For many people, the task of leading one's group can be daunting. Where's the training? What about some sort of manual? Forget about it. For most, the school of hard knocks is all that is offered to help in the growth and development of leaders.
So when it comes to procedures for leading "troops," why not benefit from the lessons of the military? What follows then is a summary of "Troop Leading Procedures." I first learned them at Army Ranger School as a logical methodology to translate a new mission into action for small units. I have sinced found that this approach is just as valid for large units like the one I now lead.
Here are what are known as "Troop Leading Procedures:"
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)
In Part I, we looked at the first three steps (L-E-A). This was enough to thoroughly understand requirements, get out some initial instructions to the team, and start building a plan. People are energized, plans are taking shape, leadership is happening. Let's keep going!
Drive toward the objective – Initiate Early Movement. Determine 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? Even if your people don't fully understand the endstate, you do. Get the 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 actions 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 and its concepts 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. Conduct battlefield circulation and get out there with the troops to help shape and validate your plan.
Refine your plan. With 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. Work backwards from the objective to identify key milestones and intermediate objectives that must be accomplished in order to enable success.
Share the Vision, Plans, Goals, and Objectives. Issue your orders. Once you have completed a reasonable plan, in a reasonable amount of time, it is necessary to share the details with the troops. Notice the key word in the previous sentence – reasonable. No plan will be perfect. Acknowledge that the plan will likely be modified later (that is okay…what version of Microsoft Windows are we using now?), especially once you reach the execution phase. The old battle axiom, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy,” is as true in every combat engagement as it is in most any product or service rollout. For most troop leaders, a reasonable amount of time to develop plans is one-third of the available planning time. Give subordinate leaders two-thirds of the available time to complete their own planning processes (the military’s 1/3 – 2/3 rule).
We're almost there! The troops are moving, plans and instructions have been issued, and you are leading them onto the objective! In Part III, we'll look at what it takes to turn plans into action. That's Leader Business.
Read Part III here.
***Photo courtesy of http://www.army.mil/.