Thursday, July 17, 2008

Battlefield Circulation (Part II)

Battlefield circulation is the regular movement within the leader’s area of operations designed to enhance situational awareness -- both of the leader and those he or she leads (see Battlefield Circulation Part I for an introduction to this topic). It is not random visits (although these have a place in maintaining contact and regular, open communications within the team) but rather a well-planned, disciplined travel and meeting schedule that positions the leader, in the right place and at the right time, to influence the battle. Battlefield circulation is Leader Business.

General Rick Lynch was the best I’ve seen at battlefield circulation. He entered his headquarters early in the morning for an update on the current operations and the events of the evening. Each subordinate staff representative briefed him until he had a complete understanding of the friendly and enemy situation. He then spent an hour or so with his planning staff, discussing future operations, at his level about 48-72 hours in the future. He gave them guidance on how he wanted to fight the next battle and how he envisioned the battle after that, outlining very clearly his vision, his intent, and specific tasks that he expected to be completed prior to his return.

With that complete, he was free to circulate. He moved from subordinate unit to subordinate unit, talking to leaders one and two levels below his and spot-checking with the privates and sergeants down where the rubber met the road. “How is your family? What’s on your mind? How was the current battle going? Do you have all the troops and equipment you need to be successful? What do you think about the plans for the next battle? Do you understand the big picture and how your unit’s success contributes to the overall organization vision? Have you heard about the successes and failures in the unit on your flank? How can you apply their lessons learned? What additional guidance do you need from me while I am here? Do you have any heroes I can personally recognize for their contribution while I am here?”

When he was done and before he moved to another unit he would call back to his headquarters. “Any updates? Here is what I learned from this unit - please share this information with the rest of the team. This is the feedback I got from their leadership about future operations and how I think we should modify our plans to include their recommendations. Do you have anything for me? OK - got it.”

Wow! Look at what is gained from just this brief period of interaction with the team:

· Teammates who know that their leader cares for them and is working to maintain open communication channels.
· Immediate decisions, made closest to those who will have to implement them.
· A full understanding of personnel, equipment, and other resource issues.
· A true learning organization.
· A shared vision.
· An empowered staff, armed with enough guidance to accomplish their tasks and with enough situational awareness to make their products relevant.

Does this sound like something you need in your “outfit?” Is it time to get out of your office and start circulating the battlefield? What is stopping you? Take action – today!

Battlefield circulation is…Leader Business!

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