What provides the essential springboard for effective strategic leadership & management? In a fast-moving, complex and uncertain business world trying to control either everything or everyone is futile. The keys to building enduring success in any organisation are understanding what motivates people – as individuals and as teams – and how best to make the right corporate decisions, on time and to the point. That’s easy to state; the challenge is how to integrate people and decisions in an organisation so that it will flourish within a highly competitive marketplace.
The solution lies in the battle-proven and industry-tested concept of Mission Command, a winning model of leadership that provides a high-quality, responsive and agile edge to any concern, whether military or commercial. It has enabled the British Army, for example, to ‘punch above its weight’ for many years by optimizing both its strategic leadership and management system and its method of tactical command.
Mission Command rests on the fundamental premise that good people make the best decisions for themselves as long as they have been given the necessary context and rationale. Therefore an enlightened strategic leader empowers subordinates in this way: setting out what effect is to be achieved and why, rather than specifying precisely what is to be done and how. Detailed planning is devolved to the lowest practical working level. In this manner, middle-ranking and junior subordinates are given a real stake in the decision-making of an organisation and in the design of their programmes. This fosters talent; promotes initiative and innovation; and yields personal satisfaction and team confidence all-round. Taken together, it drives a high-performance culture that achieves timely, effective and sustainable results, reflecting successful strategic leadership & management.
At the heart of Mission Command lies the expression of intent – a concise and coherent statement of the senior leader’s vision as to what is to be achieved, to what purpose and within what timeframe. Typically, it will describe the decisive activity to ensure overall success, known as main effort. It may also prescribe what standards are to be maintained, both ethical and legal. As the situation changes, or the pressure for quick results mounts, subordinates know what to continue aiming for, varying their path to their objectives if required. Thus strategic leadership and management is decentralised as far as possible so engendering a self-sustaining business culture of energy and enterprise. In such a positive work climate, subordinates remain highly motivated and fully committed to achieving long-term goals, while maintaining the firm’s values and reputation.
Successful Mission Command and strategic leadership & management together rest on five supporting principles: Unity of Effort; Decentralisation; Timely and Effective Decision-making; Trust; and Mutual Understanding. The first three are predominantly procedural; the latter two are people-focused. They are all, however, closely inter-connected. For example, Unity of Effort (everyone pulling together in order to achieve common goals) is designed to promote unity of purpose in realising the strategic objectives of an organisation. Mutual Understanding underpins this approach throughout the concern, achieved by all being required to know and apply the intent at least ‘2-up’.
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