+++ As being posted on LinkedIn +++
I had the opportunity to attend training at the Academy of Leadership of the German army. During the time there I learned an universal and pragmatic tool to cope with decisions in critical situations. I gave this tool to all of my team members ever since with the advice to see behind the military façade of it and use its core in business. You do not have to follow it slavishly but it is a good navigator**.
The military uses management by objectives. Which seems strange first – we all tend to think of a pure command and control scenario – is an absolute must. Soldiers are working in groups of specialists. Modern warfare asks every soldier to be a leader and to be led in constant change. In a way, a situation also quite common for today’s business scenario. So, having a look on the toolsets the military developed is interesting for sure.
One method is a format how to prepare and finally ask for a decision to be done from your management. At the first sight, the military way of doing it seems long and complex. I couldn’t believe it at first and asked my trainer when this is done. The answer was simple: Always, even under direct fire. Because these three minutes extra have proven to save lives later. In business, these three minutes reduce waste and save time.
So, whenever I want my management to decide or I am asked to decide, I stick to the following format. It all starts with an Analysis of the Order. It is something you do for yourself to start with but keep it in records. Whenever you give a status report or ask for a decision, you start by presenting your analysis as an introduction.
Analysis of the Order:
(1) Repeat the order given in the exact format it was given to you. This introduces all parties into the situation. Your manager might do a lot of things at once and she might not have present what the question was here.
(2) Intent of the superior in your own words. Reformulate this in your own words. Make it short and precise. It forces you to think about it and surfaces if you simply did not understand the request. If so, ask for clarification better in the beginning then after working for ours on the wrong things. Given your interpretation to the manager gives her the opportunity to see if you understood her intent. And finally, always fulfil the intent and not the direct order. Situations might change and you need to adapt.
(3) My main performance. You will probably be part of a larger team and you play a part here. Giving this information to the manager shows again if you understood what is asked.
(4) Restrictions. There are limitations (e.g. lack of resources, time constraints) and you need to make people aware of this as well as be aware to manage accordingly.
(5) Logical consequences / Check questions. You could call this KPIs or success control. Formulate questions and measurement to gauge the progress and final success of your actions.
If you know have to ask for a decision, stick to the following format:
(1) Analysis(see above)
(3) What has to be decided now?
(4) When needs the decision to be done latest?
(5) What options for a decision do we have (with the major arguments pro and con for each)?
(6) What option would I choose as the expert?
The key here is to optimally prepare the decision maker by giving the right amount of information. It is also a mean to steer the decision because it is easy for the decision maker to follow your advice. The preparation takes time and effort but pays back. And if you have an unprepared meeting, don’t be surprised about the outcome.
Let’s make a simple example:
Order given: Handling 3 party tracking on our customer nurturing process is a lengthy and complex process that leads to partner complaints. Your team should take over the process ownership.
Intention: Enabling a friction free onboarding of new partners as well as reducing measurement errors during tracking
Main performance: (1) Analysis of current situation, (2) requirement gathering and analysis from partner side, (3) process design and technical implementation, (4) operation and continuous improvement of process
Restrictions: (1) Process spans multiple teams, (2) current process needs to kept working until replacement is in place, (3) project has no budget assigned by now
Logical consequences: (1) Reduction in partner onboarding time, (2) reduction of measurement errors
Status: We analysed partner needs and the situation we are in. To detail out possible implementations, we look for a basic decision.
What is to be decided? To provide an agile infrastructure, we need to revise the backend and do some major changes. This might be a major investment and defines the future flow of the project.
When needs the decision to be done? It blocks further work on the project, so a fast decision taking is necessary. At latest Friday this week, otherwise project gets delayed.
What options do we have? (1) Home grown process engine (Pro: The most flexible/Con: Most complex, expensive, longest development time), (2) Using BPM engine (OSS or licensed) (Pro: Faster implementation, supported, error proved, Con: Less flexible, expensive), (3) Using cloud based BPM (Pro: Faster implementation, supported, error proved, pay what you need, Con: On heavy load might be more costly than on premise, relying on cloud provider)
What option would I choose? Cloud based BPM.
It is a simple example and certainly in real live you would add more information. But please note one thing: Reformulating the intention behind the request gives a lot of more insight. For me this is the key to success.
** It is based on the HDv or Heeresdienstvorschrift. This is a collection of standards covering all aspects of military life. It is comparable to the NATO’s STANAG. The content of HDv 100/100 is similar to STANAG 2014 and it describes a standard format to give a military order.You can find similar standard formats for firefighters or ambulances.