by Chris Cancialosi
In the military, productivity is not optional. You have a clear mission. Your timelines are tight, and your resources may be limited. Sound familiar?
I learned several key strategies during my military service that have served me well as an entrepreneur. Each morning, my team and I plan the day to make every minute count, and each one of us knows our role and where we fit into our larger mission.
To accomplish more, improve efficiency, and reduce errors in your company, consider these techniques:
1. Plan for Success
Military planning has been refined over decades — and even centuries — to ensure a tremendous amount can be accomplished in a limited time. Before entering a risky situation, everyone must be clear about the mission and what needs to be done to accomplish it.
SOPs (standard operating procedures) exist so every soldier follows protocol and every person on the team can rely on a consistent set of operating principles, no matter what happens along the way. Likewise, it’s critical to give your team a clear vision and create a concise, unified plan.
Drive consistency into everything feasible in order to free team members’ minds to focus on more important aspects of the task at hand. Empower them to determine the most effective ways to reach their goals. Many times, you only have one attempt to achieve your mission. Make it count.
2. Check the Details
Checklists are crucial to establishing SOPs. To increase productivity and reduce errors in a fast-paced setting, you must have consistency throughout your team. In the military, SOPs even address which supplies are stored in a certain pouch in your pack in case someone needs to access it in the dark for you. This might sound like overkill, but in a combat situation, the mission runs more smoothly if you can rely on these factors.
The same principle applies to your business. Create detailed procedure documents and checklists for every project and responsibility, from hiring a new team member to resolving a customer complaint. If projects switch hands, a routine is already in place to smooth transitions and guarantee consistency without skipping a beat.
3. Adjust Fire
Most of the time, you don’t have all the information you need to make decisions until you’re in the thick of things. In practical situations, plans must be flexible. It’s important to stay vigilant, constantly assess the situation, and refine your plan as circumstances develop.
How quickly you can let go of a faulty plan directly impacts your productivity. If something isn’t working, find a new approach. As a leader, you have to achieve a balance between staying focused on your long-term goals and being aware of how the environment can affect things right in front of you.
4. Know Your Role
In the military, roles and responsibilities are very explicit. Confusion about where people fit into the bigger picture can jeopardize the mission, as well as people’s lives. The chain of command upholds order and direction, and these roles are rehearsed to the point where appropriate actions become muscle memory.
While a startup is bound to have a more horizontal structure with roles that evolve and overlap, clear communication about responsibilities is still vital. One of the most common productivity drains is an employee who doesn’t see how he or she contributes to the big picture — or, worse yet, doesn’t see the big picture at all. As a leader, you must assign roles on your team to people who have the ability and resources to deliver.
5. Serve Your Mission
“Mission first, people always” is a common saying in the military. The path to success may include asking people to lay down their lives for the cause. However, we always consider the human element. Allegiance to our nation and fellow soldiers strengthens our mindset and actions. This attitude can serve you well in any industry. Your clients depend on you. You can’t afford to make mistakes as a team. People rely on you to deliver on your word.
My military experience taught me the value of discipline and organization. Creating and seizing opportunities takes focus, planning, and vision. If your business can tap into these five techniques to achieve peak productivity, you’ll gain a clearer sense of every action’s value — and a noticeable edge on your competition.
Chris Cancialosi is founder and managing partner at gothamCulture. The team at gothamCulture focuses on identifying the underlying causes of organizational obstacles and assisting leaders in developing and executing breakthrough strategies to elevate performance. The team provides critical, thought-provoking insights to leaders who desire to use organizational culture and leadership as key drivers of performance.