Balancing the development wheel

by Philip Boxer

We are seeing that securing effective testing for COVID-19 is not so easy.  Of course there need to be enough tests manufactured that are effective.  But there are also the questions of where and how to test citizens, who will do the testing, how to protect the testers, where to run the tests once samples are taken, and how to set the priorities for who should be being tested.  Even given leadership, there are huge challenges of training and organization to put all this together in ways that are aligned to and can cohere within different local contexts.

The government agencies in both the USA and in the UK learnt that it was not enough to procure a new piece of equipment.  In order to deploy a capability effectively within an operational theater, the US military took the view that development had to take place along 7 spokes of a development wheel: doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facilities. NATO added an interoperability-between-forces spoke to this list, while the UK military removed the leadership spoke from this list, added Information and logistics spokes, and renamed the doctrine spoke as a concepts-and-doctrine spoke and the facilities spoke as an infrastructure spoke.

Putting all of these together in the context of an organization seeking to be edge-driven in the way it creates effects for its clients, we come up with eight spokes for the development wheel, four hierarchically/ vertically-driven because driven by the need to secure economies of scale and scope; and four horizontally/edge-driven because driven by the need to secure economies of alignment within each edge situation and client context-of-use.

  • Why spokes of a wheel? If there is not balance across all eight spokes, the development wheel will not be able to turn.
  • And why does the wheel need to turn?  Being edge-driven requires continuous adaptation and learning by an organization, which, while starting from situational understanding, has to be able to impact on all eight spokes.  Without situational understanding it is not possible to determine what effects need to be created by the organization at its edges in order to sustain its viability, but without balancing the wheel, the organization cannot then be effective.
  • And what does this mean for leadership? Each spoke demands its own form of leadership, and the relationships between these different forms of leadership determine how the wheel is able to be kept in balance. This economy of leadership goes beyond narrower definitions that are identified with just one of the spokes.


Doctrine & Operational Concepts: The principles and framework governing the approach to generating effects for clients within a domain of relevance.

Facilities, Infrastructure & Logistics: The facilities, infrastructure and logistics providing the platform that supports an organization in doing its work.

Leadership and Education: The ability to lead creatively and effectively within the chosen domain of relevance.

Materiel & Technology: The equipment, tools and methods needed to be effective within the chosen domain of relevance.


Edge Organization: The particular orchestration and synchronization of capabilities needed to generate the desired effects within a client situation.

Mission Alignment: The people with the appropriate know-how and ability to work together collaboratively in support of a given edge organization.

Situational Understanding: The way a domain of relevance is defined and its data is fused and interpreted to provide a composite picture and understanding of what is going on in the particular situation.[1]

Personnel & Shared Culture: The people with the socialization, background and mutual knowledge and trust to be able to work together.


[1] A key issue here is not only ‘dark data’ i.e. data that is accessible, but not currently included within the current definition of the domain of relevance (see Hand, D., J., Dark Data – why what you don’t know matters. 2020: Princeton University Press.), but also traces of behaviors that are not yet accessible as data – the kind of traces that require ‘feet-on-the-ground’ and a forensic attention to what-is-going-on (wigo).

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