Sunday, November 16, 2008

Troop Leading Procedures (Part I)

Your boss walks in with a big announcement. She has a mission for you. This is the big one. She has just handed you the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. Your mission, should you choose to accept it (yeah…right!), is to re-engineer the entire organization. Make it better, faster, leaner, and cheaper (is there anything else?). You’ve got whatever resources you need and you are in charge! OK…now what? As she leaves your office you ask yourself why exactly you wanted this leadership position? Where’s the training? Where’s the manual? Who can you turn to for guidance?

Consider the military leader. When told to capture some important objective, he cannot just pick up and move out. Similarly he cannot take all of the allotted time to develop a “perfect” plan that may or may not work and certainly won’t survive the first contact with the enemy. There must be a process that makes good use of available time, results in a solid plan that has a good chance of working, fully leverages the unique capabilities that every member of the team brings to the organization, and, most importantly, accomplishes the mission.

There is such a process…and to help simply remember the letters – L-E-A-D-E-R-S-H-I-P:

L – Listen and receive the Mission.
E – Energize the Troops. (Issue a Warning Order)
A – Approximate Plans. (Develop a rough “battle” plan)
D – Drive towards the objective. (Initiate early movement)
E – Eyes on the Battlefield. (Conduct reconnaissance)
R – Refine your plan.
S – Share the Vision, Plans, Goals, and Objectives. (Issue your orders)
H – Hold Accountable. (Check, Double check, check the checkers)
I – Integrate changes. (Adjust your plan)
P – Prepare to WIN! (Supervise Execution)

This approach has worked for me in Ranger training, in leading combat units, and in more traditional business settings with civilians. It's not magic. What it is though is a logical approach to go from receipt of mission to mission accomplishment.

Listen and 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 communications? Do you have complete flexibility to develop and implement the plan or does she want a vote along the way? What is your budget? How much time is available? What people will you have working for you? What is known about your opposition? Get it right the first time!

Energize the Troops – Issue a “Warning Order.” This is that critical communication step that alerts teammates 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 -- as soon as you know it. 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 communications 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.

OK. You are on your way. We will continue this discussion in future posts. We have covered the first 3 steps in troop leading procedures. Stay tuned for the rest.

That's Leader Business!

Read Part II here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Well, as a jungle-era contemporary of your Dad's, I'm on board with this big time. Everything I learned about leadership I learned in the Army and then refined (hopefully) over the years.

What really caught my eye was:
Energize the Troops – Issue a “Warning Order.”

This is where I've seen things go south in organizations. Rather than keeping everyone constantly up-to-date and avoiding the "perfect plan," way too many leaders and managers hold on to information that would be helpful to their people. Whether the reason is power and control or just waiting for everything to be in place, it is self-defeating.

People crave information (heck, we're here exchanging blog comments). Those who give it freely gain trust, build credibility, and have people who are prepared.

Good series...