Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lessons from the Australian Army

As many of you know, I spent the first seven years of my working life as an Officer in the Australian Army.  The 25th anniversary of our officer training class is this year, and we've had emails flying around organizing a reunion - it's great to hear from people that I haven't seen in 20+ years.

While many people don't like military analogies, much of our training was around management theories, and how to get the job done efficiently.  We studied much of what your typical MBA student would cover, and were able to put it into practice in our careers.

One of the classmates from Officer Cadet School (OCS) Portsea is Cameron Hetherington, and he now works as a consultant in Brisbane Australia, specializing in business planning I was struck by the simplicity and accuracy of this message from Cameron:

"You probably released very quickly, as I did,  how useful our military training has been when you start working with some of these businesses; basic organisation, leadership and communication are lacking.  It’s amazing the success that can be achieved when a well communicated plan is in place!"

Absolutely correct - I know that success in my own startups has largely been due by paying attention to the basics above.  All the vision in the world, market and product plans, opportunities, contacts etc cannot make up for a lack of effective execution, so focus on:
  1. Basic Organization - have defined processes to get things done.  These don't need to be complex, but encourage repeatability, and everyone knows what needs to happen for success.
  2. Leadership - motivate your employees to do great things.  Leadership is not the same thing as management - leadership is inspiring your people. John Gardner said it well "...leaders can conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations and unite them in pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts."
  3. Communication - make sure everyone knows what is happening. A 15 minute standup meeting every day, and a one hour team meeting each week is a great way to keep everyone informed and make sure the left hand knows what the right is doing.
Nice one Cameron.

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