Culture if more important than anything
It is the single most important element that any leader should obsess upon. It is created and exists even if you don’t think about it. Culture affects everything from esprit-de-corps to productivity. It’s also vitally important to gauge and ensure you and your key leaders are aligned as to how you are defining what it is and what you value, within your group.
As a leader, you are responsible for the culture of the team. It’s hard to shape and maintain and even harder to get back on track, once misaligned.
Everything is Phase 0 (shaping)
Words and Deeds have meaning, and problems occur when these things do not align. You and your leaders must strive to ensure you, “do what you say and say what you do.” Deviations of your ‘true north’ (no matter how small) create ripple effects amongst the greater team. In this regard, the team redefines the zeitgeist of the organization constantly… and usually when leadership is not around.
So – be certain you are matching what you want as culture to any actions as leaders.
Three-Dimensional Thinking is a Leader’s Prime Directive
When an opportunity presents itself (good, bad or indifferent) the first questions should always be, “should we keep doing the same thing…the same way.” Always stop and ask yourself, “What are other ways we can achieve” or “How can we refine the way this is done?” Even if the end-state is no change, thinking the issue through this way and forcing the conversation amongst your leadership is key to developing a growth mindset and instilling your cultural values.
If nothing else, remember you and your key leaders are stewards of your organization and company. Have full faith, respect and trust in your folks to, as Norman Schwarzkopf said, “Do what’s right” and hold the line on maintaining the culture of the organization.
How do you think about and develop culture within your own group?
Strategy. You hear this word a lot. Whether it’s managing a line of business or an operation, it feels like it is an imperative to understand and have strategy within your program. Without it though, it’s certain you risk forfeiting your activity and any long term gains you might hope to achieve with your protection efforts.
Obviously, the overarching goal is the protection of your designate(s). So that’s our strategy, ‘nuff said, right? Wrong. That’s “the mission.” Strategic thinking involves more, “Strategic thinking is a process that defines the manner in which people think about, assess, view, and create the future for themselves and others” (Ebersole, 2017). Making longer decisions and plans require a bit more in order to support the operational mission. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts to help you get started to set your strategy or, perhaps, evaluate your current one.
Understand the concept of risk based protection
Protection efforts and programs are started from ‘risk.’ Whether direct or indirect, it is this spark from which all stems. However, risk is an asymmetrical beast. It is both malleable and elusive, constantly trying to evade and undermine your actions. To this end, you must have a process by which risk is being evaluated and qualified.
Develop your risk model or system (easily searched) and ensure you use it. It should and will be important to driving your long-term plans as well as helping decision making.
Resource management is a center of gravity
Every program must understand, set and track resources. This is about more than financials, too. It spreads to areas such as people and equipment, as well. We need to value these items, as they are vital to keeping momentum within our organizations and ensure the protective program we have in place doesn’t lag. It’s an important factor in a program’s readiness.
Placing and tracking value will help you identify trends in resources and allow you to become more predictable in those areas. This will help earmark and deal with those areas you can’t, too. Like those sudden fast balls or other operational surges.
Think Three Dimensionally
Risk is not a balanced problem. As a result, neither should your approach to managing strategy be. As the missions remains (to protect) you should always be looking at new angles of approach to the strategic vision. It means looking at new optics of risk, while questioning your old ones. Charles Koch suggested in his 2007 book, The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company, “the principal of vision to ascertain [long term] value can and should be created in any organization, at any given time” (Koch, 2007).
It’s important to constantly re-examine our risks and look for opportunities vice doing the same things we have always done and, perhaps, sense any black swans circling for opportunity to swoop in and throw us off of our operational mission.
Obviously, so much more to designing and maintaining a strategy. It should be part of your regular meter to obsessively examine and track your strategic goals.
Hopefully, these ideas validated or generated some questions for you. How have you set and manage your protective team’s strategy?
Ebersole, J. G. (2017, NOV 15). Course and Direction. Retrieved from cssp.com: http://www.cssp.com/CD0808b/CriticalStrategicThinkingSkills/
Koch, C. G. (2007). The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company. New York: Wiley.
While on vacation, I was fortunate enough to have found some nice ‘hard-pack’ roads to run on, off the beaten path. The cool morning and sun shining through the trees made me reminisce about being a young Army officer, learning how to and conducting patrols in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Any Infantryman will tell you, after battle drill 1A, one of the keys to understanding how patrolling works is the movement of the team throughout the activity. Everyone has their position, each knows their primary roles and (if needed or called upon) can step up to a tertiary duty, as well. Through training and honing their collective skills, a patrol can move pretty well with limited verbal communications (hand and arm signals anyone). One test of this is the danger area. This, as it sounds, is an area which presents a particular risk interest to the patrol. It could be an open area, or somewhere where enemy activity is more present. Essentially, it can be many risk vectors that, for some reason, give the patrol a reason to pause, assess, decide and react – preferably without upsetting the rhythm of movement for the patrol, so that it can get back on point as quickly as possible.
Now, there are multiple ways in which a group can manage a danger area, once it has been identified. Like Close Protection Operations, there is as much art that goes into conducting infantry operations as there is science and planning. Without the later, however, the former can less synchronized and nuanced.
Once the danger area is detected the patrol stops, taking a short pause to assess the danger and decide how they will best traverse. Mind you, for those who are trained and work together, a professional organization doesn’t need to waste a lot of time at this stage. As they are practiced and professional, the team has worked thru the variable ways and, thus, when it comes time for the patrol leader to decide how they will move through the danger area they do so…silent and smooth. It is a ballet of bad-assery to observe. Silently, a stealthy team (or larger) wisps its way, with limited interruption, each person understanding what is at stake, their role in the activity, moving without hesitation and with confidence.
What can we learn from this, as Close Protection professionals?
Like a patrol, the CP team (or agent) has been given the task to move forward, towards an objective. In the patrol’s case, it could be many things (recon position, link up points, a patrol base, etc.). A CP mission may be to go to a meeting, an event, or perhaps just getting the principal through a day of activities. In both cases, there are probably multiple moves going on within the larger objective.
Plan the movement
Planning is inherent in both. While we don’t always know what the actual detail may bring us, it’s important to plan the operation for as much as we know. If all easel fails, understanding “how” you will conduct the detail (much like a patrol) is key as you move forward and have to modify actions on-the-move.
Understand the triggers for a danger area
Hopefully you have conducted some type of intelligence prep of your detail. Whether it is an individual or group who conducts your assessment, getting the lay-the-land you will be working in helps identify danger areas and activities you need to formulate responses and mitigative activities or resources towards.
Have a Contingency
In conjunction with the above, having a (at the very least) outline of possible ways to deal with each of the identified issues (think science) will allow
Practice the important parts
I know…. You don’t have time. But, you should make time to (at the least) chalk talk the issues so that, if it happens, you have at least walked through it. If, however, you can take time during your advance to dry run a few of the activities with your team or support crew, it makes the world of difference. Some teams (say a PSD) this is not an option, others may need to collectively get over the ego hump and do it, if only occasionally. Remember, just because you know it, doesn’t mean someone else get’s it (or will admit they don’t).
Communicate the movement plan to all agents/support operatives
You’ve got your plan and have talked about the issues. Take time to brief and discuss with the team and/or your support team. Ensure they know each of the issues and their play in t. Ask for input (especially from the locals) but remember, know one understands or knows the operational plan like you. Spend some time on the contingency and “signals” plan. How will we communicate? Who will you take orders from (maybe the front right is not the best place for the leader to be) and what happens if the leader is out of the loop.
Discussing the possible mitigation activities helps bring confidence to the overall team and creates a culture of professionalism within the group that will transcend beyond the detail, and into the larger organization (or group) you work in.
One more thing…
Finally, leaders need to lead. The show is your responsibility, embrace it. Whether a solo operator dealing with contingency staff at an event or a detail lead of 15 people, it’s your ball. Set a tone and work with what you are handed to create as much of a professional grouping as you can, with the time you have. Like our infantry comrades, the more we be prepared, the better we can cross our danger areas and move forward.
Keep your heads down.
It’s 2230 hours somewhere in East Asia. The principal has finally gone to sleep and you have put her chief of staff to bed, as well as the two folks from the communications division that tagged along on the trip. You’re in your room mulling over the schedule for the next day because the local branch of the company has made some changes to the schedule and the boss approved. Satisfied that you have an understanding, you decide to get some sleep. As you get ready for bed, you hear something going on outside the window, most likely down in the entryway. You think “Radio” but then realized they are not allowed in this country for foreign teams. Texting your partner, they indicate they are trying to get your local support on the phone.
Quickly running options, you say, “Get the cars around to the side checkpoint and call me back in 5 minutes.” Pulling on your polo and grabbing your small bugout bag the hotel phones rings. It’s the principal. She wants to know if your tracking all this. You calmingly state you are and that she needs to stay put, you’re coming to her. She asks about the staff. You say they should be in their rooms and she replies the last thing they told her was that they were going to the lobby bar for a nightcap. She wants you to organize everyone into her suite and hangs up the phone. As you’re moving you pick up the cell and call your #2 thinking, this detail just got a lot more complex…
What do you do? How would you plan? What contingencies are running through your mind? Are there any locals you can call? What’s my network like? Can we make it to our safe zone? Why did they go get a nightcap when you told them not to?
Understanding the experiences from incidents and trials others have had helps us plan our own details and future contingencies. The aim of the International Protective Security Board (IPSB) is to spark these types of exchanges thru education and networking activities. Building a positive and deeply rich extended group of contacts is helpful. At times, I have needed everything from language support on a person of interest who popped up (long story) to suddenly having to change out an entire local provider at the last minute (more long stories).
Come meet up with other fellow practitioners and share stories, break bread, extend friendships and engage in new professional contacts. We are going to have a full range of speakers and will be covering a wide range of issues, from tactical to the strategic. I’m personally excited to see the new tac-talks that are coming.
This is an event by practitioners, for practitioners. It doesn’t matter what school or group you came or work with… this is our industry’s time to come together. Mount up and come be part of the conversation this December 2nd and 3rd in Vegas!
Show up. Chat with co-workers. Perform tasks. Respond to emails. Work on a Project X, Y or Z. Make Phone calls. Attend to tasks. Have a cup of coffee. Scan internet. Put it to bed…wake up, rinse and repeat.
Every day, people everywhere perform and repeat this pattern, or something similar to this. It’s not a bad thing. Come in, do work, socialize a bit, eat, do more things and then call it a day. Every once-in-a-while things get taken home or the occasional early/late meeting is attended to account for an international colleague. Generally, we know this as work… and it is, for most. – It is a requirement.
You…you, however, are a leader. Those tactical things I just referred to as “requirements,” they are items we are expected to perform and they make up the reason that we were brought on in the first place. Ensuring mission planning is done, making sure we have met our weekly plans, attending meetings and reporting out on activity, etc. etc. These are activities that, while a major motion for a lot of our team, make up one part of what we as managers (or leaders) must execute on.
Mentoring, thinking, tasking, tracking, advising, spending time and strategizing…these are activities which drive us as leaders. They are the things we need to get done in order to move our organization forward.
They map to larger ideals like:
- Culture Change
- Reinforce a climate of communications, collaboration and innovation that creates a “bias-for-action”
- Knowledge Management
- Establish an environment to capture/refine/share organizational knowledge
- Strategic Business Planning
- Thoughtful, deliberate, timely and cost-effective decisions
- Cross-Functional Alignment
- Improve overall efficiency through coordination and synchronization
It’s daunting. When we were hired to be an agent or analyst it was fairly simple to show up, do the list, move on to the next item and check that block…MAKE A DOUGHNUT. Now we have to do that and more… MANAGE AN EXPERIENCE. It’s because we have a higher sense of responsibility to feed, manage and take care of this beast that we own. – It is our priority.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once said, “If you’re going to do a job… do a job.” Simply put, he was explaining to be a part of something, you need to be all in. You need to give of and beyond yourself by… doing the deep work.
That’s the thing, though. What is my j-o-b? Your job is to help conceive strategy, be thoughtful and deliberate, to understand your line of effort, listen and, above all else, take care of your people. After all, they are the ones fulfilling the requirements as we work on our organization’s main priorities.
Intelligence Analyst – Five things your boss is thinking but may not tell you: TWO is surprising and FIVE is vital
1 – I’m also a critical thinker, I just may not use the same vocabulary as you
Hey, I may not use the same language, but I’m also analytical (I may just not realize it). By doing operational analysis, I’m developing courses of action (COAs) and making mission assumptions based on the facts in front of me. When on an operation or in an emergency, I’ll be using what I have gathered and developing COAs based on pre-thought scenarios and trends that are manifesting. Just like you, I’m a critical thinker; please, remind me of that from time-to-time.
2 – I need you to help me, help you, to help me
Your request for information (RFI) process may not be the same one that I am familiar with. I also may not fully understand how to ask for what I need or am unsure of what you can do. Therefore, I need you to take the lead in this dance . Show me what you’ve got and suggest we walk through the operations plan (OPLAN) together. When we do that, listen and ask questions. As an operator, I may not care about the form you need filled out, I do need your insight and keen eye towards pattern analysis to see something I don’t. Honestly, I need you to be my partner and educate to develop me.
3 – Sometimes, I need you to slow down
You can get excited, I get it (and I like that about you). But, if I’m excited and your excited and we are all excited….well, I need you to be the one to slow down and make sure we are paying attention to detail and managing the little things which always come up in the form of Mr. Murphy – and his damnable law. Offer up some advice, ensure you stuff is double-checked before you hit send and be that calming voice . I’ve got a lot going on and sometimes I may just need to see someone being outwardly steadfast.
4 – You don’t have a crystal ball, I know that… let me know what you think anyway
I get it, you’re not 100%. Guess what, neither am I. I don’t need you to be all knowing (although, secretly I wish you were). I just need you to give me the best understanding you have and say the same. If it doesn’t go down the way you describe, I may get cranky…but I don’t blame you (I’m probably blaming myself). No one expects the black swan’s arrival, but I need you to tell me when you think conditions may be right for impending issues.
Finally, and most important…
5 – I trust you
From the mundane to the insane, you’re my go-to! I may always not say it, but you are. I have a healthy trust in your abilities. This is why I ask you to brief first, set the tone and put a ‘realistic’ filter on what’s happening. The interwebs opened up a whole new meaning to the concept of ‘breaking news ‘and I can’t always be sure they affect our situation. I know you have my back, you understand my needs, and will tell me what’s important in the din. Because you’re intelligent, professional, curious and thoughtful… I trust you.
this is dedicated to the my favorite analysts…
“Educate To Develop” and “Delegate To Develop“- two principals to embrace in your efforts to be more strategic.
Give guidance, direction and intent. Fight the urge to do it all. Remember, empowering five people to do five things is just as important (if not more) as one person who tries to micro-manage everything.