Adapting military leadership and planning skills for business leaders – Contrary to the popular saying “no plan survives the first shot of battle”.
Military Leadership and planning systems are deliberately engineered to survive the battle, let alone the first shot. So what is it that military leaders try to do to ensure their plans are viable and fit for purpose, and what can business leaders learn from it?
Preparation. Before any plan is conceived a rigorous “appreciation” phase is undergone which business leaders might well consider.
The Theatre of Operations – In warfare, the Theatre is the area or place in which important military events occur or are progressing – The Theatre of War. A subarea within the theatre of war normally defined by the geography is known as the theatre of Operations. Different theatres of operations within the same theatre of war will normally be geographically separate and focused on different enemy forces. Business leaders might, for example, consider a regional approach.
The Current Situation – Situational awareness is critical in the military, from warnings about the existence of civilians in an area of operations, enemy sniper’s, Improvised Explosive Devices and of course other friendly forces in the area. A good understanding of the current situation will also help place the Mission in context. Business leaders could look at competitor activity and pricing, or perhaps the economic environment.
The Mission – The what. A well-framed mission is, in our opinion, the single most important aspect of any plan. In military briefing sessions, the mission is repeated to make sure all attendees understand it.
Having a team of people with a crystal clear vision of what is to be achieved is more likely to produce positive results than a team of people who don’t have the same vision, regardless of how good the plan is. Period.
Mission Focus – A sound Mission should be unambiguous and presented in such a way that your team can use it as the focal point of their planning it might look like this – “Generate £1.5m of gross profit through a combination of new and existing business”. During our interim work, we try to instal and leave behind a style of leadership which we call Mission Focused Leadership.
As a result of the investors in people programme from years ago, there still seem to be a plethora of mission statements adorning the walls of many offices, all trying too hard to tick the PC boxes. It’s ironic that the same programme encouraged business leaders to set S.M.A.R.T objectives…
If your business has a mission statement along the lines of “to be the number one supplier of…looking after our customers…in an ethical and sustained environment”, I would think again. Write all that stuff down in your standards, principles and “how we do business”, not the mission.
The Plan – Don’t confuse a plan with what is to be achieved or a list of tasks to be done, it is neither. The plan is the strategy to achieve the mission – the how. It is the output of strategic decision making. For example, a strategic decision might have been made to weaken an enemy by diverting their force away from a given location, so a diversionary attack might be planned. The weakened target might then be “softened up” by using Naval gunfire support in advance of the main assault.
Within the business community, there is a huge amount of complicated nonsense surrounding strategic planning, you won’t find any in our process. A strategy is a plan to get you where you want to be. We create those plans and equip people and teams with the tools and maps to get to their desired location. Simple. Clear. Effective.
While situations and conditions vary greatly, the common denominator underlying all of our work is helping to focus, align and galvanise business leaders to pursue their most significant opportunities.
For information on how to create a Mission Focused business plan take a look here
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We are Strategy Execution Experts; we help clients’ to pursue their most significant opportunities. Aligning operational strategy with organisational ambition is at the core of everything we do.
Combining strong analytical skills with clear operational focus, we use a unique mixture of facilitation, coaching and organisational consulting to help leaders achieve ambitious goals.