Laws of combat in business
The book, extreme ownership goes through the importance of a leader who takes charge of the situation whatever that may be and solve the problem after fully recognizing it.
When a problem has been identified it is crucial for anyone to step up and think; Why has this happened? It may be the fault of an individual or it could be a variable that has not been taken into consideration or it could be a factor that one cannot control such as the weather. Most times it is the fault of the leader that something has gone wrong. The book states that leaders must take charge of the whole operation/ mission and therefore if something goes wrong it is the leader’s fault. In the first chapters of the book this is emphasized with the saying “there are no bad teams, only bad leaders. “
This is explained well by the books example of navy seals training. In the 2 weeks of training called “hell weeks” groups of students must move a rubber boat in the middle of the night after 36 hours of rigorous training. The boat groups have leaders assigned to each team. The point of the exercise was to see how the students would cope in leadership roles and the pressures that those roles give. In the race, boat 2 was in the lead with their team consisting of tall and strong cadets who were led by a capable leader. Boat 6 on the other hand was last in the race and the leader of the group felt like fate had dealt him a bad hand as his teammates were not as strong as those of team 2. The trainer of the session, Laif Babin, instructed that the leaders of teams 2 and 6 would swap to see what would happen. The leader of team 6 was overjoyed as he felt that finally fate was on his side and he was given a good team. Later, in the race, it turned out that despite given the supposedly better teammates, boat number 2 did worse than before purely because of the swap of the leader. When the leader of boat 2 went to boat 6, the first thing he had done was take responsibility and fully confronted the situation with the team and plainly stated that their performance was not good. The moral of this story was that the leader of boat 2 took full responsibility of his team, whichever one that then was, and tackled with the problems that the team was facing at the time. This was extreme ownership. On the other side of the spectrum the leader of team 6 only wanted to blame the external factors that played a part in the performance of a team and thus did not take full responsibility. As a result, his leadership style heavily evolved around blaming others for the lack of performance rather than looking at themselves and how they led.
Laws of combat and how they relate to business life
1. Cover and Move
The first law of combat is cover and more where the main objective is to look out for the other members of your team and protect them from potential dangers. The essence of the law is that when a group of troops need to move to a certain location, they will have another group of soldiers covering their back and making sure that they reach their location safely. After the first group has then reached their location, they will provide covering fire for the second
group to move. This manoeuvre allows the army troop to move quickly and safely to and from different locations.
This point seems very military oriented and it can be hard to understand how this can be applied in civilian or business life. The point of the law is to look out for each other and make sure that a team or group is always looked out for. This is a fundamental layer of trust that every team or department should have. Often departments are detached and only focus on their own goals, such as production output or the number of recruitment that need to be made. But this often results in departments getting tunnel vision and only thinking about their own goals and not about the bigger picture. It is important that department leaders communicate with each other so that they can relay information about how their actions will affect other departments operations. Giving information on what departments need from each other allows for a level of trust to be built so that they can then in confidence ask for help and resources when needed. This obeys the first law of combat. Being there for each department or team allows the whole organisation to work more effectively and efficiently. This law of combat I believe has been in Proakatemia and in the team that I am in so far. The immediate willingness to help and willingness to cooperate with each other supports this theory that everyone is there to help the common cause. The mission of Proakatemia is to create a paragon of new entrepreneurship and I believe this can be done by using this law of combat so to say. Having each team understand teamwork and be willing to cooperate with each other in order to make this mission a reality.
The second law of combat is to simplify as much as possible. In the army often the junior officers would take on many tasks that would eventually build up so that they would have too much going on at a time. This resulted in the young leaders not managing situations well and as a result, Jocko goes on to explain, their leadership was simply ineffective and there was a lot of confusion within the team the young leader oversaw.
The solution to this problem is to simplify the plans and order as much as possible so that everyone understands what is going on and how to operate in each situation. This rule would apply to everything, from chains of command, to the way troops would communicate with each other and their leaders. The main point of this rule is to keep everything concise and simple so that there is no room for misunderstandings. Having a simple order or plan will help everyone when in any situation. As a business leader myself I can understand and relate to this point as there have been many situations where plans have been too complex and the whole team does not necessarily understand what they should be doing. As a result of this misunderstanding people are finding it hard to be motivated to do a certain task, not to mention it is hard for them to even understand what their task is and what is the meaning behind it. I believe that knowing what the meaning of your work is greatly impacts the motivation that you have towards completing a task. As a team leader I want to take full responsibility of not necessarily explaining in simple terms what our team is doing for a certain project and why. That is one of my main goals to improve upon. It is certainly a thing that needs improving in order to better the whole team’s functionality and effectiveness. Many a time there has been situations where our
communication channels have been flooded with questions as people are not too sure what is going on. This ranges from project tasks to be made, to organising pajas and team meetings. Due to these problems one of our tasks as a team is to make sure that everyone understands what is happening and my responsibility as a team leader is to make sure that tasks are explained in as simple of a format as possible.
3. Prioritize and execute
The third law of combat revolves around the key practice of prioritising and executing tasks. Laif Babin tells a story where him and his men were on a mission where they had to search a building when things went wrong. One Navy Seal operator fell 20 feet to the ground and was immobilised and in agonising pain. This complicated things as the team was already in a hairy situation as insurgent fighters were closing in on their position and were prepared to kill them in Ramadi, Iraq.
In that situation Laif Babin explained that he had to prioritise the most important factors and work his way through each problem that he was facing at the time, calmly and collectively. He goes on to explain that the most important factor in that situation was securing the perimeter of the building that they were in. To ensure the safety of all the other seal operators that were on the mission Laif Babin said that his main priority at the time was to secure the area and only after then think about the next priority. This method of prioritising an objective will allow the leader to think about the next things that need to happen for a task to be completed well. This can be used in business life as well, as Laif goes on to explain. Leaders need to be able to prioritise objectives so that they can concentrate on the task at hand at 100% capacity. The objective of doing this is to make sure that the team is also giving their all towards the task. Having many tasks to be done at the same time can lead to a lot of confusion and if communication is not done properly it can lead to severe misunderstandings and mistakes. As a result, having the whole team working on one thing at a time can be a lot better than dividing the forces and spreading the team’s efforts thin.
4. Decentralise command
The fourth law of combat is the decentralisation of command, this means that the leader should be able to spread their authority to others in order to be more efficient. Having more than 10 people to manage will make your job impossible as a leader and as a result one should be able to recognise who is capable to take on more responsibility and can be a manager for a smaller team. Therefore, larger teams need junior leaders to divide the responsibility and pressure that leaders often get when managing their teams. These junior leaders will then report to the main team leader and as a result the span of control becomes less per person. It is important to delegate tasks and responsibilities to others as it can help the leader keep focus on the bigger picture and make sure that the whole team is on track with the main objective that has been set. The danger of this on the one hand is how well the communication processes are planned. If the communication processes are poorly designed there is great risk of having misunderstandings and therefore decision making, for example, can become much more difficult and time consuming. In the military it is crucial that communication is kept simple and easy to understand as otherwise the decentralisation of command and power would simply not work. As a takeaway, communication is key and any organisation should make sure that when decentralising command, they should keep communication methods as simple as possible.
In Proakatemia, there are many teams and roles that are filled out for the sake of the team. Teams often have business or team leaders who in general, make sure that the team is okay and that everyone in the team is well and motivated towards the common goal. Having just one person in charge of 15 or more people will make the life of the team leader very hard, as managing more than 9 people at a time is impossible. Taking my own experiences into consideration our team has had projects in which project managers were needed in order to get the project done efficiently. A project manager could communicate with the team leader in this case and make sure that their segment of the team is doing what is required in order to finish the project. This then reduces the span of control and responsibility that one person has and thus can make their life easier when concentrating on different projects. It is important for business leaders to recognise this as one person cannot manage everyone. Having people that the leader can trust to manage a small group of people is vital for the team to be more effective. This builds a core level of trust and allows for more team members to explore the roles of management and leadership. This can benefit the whole team as when everyone has an idea of what leadership is and what good leadership looks like, they can reflect their own behaviour to match the good leadership allowing them to be a more proactive and productive team member.