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Wargaming as Training

Small agencies in particular benefit from table top exercises that accomplish important training with few resources.

October 11, 2010  |  by Amaury Murgado - Also by this author

There is a school of thought that suggests good training is proportionate to the amount of money you spend; the more you spend the better the training. But effective trainers know that's not the case. They know the will to train is far more important than any other factor. They also know that the responsibility to train remains the same regardless of agency size or budget.

A successful strategy therefore starts by leaving excuses behind and continues with identifying specific goals and objectives. The final step is figuring out how you can meet them with the resources you have.

Training is an issue you meet head on and build upon over time. The trick is not reinventing the wheel but keeping it rolling. We can keep our training rolling forward with wargaming.

Though any agency can benefit from wargaming, it tends to be more beneficial for smaller agencies because they start off with fewer resources. It's simple, cost effective, and highly adaptable to individual needs. The reason it's so cost effective is that in its most basic form, the only resources an agency needs are time and imagination.

What Exactly is Wargaming?

Wargaming is a simulation based on theoretical strategic decision-making. It is used primarily by the military. A similar technique is used outside the military and is commonly referred to as table top exercises. This approach of working through scenarios with key players is used by Fortune 500 companies and the federal government.

A table top exercise can be as low-tech as using pen and paper or as high-tech as a computer simulation spanning several days. It is a proven training vehicle that allows you to evaluate your effectiveness during a critical incident before one happens. Instead of waiting for the real thing to surprise you, you run through it theoretically first.

The intrinsic value of this process is it allows you to train at any level and work on any issue. Since your only limitations are time and imagination, funding and agency size can no longer be viewed as obstacles.

In his book "Leadership," former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani attributed much of his response tactics after the attack of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, to this type of training. Members of Giuliani's key staff routinely participated in many table top exercises. One in particular revolved around a single engine aircraft slamming into one of the twin towers.

Obviously that simulation was not on the same scale as the terrorist attack, but it did give Giuliani's staff an opportunity to work out some of the bugs in their overall response planning. By the end of the exercise, the group was able to resolve many important issues that had not been confronted before. Many key issues were simply identified from casual conversation between participants.

I can only imagine the number of what ifs and I never thought of that befores going on. When the terrorist attack did come, Giuliani and his crew responded with a higher level of preparedness than had they not done their table top exercise.

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