Military leaders learn to “put troops to task” when they are making their battle plans. In simple terms, you may want something to happen, but unless you assign specific tasks and responsibilities to people, along with resources and timelines, things are likely not to get done. So, unless you believe your followers are capable of mind-reading, or you believe in miracles, make sure they know what you expect of them.

  • Specify your overall aim so people know what you want to achieve.
  • Identify key roles and functions.
  • Assign these to specific individuals with clear responsibility to achieve concrete, measurable outcomes.
  • Assign ressources and ask those you’ve tasked to ensure these are sufficient. Tell them to analyze their options and request additional ressources if required.
  • Confirm understanding of your outline plan and key responsibilities.
  • Have them brief their plans back to you so you know they are doing what you want them to.
  • Have them coordinate details amongst themselves and inform you of any major impacts on the overall intent and plan so you can modify if needed.
  • Detail constraints (thou shalt) and restraints (thou shalt not) so they know their “limits of exploitation.”
  • Always end your meetings or planning sessions with a record of decisions, assigned tasks and responsibilities, and next actions/events/milestones.
  • Talk with your immediate subordinates’ followers so you know if they have understood the tasks of the team and can execute them.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

  • You learn more by moving than by staying put. The normal impulse is to stay put and defend your position when you don’t know where to go or what to do. Unfortunately, this leaves you open to rapid change in the market as well as competitive threats. Moving gradually into a new market or a new product or service category gives you time to learn and adjust your approach without over-investing at the beginning. You also get to pull back if, as often happens, you’ve made a mistake or misjudged the situation.
  • Advance on a wide (or wider) front. It’s best to send scouting parties to report back about the lay of the land and the enemy’s positions, then to follow up with more forces if you’re successful. In business, this can mean trying many, small experiments with new products or markets to see what will happen, and then preserving those that succeed.
  • Don’t put all your eggs into one basket. If you can’t make accurate and timely predictions to know what will succeed in the long run then it stands to reason that you need to diversify investments and assets. This doesn’t mean becoming a conglomerate. It is preferable to experiment in a controlled manner at the edges of the business while using profits in existing business lines to fuel that exploratory work.
  • Always cover your moves. When I was a young infantry officer, we were taught to cover our moves with a firebase that could provide support in case we came under enemy fire. It’s better to move gradually over time into a new market or with a new strategy by small steps. This can be done remarkably quickly if you keep up the pressure by making incremental changes in a deliberate and consistent manner.
  • Reinforce success with backup forces. Once you have made it through the enemy’s front lines, apply resources to reinforce the initial breakthrough. The same notion applies to experimental business efforts. Success with one or some of them can be reinforced with new resources or with resources transferred from existing business lines. The result can be better positioning for the future.
  • Maintain reserves to exploit success. All of these principles require some level of resources, first to experiment and then to reinforce success by investing in the winners. This requires the maintenance of cash reserves or access to capital either from an existing business line, by borrowing, or by attracting new investors.
    I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Review your progress

Posted: July 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

What’s so “brilliant” about that manoeuvre? Too many times we launch into execution and continue doing so but we omit the important step of periodically reviewing our progress.
Things can change. There can be a new competitor, a new product, new economic factors coming into play. One of the military methods I teach my clients is mission analysis. The last step in the simplified process is to evaluate the situation on a regular basis and to ask, “Has the situation changed?” If yes, then it’s time to review and update plans and execution.
Most executives and entrepreneurs focus on material factors such as budget, sales targets, income, cash flow, etc. Those are essential, but the following questions will allow you to probe a little deeper:

  • Are our/my objectives still relevant?
  • Has the political, economic, social environment evolved since we started implementing?
  • Is there new or different competition?
  • How have competitors reacted or adjusted to our moves?
  • Have competitors undermined our positioning, requiring an update to our strategy?
  • Are buyers and clients reacting as expected to our overtures?
  • Are our starting assumptions still valid? This is critical, because assumptions are what allow planning and execution to procede in the face of uncertainty and risk.
  • Can we validate these assumptions and adjust our plans in light of the new situation?
  • How have our tactics been working? If they haven’t, then they must be adjusted. Never continue on a track that isn’t working.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Leadership is the art of influencing others in the accomplishment of a task or mission.

Many people automatically default to using rewards and punishments and various other forms of transactional leadership to influence followers and subordinates. The problem with this though is that people habituate quickly to rewards and punishments (assuming the latter aren’t extremely abusive). It’s like jumping into a swimming pool. There can be an initial shock of cold or pleasurable cooling sensation, but you get used to it fairly quickly. Once people are habituated to transactional leadership tactics, they tend to fade into the background and lose their effectiveness.

Another problem with transactional approaches to leadership is that they can initiate an unintended train of cause and effect. If you promise bonuses to your sales people so they focus on clearing out inventory of a particular product, you shouldn’t be surprised if they focus almost exclusively on that to the detriment of other products and services.

Leading from the inside out involves finding what motivates people internally, and working to either modify or leverage those intrinsic motivations. Here are some key approaches for “leading from the inside out.”

  • Lead by example.
  • Say what you do, and do what you say.
  • Give people the end state, overarching vision, and goals, and let them find the best way to achieve these (assuming legality and reasonable standardization of processes and procedures). In other words, specify what to achieve, not how to achieve it.
  • Involve people in setting goals and the overall vision, if relevant.
  • Let people define their own contributions and mission statement.
  • Provide resources and inputs subject to the requests and needs of subordinates.
  • Give them as much situational information as feasible within the constraints of business secrecy and personal confidentiality.
  • Find what makes each of your direct subordinates or followers tick, what their strengths personal goals are, what their personal preferences are, then try to assign them tasks and responsibilities that will leverage these and stretch their capabilities.
  • Give people general functional responsibilities and let them figure out the details.
  • Ask for their advice on important matters, not just trivial ones (sales planning vs the color scheme in the break room).

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Some of you may be old enough to remember Nancy Reagan’s plea to “just say no” to drugs. If only it were that easy for those who are mired in dependency. The same thing goes for strategy and other aspects of management and leadership. We often end up doing things or acquiescing to commitments that we should just turn down, or outright refuse to do. Ask yourself these questions before deciding to do something or make a commitment:

  • How does it contribute to my major goal(s)?
  • Do I even know what my major goals are?
  • Can I delegate it to someone I trust or MUST I do it myself?
  • Does it contribute to my brand, repute, mission, vision?
  • Do I believe it is useful and will actually work?
  • Am I just going through the motions?
  • Do I WANT to do it or commit to it?
  • Am I just trying to placate others?
  • Am I just trying to please others, or trying to “fit in,” or doing what I believe is expected of me?
  • Who is asking me to do it? Do I respect their judgment and opinion? If not, then I need to get another opinion or give more consideration to MY needs and values.

There are probably more questions to ask yourself, but I’m sure you can see where I going with these…

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

You might find this hard to believe, but SIMPLICITY is actually a key principle of military strategy and tactics. Complication increases the probability of friction, and friction increases the chances of failure, or massive confusion.

How do you know you’ve achieved simplicity? Simple: People can readily explain things back to you in their own words without error or misunderstanding. Whether it’s your overall intent, vision, mission, or detailed plans, ALL of your employees should be able to respond to the questions, “What are we doing here and what is your part in it? What happens if you can’t fulfill your part of the plan?” In business terms, this also includes the ability to quickly articulate how the client is better off by buying your products or services or doing business with you.

Here are some quick tips to keep things simple:

  • Give people your overall intent and tell them WHAT you would like them to contribute and WHY it’s important.
  • Let them figure out the best WAY to achieve their tasks and outcomes.
  • Focus on outcomes, not inputs.
  • Follow the rule of three: Only rarely should you give more than three major tasks or outcomes to someone. Limit their span of responsibility and control to three subordinates.
  • Break complex plans and tasks into smaller pieces and assign them to separate teams and leaders. Apply the rule of three.
  • Assign clear lines of authority and responsibility. Ensure people are accountable.
  • Assign major resources to teams and leaders but let them figure out and coordinate the details.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

I was recently discussing different approaches to strategy formulation and implementation with my good friend Phil Symchych. Phil is an expert in wealth building for owners of mid-market enterprises. When I presented some of the military principles of strategy, Phil enthusiastically endorsed them and encouraged me to create an approach around the four most important ones.

As a result, I’ve just developed a quick and easy model for applying military principles of strategy and tactics to achieve business success. I’m calling this new model, MOME. It stands for Morale, Objectives, Mass, and Economy. Naturally, I’ve leveraged these principles with my near decade-long experience of applying this philosophy to help businesses grow and prosper in the face fierce competition and rapidly changing wants and needs. Let’s look at each in turn and then at some of the ready applications for the model.

Morale. Military strategists and leaders have long known that MORALE is THE critical human factor in war and conflict. However, it is also foundational for business and strategy. The simplest definition of morale is the “will to victory.” It is the willingness to make sacrifices, persevere, and focus on achieving one’s aims despite setbacks, obstacles, and opposition. Morale is driven by the quality of leadership, the mission, and vision of the organization, and the level of engagement of employees and members to its foundational principles and goals.

Objectives. All military strategists agree that selection and maintenance of the aim is THE most important of all the principles of war and conflict. You need a clearly articulated end state—what does victory or success look like—as well as a specific and concrete mission to get everyone aligned and working to the same end. Moreover, when you communicate these throughout the organization, telling people what outcomes to achieve and not how to achieve them, they become motivated to use their initiative and leadership to overcome obstacles and adapt on the fly to the inevitable changes in situation and conditions. This is why a business needs a concrete vision of where it is heading as well as an engaging mission for customers and employees. The important thing is to be as concrete as possible and to operationalize the vision into a hierarchy of subordinated goals and missions to maximize alignment and focus at all levels of the organization.

Mass. In the British and Canadian military, this principle is known as concentration of force, mainly because they are small forces. But in the US forces and other large forces, they simply come right out and talk about MASS. The fundamental point here is that you must put your money where your mouth is. You have to concentrate for the “big push” or main effort so you attain your objectives as quickly and efficiently as possible. Businesses must be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and focus them to out-manoeuvre competitors in order to offer greater value for targeted customers.

Economy. This is the flip side of mass and concentration of force. There are never sufficient resources to accomplish everything that you want. You have to prioritize. In fact, the best definition of economy is the one developed by economists: Economy is the allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses. You may have to take a defensive or maintenance posture in some areas of your business so you can free up the resources to invest in the business lines where you want to be on the offensive. By the same token, you have support your objectives and lines of advance with adequate logistical and financial means. There is also the “economic” and financial aspect of your strategy. Whatever you decide to do, it has to be “economical” in the sense of presenting a strong and valid business case.

To see how the MOME model applies in practice, let’s look at the example of an acquisition:

  1. How will this affect MORALE and other group factors in the acquiring company and the acquired? Does this change the combined units’ fundamental mission? Who will stay on and who will be let go?
  2. What are the OBJECTIVES of the acquisition or merger? Have these been clearly articulated and communicated to all stakeholders? What outcomes are you expecting? Are they realistic or more like wishful thinking?
  3. Will the acquisition allow you to generate more MASS for high-growth opportunities or are you just throwing good money after bad? Is this just an ego trip or is it a viable opportunity? What is the main effort of the acquisition process and what are the supporting actions? What is your plan to out-manoeuvre and surprise your competitors, and to apply your center of gravity—i.e., your key strengths—to achieve your objectives?
  4. What are the ECONOMICS of the plan? Where do you need to ECONOMIZE in order to free up lower priority resources so you can create mass on the main effort? How will you prioritize these resources and what are the supporting functions and tasks?

These are just some of the specific questions your plan and strategy must answer so you can create the conditions for success and victory. You can’t leave anything to chance, and where there are uncertainties, you have to guard your flanks and rear areas with sound risk management.

How do YOUR strategy and plans measure up to the MOME model? How is morale in your company? What are your objectives? Do you have mass? Are you economizing in the right areas, and what are the economics of your business? I can help you answer these questions.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.