When performing capture-or-kill missions in Iraq, we often used Humvees as insert platforms. It didn't take long to see the difficulty of getting out of a Humvee and over a six-foot wall while wearing nearly 70 pounds of gear. It was taking us too long to get into the yard and breach the target. So we worked together to improve the existing strategy. We removed the doors, welded running boards along the side to stand on, and built ladders out of two-by-fours. By getting creative and working together, we cut our target entry time in half.
The elite nature of Navy SEAL culture is in large part driven by the creativity and organizational capabilities of its team members. Every single team member practices habits that enforce productivity. The same principles apply to startups, medium-size businesses, and global corporations. As an entrepreneur, I have diligently attempted to replicate this type of culture in my own organizations.
Here are nine ways that team leaders, and members, can ensure high productivity.
1. Get the right team members. Without self-discipline and accountability, no process will work. First and foremost, your team members must embrace the organization's values. You must recruit, train, and promote people on the basis of those values.
2. Clearly define roles. Once you have the right team, you need to make sure each person is sitting in the right seat, by clearly defining each person’s role and leaving some room for evolution. When people know exactly what is expected of them and how they will be judged, your team's efficiency and morale will improve.
3. Eliminate overlap. Inefficiencies are created when resources aren't allocated properly and overlap exists between internal teams. If you're overstaffed or have poorly defined roles creating these inefficiencies, do something about it.
4. Demand transparent communication. Move. Shoot. Communicate. That’s how we break down the essential capabilities of a great SEAL operator. Communication is the most important element. The culture has to promote honesty and the importance of constructive feedback between teams and individuals. One of our core values at our company is "Everyone has a voice." And believe me, everyone does! When you know you have the right people on your team, it's foolish not to want their input.
5. Always improve processes. SEALs constantly adapt their combat tactics. If you fight the same enemy long enough, it will adapt to your strategies. So you must adapt as well. Owing to growth, economic shifts, or industry changes, every company has to evolve. To do this well, the team must regularly audit its systems and identify what needs improving.
6. Fill the gaps. When an efficient team has a rhythm for auditing the way it does things, gaps will be revealed. If this occurs, make the necessary changes quickly. Doing so will have an immediate positive impact.
7. Remove obstacles. When we found a more efficient way to get out of the Humvee, it was a team of enlisted operators that provided the concepts and execution for improving our efficiency. In the corporate world, removing obstacles usually costs money, and that means approvals from above are needed. Productive team members at ground level are usually in the best position to understand what's not working. Leadership has to trust and empower them to make change.
8. Problem-solve creatively. Imagination played a key role in improving the operational capabilities in SEAL teams over the years. At our company, working in an industry that is constantly changing has forced us to be always evaluating and changing the ways we provide our services to clients. This requires organizational restructuring, recruiting new talent, and constant training. We get the team involved, get creative, and adapt.
9. Embrace adaptability. We often fail to change soon enough to avoid problems. One of my favorite quotes is "No plan survives first contact with the enemy." And I can assure you that is true. You can do all of the planning you want, but having the capability to truly be dynamic and flexible is what sets apart the best organizations.
Take the time now to ensure that your company is set up for success.