Assessing Your Organization Using the Military’s DOTMLPF – FREE Assessment

Assessment ToolStrategic planning, as a structured and systematic process, is successful when it is leader-led and overcomes the five reasons 70% of all strategies fail.  Learn how to see your plan through to success.  The strategic planning process is where leaders of an organization establish the vision of the organization’s future and then develop and implement the actions necessary to achieve that future.  This article expands on the strategic planning concepts addressed in Think Big, Take Small Steps and is designed to help you achieve success in your strategic planning process.

Understand How to Use this Military Assessment Tool to Assess Your Business

Several years ago I was working with a major Army headquarters in the north central United States.  They had been growing over the past several years, merging various related responsibilities into their organization.  The problem was that they were more just bolting these new capabilities on, versus really integrating themselves to deliver a seamless capability.

I was called in to help them come up with a multi-year strategic plan.  This was mainly because the headquarters over this headquarters was developing a new strategic plan.  So there wasn’t a lot of buy in for strategic planning.

They even had a planning department with five people that were responsible for strategic planning.  After the kickoff, I sat down with the head of the strategic planning team and he told me they had already developed three strategic plans over the past five years and I would fail at delivering anything useful, but he was here to support the year-long project.

Nice start, huh?

In the first blog of this series Think Big, Take Small Steps, I talk about the three things that you must have in strategic planning or you probably will fail:

  • Executable Focus
  • Strategic Framework
  • Traceable Implementation
  • Rigor and Accountability
  • Communication

In that article, I point out that all successful plans have an Executable Focus.  If a plan lacks focus on fixing organizational problems and overcoming barriers to the organization’s vision it is not built on the realities of the environment impacting the organization.

Well, this team had built three strategic plans by themselves by coming up with fancy words that started with mission and vision, but were not built off any discernible assessment.  As a matter of fact, they were so proud of their last “strategic plan” because they were able to get it to one page.

So, I’ve explained why doing an solid organizational assessment is important to ensure the success of your plan.  The reason I highlight this client over many others that were much the same, is because this client is where I developed my DOTMLPF-FREE approach that I still use today.

It was very important to the commanding general of this organization that we use Army and Joint Force strategic planning guidance and approaches.  Actually, the plan was actually called a “Campaign Plan” to fit this desire.  So, I needed an assessment approach that he and his staff understood and accepted.  The term “Environmental Scan” was foreign to them–this is something I’ve run into before with military clients.  I decided to use the framework used in Joint Force planning called DOTMLPF.  Unfortunately, their literally is nothing significant written about this, aside from what the letter mean.

D — Doctrine
O — Organization
T — Training
M — Material
L — Leadership
P — Personnel
F — Facilities

I was also concerned about things this approach didn’t cover, so I added the acronym “FREE” to the end of this assessment tool:

F — Finances
R – Relationships
E — Efficiency
E — Effectiveness

So, to use this in phonetic terms, say, “Dot Mil P F, Free.”

I won’t talk about it here, but I have since added “Plus I Squared,” to the acronym (DOTMLPF-FREE+i2).  This incorporates Innovation and Information.

I outline my interview template following this format.  I also ask through the interview for the interviewee to rate a particular item from 1 to 5 and I’ll ask, if it’s not a 5, what would it take to get to 5.  I gather all these score and present the results in a Radar chart (see below).

DOTMLPF Radar Chart

Doctrine covers is current mission, vision and guiding principles of the organization.  Here is an example of how in depth I get with the questions associated with the mission part of doctrine:

  • 1.  A “mission” captures and expresses the enduring nature of what the organization is about – its purpose and focus.  The current mission statement of your organization is, “XXX.”
  • 1.a.  What does this mission statement mean to you?
  • 1.b.  Do you feel the mission statement articulates the fundamental purpose of your organization?  If not, what needs to change?
  • 1.c.  Do you feel the mission statement provides enough focus to define your organization’s reason for being, yet allows maneuvering room to execute it?  If not, what needs to change?
  • 1.d.  Do you feel the mission statement focuses on “what” your organization does or “how” ASC does their mission?  If not “what,” what needs to change?
  • 1.e.  Do you feel the mission statement clearly reflects customer and stakeholder needs and expectations?  If not, what needs to change?
  • 1.f.  Where does your role in the organization fit in the mission statement?
  • 1.g.  If you would define the mission of your organization differently, how would you define the mission of the organization?

As you can imagine, I get quiet in depth with the categories.

In organization, I’m looking at structure (looking for stovepipes), accountable governance, and internal communication.

Training covers organizational education, training, and development of all leaders and personnel.

Material or Materiel, covers equipment, suppliers, tools, and information systems and software.

I’m looking at capability, emotional intelligence, servant leadership, and engagement.

Your employees are your greatest asset.  In personnel, I examine the knowledge, skills, and abilities; how they are being used (8th waste in Lean); do they have the right types and amounts; capacity and productivity; and their engagement.

Facilities includes things like buildings, space utilization, conference rooms, and furniture.  I look at this from a main headquarters and distributed offices perspective…normally HQ is much better than the geographically located offices.

I ask several different questions.  How well is the organization budgeting and forecasting?  How close is their planned and actual?  What do they do with excess or when they overspend?  Do they use any activity based costing or management techniques.

Relationships covers how they interact with their customers, stakeholders, partners, and suppliers.  I also talk to the key ones in each group and find out what they think about the organization and how the relationship is.  It’s always amazing how much different the two are.

Efficiency and Effectiveness
Efficiency and Effectiveness speaks to their use of metrics, process management, improvement activities, total cost of ownership understanding, and operational excellence.

As you can see, by following this guideline, you can really obtain a very well-rounded assessment of any organization.  Although this was a military tool that I repurposed, it works for any organization.  Today I have added Innovation and Information as two other areas I look at, but I think you get the gist.

So, 70% of all plans fail to some level; however, by following these guidelines you can help ensure your strategic plan will be one of the 30% successes that everyone reads about.

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About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

11 Responses to Assessing Your Organization Using the Military’s DOTMLPF – FREE Assessment

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  6. Mujtaba al-Mahmood says:

    John, I thought your approach to creating a robust ‘SCOT’ assessment tool is quite interesting. The fact that no “weakness” is sacrosanct and permanent, by the same token can be argued , all “opportunities” are time barred. Certainly, “challenge” is a better word. If we are tracking particularly in the disruptive technological space, strategic planning becomes all the more ephemeral and the task of intelligently interpreting the ‘pings’ continuously emanating from those challenges camouflaged in either opportunities or weaknesses or both, becomes that much arduous. With your work in the organizational assessment area, I may suggest you to bring to bare the context of “outside-in” and “inside-out” and attempt to make your ‘SCOT’ even more brawny!

    • johnrknotts says:

      Thanks for the comments. Great idea on discussing outside-in and inside-out. The approach I’ll discuss in future blogs centers more around the inside-out approach, but it will be good to address this in the next phase of the blog.

  7. Pingback: Incorporating Recurring Measures in Your Assessments | John R. Knotts

  8. Great article, and I love your use of the Kiviat diagram. I am currently working with an US Army organization that needs to implement a monitoring system on Strategic Plan progress, that will roll-up activity to the strategy level and present a visual display. Any suggestions?

    • johnrknotts says:

      Actually, you can create this system manually with Excel or use Project Management software and build an integrated project. This is a future chapter of this blog, but the you build the integrated project showing each goal as the major project with the objectives and actions listed below. Then you can map dependencies and successors and track progress at the action level. I build out strategies to an executable level using a Plan Do Check Act approach–this specific blog in the series isn’t do, but if you check out my piece on Stop Jumping to Do, you can see the approach. Visually, using Share point and just PowerPoint you can build an interactive slide-based dashboard that can show progress at the goal, objective, and action levels. I’m simplifying a dashboard view, but basically, you just need a view to report out and allow for leaders to only focus on things that are behind (management by exception). I hope that helps.

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