Department of Defense

Craftsmanship Theory and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)


Photo Credit: US Department of Defense

By Craig S. Byrnes

“The more things change, the more they stay the same. . .”[1]  General Martin E. Dempsey 

Craftsmanship Theory is designed to build an Interagency Collaborative Capacity (ICC) for agencies or organizations involved in multi-actor operations.  Eugene Bardach articulates that indeed there are challenges abound in interagency environments, but by using Craftsmanship Theory, “smart and dedicated craftsman using intelligent craft practices may be able to overcome them.”[2]

Bardach says using a craftsmanship line of thinking, “integrates the purposiveness and creativity of some craftsman with the rest of the craft process.”[3]  This is often accomplished by establishing and actively implementing best practices. 

DOD participates in many collaborative efforts encompassing a broad range of the interagency spectrum, and in most uses tenets of craftsmanship theory.  One particular area where elements of craftsmanship can be seen is in the use and development of best practices for joint operations within DOD.  These efforts at improving collaboration are imperative to successful application of military power. 

The Deployable Training Division (DTD) of the Joint Staff J7 is a part of DOD that, “gains insights on operational matters through regular contact and dialogue with combatant and joint task force commanders and their staffs as they plan, prepare for, and conduct operations.”[4] A March 2013 DTD publication of insights and best practices states that, “observed best practices continue to reinforce the value of gaining synergy and harmony within this interdependent framework with other USG agencies, international partners, and within the joint force.”[5] 

DTD deploys observers/trainers to, “collect and compare practices among the different headquarters, draw out and refine ‘insights’ and ‘best practices,’ publish them, and share them across the operational, training, lessons learned, doctrine, and joint development communities.”[6]  This is in essence what Bardach is talking about in the fourth concept of his conceptual framework for craftsmanship thinking that states, “Craftsmanship thinking supplies the creative actor with a stock of ready-made ideas about smart practices.”[7]  

Bardach’s work makes it all the more clear that successful interagency operations require meticulous attention to detail.  Collaboration occurs because of purpose driven actions, and just as a carpenter builds, so does the leader of an ICC.



[1] Dempsey, Martin E., “Concepts Matter,” Army Magazine, December 2010: p 39-40.

 [2] Bardach, Eugene. Getting Agencies to Work Together: The Practice and Theory of Managerial Craftsmanship. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1998.

 [3] Ibid.

 [4] Deployable Training Division. Joint Operations: Insights and Best Practices (Fourth Edition). Joint Staff J7.  3-1-2013. Department of Defense J7.

 [5] Ibid. 

 [6] Ibid.

 [7] Bardach.  Brookings Institution Press. 1998.


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