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Flawless Execution: Use the Techniques and Systems of America's Fighter Pilots to Perform at your Peak and Win Battles in the Business World

Flawless Execution: Use the Techniques and Systems of America's Fighter Pilots to Perform at your Peak and Win Battles in the Business World

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by James D. Murphy

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Your business can take a lesson from the American military's fighter pilots. At Mach 2, the instrument panel of an F-15 is screaming out information, the horizon is a blur, the wingman is occupied, the jet is hanging on the edge -- and yet fighter pilots routinely handle the stress. It's not much different in today's unforgiving business world. One slipup and your


Your business can take a lesson from the American military's fighter pilots. At Mach 2, the instrument panel of an F-15 is screaming out information, the horizon is a blur, the wingman is occupied, the jet is hanging on the edge -- and yet fighter pilots routinely handle the stress. It's not much different in today's unforgiving business world. One slipup and your company is bankrupt before your employees know what hit them.

What works on the squadron level for F-15 pilots will also work for your marketing team, sales force, or research and development group. By analyzing the work environment and attacking its centers of gravity in parallel, you'll begin to utilize the Plan-Brief-Execute-Debrief-Win cycle that will rapidly impact your business's future success. U.S. fighter squadrons have been using this program for nearly fifty years to reduce their mistake rate, cut casualties and equipment losses, and rack up an envious victory record. Now, with Flawless Execution, your business can too.

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Flawless Execution

Use the Techniques and Systems of America's Fighter Pilots to Perform at Your Peak and Win the Battles of the Business World
By James Murphy

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 James Murphy
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060834161

Chapter One

The Language of Flawless Execution

Flawless (FLA-less): Without flaw; perfect. Syn: Faultless

Execitopm (ek-so-KYU-shon): A carrying out; a doing; a performing. Syn: Accomplishment

The ability to perform a task in the prescribed manner -- Flawless Execution -- is one of the most daunting yet vitally important missions facing corporate America today. With fewer workers underpinning the manufacturing base; with consumers demanding more for their money in terms of products or services; with intense pressures from the financial sector to meet financial targets, Flawless Execution has become the drumbeat of modern American business. How do we execute better? Is there a learnable, teachable, repeatable process to improve execution?

In fact, there is. It was developed in one of the most unforgiving laboratories in the world -- the military jet fighter. In the aftermath of accidents, mistakes, and miscalculations that, since the 1940s, have cost uncountable aircrews their lives, Flawless Execution has become the theme in our book oflessons learned.

Born of necessity; due to the international conflicts that put our men (and now women) into harm's way, the United States military long ago came to grips with the need to train people how to execute flawlessly. Nowhere was it accomplished with more fervor, with more thought or study, or with a more fanatical dedication to institutionalizing the results than in the training of America's fighter pilots.

To understand Flawless Execution, you must first understand the language. Throughout this book, I use language that is different from what you'll find in corporate America, and here's why: Too many corporate words carry around baggage that I want you to shed. I don't want you to assume that you know what I mean when I use certain words, so instead, I use the words that we pilots use when executing our mission. Why? Language from the pilot's world will be largely new to you, so I can fill each word with the exact meaning I want you to have. Let me give you an example.

The Flawless Execution Model is based on a pyramid. The pyramid describes how a "mission" is executed. The heart of the pyramid is the execution engine. Here we introduce you to a cycle called the Plan-Brief-Execute-Debrief-Win cycle. Each of these four "phases" leads back to "Win," where the process starts all over again. Visualize these words as five points on an everconnecting, ever-looping cycle. To achieve Flawless Execution, every task will have a specific Plan-Brief-Execute-Debrief-Win cycle.

Now, I could have used words like "analyze," or "implementation," as one might in the corporate world, and if I had, I would be understood before another word came out of my mouth. But that's not what I want. The Plan-Brief-Execute-Debrief-Win cycle is quite different -- and infinitely more powerful -- than the regime of Plan-Implement-Analyze. With it you have a mechanism that thoroughly prepares you for your mission, gives you a list of scripted responses for contingencies, and contains the most powerful weapon in business -- the debrief. At the end of every mission, the entire team sits down and debriefs. Mistakes are identified, root causes are unearthed, and a better way to do things works its way right back up into the planning cycle that begins the very next day -- or the very next hour. Imagine the advantage. On a four-day sales trip, lessons learned from day one are built into the planning for day two. Learning experiences are accelerated; individual performance is supercharged.

Let me give you another example: At the top of this pyramid is the starting point. It is called Future Picture. Now, you may think you understand what I mean by Future Picture, but throw out whatever you're thinking because we're talking about the Flawless Execution definition of Future Picture. Future Picture is a high-definition picture that shows in great detail the future as you want it to be. We paint this picture in a resolution high enough to let any level of management, or any team member, zoom into it at any detail and find within it clarity, composition, and texture. This is accomplished by crafting a twelve-point descriptor, each word of which has purpose and meaning that when dissected withstands microscopic scrutiny. The Future Picture is a statement of what you intend to have happen.

The perfection of that picture is in detail -- detail fine enough to give your team information sufficient to visualize how their personal contributions will help attain that picture. The Future Picture governs both group and individual execution. Because it's richly textured, it neatly interlaces with latitude, the proper amount and degree of which individuals must be given so that as they execute, they can adjust their execution within the boundaries of the Future Picture to ensure Flawless Execution. What are these boundaries? They will vary, that's for sure, but every task, every mission, every job we perform has to contribute to the attainment of the overall Future Picture even when (not if!) we encounter a problem. The trick is preparing for problems by having a portfolio of contingencies planned out in advance that, when used, nevertheless move us forward toward the Future Picture. Let's throw out the more rigid, organizational words of objectives-strategiesplan for the simpler, leaner, more dynamic, and ultimately more realistic guiding principle called the Future Picture.

This raises an interesting point. How does latitude work in a model called Flawless Execution? Good question. The answer is this: The Flawless Execution Model is not a model in pursuit of the elusive "five 9s." Humans are not machines. Rigid executional tactics work in machines, but they do not work in humans. Humans need flexibility. Humans innovate, adapt, improvise -- sometimes to a preplanned "contingency" script -- but machines don't. Five 9s may be attainable in a "closed" environment like a computer, but it isn't in humans ...


Excerpted from Flawless Execution by James Murphy Copyright © 2006 by James Murphy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

James D. Murphy is the CEO of Afterburner, Inc., a consulting firm he founded in 1996 after four years in sales management and eight years as an F-15 fighter pilot. Murphy is also the author of Business Is Combat, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Flawless Execution 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Foxhog More than 1 year ago
This book may be written from the perspective of a fighter pilot, but its phenomenally powerful principles are applicable to businesses, non-profit organizations, schools, churches, etc. In fact, it's holistic approach and step-by-step processes can be applied in any enivronment where people work together. This is a must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you haven¿t had the opportunity to experience an Afterburner seminar yet, this book links you into their entire process top-down, from strategy to the flawless execution model to the people who carry out the mission. As head of Training for my organization, I was particularly interested in the section Murph dedicated to training. In the business world we don¿t place enough emphasis on the importance of training our people ¿ in the military they never place someone in an environment they are not prepared to be in. Training seems to always get sacrificed because we¿re too busy carrying out tasks to get pulled away. Murph speaks on training to achieve a (specific) Desired Learning Objective, seeing how its done and then doing it ¿ learning from experience. In the corporate world there is much we can learn from military processes. Flawless Execution is a process that can be applied to every business objective ¿ its asks the questions: Did we plan right? Communicate to our people clearly? Give our people the tools they need to execute their job? And, did we capture lessons learned so we can sharpen the saw next time? It¿s a powerful tool we¿re applying in my organization with much success. I just hope our competitors don¿t read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best business books I have read to date. Flawless Execution delivers clear and specific steps to execute flawlessly from the board room all the way to the manufacturing floor. This is a must read for anyone who wants to take their business to the next level.
Guest More than 1 year ago
James 'Murph' Murphy and his crew of top notch fighter pilots bring to the business world a proven process for getting results. If you are a leader, an aspiring manager, or an individual contributor out their on the front lines and the corporation is relying on you to deliver 'flawlessly', then you need to read this book. Easy to read, practical applications for real time battles fought daily in our worklives. Nice job Afterburner Team and thanks James 'Murph' Murphy on bringing the business world this outstanding tool.