Saturday, September 6, 2014

Troop Leading Procedures Part 1 & 2

Troop Leading Procedures Part One
Have you ever been stuck in the middle of the argument about which Grandma gets to host Christmas? Then you know that as soon as you involve more than two people in a decision it becomes so much harder to get things settled.

The most difficult part of completing any operation – whether a business plan, charity fundraiser or community event – is human resource management. Getting a group of diverse people focused and oriented on a single objective often presents a significant challenge.

Effective human resource management is 2/3’s leadership and 1/3 management, respectively the Art and the Science. In future articles we will explore leadership in detail but for now let me share one tool that has helped me with the management side of the house, both in the Army and out. As the majority of human resource management is leadership, in this and future articles I will refer to all managers – supervisors, coaches, chairs, presidents, directors, committee champions etc. – as leaders.
From Field Manual 3-21.8 the Army’s basic management tool, Troop Leading Procedures, “comprise a sequence of actions that help leaders use available time effectively and efficiently.”  There are eight Troop Leading Procedures (TLPs): Receive the Mission, issue a Warning Order, make a Tentative Plan, initiate Movement, conduct Reconnaissance, complete the Plan, issue the Operations Order and Supervise.

Receiving the Mission is as simple as understanding what needs to be accomplished and that is where simplicity ends. Define what needs to be done in the same way you RSVP to a party invitation: By answering who is responsible, what is to be accomplished, where is the work to be done, when does it need to be done and how will it be done (what resources are available)? With the information annotated in that sequence you are ready get employees and teammates moving in the right direction.

The Warning Order has a specific format in the Army but whatever format you use its purpose is simple: Get your teammates thinking about all the small implied tasks needed to get the job done.  For a catering job this may mean the server gets the warming trays ready and the busboy readies cleaning tubs.  Use those five W’s to help subordinates prepare the things they need to be successful in whichever tasks you will set them.

Now that you’ve bought yourself a minute to think the whole process through it is time to make a Tentative Plan.  As you initially plan the Who is implied (surprise it’s you!) and the What is defined accepting the job. So, begin with When and start the planning process backwards. If the catering job is on Saturday then you’ve identified the amount of time you have to complete the job.  Where helps your planning process move ahead; perhaps the catering event is an outside wedding reception for 200 guests which means you’ll need cooling capabilities and you’ll have to contend with bugs and so on.

As we arrive at How, the in-depth analysis begins, we begin to assign resources to meet the challenge of feeding 200 people. Thinking through the resources and requirements will lead to assigning new “Whats” to “Whos.” For example, after the busboy returns from getting his cleaning supplies you can have him go to the shed and prep the folding tables.  And that is Initiating Movement.

Now that you, as the Caterer or Leader, have everyone moving in the right direction it is time to get a better idea of the venue.  Reconnaissance and the second half of the TLPs will be covered next time. 

Troop Leading Procedures Part Two:

Remember when the first car navigation systems came out, whether Nuvi or Tom-tom or Garmin they all had that Bladerunner-esque voice that sounded like a mix between Nicole Kidman and Stephen Hawking. Now, I know you remember this part: Every time you’d take a wrong turn she would say ‘recalculating…recalculating…recalculating….” Over and over and over until you either threw her out the window or shut her off and took your chances.

Car navigation systems have improved but it does not get you off the hook for conducting the most important Troop Leading Procedure (TLP) on the list: Reconnaissance. Recon gives you the lay of land, answers many of your planning questions and helps you, the leader, finalize the process.

Continuing with our catering allegory from last time, let’s say the outdoor wedding being catered is at a state park.  Recon can be accomplished in a number of ways. By map, pick up an atlas and index the park site. In person, drive to the park and see for yourself. Use human intelligence – a fancy military term for asking someone who has been there.

Use aerial surveillance. Luckily, each and every person has one of the most sophisticated and effective recon tools ever devised at finger’s length: Google. Hit the little Chrome app button on your smartphone and pull up high resolution imagery of the catering site fresh from the troposphere.

When reconnoitering, aim to answer three basic questions; how are you going to get there, what is the lay of the land and what does the terrain do for you.

Route recon is invaluable, it shows you the different ways to arrive at the catering site, how long it will take you to get there and what the travel conditions are. Maybe there is only one public entrance to the park and it’s on the opposite side as the crow flies, if it’s going to take long you’ll need to pack a little extra ice over the potato salad. What are the roads like, is the trailer going to handle well on the gravel or should we go another way?

Lay of the land. Where is the nearest parking to the site? Where are the water and garbage sites? Determining distance can be tricky on satellite images so if the scale bar doesn't work for you here is a little trick: Almost every satellite shot has a car in it, the average car length is about fifteen feet. If you are having a hard time visualizing distance for planning just ask yourself, “How many car lengths from point A to point B?”

Terrain. Will you have to lug food to the top of a hill? Is the site at the bottom of a hill and will you have to contend with rain washing it out?  Are there trees to provide shade or do you need the extra-big tent.

Reconnaissance is by far the most valuable of the TLPs. I still conduct a recon via Google maps before every trip. This is what I did in Iraq, it’s what the terrorists are using right now and it’ll work for you.

Reconnoitering in person is the preferred method but whatever you do, make sure to answer those three basic questions: how to get there, lay of the land and terrain. With the recon painting a vivid picture in your mind you are ready to “Complete the Plan,” which we will cover next time and round out the TLPs.

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