Wednesday, January 4, 2012

West Point Wisdom

I'm not a big fan of war.

But I'm a huge fan of the lessons in leadership that they teach at our military academies. Over the last few years I've had the benefit of getting to know Tom Kolditz from West Point, and to hear Tom give a number of very powerful talks about the fundamental practice of leadership and strategy that West Point imbues in its cadets.

Last year I got to listen to a talk that Tom gave to the board of AARP and just last week, as I was continuing to clean out my desk, I found the 3x5 card on which I had written some notes from Tom's talk.

Here's what it says, in its entirety. Few words, lots of power.

Minimum Plan Requirements
(The idea is, before you take action, go into an engagement, begin an assignment, what are the absolute minimum requirements you must meet? and by extension, if you can't meet them, don't start!)

(That's the top line: What is your strategic intent?)

(What is your purpose in taking this action?)

(How do you propose to go about doing it?)

End state
(What is the end state you aim to achieve?)

(Identify the risk factors in taking this action.)

Simple. Direct. Plain English. Straight forward.
I think this stuff is so simple, so common sense-based, it's just plain brilliant!
The kind of honest questioning that goes on a 3x5 card--and if used diligently, not only leads to better results, but also avoids horrible mistakes.
The kind of thing that all organizations need in developing better leaders at all levels.

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