A behavioral science experiment often cited in the business world supposedly involved 10 hungry monkeys, a ladder, a bunch of bananas, a hose connected to an ice-cold water source, and a not-so-nice scientist.The monkeys were split into two groups. As each monkey in the first group attempted to satisfy its hunger, all were sprayed with cold water until they no longer tried for a banana. The monkeys were replaced one at a time and as the replacements reached for a banana, they were disciplined by the others. The monkeys quickly learned: Don’t eat the bananas.True or not, this story is often presented by consultants to explain a “that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it-here” attitude expressed by employees. I confess to having fallen victim to, or serving as spokesman for, the “don’t eat the bananas” mindset during my early days in uniform when it came to conducting systematic mission analysis using METT-T in the military decisionmaking process.METT-T is a construct to remind us to evaluate the following subjects: mission (specified, implied and mission-essential), enemy, terrain and weather, troops available and time. (“Civil considerations” was added later.) It provides a comprehensive body of information for situational awareness.Unfortunately, the military decisionmaking process can often be treated like preventive maintenance checks and services—always endorsed, but rarely enforced. I had learned from others that conducting a formal analysis using METT-T took too long. This prejudice reinforced my experience at Fort Benning, Ga., during command post exercises. Formal analysis was time-consuming.Eat the Bananas?Fortunately, Lt. Col. Hayward S. “Stan” Florer Jr., the Operation Desert Storm commander of 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, had either not learned or refused to believe that we shouldn’t eat the bananas. Instead, his mantra was “prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.” In other words, preparing an order without thorough, systematic analysis was unsatisfactory.When I suggested that METT-T analysis takes too long, he responded, “How long does it take?” When I answered, “too long,” he remained unconvinced and asked, “How long is too long?” I had no good answer. (This is similar to the question management consultant W. Edwards Deming was said to have regularly used, “How do we know that?”)Of course, I had never timed a battalion staff conducting analysis. Although I had participated in comprehensive analysis and planning in other battalions, I had never witnessed a staff—outside of the schoolhouse—systematically dissect a mission using the factors of METT-T. Life, and planning as I knew it, would change. This type of analysis would become an almost daily affair for the next 12 months.To envision how your staff might develop impressive skills using this process, consider a budding musician learning to play a musical instrument. Every note is a struggle as the young musician learns finger placement on the right string and fret, or key. Playing a scale takes time, thought and effort. But with practice, positioning the fingers becomes easier; anticipating the next note becomes second nature. In just a few weeks, the scale can be played with some degree of competence.I would suggest there is similarity in analyzing missions. When we are introduced to an idea that seems to have merit, we make a decision to give it a try. Afterward, we must discipline ourselves to use it the first time, and then again every time an opportunity exists. It becomes habit. We develop the requisite knowledge, skills, abilities and competence until we own the process. Ultimately, this activity becomes part of our expertise.From Theory to PracticeIn developing our competence, the staff talked through the process and determined our expectations from each METT-T topic. Our initial walk-through lasted four hours. During the after-action review, we considered ways to accelerate the effort. The planning team suggested that for the missions we expected to undertake, the members develop lists of implied tasks from their individual perspective.From that day forward, every event we planned—social events, deployment to Turkey, combat operations, support to 200,000 Kurdish refugees and ultimately, the closing of Flint Kaserne and move to Stuttgart, both in Germany—was informed by the systematic and habitual METT-T analysis.With every analysis, our speed and comfort level increased; evaluations were more comprehensive and intense as we developed our expertise. We began playing the scales faster and better. This habit paid off in spades when the commander of Special Operations Command Europe invited us to a late-night conversation in the spring of 1991. We left his office at 0300 with a new requirement: Put a Special Forces company into a camp of 100,000 Kurdish refugees—beginning at 0700.We contacted the operations center; issued a warning order; and directed the planning staff, along with the company commander and sergeant major, to assemble immediately. We conducted a detailed analysis and developed the course of action in under an hour. After providing guidance to the orders production team, we departed for the company assembly area, where the teams were already hard at work. Within an hour, the production team arrived with a hard copy of the operations order. Wheels up began at 0700; Operation Provide Comfort had begun.Over the course of a few days, we deployed one company after another into a camp or with orders to construct a camp, and repositioned the battalion headquarters to the Iraqi border. April and May unfolded with the teams supporting 200,000 Kurds in four camps along the Turkish and Iraqi border. By the second week of June, we had moved entire populations of four camps back into their villages in Iraq by truck, bus and foot. Operation Northern Watch had begun.One year before, I had doubted the ability of a staff to conduct METT-T analysis for operations with the necessary speed and still deliver the quality results expected of a first-rate planning team. I believe one of the deciding factors that contributed to developing our competitive edge was Florer’s commitment to using the same planning methodology for every event—large or small, simple or complex.Why It WorksFlorer would begin the process with “We will be successful when…,” describing success for that particular mission or activity and giving us his vision and intent.The planning team, under the direction of the S-3, would dissect the mission, recording every specified (written or oral) task assigned to the unit. We would evaluate each task, announcing implied tasks from each individual’s perspective based on staff position, training, knowledge and experience. This combined list of specified and implied tasks revealed what we needed to accomplish to be successful. It also allowed us to rewrite the mission statement with more clarity. Identifying the implied tasks aloud proved very helpful for developing the junior members of the team and maintaining experienced insight among the staff and replacements.We developed requests for information, forces, support and more, updating the status as each was answered and following up when responses lagged. In some instances, like a Hail and Farewell, enemy included factors outside our control but that might affect the outcome. In combat, we evaluated the enemy on organization, training and equipment, location, tactics, techniques and procedures, and alert posture.Terrain and weather are factors that deserve more study than space allows here, but we used the OCOKA approach—observation, cover and concealment, obstacles, key terrain, and avenues of approach—to evaluate the ground on which we would be operating. Weather consisted of an assessment of the climate and forecast along with light data, and the effects on personnel and operations.Troops available included those forces you were employing, those supporting the effort (internal or external to the unit), and those involved in other activities. We constructed a timeline of all events that had been given a specific or no-later-than time. We employed the timeline in reverse planning.Informed by the commander’s vision and intent and the information revealed by the METT-T analysis, the staff developed courses of action for the commander. His decision set in motion the activities of the orders production team. One member of the production team always participated in the analysis by transcribing the easel pads we had used in planning, ensuring the rest of the team understood what had been discussed.Unlike the analysis of an operations order, reviewing the requirements of a program involves the identification of specified tasks from a library of applicable references, including DoD Instructions and Directives, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff manuals, service regulations and combatant command documents. A staff might identify over 100 specified, or regulatory, requirements for the command. By conducting a comprehensive mission analysis, the staff can more effectively inform the leadership of the body of requirements and execute those mission-essential tasks.If you decide to institute systematic mission analysis, you may find it helpful to treat it like high school math and show your work. Establish folders with the requirements hyperlinked to the references. This will serve as the Federalist Papers for your analysis. And remember, prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.