Achievement happens when people reach high levels of intercultural sensitivity. Lessons learned from recent military operations show that coping with a crisis requires a Comprehensive Approach that combines political, civil, and military instruments. Military means, while essential, are not sufficient to meet the many complex challenges to security nowadays. Within the CA framework, cultural competence is essential for the success of the operation when working side by side with allies, partners, and peers with different institutional cultures . Military organizations have developed during the last years some improvements and initiatives that have been remarkably successful. However, the lack of knowledge of the personnel involved in military operations about local cultures often remains a serious obstacle to fulfil their mission.

definition of operational environment

Cultural sensitivity is the «awareness that cultural differences exist and have an effect on the values, learning and behaviour» of some individuals or a given human group (Stafford et al., 1997). Bhawuk and Brislin affirm that intercultural sensitivity is the «sensitivity to cultural differences and the willingness to modify one’s behaviour as a sign of respect for people from other cultures» . The ABCA highlights the importance of “power and authority” relationships as main factors in the AoO and considers that culture and religion are constituent parts of the HT, as well as norms and beliefs and values ​​.

These CCTs need to be considered in a coherent and integrated manner during the planning and execution of operations as they are interdependent. For example, increased sexual and gender-based violence could be an indicator for greater violence and mass atrocities against civilians. Consideration on how to establish standing procedures, specific monitoring, assessment, reporting and/or mitigation mechanisms with this interdependency in mind will aid identification of these factors. Despite efforts to create cultural integrators/enablers in the different Armies/Services, there exist little-to-no effective established systems for the integration of socio-cultural information into military operations. For that reason, some fillers are required to bridge that gap aiming at bringing commanders and planners up the cognitive ladder during the planning and conduct of operations. Those gap-fillers are Education & Training and the employment of some cultural Subject Matter Experts , used as brokers and interfaces .

It is important to understand the OE as a system of systems, in which the different actors interact. This part of the analysis will explore how different systems and subsystems are created, organized, and maintained. Rather than studying the elements of the OE individually, doing it from a systems perspective ensures that the focus is on what is significant. This approach reveals to us why a conflict persists over time and helps us to identify and prioritize the actions necessary to change the situation (U.K. Stabilization Unit, 2017). The precise and timely knowledge of the attitudes of the human groups of an AoO can increase the possibilities of success of the military operations. These attitudes will serve as indicators of the intentions and possible behaviour of the population.

What Is An Operational Environment? (With Examples)

It can be the official military or terrorists, rebels, and all the rest of it. Knowing which groups are working together and which are unstable can obviously lead to the success or failure of a mission. You want to make sure your company is the right fit for the region and for the people who live there as well as the ones who will be working there. You also want to know that you’re establishing yourself in a way that will be accepted and successful. Cross-cutting Topics – a range of different topics, which have a significant impact on all missions. Different military disciplines, branches and command levels may have to consider and deal with a variety of CCTs throughout an operation.

definition of operational environment

This time, the political element relates to foreign trade for a business and the aspects of doing so successfully. These are countries where they have lost control of the population or the territory. It could be a place where there is an uprising of the people or another country has invaded and is attempting to take over.

Identify the aspects of the intergroup conflict that may be affected by cultural and worldview differences. A system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviours, and artifacts that members of a society use to cope with their world and with one another. Identifying and understanding the dynamics of conflict help us to know the deep and real reasons for it. The example below is a simplified version of the dynamics of transnational terrorism (U.K. Stabilization Unit, 2017). Their acts and their effects, as well as their possible responses to a military operation.

More Definitions of Operating Environment

Of course, invasions aren’t the only military operations, but this gives you an idea of how an operational environment can dictate how a military branch operates in one place versus another. We’ll further break down the PMESII-PT later, so you have a thorough understanding of the elements involved. Efforts should be made to identify best practices in cultural dialogue and situational understanding and to utilize cultural relationships and dynamics in the AoO. Military personnel must not only focus on respecting local cultural norms , but also use culture to create opportunities for dialogue to achieve the desired objectives. Although cultural awareness cannot guarantee victory in current and future conflicts, the lack of it certainly results in unintended repercussions. It is a capacity that significantly increases the combat power of a force and, consequently, increases the probability of a successful mission completion.

Consequently, one of the most important challenges is the incorporation of socio-cultural knowledge in all phases and activities of the military operation. This socio-cultural competence or the ability to «operationalize» culture is fundamental in planning and decision-making in a military operation, particularly when it comes to counterinsurgency operations or hybrid war scenarios . Cultural awareness is necessary both to defeat our adversaries and to work effectively and successfully with our allies . Difficulties in understanding tribal, ethnic, religious, and political relationships and dynamics have been a serious challenge and an obstacle in military operations in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, among many others .

According to Senehi, all religions treasure many texts and narratives about good and evil, which also makes them a great resource in efforts to resolve the conflict . Lederach states that a constructivist approach suggests that a population group acts based on the meaning that different stimuli have for them. That meaning is created through shared and accumulated knowledge over a certain time. Groups of different cultural heritages generate different ways of creating their societies and expressing their needs and believes, as well as interpreting and managing conflict. Understanding a conflict and handle it in the best way depends entirely on the knowledge and respect for the cultural roots of the local population. It is not only necessary to understand the role of culture in the genesis and perpetuation of the conflict, but also to use that knowledge in its management and resolution .

Local Authorities – including their ability to protect the population. “Any organization that wants to build a water well in a village in Afghanistan can learn from our experience carrying out a similar project and the lessons we identified during its implementation. Drilling a well in the centre of a small town, to avoid local women a long walk to a fountain that was several kilometres away, we realized that the works were destroyed every night. After interviewing various members of the community, we learned that it was not the Taliban or another insurgent group that were destroying our jobs. For them, the trip to the well on the outskirts of the town was the only opportunity to socialize and enjoy a certain moment of freedom. Something that would totally change after the completion of our project.

These are places that allow another country’s military forces to come in and conduct operations. Think of these countries as friendly ones who want the military there to protect their citizens or work with their military. We’ve touched on why the operational environment is important but let’s detail how it can be crucial to the success or failure of a venture. Culture is understood here as the system of beliefs, values, customs, behaviours, and artefacts shared by a social group. It determines and show the way in which a human group copes with the different events of the daily life and how their members interact with people out and inside the group.

In a counterinsurgency context, the leadership of a military operation needs to identify the different social groups in the AoO, their leaders and their needs and frustrations, which can be exploited by the adversary. Cultural awareness is crucial in identifying some of the root causes of an insurgency, such as those related to identity, religion, and occupation and exploitation . It will also be vital to understand some of the dynamics , elements, and strategies of an insurgency.

Understanding the Operational Environment: the Human Dimension

A variety of phenomena, including demographic changes, urbanization, migration, and globalization, indicate that religion will help shape the dynamics and policies of existing and emerging great powers. The transformative effect of globalization on religion will also play a key role in the evolution of global terrorism, religious conflict, and other threats to international security. This is a simplistic example, but imagine that Troop B will invade Country A. By using PMESII-PT, the people planning this invasion operation will know the country’s climate, terrain, political environment, religious and cultural leanings, etc.

According to him, culture is neither homogeneous , nor it is immutable . This analysis of the actors is carried out during the Comprehensive Preparation of the Operational Environment , in which the Political, Military, Economic, Social, Infrastructure and Informational dimensions are analysed, providing a holistic vision of the OE . Operating Environmentmeans the computer software, hardware, systems and networks through which or on which the Software will be installed and run by Licensee.

Some characteristics are vital to the cross-cultural sensitivity of military personnel and must be learned and practiced. It is essential to include cultural awareness training in the curricula of all military education institutions. The factor analysis provides a strategic-level appreciation of the crisis, with the identification of the problem, main actors, key factors, including strategic environment and PMESII factors, as well as potential threats and risks.

How is a business’s operational environments useful?

For these branches, it is vital to incorporate culture into operations and they are the ones who must collaborate most closely with cultural SMEs. However, the importance of culture is not exclusive for these military branches and there is a long range of Joint Capability Areas that will be affected, directly or indirectly by the socio-cultural environment . Therefore, it is necessary to combine our current knowledge and methods and our common sense and experience with a new framework that integrates culture in the planning and execution of operations. An important part of current and future military campaigns involves full spectrum operations followed by complex and lengthy Counterinsurgency operations. In this type of operations, it is difficult to distinguish between the adversaries, the allies, the neutral actors, and the rest of the local population. It makes the planning, execution, and evaluation of military activities to achieve the desired objectives extremely challenging .

In recent decades, NATO had to shift its focus from preparing for a conventional war in Europe to crisis resolution missions (including humanitarian, peacekeeping, and peace-making tasks) in distant and culturally different locations. In such population-centric settings, military personnel need additional skills and specialized knowledge, and cultural training is essential. NATO must continue its efforts to operationalize culture to face emerging hybrid challenges. It should be noted that an important part of the knowledge and skills that soldiers need in a multicultural environment are affected by attitude. Those who show some vital characteristics for intercultural sensitivity should be selected and trained to be the «face» of the military operation and interact directly with the local population. UHE provides a ‘population-centric’ perspective that complements existing processes used to understand the operational environment.

Identify and better understand the root causes of instability by analysing and understanding the causes and multipliers of conflict related to gender dynamics. About the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan , Michael Howard, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Operations, noted that providing cultural awareness to troops is necessary, but not sufficient. According to him, it is necessary to consider the cultural norms of Afghanistan, the way in which an Afghan-style society is organized .

The Human Terrain Analysis is a multidisciplinary scientific approach that describes and predicts the geospatial and temporal patterns of human behaviour by analysing the characteristics, reactions, and interactions of the human groups in their environment. An HTP can be a map, a written analysis and assessment, a diagram, or any other document that allows disseminating information to military commanders and personnel who carry out the planning, execution, and evaluation of operations (U.K, 2013). Everything in the same day” , and that soldier and the entire chain of command of the operation must be prepared to fulfil all those tasks. Operational environment in business analyzes the factors of their setting to understand how their operations will be affected. This is particularly true in a competitive setting where the factors of an operational environment will determine an organization’s success in their operations. The current preponderance of population-centric operations has drawn attention to the need of seriously considering the cultural aspects and factors of the AoO.

This tool looks at all of these datasets in a specific area and uses the information to prepare for and execute an operation. NATO PoC Concept, which include the UHE, is a perfect example of the operationalization of culture. International Actors – including international organisations, nongovernmental organisations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, governments and governmental organisations and private sector entities. Thus, PoC must be considered in the planning for all operations and at every stage of the planning process, although different considerations will have to be made depending on the phase considered.

This is a direct hit with business and looks at all aspects of the economy in which a company operates and where it does business. Of particular importance is how products will sell in other regions and the cost of doing business in certain areas. No longer concerned with the military , this variable is used to review your business competition. Think of it as a review of how controlled or open the media is within a region.

However, Selmeski adds that it is necessary to increase these capacities to communicate and relate more effectively with local populations of different cultural heritage to increase the ability to influence their actions and perceptions . The Operational Environment is “a set of conditions, circumstances and influences that affects the use of capabilities and effects the decisions of the military commander” (U.S., 2009). The OE has evolved to become an extraordinarily complex, dynamic, and adaptive system in which new actors, both state and non-state, interact (SHAPE and HQ SACT, 2008.). During the last two decades NATO military forces have been involved in overly intricate operations due to the diversity of the actors involved that make up a complex EO . Historically wars involved direct conflict between two military forces. However, the conflicts of the second half of the 20th century involved much more than military activities and operations.

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