3 Lessons from the Military
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There are a lot of things you can learn from the armed forces. But some military practices don't adapt well to the world of business. That's why Tom Wolfe refused to give "Right Stuff" speeches to business groups.
Wolfe noted that the "right stuff" for a military pilot meant putting his life on the line, and doing it day after day. There's no business equivalent for that.
But there are other military practices that you can pull over and use in business without a lot of adapting. Here are three.
Help the young ones succeed. The military piles expectations and responsibility on people, regardless of age. And the young ones do quite well.
It's pretty straightforward, really. The military invests in training to make sure people can do the job assigned. They supervise. Perhaps most important, they expect performance.
Learn from experience. It doesn't have to be your experience. Many military leaders steep themselves in history. They try to learn from those that have gone before.
In business, history is barely mentioned. But there are lessons to be learned from business history. For an idea of what's possible, check out Brand New , by Nancy Koehn. You'll find lessons from the likes of Josiah Wedgwood, Estee Lauder, and Henry Heinz.
Learn from your own experience, too. In the military, the operation's not over till the after-action critique is done. Make time after every project or campaign to tease out the lessons. Then share them.
Use simple decision tools. In the business world, "decision making" is treated like sacred writ. There are fat books on the subject. The military approach is different.
The military thinks that one thing leaders should do is make decisions. To make that both easier and more effective, there are simple analysis and communication tools.
An example is METT-T which provides a "checklist" of things to consider when planning an operation. The letters stand for Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops, and Time.
When it's time to lay out and communicate the plan, you can use the five part operations order that military leaders have used for decades. Viet Nam vet and Navy SEAL, Jesse Ventura, supposedly planned his campaign for governor using ops orders. The five parts are Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration/Logistics, and Command and Communications.
Simple decision tools offer two benefits. They allow you to make rapid decisions without spending mental energy on designing the process. And they give everyone a common framework for analysis and critique.
Boss's Bottom Line
Give your people the ability to perform well. Expect it.
Use simple tools to stay agile, effective, and steadily improving.
Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.