Improvise, Adapt and Overcome ~ Changing Plans, But Not Changing Vision

*The following was inspired by a post on Timothy F. Bednarz‘s blog, Leaders to Leader, entitled, “Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance.”

Footnote (in advance of reading this post):  In the context of this article, when I speak of a ‘leader,’ I am referring to a leader at all levels; not necessarily the commander, CEO or department head.  Empowered followers are the key to implementing and accomplishing plans at all levels of the organization.

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Plan for Victory ~ Expect to Win

A vision or goal (short-term / long-term) is where the organization sees itself in the future.  It is a desired result that an organization plans and commits to achieve.  To move towards these results requires planning and goal-setting.  These time-targeted plans should be specific, measurable, realistic and attainable to achieve each objective along the path towards the vision.  The anticipated results guide reactions, according to various successes and failures, as the organization maneuvers towards the objective (vision).  From these plans, a leader must ensure that participants have a clear awareness of what they must do to achieve an objective.

In the military, they call this the Commander’s Intent; the stated description of the end-state as it relates to forces (entities, people), the purpose of the operation, and key tasks to accomplish the mission.  This blog will discuss, more specifically, Commander’s Intent, and mission planning & accomplishment, After Action Reviews (AAR’s), etc., another time.  But, the blog, PurpelINK, defines and discusses Commander’s Intent very well:

A soldier’s every move is predicated upon hours of forethought and planning. After the commander-in-chief approves the order of battle, a soldier will find his personal orders specifying the scheme of maneuver and field of fire. Each battalion is told what to do, what materiel to use, and how to set up supply lines to replace its munitions.

There’s only one problem: no plan survives contact with the enemy because the enemy always gets a vote. Consider the variables; [a weather change], a key military asset is destroyed after it is deployed [etc]. In short, the enemy is unpredictable.

The beautiful thing about knowing the [Commander’s Intent] is that it means your plans are never rendered obsolete by the unpredictable. You may lose the ability to execute the plan (involving the timing of men and materiel), but you never lose the responsibility of executing the Commander’s Intent.

[Commander’s Intent] manages to align the behavior of soldiers at all levels of the army without requiring detailed instructions from the High Command. If you know the intention of the order, you are free to improvise to arrive at its fulfillment. If people know the intent, they can engineer their own solutions to accomplishing the task.

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Planning GoalsAn organization’s history of past accomplishments (or failures), and the acquisition of desired (or poor) results, obviously influences the plans and strategies of the future.  When we are successful, we build on the plans that made us successful in the achievement of certain goals and objectives.  But when we fail, we tend to throw away those plans, and sometimes we adjust, or dramatically change, our vision.  This is the wrong thing to do if you intend to grow, improve and become successful and victorious.

For example, an Army might put their efforts into creating plans that become useless once the enemy is engaged.  Companies do the same thing when they implement initiatives and strategies that are poorly planned out or executed.  But, one should be reluctant to throw aside entire plans because of those failures, or by falling short of mission.  On the contrary, using lessons learned, one should assess the capabilities of their resources (people, material, finances, etc.) that contributed to those results, correct the weaknesses and gaps in performance, and then adjust the plan, re-allocating and reassigning resources to be better utilized for future actions and plans.  Maybe the people, or the team, responsible for certain results were not afforded all of the tools necessary to succeed.  Or, the people were not properly appointed the right tasks to drive towards the desired results; individuals weren’t assigned tasks according to their talents.

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Improvise, Adapt and Overcome

The United States Marine Corps calls it, “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.”  The Marine Corps has been successful employing this concept mostly because of the creativity of its people and their success-based attitude.  During the chaos of battle and the implementation of plans according to the Commander’s Intent, they must find what works, or people die, equipment is lost, and the battle is lost.  For the Marine Corps, the whole notion of improvise, adapt and overcome becomes second nature.  For companies and organizations, what worked last year does not work this year, and what works now is a radical departure from what worked last year.  They must improvise, adapt and overcome.

My point is that past results should never change your vision.  Yes, you should plan according to past lessons learned.  But, a good leader will never hesitate as a result of, or be intimidated by, past failure.  And, a good leader will never change their vision for the future as a result of those failures.  The future vision or goal must remain the same, never changing because of the past.  One must have the courage to change according to those failures, yet not change their mindset because of those failures. The past can tell you a lot.  But don’t let it tell you to reverse course.

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A good leader will:

  • Align the capabilities of people and resources based on the past, not in spite of it.  They will match the people to the tasks according to skill level and proficiency
  • Manage and monitor time to efficiently and effectively achieve the planned mission
  • Adjust milestones & short-term goal targets, and determine the feasibility of certain objectives
  • Frequently assess, reconsider and change according to the circumstances they are facing
  • Improvise according to the availability and reliability material (supplies, equipment, etc.)
  • Acquire and/or properly allocate the tools needed to achieve short and long-term results
  • Teach, and at the same time learn, the knowledge necessary to improve and succeed, sometimes based on the conditions at the time; gaining feedback, recommendations and reviewing solutions, etc.
  • Implement the plan by breaking it down from a big job into little jobs, and delegate those jobs accordingly

Finally, throughout any situation that requires action and/or change, it is important for any leader to remain optimistic, to be proactive and to cultivate passion.

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Here are my recommendations for making plans based on past performance:

1) Set tasking according to capabilities

2) Your vision (Commander’s Intent) should never change, but your plans must

3) Don’t let short-term setbacks blur your long-term vision

4) ‘Change’ is the only thing that remains the same throughout an organization

5) You might miss your target, but as long as you’ve adjusted and improved your tactics (based on Improvise, Adapt and Overcome), you’re making progress.

6) Remain motivated.  Failure is a hard thing to deal with, but the taste of success (victory) is sweet.

7) Never give up.  You may have failed to reach your target, but as long as you have learned from your mistakes and have acknowledged the lessons learned, you’re making progress and one step closer to victory!

*Inspired by a post on Timothy F. Bednarz‘s blog, Leaders to Leader, entitled, “Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance.”

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Sources –

“Problem Solving: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” – Posted Tuesday, February 1, 2011 – http://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/improvise-adapt-overcome/52001 – Accessed 23 July 2012 – Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity – http://peakprosperity.com/

“Commander’s Intent” – Posted Friday, August 1, 2008 – http://washelby.blogspot.com/2008/08/commanders-intent.html – Accessed 23 July 2012 – PurpelINK – http://washelby.blogspot.com/

“Goal” – Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia) – Last Modified on 21 July 2012 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goal – Accessed 23 July 2012 – Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia) – http://en.wikipedia.org/

“Commander’s Intent” – Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia) – Last Modified on 24 March 2012 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intent_(military)#Commander.E2.80.99s_Intent – via “Intent (Military)”  at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intent_(military) – Accessed 23 July 2012 – WikiPedia (The Free Encyclopedia) – http://en.wikipedia.org/

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6 Responses to “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome ~ Changing Plans, But Not Changing Vision”

  1. Here’s my favorite line from your post, 2) Your vision (Commander’s Intent) should never change, but your plans must.

    Plans are always subject to change. Good leaders improvise and lead the way. The accept change for what it represents — opportunity.

    Like

  2. Jose LugoSantiago - Craft Your Journey! Says:

    Dale, your point “Empowered followers are the key to implementing and accomplishing plans at all levels of the organization.” is key to success. Trust your people, and they will always surprise you with their talent, commitment, and creativity. Always motivated!

    Like

  3. […] Improvise, Adapt and Overcome ~ Changing Plans, But Not Changing Vision […]

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  4. […] Improvise, Adapt and Overcome ~ Changing Plans, But Not Changing Vision […]

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  5. […] Improvise, adapt and overcome.  You may have to change your plans along the way, but do not change your vision.  You have set a firm goal and resolution; DO NOT turn back after stubbing your toe or stumbling.  Don’t beat yourself up if you fall back, even if it seems your setbacks are insurmountable to recover from.  Remember, minor missteps are perfectly normal, and they may seem far greater than they really are.  Face it, you’ll have ups and downs.  But, you must resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track. […]

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