Articles on Navy SEALs are popular right now in business magazines. There's something about this group of warriors.
For us business men and women, especially entrepreneurs, SEALs seem to hold some sort for secret to success. From their famed hell week portion of training to high profile missions, there must be some lessons in there for the rest of us.
Of late, there have been a handful of former SEALs who have made the transition into the world of business book writing, speaking, and consulting. Rorke Denver and the duo of Jocko Willink and Leif Baben, with their book Extreme Ownership, have been just a few who represent a growing number of SEALs who use their success on the battlefield to teach business folk how to be successful in the markets.
The lessons are solid. The stories these men tell are stunning, straight out of a movie. You can't help but to listen or read with wrapped attention.
On a recent listen to a podcast done by Jocko Willink, named Jocko Podcast of course, I heard a mention of a phrase the SEALs use in planning. It struck me as brilliant in it's simplicity.
"Two is one and one is none."
This idea simply emphasizes the importance of a backup plan. That having one of something is like having none at all and that having two of anything is the same as what you think having one is. This concept is applied to everything in the sphere of a SEAL's world from supplies to weapons to gear and even clothing.
It most importantly applies to mission planning. One plan means no plan. Two plans? Well that's as good as one. SEAL mission planning has become stuff of legend. Detailed battle maps with mission briefs in even greater detail. I read in one article a SEAL joke how his greatest skill coming out of the SEAL Teams was a "masters degree in Microsoft PowerPoint" referring to the number of detailed mission plans he presented during his time as a SEAL.
In all of the lessons from SEALs that could transfer to executing a business, this simple idea might be the one that sticks.
Recently, I was working with a CEO colleague on some challenges he was facing in his sales organization. He had hastily promoted his top sales producer into a sales management role, and it just wasn't working out.
In many cases, the skills that enable amazing sales performance simply do not translate into amazing sales management performance. This isn't new. It's a mistake leaders have been making forever. And, once that promotion has been made, it's just hard to undo. What you're left with is the loss of that great rep's production and a bad sales manager. It's a lose - lose. It's hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
But, it's a problem we had to tackle. This CEO had recently raised significant capital and needed to trend up and to the right. Time was of the essence. But, how should we go about getting this top sales rep back into his right roll and hire in a worthy sales manager without blowing things up?
We talked about a plan A. Explain to the Rep that we needed a handful of enterprise accounts to hit, and he was the only one who could land them. Also, we'd over-compensate him for landing these needle-moving accounts. Sounded solid.
Towards the end of our chat, I asked what his Plan B was.
"What will you do if he reacts differently, and just hits the eject button? What is your Plan B?"
"Well yes," I said "you know that one plan equals no plan and two plans equal one plan, right?"
The next 2 minutes is the closest I've ever come to being a Navy SEAL. Which is only to say that I was able to use a Navy SEAL planning method to explain how to work through a problem. Which is to say, I am nothing even close to a Navy SEAL but you and I can borrow their proven strategies to win.
We devised a plan B. We talked through and started planning for the rep just leaving. We set up some alternative plans and reached out to some key accounts.
As it turned out, he stayed. We were able to pull out plan A. But, plan B forced us to look at the situation differently. We have some new things in place as a direct result of plan B.
What does mission planning look like in your role? What does it look like for your organization? What's your plan B?
This one under-the-radar SEAL method of planning simply made us better, and it can make you better too.