Guest Post: Operationalizing Your Philosophy

Today’s guest post is written by Josh Larson, an Active Duty Army Officer with experience at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. He is a Brazilian Jiujitsu practitioner, combatives aficionado, and avid fisherman with a knowledge background based in leadership and criminal justice. He is currently a student at the US Army Command and General Staff College.

This post originally appeared at Military Jiujitsu on January 29, 2016.

In a previous assignment I had the privilege to work for a General Officer in the Pentagon. Granted everyday was a learning experience, but one day in particular has stuck with me and makes me constantly question how am I operationalizing my leader philosophy.

Without being too specific, the discussion arose about the Army Campaign Plan (ACP) and how the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) wanted to operationalize the ideas that were put on paper. My boss made the point that most “vision statements”  are merely that, thoughts in the air, with little callout clouds. He went on to discuss how the CSA was operationalizing the ACP by tying measures of performance (MOP) and measures of effectiveness (MOE) to the Army Campaign Plan. This operationalization would then be able to:

  1. Measure Progress
  2. Adjust as needed
  3. Place emphasis on efforts that were lacking detail and/or clarity

After reflecting on this idea of operationalization, I took my old Command Philosophy and asked myself this question: “Did I merely write words in a callout cloud, or did I tie measurable events to the vision I created”?

The second question I asked myself was: “How did I measure ?”

This was my command philosophy. You’ll see that there are five areas needed for success. Each area has a succinct description of what I feel needs to happen. Brevity is important in that a Private needs to be able to read it, understand it, inculcate it, and execute it. The order of each area is intentional in that without #1 there is no #2, 3, 4, or 5.

command phil

Building upon the philosophy, I’ve developed my now operationalized command philosophy (depicted below). You can substitute command for leadership if you like. What is interesting, is that I chose an operational approach with Lines of Effort directly derived from my command philosophy. This is interesting in that 1) I’m familiar with Operational Approach design , 2) I can then easily overlay MOPs and MOEs to show where I planned to measure progress towards my vision and 3) MOPs and MOEs are enduring. Now I’m not saying this is exactly what happened, this is merely what we tried to do over a two year period. Failures existed and we tried to adjust accordingly (We = my direct subordinate leaders).

Operationalized Command Philosophy

After examining this operationalized approach, it’s clear that IF I had done this prior to command, I would’ve been able to readily provide my subordinate leaders a plan that they could easily execute throughout the duration of my command. What is even more profound is that I bet YOU already operationalize. However, if you put pen to paper (or mouse to powerpoint) you can have a daily checklist that steers your time as a commander/ leader.

The best part about operationalization is that even if you aren’t a commander, you still have a leader philosophy. Whether you are a Platoon Leader, Brigade Executive Officer, or a Corps G-3, once you sit down and take the time to write down what you think will lead your team to success (philosophy) and what success is (vision),  you can easily identify the Lines of Effort needed to accomplish that vision and the enduring measures needed to accomplish it. Above all else, by doing this, YOU can give your subordinates a roadmap to success which they can then turn into action. Subsequently, you not only create a more focused team, you create an atmosphere that can operate within intent and with disciplined initiative.

Ask yourself tomorrow:
“Did I merely write words in a callout cloud, or did I tie measurable events to the vision I created”?
“How did I measure ?”

Thanks to Josh for this great post and the first guest contribution to Bourbon & Battles. If you have a piece you’d like to share and think B&B would be a good venue for it, check out the “Write!” page by clicking here.

And don’t forget to check out Military JiuJitsu, a blog that tackles leadership and followership questions for the military professional interwoven with perspectives on life lessons learned through Brazilian Jiujitsu (with some Clausewitz thrown in for good measure).


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