Mission Command. Start with Why.

A guest post by Major Kyle Trottier

A common explanation of mission command is that it is telling people what to do, instead of how to achieve the end state. There is normally a desire not to use detailed command and specify precisely how the mission will be executed as some associate this with the negative term, “micromanagement.” However, the successful execution of mission command demands leaders to start with why, the purpose of the action. Simon Sinek explains in his 2011 book, “Start With Why” that the failure to express why will lead to an increase in stress and disorder within an organization. Applying some of the principles found in his book can increase our understanding of mission command, our role in supporting the commander and subordinates, and how to yield more successful organizations.

April 2, 2015 – Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Nicolas Morales

The Operational Planning Team Leader Revisited

In the last installment, we talked very broadly about being an OPT Leader and the basic skills required to survive in this capacity. In this article, we’ll talk with more fidelity about your team and provide masterful tools for success on a big staff.

Mecole Hardman Jr. gets a little pregame motivation from Soldier-mentors at the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 9, 2016. (Photo by Cheryle Rivas)

Mission Command

Considerations as a Field Grade Officer

The ability to employ Mission Command is essential as our Army shifts towards future operating environments, yet it remains a highly debated topic within the profession. Individuals provide interpretations of the philosophy rooted in training and combat experiences.

Paratroopers, assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, practice a forced-entry parachute assault on Malemute drop zone at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska as part of a larger tactical field exercise. The Soldiers are part of the Army’s only Pacific airborne brigade with the ability to rapidly deploy worldwide, and are trained to conduct military operations in austere conditions.

Building Effective and Efficient Systems

Shortly after becoming a Battalion Operations Officer, I was overwhelmed by the volume of “stuff” coming across my desk prior to distribution, publication, or implementation. As the S3, I simply could not touch all of the FRAGOs, tasks, and requirements flowing through my headquarters. Though shaped for several years, I had just made the shift from small unit to organizational leader. I quickly found the organization’s success revolved around our ability to establish and maintain systems. Later, as the Brigade S3, I would reap the benefits of hard lessons learned in system management as a Battalion S3 attempting to keep my head above water.

The Operational Planning Team

As a Major, we’re focused on those important (and painful) “KD years,” time well spent as a key leader at the battalion or brigade level. That said, the majority of our time is often spent on higher level staffs, toiling away at a project that no one else seems to care about until it becomes a crisis. Given the time spent in such positions, its interesting that we invest little energy thinking about and preparing for success.

U.S. Army Soldiers, from the 25th Infantry Division and soldiers from the Republic of Korea army participate in demolitions tactics and procedures during the joint exercise Foal Eagle near the DMZ, South Korea.

Teach, Coach, Mentor

Developing Subordinates to Succeed in our Profession

Prior to starting KD time, I dreaded becoming disconnected from Soldiers and junior leaders. I’m a people person, and genuinely enjoy being a part of someone’s development. From the outside looking in, it seemed the BN S3 and XO were constantly chained to their desk and had little to do with development. This perception could not be farther from the truth. Though regularly chained to my desk, I was amazed by the number of subordinate leaders who relied on me for a facet of their development. We often throw the phrase “teach, coach, mentor” around, but don’t take the time to unpack these leadership responsibilities and think about how we’ll fulfill the role of teacher, coach, and mentor. Here are a few thoughts through the lens of a Battalion level field grade officer.