Archive for decision-making

Plan For Failure

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2015 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”

General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis

We all strive for victory.  Each one of us hates to lose.  After all, it is essential for us to succeed in our daily lives.  We are obviously not living life to fail.  But, fail we will.

As important as it is to plan for victory, it is just as important to plan for failure.  Every ‘battle plan’ should consider all contingencies.  But, victory, of course, hangs on the details, and behind those details are hidden the pitfalls that can spell disaster and defeat.  We often take our eye off the potential negatives and ultimately find ourselves facing the unexpected.  This can easily be avoided.

Last week, we again saw another data breach hitting Anthem Blue Cross.  And, again, many experts are saying that this ‘disastrous’ data breach was avoidable.  When I first heard about it, my first thought was how something like this could happen again.  Haven’t these major organizations learned from other data breaches, such as to Michaels Stores, Home Depot, Kmart and ebay?  Aren’t major corporations taking steps to prevent these kinds of disasters from happening to them?  I can understand maybe not recognizing the unknown, but I cannot accept these companies blatantly ignoring what is going on around them, and to their peers in various corporate circles.  Again, planning for failure is just as important as planning for success.

In a recent blog post on The Military Leader, entitled 5 Questions That Can Save You From Disaster, author Drew Steadman discusses how failure can be avoided by not getting caught off guard by things that could have been anticipated.  As he states in his article, “A few moments of reflection can cue you in to the key indicators. And asking hard questions will force you and your team to acknowledge the situation you face.”  But, what I take away from Drew’s article is that you cannot wait for things to happen, or circumstances to change, before putting into place a plan that could work to avoid failure.  It is important to be quite aware of the peripheral things, because failure or victory are contingent on how (or if) you recognize and react to them.

One thing that I am certain of is that there will be a lot of uncertainty when planning for any outcome.  In essence, failures and miscues can be avoided by taking action based on our anticipation of the known’s and the unknowns.  And, doesn’t that sound familiar:

Recommended Reading: “The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld

Part 1: Three Reporters

Part 2: The Known and the Unknown

Part 3: A Failure of Imagination

Part 4: Absence of Evidence Isn’t Evidence of Absence

As my youngest daughter, Kassandra, when she hears something so profound, says, “what does that even mean?”  When Donald Rumsfeld first uttered this statement during a press breifing in February 2002 about the lack of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, he was making a point that there are various levels of certainty and uncertainty based on our knowledge of the facts as we know them, and the facts that aren’t yet clear. [View video of Donald Rumsfeld’s comments HERE]

To better define this, I found an article on SmartOrg by Don Creswell that defined the 3 Basic Sources of Risk and Uncertainty, which came out of a presentation by Kelvin Stott.

My take:

  • We must remain cognizant of those things that we know, while not discounting the possibilities that we think aren’t likely to happen.
  • We need to open more widely the avenues of communication, encouraging everyone to say something if they know something; share knowledge.  Nobody can assume the other knows what they know, nor can they think the information isn’t important.
  • Be Inquisitive and curious.  Ask questions and challenge the status quo.
  • We need to use our imagination, as well as look at the intelligence that is available, to make the best decision possible at the time.

Bottom line: Think outside the box, and don’t ignore the obvious.

“Failure is in a sense the highway to success, as each discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true.”

John Keats (1795-1821) British Poet

In the military, disasters could be due to bad planning, bad execution, bad weather, general lack of skill or ability, the failure of a new piece of military technology, a major blunder, a brilliant move on the part of the enemy, or simply the unexpected presence of an overwhelming enemy force.  But, what bothers me is when defeat and failure occur as a result of a known and preventable cause.  There are many military disasters throughout history that you can spend hours researching and realizing that they could have been avoided.

Recommended Reading: The Five Biggest Disasters in American Military History

I’m not suggesting that we are always going to be perfect.  What I am saying is that paying attention to certain details can make the difference between success and failure.  Being aware and prepared, innovative and imaginative, proactive and intuitive, can all make a big difference.

“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”

Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) American speaker and motivational writer

As you look around at the people and organizations who are facing critical issues, problems, and crisis,[i] you should view those situations as instructive and constructive. They should, for you, act as lessons learned.[ii]  We can learn as much from other people’s failures, as we can from our own.  Try to recognize what took that person or organization into the direction of failure, and plan to do the things necessary to avoid them happening to you or your organization.

Don’t be smug thinking that these things cannot happen to you, or that they are rare or isolated incidents.[iii]  And, don’t be arrogant in the thought that these things can’t happen to you … Or, that ‘things just happen.’[iv]  Don’t let things happen because you failed to prepare, or you grew over-confident with success. Plan for failure.[v]  Don’t fall to complacency or laziness.

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Inspired by five consecutive Tweets (#5Star #5Tweet) I posted on Friday, February 13, 2015:
[i]     Tweet 1 of 5
[ii]    Tweet 2 of 5
[iii]   Tweet 3 of 5
[iv]   Tweet 4 of 5
[v]    Tweet 5 of 5
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Sources:

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

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

*The following was inspired by a post by the late Timothy F. Bednarz on his 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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Related Articles –

Empowerment (Not Just Another Buzzword)

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Ronald Reagan once said, “The greatest leader is not the one who does the greatest things.  The greatest leader is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things.”[i]  He also said, “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere…”[ii]

I wanted to use this post to discuss The process of empowerment, the guiding principles of workplace empowerment and empowerment in management.  Empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices, and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.[iii]  In today’s workplace, people quite often endure the absence of empowerment and carry on like robots doing as they are told.  Empowerment unleashes an individual’s potential and enhances [their] ability to promote creativity and productivity in the organization.[iv]  Some might call empowerment a buzzword.  But, empowerment is being increasingly embraced by more and more managers and leaders in both the military and the corporate World.  And, quite honestly, people are hungry for empowerment.

Decision-making in many organizations and corporations is currently too top-heavy.  Decisions need to be pushed down to the lowest level possible.  But, in some instances, managers and executives are afraid to relinquish some of their authority.  They feel that doing so would be too risky, fearing that they would have less power, diminished control or might lose their job.  But, the true risk is to not embrace some form of an empowerment process.

Empowering others is essentially the process of turning followers into leaders.  Through empowerment, there are fewer levels of decision-making.   As a result, there are reduced levels of bureaucracy, and organizational pyramids are flattened.  Managers trust employees to make decisions, and the staff trust managers and feel supported in their decisions.  In some instances, procedures and guidelines are generated by the people who perform the work every day.  Through empowerment, good ideas and decisions are implemented faster.  Ultimately, empowerment creates confident and competent employees who are more productive because they are not waiting for approval to make decisions.

PattonGeneral George S. Patton saw empowerment this way:

“Never tell people how to do things.  Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

Patton believed in exploiting, encouraging, and rewarding individual initiative.  Patton saw leadership as mostly training and motivation.  The object of leadership is to create people who know their jobs and who can reliably supply the how to your what.[v]

But, empowerment is not something you just simply turn on like a light switch among your staff.  You don’t show up one day and say, “you, the people, are now empowered!”  For all involved (leaders, managers, employees, etc.), it is a process of education, knowledge and experience, where the staff is provided the criterion which directs them in making decisions in their respective jobs, areas of expertise and departments.  If the staff has the basic guidelines, they should be able to make educated and informed decisions without having to go to the next level.  As a result, the customer is served, or the mission is accomplished, more quickly and effectively, and managers are freed to make decisions that really require their level of expertise.

It is in this way that all staff has the information they need to be truly empowered to collaborate effectively.  A process is developed to continue the culture change so that there is true empowerment for informed decision-making.  Through this empowerment process, a new organizational culture is established; a culture where management encourages teamwork and risk taking, and employees can establish teams where they see the need.  From this teamwork, creativity and initiative are fostered.

As leaders, we should strive to cultivate leadership not only in ourselves, but in those we are responsible to lead.  As leaders, we shouldn’t think that we have all of the answers.  As leaders, we don’t know everything.  As leaders, we should be surrounding ourselves with capable, knowledgeable people who can take much of the decision-making burden off our shoulders; where employees own their work and are more accountable for outcomes.

As a result of employee empowerment:

  1. Micro-management is virtually eliminated
  2. Productivity in the workplace increases
  3. Creativity and innovation within the organization is cultivated
  4. Employee morale is improved, and there is greater job satisfaction
  5. The leader – follower (management – employee) relationship is strengthened
  6. There becomes an environment where future leaders are developed and nurtured for the future.

When people are empowered with the knowledge and tools to be successful doing their jobs, their confidence breaks down the intimidation of any task, and they are energized to do their jobs well.  When people know that the leash is off their neck, and their boss is not breathing down their neck, they become some of the strongest and happiest people.  Empowerment is about making sure that people are well-trained, they have the tools to do the job, and are given the autonomy to take risks and to think outside the box.  A truly empowered team can do great things, and as leaders we need to stand back and let them succeed.

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson

Footnotes –

[i] Interview with Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes, December 14, 1975

[ii] Ronald Reagan, September 15, 1986, in an interview with “Fortune” magazine, describing his management style – Cover Story: Reagan on Decision-Making, Planning, Gorbachev, and More

[iii] Empowerment – PovertyNet – http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/EXTEMPOWERMENT/0,,menuPK:486417~pagePK:149018~piPK:149093~theSitePK:486411,00.html – Accessed 2 May 2012 – The World Bank – http://web.worldbank.org/

[iv] Hungry for Empowerment – Posted May 4, 2012 – http://sidtuli.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/hungry-for-empowerment/ – Accessed 7 May 2012 – Sidtuli blog on WordPress – http://sidtuli.wordpress.com/

[v] Axelrod, Alan. Patton on Leadership: Strategic Lessons for Corporate Warfare. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999. Page 165. Also, War As I Knew It (1947) by George S. Patton, “Reflections and Suggestions”

*Portions of this blog post were adapted from a presentation entitled, “Empowerment & Decision-Making – Building a Framework for the Future.”  This presentation can be found at the link http://www.maine.gov/labor/bendthecurve/minutes/empowerment.pdf, through the State of Maine’s Department of Labor website (http://www.maine.gov/labor/), and their Bend the Curve initiative.

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Related Articles and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Reading –

Hungry for Empowerment (sidtuli.wordpress.com)

6 Steps to Sustainable Leadership: Feedback Mechanisms (linked2leadership.com)

8 Ways to Find Freedom (leadershipfreak.wordpress.com)

10 Strategies for Building Confidence in Others (leadershipfreak.wordpress.com)

Believe in Empowerment? Then Just Do It! (km4meu.wordpress.com)

Delegation and Empowerment (prmarketingcommunication.com)

Enlightened Empowerment (myraqa.com/blog)

The Benefits of Employee Empowerment (cutimes.com)

Cover Story: Reagan on Decision-Making, Planning, Gorbachev, and More (money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune)

Need Some Advice? (managebetternow.com)

Creating A Culture Of Civility (managebetternow.com)

Dropping Keys? (m100group.wordpress.com)

Surround Yourself with High Quality Employees (cambridgeprofessionals.com)

Employee Empowerment in the Decision-Making Process

Posted in Quote of the Day with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance
 
Quote of the Day
 
“Leaders know that complex issues resist elegant and easy solutions.  They must consider the views of others and recognize that disagreement does not mean disrespect.”
 
 
*Tommy Franks, retired U.S. Army 4-star General, was the U.S. General leading the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.  He also led the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.  His last Army post was as the Commander of the United States Central Command, overseeing United States Armed Forces operations in a 25-country region, including the Middle East.  General Franks succeeded General Anthony Zinni to this position on 6 July 2000 and served until his retirement on 7 July 2003.
 
Related Articles –
 
Decision-Making in the New Leadership Organization (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)
 
 
 
8 Ways to Find Freedom (leadershipfreak.wordpress.com)
 
Empowerment (wikipedia.org)
 

Decision-Making in the New ‘Leadership Organization’

Posted in Leadership, Video of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Last Friday, I posted Leading The Charge: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom as the Video of the Week.  The video featured General Anthony Zinni, retired four-star Marine Corps General and a former Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).  If you haven’t seen that post yet, please take some time to view it.  If you do not have the time to watch the video, I have provided a comprehensive summary of what General Zinni said in his lecture.

In that video, at the very end, following his lecture, around the 50th minute, General Zinni conducted a question and answer session with the audience.  A few of the questions were focused on World affairs and military actions in Afghanistan.  However, the second question that was asked (at approx. minute 56:43) led to one of the most poignant and educational messages of the entire video.  The answer that General Zinni provided compelled me to write this post.  I summarize the question and its answer below:

Question – Military teaches that leadership is a two-way street.  However, that thought process seems to be missing in the civilian sector.  Corporate executives are often viewed as ‘first in the chow line.’  How can we change this culture?

Anthony Zinni.jpgGeneral Zinni’s AnswerWhat’s important is how you view the leadership in your organization.  If you view the leadership as top down, the leadership is a structure – there is a line and a chain – There are designated bosses.  So, leadership in your organization is through that line, through that chain, through those tiers, through those individuals, and comes from the top and goes down to the bottom, which is a common way people think about it.  You’re missing the boat.

Think about your organization, in total, as a leadership organization, where you invite participatory involvement in decision-making; where people at every level, from the sides and the bottom, have a voice and a view, and are permitted and encouraged to provide feedback.  If you delegate more, if there is more distributed decision-making, then you see an organization that is a ‘leader organization.’

When we went to the all-volunteer military, after the Vietnam War, we changed to that model.  And, what became important, when we used to give an operations order, the commander gave a mission statement and a set of tasks.  And, we added to that what was called “Commander’s Intent”; the intention of the commander.  That overrode the tasks and the mission, because you were given a set of missions and tasks that were based on what you knew at that moment.  Like everybody knows, no plan survives the first shot that is fired.

By giving that intent, by making sure your unit and your organization understood your style of leading – what your expectations were – what you wanted to achieve – what you hoped those tasks would achieve – if those tasks don’t work, the freedom of subordinates to act within the intent, and not to the letter of the law.

In many ways, this is what frustrated our enemies.  The Soviet system was pure “top down.”  The commanders at the smallest levels did not have transmitters in their combat vehicles; they could only receive.  We wanted sergeant’s and corporal’s to input and respond.  We wanted to have a pool system; “tell me what you’re seeing up front?”  To take independent action, but it was very difficult because you had to create a culture and an understanding of where we were heading.  Everybody knew where we were heading and what we wanted to do.

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General Zinni then proceeded to talk about when he was a regimental commander, talking to his junior officers who wanted to know what ‘intent’ meant.  He said to them, in a role-play-oriented conversation:

“Lieutenant, when you’re sitting on a hill, and you have no communications, you’ve executed your last mission and you don’t know what to do next, you’re going to say to yourself, “What would Colonel Zinni want me to do right now?”  And, you’d be able to answer that question, and act.  And I would have known I had succeeded in communicating intent, creating an environment (an organizational environment) that we understood how we operated.  That would have been a successful way we do business.”

(That lieutenant) is part of the leadership.  He isn’t just the receiver of instructions, he is an executor of intent.  He provides leadership; sometimes laterally, sometimes from the bottom up.  He makes recommendations.  He doesn’t just report.  “Don’t just tell me what you see, lieutenant, tell me what YOU think should happen up there.”  He has a say.  It’s integrated into the decision-making process. 

So, the answer has to be, and what the military learned through tough experience, the hard-line monkey tree doesn’t work.

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What was General Zinni referring to, a ‘monkey tree’ organization?  Much earlier in the video, General Zinni described the “Monkey Tree.”  It goes like this:

“The leadership chain-of-command is like a tree full of monkeys.  When you look from the top down, you see a bunch of smiling faces.  When you look from the bottom up, the perspective’s a little different.”

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Not everybody gets it in the military yet.  You want to change that perception from the bottom up.  (Everybody is part of it).  It’s a leadership culture – it’s a leadership organization, as opposed to a leadership structure that just comes top down.  That’s the philosophy and the way we’ve got to approach leadership in successful organizations today.

That SEAL Team Six leader has to make decisions on that ground, he doesn’t have the next command up – the next command up – the next command up sitting next to him.  How does he make those decisions?  He is what we call in the military “the strategic corporal”; that young NCO (non-commissioned officer) on a street corner can make or break the entire operation if he makes a bad decision.  A (video or television) camera is going to be right on him.  (For example), those NCO’s at Abu Ghraib devastated the mission and the good work of thousands of troops by a lack of leadership and a lack of understanding what they were doing.

The organization has to be all glued in to the same intent, and have buy-ins and believe they are part of the leadership, and have input and have a say.  That’s the way we have to change the culture in that kind of environment.

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That concludes the General Zinni portion of this post.  But, regarding decision-making, taking action, and risk-taking, I wanted to bring General George S. Patton, Jr. into the discussion.  To hit upon each of these topics, below I present General Patton’s philosophy –

PROVIDE CREATIVE SPACE –

“Never tell people how to do things.  Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

Patton believed in exploiting, encouraging, and rewarding individual initiative.  Patton saw leadership as mostly training and motivation.  The object of leadership is to create people who know their jobs and who can reliably supply the how to your what.

Source – Axelrod, Alan. Patton on Leadership: Strategic Lessons for Corporate Warfare. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999. Page 165.

INDECISIVENESS –

“In case of doubt, ATTACK!!!”

Instead of waiting to see what might develop, attack constantly, vigorously, and viciously.  If you’re standing around trying to figure out what is happening or what the enemy is up to, you are making one hell of a good target out of yourself and your men.  Never let up.  Never stop.  Always attack.  “L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace.*

Source – Province, Charles M. Patton’s One-minute Messages: Tactical Leadership Skills for Business Management. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1995. Page 46.

* Translation is, “audacity, more audacity, and even more audacity.”  Audacity, if you look in a thesaurus, also translates to boldness, daring, courage, bravery and nerve.  So, when in a position of indecisiveness, “L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace.”

TAKING ACTION and AVOIDING INACTION –

“Lack of orders is no excuse for inaction.”

It’s everyone’s job to strive unceasingly toward goals and objectives to ensure total victory.  Don’t think that you’re finished just because you’ve reached one objective.  Don’t wait for orders to continue the battle.  While you’re working and fighting for the current objective, you must be planning for the next assault.  History is full of tragic accounts of campaigns lost because leaders stopped on the wrong side of a river, because they didn’t have the initiative to exploit the advantage of a battle just won, and because they failed to obey the basic requirement to constantly be on the offensive.  Patton said, “I assure all of my officers and soldiers that I have never and will never criticize them for having done too much.  However, I shall certainly relieve them for doing nothing.”  When orders fail to come, they must act on their own best judgement.

Source – Province, Charles M. Patton’s One-minute Messages: Tactical Leadership Skills for Business Management. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1995. Page 55.

RISK-TAKING –

“Take calculated risks.”

The key word here is calculated.  Almost everything in life is a risk to some degree, especially the outcome of a battle.  If you have well-trained soldiers, you have a good chance of winning, even though the odds may not be in your favor.  The key to a calculated risk lies in the esprit de corps of your soldiers.  If you and your enemy have a parity of resources in weapons, supplies, and men, the purely statistical chances of winning will be fifty-fifty.  However, If your men are well-trained, are highly motivated, have good morale, and possess a fighting and winning spirit, they’ll have what it takes to tip the scales and make the fight ninety-ten in your favor.  You’ll most probably win.  Your soldiers’ good morale and winning attitude can allow you to take a calculated risk.

Source – Province, Charles M. Patton’s One-minute Messages: Tactical Leadership Skills for Business Management. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1995. Page 77.

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Copyright © Dale R. Wilson

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