Posts Tagged ‘resilience’

By Richard Martin
This week I want to elaborate more on the concept of Readiness Phases and Readiness States, as these provide the essential framework for forecasting, activation, and response of emergency and business continuity services (of both public and private sectors), as well as contingency plans, and other measures. These can be extended to competitive and other strategic situations, but for now, I want to focus on threats/risks to life, limb, and materiel. This knowledge is sufficiently important that it should be disseminated as widely as possible, so please feel free to do so.
Emergency and Business Continuity planning and operations are managed in three phases:

1. Phase 1 – Preparedness. The focus of this phase is the coordination of plans and procedures. This phase is activated on a continuous basis. Emergency measures and business continuity plans are developed and regularly reviewed through the incorporation of lessons learned from plan activation, training exercises, and learning from similar experiences in other organizations and regions. Physical preparedness of alternate sites, emergency power, emergency supplies, etc. are regularly verified. Operationally critical employees are identified, briefed and trained to respond to a disruptive event. There are three readiness levels, defined as:

  • Normal Readiness: Routine governance and activities are in effect. Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) remain unstaffed but ready for activation. Emergency Management Teams (EMT) meet as required to coordinate and conduct planning and readiness activities. Emergency and Business Continuity planning and readiness measures follow regular planning cycles (for example annual business planning and budgeting processes).
  • Medium Readiness: Medium readiness can be activated at any level of an organization by appropriate, pre-designated authorities based on pre-set criteria such as survival, public service, safety, public health, public order or organizational triggers, directives or advisories. EOCs are activated to a 12/7 posture supplemented with on call personnel outside of these hours. EMTs are activated and meet on declaration of Medium Readiness and at least once a week thereafter. Key tasks of EMTs include coordinating internal communications and preparing or updating plans and directives for future response and recovery options. Heightened security measures may also be in effect if required.
  • High Readiness: High Readiness declaration and triggers are as for Medium Readiness. A local or regional emergency demanding an immediate or delayed response can also lead to a declaration of High Readiness by the designated authority for that location or region. EOCs are augmented to full 24/7 staffing and provide daily (or more frequent) Situation Reports and daily or twice daily situational awareness briefings to the designated authorities. EMTs meet daily (or more frequently, as needed) in their respective EOCs. Heightened security measures may also be in effect.

2. Phase 2 – Response. The focus of this phase is the safety and security of people. This phase is activated by appropriate authorities at relevant organizational levels upon declaration of an emergency involving the occurrence or warning of an imminent disruptive event. Designated emergency/business continuity authorities and EMTs establish and maintain situational awareness while at the same time activating immediate safety and security measures to protect all personnel, assets, and/or individuals or populations under their care or responsibility. Essential elements of information are communicated to staff, the public, stakeholders, contractors, vendors, etc. Designated authorities ensure the conduct of damage assessments (physical, operational, personnel, or cost) of the facilities, systems, networks and assets and this is communicated to all members of the EMT, higher authorities, critical services managers, and critical support function managers. Designated authorities also direct the preparation or heightened readiness of recovery teams and measures. The emergency operational cycle is activated to ensure: daily meetings of the EMT; collation, assessment and dissemination of situational awareness products and damage assessments to decision-makers; planning of recovery measures; and external and internal communications.

3. Phase 3 – Recovery. The focus of phase 3 is the coordination of Critical Support Functions to support continued delivery of Critical Services. Once immediate measures affecting the safety of employees and/or the public are implemented, designated authorities, in consultation with critical services and critical support function managers, activate applicable recovery plans for critical services and associated assets. These recovery options are activated in priority, based on Maximum Allowable Down Time. These options could include: relocation to alternate facilities or hardening of existing critical assets, prioritized system restoration, temporary reallocation of staff, activation of emergency contracted services, etc. Designated authorities then coordinate restoration or reconstruction (if necessary) of facilities, restoration and testing of infrastructure, and resumption of normal functions. At the end of this phase, the disruptive event has been eliminated, allowing designated authorities to terminate response and recovery operations and notify employees, the public, and stakeholders of the return to a normal state. Designated authorities must also coordinate the production of a “Lessons Learned” report.

Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:
  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?
Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?
Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!
And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.


My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.


© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.
by Richard Martin
Well, we’ve just had our latest winter storm of the decade (or what it century?) in Eastern Canada. Among other events, Montreal’s roads were a scene of chaos and waiting, and waiting, and waiting….
The Quebec Department of Transportation (Ministère du transport du Québec, MTQ) has been heavily blamed for the chaos and poor response on the roads, especially on Highway 13, one of the two main North-South arteries through Montreal. To illustrate, hundreds of cars were stranded on the 13 from late Tuesday afternoon rush hour through to mid-day on Wednesday. Some people had to spend the night in their car. We’re lucky no one died or was seriously injured there. It was a distinct possibility given the harshness of the conditions, the fact that most people were ill equipped (i.e. not ready) for just such a situation, and that there were deaths and serious injuries in other areas.
But the worst reproaches have been directed at the MTQ. It has since come out that the ministry’s emergency plans and procedures appear to be overly complex, requiring numerous steps in the decision process for road closure and emergency response (actually, 94 steps, but that’s the entire decision flowchart). But that’s probably a red herring. Such decision processes always look complex out of context. The real proof of validity and effectiveness for any emergency/contingency plan isn’t what it looks like on paper, but its performance and execution once it’s put into action. It’s clear that the MTQ and probably many other government and municipal agencies were out of their depth and overwhelmed by the scale of the disruption.
Instead, I think the real problem was that of poor preparation and training, unclear activation processes, lack of well-defined readiness levels, as well as a lack of practice. Did the ministry ever conduct exercises? I’m not talking about a “tabletop” exercise with a few departmental reps. I’m talking about full-scale field exercises? Many of these problems would have come out beforehand if they had been exercised adequately. Also, what disaster and/or storm scenarios were envisaged? If appears that there was little understanding of the prior coordination and planning that are required to ensure interdepartmental and intergovernmental cooperation. Wildlife agents in the Québec Forestry and Wildlife Ministry are equipped and trained to conduct search and rescue operations in heavy weather and extreme survival conditions, but no one called upon that department to provide support. This is a clear indication that prior arrangements we’re lacking, either in terms of planning or in actually requesting and coordinating a joint response.
This is ALWAYS my biggest beef with any organization I work with on risk management and emergency/business continuity readiness: the lack of practice. It’s one thing to tread with care when you’re a for-profit business and any disruption to ongoing operations for the purposes of exercising can have serious impacts on production and client services. But when we’re talking about a public-service organization with a clear public safety mandate, you simply MUST exercise thoroughly and regularly. If it’s good enough for the military, firefighters, and airport operations and security organizations, then it should be good enough for municipal and governmental departments at all levels and in all domains, especially if lives depend on it.
Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:
  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?
Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?
Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!
And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.


My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.


© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.
by Richard Martin
There’s an oft-repeated dictum in investment: Avoid investments that are priced for perfection. You should avoid stocks and other investments the price of which reflects all the actual and potential “good news” about its value. In other words, if you overpay, there is very little room for error in your investment, and you risk losing more than gaining, sometimes a lot more.
I like to apply this principle more generally to decision-making, strategy, operations and tactics. So it has obvious value in terms of readiness. If everything has to be “perfect” for your plans to come to fruition, then you’ve left precious little room for error and risk in your assessment of the likelihood of success. How can you apply this principle?
  • Be conservative when assessing the potential upside of your plans and actions.
  • Be prudent in identifying potential obstacles, resistance, and risks into your plans.
  • Make contingency plans to deal with the highest risks and most dangerous threats.
  • Prepare contingency plans to exploit unexpected success and breakthroughs so you can “make hay while the sun shines,” if that transpires.
  • Build up reserves of people, money, and other resources.
  • Have alternate and back up plans for supply, distribution, and operations.
  • Give primary and alternate tasks, roles and responsibilities.
  • Explain the overall intention to your team and subordinate leaders so they can adjust on the fly and apply their initiative in achieving your aims when execution goes off the rails.
  • Make prudent assumptions deliberately and seek to falsify or confirm them with information, intelligence and reconnaissance.
  • Assume first information is usually wrong, or at least in need of corroboration.
  • Seek alternate points of view and assessments.
  • Give yourself and your people time to think and react.
All of this can be summed up with the following three questions:
  1. What if I’m right about this?
  2. What if I’m wrong about this?
  3. What then?
Call that applied self-scepticism.
Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:
  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?
Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?
Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!
And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.


My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.


© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

Strategic Readiness Bulletin Number 1 – 1 March 2017

By Richard Martin, founder and president, Alcera Consulting Inc.

Richard Martin issues Strategic Readiness Bulletins on an as needed basis to clients, key decision-makers, and other influencers, to highlight recent or evolving risks, threats, and opportunities for companies and organizations resulting from chaotic change as well as international and national situations of a political, economic, technological, or social nature.

What Is the Strategic Readiness Issue?

Asylum on Canadian flag.

Asylum on Canadian flag.

Recent events and fears in the United States are apparently pushing many resident aliens and immigrants in that country to reconsider their future there. In recent weeks, we have learned that hundreds of individuals and families, sometimes with very young children, have braved cold weather and harsh conditions to cross the border into Canada. They are arrested and detained, and then presumably further processed by Canadian government agencies after requesting refugee status. As many commentators have already pointed out, if there is a mini-surge of “walk-in” refugee claimants in the winter, what will happen when the weather improves up north (literally), and it gets worse down south (figuratively)?

We can think what we want of this situation, but the important question to ask is: Is this a risk, a threat, an opportunity, or some combination of these? Readers may believe that I’m being alarmist, but this is furthest from the truth. The essence of readiness—whether for defence or for profit—is anticipation. As the old military saying goes, “Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted.” We can extend this by adding anticipation and planning as well. Readiness is a function of awareness, which in turn requires surveying your surroundings and making projections, highlighting potential outcomes and effects, and developing scenarios and contingency plans to react or act in a timely and effective manner.

Who Can Be Affected?

This is nothing but a quick list of businesses, organizations, and agencies that could be affected by a refugee or border crisis of some kind in coming months:

  • Manufacturers and other businesses that depend on imports and exports
  • Transportation and logistics companies
  • Federal, provincial, and local government agencies and departments
  • Ports and border-crossing facilities
  • Towns and villages near border crossings, official and unofficial, including their fire departments, schools, hospitals, and other medical facilities
  • Charitable and/or community organizations such as the Red Cross, the YMCA, local associations, NGOs, etc.

What Are the Risks and/or Opportunities?

Here are two simple scenarios to show how companies and organizations can be affected by a surge in refugee crossings and claimants.

Scenario 1: A small town near the Quebec border with the US is overwhelmed with refugees in the early summer. Available facilities are rapidly claimed by federal and provincial government agencies. There is a need to lodge, feed, and care for a relatively large influx people seeking to enter Canada as refugees. The town’s administration is overwhelmed by the influx and local citizens are increasingly enraged by the “threat to law and order,” people crossing their property, and perhaps even squatting.

Think this is far-fetched? Consider the following headline in a Globe and Mail article of 7 February 2017: “Manitoba town pleads for federal help with refugee influx.”

Scenario 2: A transportation company depends on cross-border shipping and logistics for a bulk of its business. The refugee influx gives rise to political actions by the federal government to control border access better. Even though people are crossing at secondary and tertiary border locations, or even unmanned areas, CBSA steps up searches and security at official crossings. This introduces long lineups and delays at border crossings. American officials do the same in the other direction for no logical reason.

Assessing Your Situation

You can look at any kind of disruptive scenario from two perspectives: defensive (as risk or threat) or offensive (as opportunity).

Defensive Assessment: Risk is the product of probability and consequence/impact. Reducing or eliminating the risk probability falls under the rubric of prevention. Responding to, containing, eliminating and recovering from the risk impact is called mitigation. I’ve illustrated this in the following diagram. As you can see, contingency planning is any preparation and planning you conduct to be ready for a risk should prevention fail. If prevention is your 1st line of defence against a risk scenario, contingency planning is your 2nd line of defence (recovery is the 3rd line).

assessing-risks-and-threats

Offensive Assessment: On the offensive side, it can sometimes be difficult to see what could be an opportunity, but it follows the same basic logic as defensive risk and threat readiness. Opportunities are thus the product of the probability of a positive event occurring and the beneficial consequences. In that case, your first wave of attack is the scouting and reconnaissance you carry out to detect the opportunities. These are then assessed as to their expected value (probability times benefit) and you can create various initiatives to develop them into full-blown offensive thrusts—the 2nd wave of attack—reinforcing successful ones and pulling back from unsuccessful ones—the 3rd wave of attack.

In this Strategic Readiness Bulletin, I wanted to point out the potential risks, threats, and opportunities that loom for companies, organizations, and agencies as they look at the unfolding refugee situation. It’s up to you to take steps to increase your offensive and defensive readiness.

picture1Richard Martin is an expert in identifying, assessing, and preparing for strategic risks, threats, … AND opportunities, so companies and organizations can exploit change, instead of passively reacting or succumbing to it.

Richard.Martin@alcera.ca

www.alcera.ca

www.exploitingchange.com

(514) 453-3993

by Richard Martin

Readiness is the ability to anticipate and absorb changing conditions so you can come out on top, or at least maintain your position or objectives.

The Readiness Mindset depends on the following characteristics:

  • Don’t assume you know everything you need to know. As I learned on peacekeeping duty in Bosnia, first information is often, even usually, wrong, so don’t overreact!
  • You can never eliminate uncertainty and its attendant risks.
  • Keep your overarching objectives and purposes in mind. Momentary setbacks are normal and must be overcome.
  • If you try to defend or attack everywhere, you end up defending or attacking nowhere. Assess opportunities, risks, and threats in terms of their likelihood and potential effects and put your main effort on the highest priority items.
  • Always keep the morale of your team and self in mind. Morale is the willingness to sacrifice and persist despite setbacks and obstacles to achieve your aims.
  • Shape your competitive conditions as much as possible so you can seize and maintain the initiative. That is the essence of an offensive mindset and action.
  • There is always more than one way to achieve an aim. Strategy is about assessing and balancing ends, ways and means to come out on top.
  • Power people: Brief your people, get them in the loop, delegate responsibility, keep them informed on the changing situations, ask for advice.
  • Tell your people what you’re trying to achieve and let them figure out the best way to get there. Give them the “what and why,” let them find the “how.”
  • Use time to your advantage. Bring people into the loop early and often so they can anticipate and prepare.
  • Nothing is fulling sequential. Run things in parallel. For instance, you can activate your team for a forthcoming change or mission; while you plan, they can prepare and increase your overall readiness.

Remember Richard’s Business Readiness Process in 2017!

  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Call me for a Business Readiness Briefing in 2017!

My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

operational-continuity

Step 10 of the Business Readiness Process: Ensuring Operational Continuity

The capacity to analyze, decide, and act during and after crises is critical. Here, I focus on the principles and techniques to manage and operate on a 24/7 basis during a crisis. These approaches are directly inspired by military command and control methods.

Operational continuity is part of the contingency planning resulting from risk management. The aim is to continue operating during and after a crisis or emergency, especially ensuring that customer services are maintained as much as possible.

There’s no such thing as a 9 to 5 crisis

If something is going to go wrong, it will probably do so at the worst possible time and the worst possible place. Just like the military, businesses and organizations providing essential services and mission-critical functions must be capable of operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Time enough for blame

Ensuring operational continuity is about solving the problem, not finding someone to blame. No matter when or where, it’s human nature to want to find someone responsible to lash out or punish them. But does that solve the problem? The focus during a crisis or emergency is on reacting in a timely and effective manner. There will be time enough to determine cause and accountability afterwards.

Caring for your people, caring for yourself

You can’t last long if you’re exhausted, nor can your people. True welfare during a crisis is about making sure your people are well rested and well fed, with proper hygiene, safety, and health care. This also extends to their families if it’s crucial to mission and operational continuity. Military forces know this first hand and take welfare measures very seriously, because it contributes to morale, team work, and resilience.

Operational rhythm and routines

Organizations such as hospitals, fire departments, and police agencies can respond around the clock. But, they also must operate on a continuous basis and be ready to handle surges in demand or action. The model for this is military battle rhythm. This assures leadership, decision-making, and command presence on a continuous basis. This section shows how to follow a military-inspired headquarters rhythm and routine.

Information management and the crisis operations center

The brain of any response must be in the Crisis Operations Center (COC). Information is the equivalent of neural signaling and cognition. The top leader can repair to the COC for briefings and updates, while exercising leadership and influence at the front lines. He knows that no matter what happens, someone is minding the shop to maintain situational awareness and to conduct ongoing planning and control of operations.

My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.

© 2016 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

risk-vs-reward

Step 7: Perform Risk Management and Contingency Plannin

Why analyze and manage risk? 

  • It exists whether we recognize it or not.
  • We are better to identify risks consciously and determine how best to accept and/or manage them.
  • That way, we can decide how much risk we wish to take on and the nature of these risks.
  • We should only take on risks willingly in exchange for potential rewards: risk ≈ reward.

What is risk?

  • Risk is the potential for loss due to uncertainty. All risks are quantifiable as the product of probability of occurrence and potential harmful consequences (R=PxC). There are generic risks, such as natural or manmade disasters, and there are inherent risks, which are specific to each course of action. Both types must be identified, evaluated, and actively managed.
  • There are two focal points of risk management: prevention and mitigation.

Risk Prevention

Prevention seeks to reduce the probability of harmful events before they occur. Accepting risks without concomitant rewards is reckless and irresponsible. Such risks can actually be considered as hazards and should be eliminated through careful planning.

Risk Mitigation

  • The second focus of risk management is mitigation, which comes into play if prevention fails and a harmful event actually occurs. Mitigation entails responding in a timely and effective manner to the event so as to minimize its evolution and impact, taking action to contain its harmful side-effects, and implementing recovery and continuity measures.

Contingency Planning

  • One part of risk mitigation involves contingency planning, so as to deal with harmful events and threats. However, contingency planning can also be used to prepare for exploitation of opportunities arising from chance or the effectiveness of our own plans and actions. In sum, contingency planning is about readiness for both positive and negative outcomes.

total-risk-strategy

Recap of Business Readiness Process

  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

 

Note: Please contact me if you or anyone you know of is interested in publishing this series as a book (or in any other format). I can also provide a full book proposal and will refer you to my agent. This is from the Introduction of my series on leadership and leadership development, based on my experience as an army officer and over 10 years as a business and management consultant helping businesses and executives to thrive in the face of rapid change, risk, and uncertainty. It comes from a book I started to write two years ago. I’ve been posting the introductory chapter as a series on this blog, which you can consult at the following links:

Leadership is the same in the military, business… and hockey

My purpose in writing this series on leadership

What do I mean by leadership anyway?

Why the military approach to leadership is so powerful?

Chapter 1: Competence Is the Heart of Leadership

Whenever I present the principles of military leadership and the related philosophy of leadership development, I often get skeptical responses. Some people tend to dismiss the leadership principles and philosophy enunciated above as too simplistic. One frequent objection is that these principles and this philosophy are okay for low-level supervisors or maybe middle managers, but that organizational and strategic leadership are too complex and critical to be reduced to such simple concepts. Others point out that there are different types of leadership for different situations. How can the military, which relies heavily on authority and discipline, have anything to teach “civvies” about leadership? The implication is that entrepreneurs, executives, and others have nothing to learn from military-style leadership. A third type of response is that the principles and philosophy might work well in Western nations, where there is a culture of openness and inclusion, but that they couldn’t possibly work in other cultures, such as the Middle East, Africa, or Asia.

I can address all of these objections with a simple question. Let’s take the principle to lead by example. Does this principle apply to all of the supposed exceptions cited in the previous paragraph? If we can honestly answer in the affirmative, then we have to admit that leading by example is not just a military leadership principle. We would have to conclude that leading by example is actually a universal leadership principle. Leading by example is (or should be) relevant and applicable to presidents and prime ministers, CEOs and COOs, doctors and nurses, or anyone else for that matter. Not just soldiers and their commanders.

By extension, whether we’re talking about business, government, politics, non-profits, Boy Scouts, health care, education, or whatever, can we honestly dismiss this principle as non-applicable and not relevant? And can we say that Asians, Arabs, and Africans also don’t appreciate exemplary leadership? More generally, can we say that all of the principles and philosophy described above are not relevant and applicable to all levels, fields, and cultures?

Which brings me to the final and most common skeptical objection, that this all quite self-evident and straightforward. After all, doesn’t everyone know that a leader must be competent, or lead by example, or should keep her followers and other stakeholders informed of the situation and in the loop? Well, you would think so, wouldn’t you? But the reality is that, no, a lot of people, leaders and followers included, don’t seem to know these most fundamental of principles. Or if they do know them, they can’t seem to apply them consistently and judiciously.

As I stated earlier in this introduction, I’ve broken every single one of these principles at least once, and in some cases multiple times. I usually didn’t do so out of malice and certainly not out of ignorance, although in some cases I conveniently “forgot” them. Any other person with leadership experience, regardless of the field of endeavor, will admit as much also if they’re honest.

The key question isn’t why the military believes in and teaches such simple and basic leadership principles, or why military leadership development is so focused on imparting teachable skills. It is instead why, despite these approaches being supposedly simple and self-evident, more leaders don’t use them. To put it in a different light, why do so many leaders falter in applying the basics?

So there you have it, the philosophy underlying the military principles of leadership and leadership development. And this is also why I have written this book and why you should read it and take in its lessons for your own leadership and that in your team, business, association, or organization.

© 2016 Richard Martin. Reproduction, forwarding and quotes permitted with proper attribution.

Note: Please contact me if you or anyone you know of is interested in publishing this series as a book (or in any other format). I can also provide a full book proposal and will refer you to my agent. This is from the Introduction of my series on leadership and leadership development, based on my experience as an army officer and over 10 years as a business and management consultant helping businesses and executives to thrive in the face of rapid change, risk, and uncertainty. It comes from a book I started to write two years ago. I’ve been posting the introductory chapter as a series on this blog, which you can consult at the following links:

Leadership is the same in the military, business… and hockey

My purpose in writing this series on leadership

What do I mean by leadership anyway?

Chapter 1: Competence Is the Heart of Leadership

The profession of arms is concerned with the legal, rational application of force to the resolution of a social or political problem. If you are going to rationally apply force, then you will necessarily be directing missions that are risky for those you are leading and the ones you wish to influence through force. The rational application of force therefore requires rational leadership.

But here’s the rub. When you get right down to it, there is nothing less rational than asking people to put themselves in harm’s way for the good of someone else. Evolution has endowed us all with a survival instinct. We have a propensity to avoid life-threatening danger, if at all possible. How do you get people to go against their deepest instincts—and interests—in order to achieve someone else’s objectives?

The military takes a very pragmatic approach to leadership and leadership development. When I was a young cadet, training to become an infantry officer, we learned a set of basic principles to guide in our leadership.

  1. Achieve professional competence.
  2. Appreciate your own strengths and limitations and pursue self-improvement.
  3. Seek and accept responsibility.
  4. Lead by example.
  5. Make sure that your followers know your meaning and intent, and then lead them to the accomplishment of the mission.
  6. Know your followers and promote their welfare.
  7. Develop the leadership potential of your followers.
  8. Make sound and timely decisions.
  9. Train your followers as a team and employ them to their capabilities.
  10. Keep your followers informed of the mission, the changing situation, and the overall picture.

In addition to inculcating these principles, the military approach to leadership development focuses heavily on the “nuts and bolts” of leadership and influence. I call this the competence-based philosophy of leadership development. In a nutshell, officer candidates and rank and file soldiers who have been selected for development are put through grueling training that builds planning, decision-making and directing skills. The military hierarchy does not rely only on character traits and willingness to take charge, but also seeks to impart the specific skills and knowledge required to command.

The underlying assumption of competence-based leadership is that soldiers will follow their leaders if they have confidence in their abilities and judgment. Confidence is directly related to the leader’s abilities to make sound plans, give clear and specific direction to followers, and to exercise rational powers and decision-making even under extreme conditions. The military training system therefore takes a fairly mechanistic approach in imparting these competencies. Instead of simply haranguing trainees or giving them rousing speeches—although those are sometimes required—leadership instructors focus on the processes of situational analysis, problem solving, planning, and organizing. Military forces the world over have created standardized approaches for all aspects of the leader’s job, from how to analyze the enemy’s likely actions and intentions, to assessing the tactical value of ground, logistical requirements, personnel needs, ammunition calculations, etc. There are also standardized processes and templates to follow for tactical planning and giving orders and direction. Everything that a leader has to do has been broken down into discrete steps. The focus of leadership training and professional development is on acquiring the knowledge, skills and attitudes to apply these processes and methodologies in all circumstances. In the final analysis, conflict is too dangerous and important to be left to the vagaries of personality and natural talent. Leadership trainees are assessed against these requirements and must be able to implement them to a reasonable standard before official promotion and appointment to command.

I’ll have much more to say about all of these leadership principles and processes as the book progresses. The key point though is that leadership can be developed. Some people have more natural talent than others. Also, some people have more of the “right stuff” to progress through the ranks and be entrusted with very high levels of responsibility. However, no matter what the command level—tactical, operational, or strategic—leadership is fundamentally the same in form and philosophy. It is the content and complexity of the leadership and command challenges that change as hierarchical and operational responsibilities widen in scope and deepen in impact.

© 2016 Richard Martin. Reproduction, forwarding and quotes permitted with proper attribution.

Note: Please contact me if you or anyone you know of is interested in publishing this series as a book (or in any other format). I can also provide a full book proposal and will refer you to my agent. This is from the Introduction of my series on leadership and leadership development, based on my experience as an army officer and over 10 years as a business and management consultant helping businesses and executives to thrive in the face of rapid change, risk, and uncertainty. It comes from a book I started to write two years ago. I’ve been posting the introductory chapter as a series on this blog, which you can consult at the following links:

Leadership is the same in the military, business… and hockey

My purpose in writing this series on leadership

Why is the military approach to leadership so powerful?

Chapter 1: Competence Is the Heart of Leadership

Before we go any further, it will be helpful to define exactly what I mean by leadership. Whenever I’m facilitating a strategy retreat, working with an executive on developing her leadership competencies, or just in a discussion with a prospect or client, the question inevitably comes up as to what the (or my) definition of leadership is. If I’m conducting training or teaching, I usually turn the question around and ask the trainees or students what their definition of leadership is. When this happens, I always find that the answers cover a range of individual and group behaviors. However, the common element in these answers always has some combination of the following:

  • A leader provides a vision of the future.
  • A leader makes decisions.
  • A leader illuminate the way forward.
  • A leader sets the example.
  • A leader tells people what to do, and sometimes how to do it.
  • A leader inspires and motivates others.

All of these definitions are true, and they all point to a few critical ingredients of leadership. First, there must be a goal. Second, there must be a range of options for how to proceed, and a certain level of uncertainty and risk. Third, the leader must inspire and motivate. Lastly, leaders have to lead; they have to set the example.

But when all is said and done, my favorite definition of leadership is the one I learned in the army:

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

This definition is simple, perhaps deceptively so, but it encapsulates all of the elements of leadership that are salient to getting others to behave in a certain way in order to achieve a favored goal. Notice that this definition says nothing about providing a vision, making decisions, motivating others, or telling people what to do. There is no hint of coercion or authority, nor is there any indication that one should use any particular form of influence.

This definition also states that leadership is an art. There may be a certain amount of science and knowledge involved in leading, but ultimately it is more about honing a craft and applying the right skills and mindset than finding and applying the right formula. A good leader is a kind of artisan, honing his craft through diligent practice and experiential learning.

Another keyword in this definition of leadership is influence. Effective leaders use a range of approaches to influence others, from extreme “asking” to extreme “telling.” Sometimes a light touch is needed and a leader must influence by rational argument and evidence. At other times, the leader must get out in front and charge headfirst into enemy fire, hoping that the followers will follow. In some situations, leaders can ask for advice and get everyone to participate in problem solving and decision-making democratically. In others, the leader must be harsh and use threats and coercion to command obedience. It all depends on the leader’s objectives, the needs of the organization, the nature of the mission, and the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and emotional states of the followers. There is no magic recipe, and the more methods a leader has at her disposal to get others to follow her, the greater her range of effectiveness.

The final important element in this definition of leadership is that there is a mission. Leadership is only exercised in the context of some form of purpose or goal. If you’re just trying to influence others to like you or to hang out with you, there is nothing wrong with that. But that isn’t leadership. Leadership is goal-oriented.

© 2016 Richard Martin. Reproduction, forwarding and quotes permitted with proper attribution.