war game. For example the players may be cocooned in a real or surrogate command centre, with access to automated C2 systems; technical support to train on these systems and to keep them running may be required. Or the analysts may wish, for example, to deploy data-capture systems, audio or video recording equipment, geographic information systems -- such systems will require appropriate technical support.
Note that not all of this expertise will be required at all times. For example, an expert on video recording might be needed in Step 6 'Preparing Support Tools' and in Step 12 'Conducting the Seminar War Game'. When not needed in the Study Team, such experts can continue with their other duties.
The Title X war games of the US military services are large-scale seminar war games and the Study Team extends to hundreds. Such a study team is organized in a hierarchy. Perla and Markowitz in Wargaming Strategic Linkage propose a triumvirate at the top for Global War Games for the playing of the games: an overall Game Director, supported by a Director of Assessment and a Director of Adjudication. The Director of Assessment would manage a team of Facilitators. And the Director of Adjudication would manage a team of "pucksters" -- staff who work intimately with any supporting combat simulations or models. The Game Director, the Director of Assessment and the Facilitators work closely with the players, particularly for activity at the strategic or operational levels.
If there is a large technical component (e.g., command systems, communications systems, combat simulations, models, databases, audio or video recording equipment), the Study Team may include a technical sub-team to deal with related issues.
Special attention should be paid to who can play the role of the facilitator (aka umpire, adjudicator, or controller). A facilitator should be chosen early in the study (in Step 3 if possible); he or she should participate in Study Team sessions that determine key factors and initiate quests for information (Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7), and be mindful of how these will need to be addressed in subsequent steps. In general the Study Director should not assume the role of facilitator as, during the seminar war gaming, the Study Director may be otherwise engaged (e.g., participating in the discourse, escorting VIPs, interpreting or providing guidance from the Executive Team, even critiquing the facilitator to ensure even-handedness is maintained). The role of facilitator will become a full-time role by this point (Step 12) and a Study Director has other important tasks.
The Analysis Plan should be a living document for the project. At this stage (for steps 1, 2, and 3)it should document matters that have been discussed with the sponsoring organization (a.k.a. the Executive Team). It will be extended and revised as the project proceeds. As the project continues to develop, the Analysis Plan will eventually contain aspects from the general (sponsor's objectives, focus areas) to the specific (manning levels, resources required, scheduling, even a daily battle rhythm, if appropriate). Fortunately, the Analysis Handbook from the ABCA Armies' Program provides detailed guidance on developing an analysis plan.