Thursday, December 6, 2007

Troop Leading Procedures (part 2)

At the US Army Ranger School, I was taught how to take over the reins of leadership. Any time, anywhere, I had to be ready to step up…and be in charge. The question the Ranger Instructors would always ask was, “Now what, Ranger?” We had better have some idea of how to jump into the fire and make things happen.

What they taught us has stayed with me to this day and serves as a guide for how to lead in any circumstance. They are what we called, “Troop Leading Procedures.” They are not a leadership cookbook and certainly no recipe for guaranteed success. But they are a battle-tested approach to take a team from receipt of mission to mission accomplishment. I think they have relevance to any leader, on any battlefield:

L – Listen.
E – Energize the Troops.
A – Approximate Plans.
D – Drive towards the objective.
E – Eyes on the Battlefield.
R – Refine your plan.
S – Share the plan.
H – Hold your team accountable.
I – Integrate changes.
P – Practice, practice, practice.

Listen! Receive the Mission. Insure that before you begin to develop a solution, you’re solving the right problem. Clarify the precise objective. Did the boss say to reorganize every department or just yours? Did she want a 1-year or 5-year plan? How will success be measured: Company bottom line? Number of employees? Stock price? What are her expectations for communication? Do you have complete flexibility to develop and implement the plan or does she want a vote along the way? What is your budget? Get it right the first time!

Energize the Troops – Issue a “Warning Order.” This is the critical communication step that alerts subordinates to the new mission. Too many leaders wait until the plan is “PERFECT” (we’ll talk more about “perfect” plans) before sharing information with subordinates. Tell them everything you know. Let them start their own planning. Warning orders alert subordinates to future plans, give an idea of the timeline, and issue any known instructions immediately. There is no need to wait for the full plan to set some critical or time-sensitive things in motion. Warning orders allow subordinate leaders to begin their own planning based on known information. DO NOT wait for a full plan to begin engaging subordinates – you will need their input along the way. Your warning order will set a tone for how communication will proceed enroute to mission accomplishment.

Approximate Plans. Develop a rough battle plan. Now start making your plan. Gather facts and assumptions. Pour over the data. Develop courses of action and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each. Develop a general framework for the plan. Share it with subordinates and get their input. Some of the best plans come from the bottom-up with participation and input from team members at all echelons. It is a lot easier to market your plan and get subordinate “buy in” when they have been allowed to participate in the plan formulation. Again, there is still work to be done before finalizing your plan. By this point, however, you should have a pretty good idea of your ultimate course of action.

Drive toward the objective – Initiate Early Movement. What things can be set in motion now that will contribute to the execution of the plan? For a military unit whose objective is simply “north” they can possibly start moving…north! What might your organization do now that should not wait until the plan is completed? Do subordinates need education? Will you need to purchase certain equipment or technology to implement your plan? Will you need new facilities to make the new plan possible? Will your people need new skills or will you need new skilled people? Get your troops moving!

Eyes on the Battlefield - conduct reconnaissance. For a battlefield commander, reconnaissance is best conducted from a vantage point that will allow him, and his subordinate leaders, to visualize the battle – together. Each organization discusses the impact of the terrain and the enemy on their piece of the battle plan. They conduct reconnaissance of the route to the objective and highlight actions on the objective itself. They discuss their organization’s roles and responsibilities and highlight possible points of friction between each other as they complete their mission.

How does a business leader conduct reconnaissance? Get out in the field! Test the waters! Test the plan with customers, with outside consultants whose opinions might help shape the plan, and with the men and women in the trenches who have to execute the plan. Run the plan by your trusted advisors and see what they think. Develop a prototype or a model to determine if your product satisfies your customer’s demands. Use polls, surveys, and the opinions of stakeholders, shareholders, and boards of directors.

Refine your plan. Once you have a clear understanding of the enemy and the terrain on which you will do battle, it is time to work the details. Develop a plan that leverages the strengths of your team. Consider adding additional staff to reinforce your weaknesses. Get everyone into the fight. Project managers, sales, marketing, engineers, finance, and admin staff all should have tasks that contribute toward mission accomplishment. Develop a plan with specific details for each team member that will get the entire team to the objective. Use the results of your reconnaissance to put team strengths against critical tasks and against enemy weaknesses. Assign the task (what) and the purpose (why) and give subordinates the flexibility to conduct their own planning processes to arrive at the how.

I’ll cover the remainder of Troop Leading Procedures in our next post. Until then, what could you do to apply some of these battle-tested procedures to your next leadership opportunity? These are troop leading procedures. And this is…Leader Business.

No comments: