Teleconferences and Decision Making


Recently, NATO Chiefs of Defense held their virtual meeting in NATO military committee history.

According to a NATO news item published on May 14, 2020:

After meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the 30 Chiefs of Defence reviewed NATO’s ongoing operational commitments, particularly the NATO Resolute Support Mission and the NATO Mission Iraq. The Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Air Chief Marshal Peach condemned the recent attacks in Kabul and Nangarhar, “Afghanistan has been brought, tragically, into focus this week and the security situation in the country remains fragile. Although, we have seen, with guarded optimism some encouraging signs in the intra-afghan negotiations that could lead to a political solution for the people of Afghanistan”. NATO supports the peace efforts by training, assisting and advising the Afghan security forces, through the Resolute Support Mission.

The Chiefs of Defence received an update on the ongoing NATO Mission Iraq which has been temporarily reduced for security reasons. Nonetheless, the mission is continuing to provide support to the Iraqi security forces and helping them deal with the COVID-19 crisis. “When the conditions permit, and working with the government of Iraq, we will resume our training efforts as well as increase our activities on the ground as we take responsibility for some of the training activities of the Global Coalition”, added Air Chief Marshal Peach. The Allied Chiefs of Defence also discussed new avenues to contribute more to the security in the Middle-East and North Africa Region while remaining complimentary to existing efforts and with the support of local governments.

Since approving the new NATO Military Strategy last May, the NATO Military Authorities have been working to refine and operationalize the Alliance’s military goals, intended approaches, and resource requirements through the Concept for Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area (DDA) and the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept (NWCC). The Chiefs of Defence further refined the DDA which will be presented to Defence Ministers for their consideration at their meeting in June. The Allied Chiefs then reviewed the latest draft of the NWCC which provides the necessary recommendations to ensure NATO exploits opportunities and innovative approaches, including the use of emerging and disruptive technologies, to maintain its military advantage.

The final session of the day was dedicated to NATO’s Response to Covid-19. The Chairman of the EU Military Committee General Claudio Graziano briefed the NATO Chiefs of Defence on the EU’s support and relief efforts in this pandemic. Subsequently, the Allied Chiefs of Defence discussed existing NATO measures and support mechanisms as well as the medium term effects of this pandemic, including resilience and the lessons that could be implemented to better prepare for any future health crisis.

This article does raise a critical but neglected question — what exactly is the relationship between teleconferencing and decision making?

Clearly, teleconferencing will be more widely used after the COVID-19 lockdown periods, but what kinds of decision making does it facilitate?

Is it best at top down information flows?

Is it best used for a group which already has a strong identity with shared experiences?

Does it reduce critical thought so that it will reinforce a more rigid decision making process?

Where does it shine in terms of good decision-making and where would it lead to sub-optimal or even very bad decision-making?

In short, where are the teleconferencing tool sets most effective in terms of what kinds of decision making with what kinds of impacts or effects?