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THE WAY IT IS
In a perfect world, every mission has well-defined objectives, clear-cut guidelines to operate and exact metrics to measure success. In reality, people charge forward without having all their ducks in a row. It's human nature. If it happens on the battlefield, it results in casualties and long-drawn-out campaigns. In the business world, it results in far-reaching concepts that never should have gotten off the ground, poor product launches, inaccurate budgeting, and business ventures that should never have been financed. The greatest enthusiasm in the world won't make up for a business plan that doesn't work.
Have you ever been jerked back to reality at three in the morning by the harsh realization that the business plan you put in motion the previous day wasn't going to work? On one occasion, Jon recognized the inescapable fact that he would not be able to compete with another commando unit for a potential assault mission. At that moment, the other unit was simply located closer to an airfield with available aircraft standing by. Nothing he could do would change that. What's the only way to prevent something like this happening? Map out your mission in as much detail as possible—not just how you'd like your mission to unfold, but what to do when your plan unravels. In his case, he quickly moved tactical aircraft to be based at his location.
Do you think you're spending too much time on planning? Spend some more. Do you think you're worrying too much about things that may or may not happen? Worry more. Success in the boardroom or on the battlefield does not require everything to go perfectly. It requires you to be ready when things go wrong. You have to be able to make adjustments for the guy who breaks his leg during the parachute jump, or to work around the analyst who up and quits in the middle of the week. How do you prepare for that? By planning ahead.
Set specific goals and establish identifiable paths to reach them. Duh, right? But time after time, organizations fail to do this. Every quarter, lots of smart people assume that everyone else on their team has the same game plan. It's a bad assumption. The world is littered with the bones of well-financed organizations with hard-working employees who spun their separate wheels, ran around in separate circles, jumped from project to project, and collectively had no idea of what they were doing.
What follows are lessons we've learned about setting goals along the way. Take them, use them, apply them. They might save you in the end.
LESSON 1 CHOOSE A PATH OR TAKE YOUR CHANCES
In 1991, during the Gulf War, a mid-level SEAL officer pushed forward a unique plan that had the potential to significantly affect the direction of the war. According to this plan, SEALs would infiltrate behind enemy lines and begin an assault aimed at diverting Iraqi military units from the front. Such a commando strike would involve the risk of losing commandos in the assault force. After all, any enemy units encountered during the raid would outnumber the commandos. At the same time, if the operation succeeded, the main U.S. conventional force would have fewer enemy defensive units to face during the main offensive push.
During the actual operation, a small team of SEALs traveled up the enemy coastline in rubber boats and landed on the Iraqi-held beach. Once ashore, they detonated several explosive haversacks and fired their rifles inland. Despite the small size of the commando group, a large enough number of gunshots were fired and enough explosives were detonated to convince the Iraqis that they were under attack from a Marine amphibious landing. Consequently, the Iraqi military leadership shifted two divisions away from the front in order to protect its flank. In effect, the small SEAL team—a handful of commandos—caused thousands of enemy troops to move away from their defensive positions and out of the way of oncoming American forces. The advancing conventional U.S. force thus faced thousands fewer enemy troops during its drive toward Kuwait.
Why was the mission a success? Good fortune and the weather played a part, of course, as they always do. But ultimately, the mission succeeded because people had made a series of complementary, goal-oriented decisions.
Three decades earlier, someone had made the decision to create an organization that could conduct unconventional warfare. Then, a year before the mission was conducted, someone had trained a platoon in the skills needed for this type of mission. Two months before the mission, someone had made the decision that such a mission could strategically influence the war. Twenty-four hours before the SEALs landed on the beach, someone had made the decision to task that particular platoon with the mission.
Sometime during the 24 hours before the mission was launched, probably immediately after he had been tasked with it, the platoon commander confirmed that he could successfully conduct the mission. The operation succeeded because a number of people made independent but interconnected decisions to establish, reinforce, and achieve specific objectives.
In doing so, the SEAL organization repeatedly made decisions that ultimately gave the commandos an edge. This is the core of commando and unconventional operations—setting up an unfair fight where you'll have a distinct advantage over the enemy. In this case, the United States chose the target. The United States dictated the time, place, and type of assault. The United States decided what forces would be risked and what weapons and equipment would be used. At every opportunity, the SEAL organization made a decision, ahead of time, on every significant variable that would affect the commandos' mission. In doing so, the SEALs chose the most advantageous conditions possible and greatly increased their chances for success. If they hadn't done this, they would have risked getting into a fair fight.
Do you think this is the way things happen in the business world? That companies spend their time planning their operations and their moves well in advance? That they look for ways to avoid a fair fight? Think again. Venture capitalists use the phrase hockey stick profits. It refers to that graph that a lot of people walk in with that shows a slow growth of business and then, WHAM, exponential growth like the business end of a hockey stick. And when you talk to them, it's a sure thing. It's all indicative of one of three things: (a) the person making the presentation has discovered the next Microsoft, (b) the person hasn't grasped the realities of business, or (c) the person thinks everyone else in the room is an idiot.
The answer most often is b—the person hasn't done the homework. The unfortunate thing is, the problem's not that the hockey stickers aren't bright people. It's not that they don't know their industry. And it's not that the technology isn't available to help them. The problem is usually that they haven't spent the time to identify and understand everything that's required if the project is to succeed and every nightmare scenario that could arise.
In addition to having a good general concept of what their product can provide and which consumers they will target, entrepreneurs need to lay down concrete goals and milestones. Why do I assume that they haven't? Because if they had, their revenue and profit lines probably wouldn't look like hockey sticks. Or their list of "what-ifs" would be a mile long.
When SEAL platoons plan a mission, their flowcharts look like upside-down family trees: The mission starts out as a strong, solid trunk, and then quickly begins to split and branch out with ev
Excerpted from LEADERSHIP LESSONS OF THE NAVY SEALS by Jeff Cannon. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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PREFACE: THE QUIET PROFESSIONALS
Chapter 1 Setting Goals
Chapter 2 Organization—Create Structure or Fight Alone
Chapter 3 Leadership—The Hardest Easy Thing
Chapter 4 The Thundering Herd
Chapter 5 Building a Thundering Herd
Chapter 6 Now Maintain Your Momentum
Posted November 18, 2006
A practical book with lessons that you can take away and start using right away, including prioritizing, planning ahead, conducting meetings, team leadership, plus many, many others. Chapters/lessons broken down for quick reference/review. The format is very basic in the form of 'The Mission' (a problem/solution from the author's SEAL experiences) and 'The Take-Away' (how to relate it to the business world) for each lesson (80 lessons in total), so reading from cover to cover will get a little stale, but each lesson goes by quick. An easy book to pick up and read a few lessons a day. Don't read this if you're expecting a non-stop action story like the Rogue Warrior or a detailed analysis of how BUD/S /SEALs work.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 17, 2005
Wow! What an awesome book! With corporate America so full of detached and downsized 'leadership' which seems more concerned with CYA and outsourcing and offshoring than truly leading and inspiring productive people and teams, this is an easy read and absolutely PACKED full of great tips! A must read for anyone in a leadership position of any kind or wanting to be! Written by 2 guys, one a former SEAL team commander and the other a business executive, who really know their stuff about truly leading and motivating an efficient, productive workforce. For each principle they put across, the narrative starts with a SEAL mission or training activity that exemplifies how the given principle was either expertly or poorly implemented (really cool stuff in some of these) and then finishes with a 'business takeaway' that applies the principle practically in today's corporate arena. This is what differentiates this book among similar competitors that try to run everything like a military organization and that doesn't always work, but the way these principles are applied is a good fit with corporate life. Definitely a keeper for future reference after reading!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 11, 2004
If you¿ve declared war on your company¿s lackluster performance, this book will help you launch an all-out assault. Leadership Lessons of the Navy Seals demonstrates through the experiences of this elite military unit of Sea, Air and Land commandos that combat lessons can apply to the corporate world. The book provides examples of SEAL tactics and missions, along with their corporate applications, particularly in strong team building. Authors Jeff Cannon and Lt. Cmdr. Jon Cannon combine their experience in business and the U.S. Navy in a no-nonsense, practical guide. They zero in on setting goals and commanding your troops with deadly accuracy. While their problem-solving text gets straight to the point, it isn¿t novel and they repeat lessons under different titles. The book is a laundry list, a useful approach in allowing you to choose what you need. We found that the Cannons fire off a good how-to book for corporate strategists who want to develop battle plans for improving their teams and organizations.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 19, 2003
A book written by ordinary men that did extraordinary things! I left this book feeling empowered to lead with dignity, courage and confidence! Corporate America may not require a twenty-mile sand run, however this book provides the necessary tactics to overcome your own limitations!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 25, 2003
Posted December 19, 2002
This is one book that got it right. A fast read, with real-life lessons, and great stories from the battlefield. It gives you the no-nonsense reality of work and the office. But it does it in a way that gives you an adrenaline boost along the way. Great book! Great read! It Rocks!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 12, 2003
For once, military lessons that cross over to the business world. We've heard that before but this is it. I recommend reading through the missions and then concentrating on those ideas which suit your situation. The authors have done an outstanding job in applying commando techniques to corporate management. I'm in the process of applying its lessons to collaboratory product-development projects I'm leading. Solid stuff.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 23, 2002
Not only does this give you advice that you can actually use and implement. But it backs it up with some war stories that makes it all too real. I actually read those over several times. Great book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 12, 2012
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Posted May 27, 2011
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