Militaries of the world recognise that modern warfare will increasingly be fought and won by the individual soldiers on the ground. Centralised command and control can only help shape the battle-space for the warfighter but ultimately victory or defeat will be determined by the footsoldier at the front. Business is no different. Today’s customers no longer accept “standard” products and services and also demand the best service at the lowest price delivered immediately. Traditional head office decision-making is too slow and far removed from the “action” making it difficult for businesses to meet customer’s demands.
To enable their soldiers to fight effectively and win away from centralised control and decision making, militaries train their soldiers with the following three skills:
a. Understanding Commander’s Intent. In combat, the enemy and you continual react to each other’s actions. Hence, all battle plans are “correct” until the first bullet is fired. Thus, understanding the Commander’s Intent is key to co-ordinating the actions of every soldiers on the ground once things deviate from the plan. Again, business is no different. To ensure alignment all employee’s actions towards achieving the business’ objectives, business managers must communicate their strategy and business models to their employees. Communication should not only include the “how”, but also the “why”. Only by knowing the ‘big picture’ can frontline staff make decisions that are aligned with the business’ overall strategy.
b. Decision Making Framework. Recognising that all soldiers have different cognitive abilities, militaries teach their soldiers decision making frameworks designed to allow their soldiers to make the most logical decison when faced with a challenge. Although the framework may not produce the best solution in complex situations, the framework will at least ensure that soldiers make the most logic decision in the majority of situations. For businesses, a decision making framework will not only enhance the confidence of frontline staff to make the “right” decisions, but also set the level of authority the staff has to meet customer demands. This empowerment will then allow the frontline staff to more effectively serve the customer.
c. Continual Learning. Besides understanding what the Commander wants to achieve, and being given the authority and training to take empowered actions, militaries also teach their soliders to conduct After Action Reviews (AAR). This third skill is important skill as it ensures that soldiers continually improve their decision making skills so that they are more effective in subsequent engagements. Businesses can further leverage on these individual learning by introducing sharing sessions for all employees. Such sharing will increase business performance as the entire business learns from each and every encounter.
Doing business is often equated to being at war. In order to win, premier militaries have put together an effective system to ensure that their soldiers are able to fight and win away from centralised control. Businesses can do the same. Introducing the above three simple battle tested skills will enable businesses to meet and satisfy the demands of the modern consumer who wants the best customised product, at the lowest price delivered yesterday.