Puppet Mastery

Puppet Mastery is the science and art of manipulating decision support systems to get an outcome closer to what you believe is best for National Security.

This site provides advice to staff members who are faced with a decision maker who insists on using bogus decision support methods when attempting to identify a best alternative or to rank and prioritize a list of alternative solutions or courses of action. You, the staff member, are ethically bound to explain the bogus nature of the method being proposed and to recommend a proper method. If the decision maker or staff then insists on using the bogus method then you are ethically bound to manipulate the decision process to push the alternative your analysis indicates is best for national security as high as possible up the prioritization list. After all, it is not your ethical duty to allow a bogus decision method to recommend a solution that you believe is not best for national security. This site is also useful for business, research working groups, political staffs and committees who are required to prioritize alternatives.

"Decision Support Systems" for the purposes of this site include but are not limited to COA Comparison Matrices, Surveys, Voting Schemes, Negotiation and Contract Analysis, and Group Consensus Methods.

The "Notes" page contains short informational papers on Puppet Mastery topics, the "Briefings" page contains PowerPoint briefings I use for presentations, the "Calculators" page contains links to online calculators for different voting and decision making methods, and the "Book Shelf" contains references to essential reading materials on the subject.

The opinions contained on this site are those of the author and of the world’s mathematicians for the last two thousand years. To the best of the author’s knowledge they do not reflect official policy of any military or civilian branch of the US Government or any other Government.

Why Do You Need to Know this Stuff?

You will be, or are, on staffs required to compare, prioritise and recommend a "best" from among a set of alternative solutions or courses of action, for complicated high risk and high pay-off situations with a high cost of getting it wrong. After the study and assessment of information and data has taken place, it is often the case that the members of the staff do not agree on the interpretation of the information and thus do not come to consensus on which is the best alternative, or more generally on the best ranking of the alternatives.

This is because serious problems at the operational or strategic level depend (in part or completely) on qualitative factors best assessed by professional subjective judgement. Therefore for even a perfect Staff analysis two different, rational and competent decision makers may rationally choose different alternatives using their professional judgement, each decision maker preferring a different mix of the advantages and disadvantages that are attached to each alternative. There is no "best" alternative, only what is "preferred by the decision maker", and we have to rely on the skills, experience, intelligence and ethics of that decision maker, i.e. on the decision maker's character.

What is the Problem?

However, many Staffs directed by their leadership to recommend a specific alternative as a "best one", or their leadership desiring arithmetic justification for their decision, are tempted to use various mathematical or arithmetically based matrix methods. The first problem is that quantifying the qualitative factors simply makes those numbers subjective (not objective) and hides that fact, and the second problem is that most of the mathematical methods popular among senior leaders and their staffs are based on junk arithmetic and therefore produce completely unreliable results. The fact that an unreliable method will occasionally provide a result that satisfies the decision maker does not make using the method advisable, professional or acceptable. 

What is Your Duty?

If you are a member of Staff

For problems involving qualitative factors it is your ethical and professional duty to understand these bogus numeric methods and what is wrong with them, to advise your fellow staff members and boss not to use them, and instead to use text based "Advantages & Disadvantages" matrix methods. If however your boss refuses to take your advice and insists on using a bogus method, then it is your ethical duty to game the method your boss insists on using to get the solution you believe analysis indicates is best for national security as high up the final ranking list as possible. After all, it is not your ethical duty to promote an alternative you do not believe is the best one.

If you are the Decision Maker

It is your ethical and professional duty to listen to the professional judgment of those members of your staff who are expert at numeric methods, and to not use junk arithmetic.