4 Laws of Combat for PMs

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Original post from August 2019:
Where does ‘4 Laws of Combat for PMs’ come from? I’ve posted and talked about Jocko Willink (@jockowillink) and Leif Babin (@realleifbabin) ‘Extreme Ownership’ mindset many times. Here I I show the cross-threads between the ‘4 Laws of Combat’ outlined in the book Extreme Ownership, the all-hazards ‘Foundational 4’ and some Project Management foundations.

Crossmapping the 4 Laws of Combat for PMs
https://content.blubrry.com/peopleprocessprogress/PPP51-4_Laws_of_Combat_Incident_and_Project_Managment.mp3
Listen here! – 4 Laws of Combat

The Comparisons:

Law 1 – Cover and Move: Looking out for your people and your team, but without being overbearing. Have mutual respect.

  • All-Hazards Application: Facilitate, but don’t dictate the S.M.A.R.T. objectives for the special event or incident response. For Planning Chiefs this is critical to build relationships and keep the process moving forward and the team together.
  • Project Management Application: Early in the project management process someone finds a unique need. This need has to be further defined before time and money are put into it. To do this a diverse group from various levels in the organization must work together to get the process going.

Law 2 – Keep Things Simple: Plans must be communicated in the simplest way and to all levels. Leaders have to relay “why” as the team works towards “how”.

  • All-Hazards Application: Before teams get deep into tactics, draw a basic organizational chart. Lines and boxes help Operations paint a simple. These create an effective picture of the resources needed to accomplish the objectives.
  • Project Management Application: Before any Waterfall, Agile or other project management methodology is applied organizations should have a strong business case for “Why”. The business case should address the new product, workflow or other area that needs to be fixed.

Law 3 – Prioritize and Execute: Companies, leaders and teams do not have infinite resources and must prioritize on the biggest problem first, then work through the rest of the list. As this happens the organization also has to be adaptable for when new priorities come to light.

  • All-Hazards Application: As Operations Chiefs complete the basic org chart then the ICS-215 (Operational Planning Worksheet), they’ll realize the form has limited space. This is no coincidence. The form can help drive the mindset of optimizing span of control, resources kinds and types. The Tactics Meeting is a great opportunity to “prioritize and execute“.
  • Project Management Application: A chartered project is a successful project (most of the time). Why? The project charter is designed to provide parts of the business case, objectives and the prioritized outcomes of the project. These will be high level, but help provide a clear picture to the direction the project should be headed.

Law 4 – Decentralize Command: Everyone on the team is a leader. The official team leader cannot really ‘own’ every aspect. A healthy balance is to ‘detatch’. Careful though, we don’t want to detach so far that we’re unfamiliar with what’s going on or that you cannot lead effectively from afar.

  • All-Hazards Application: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. IMTs in this day and age use cell phones, radios, face-to-face and even geographic information systems (GIS) to communicate event and incident status, resource locations and to adjust tactical and strategic decisions on the fly. Communication is the critical element of success for IMTs and leaders on the team need to be sure their folks understand their assignment, how to ask for help and that the leaders are available, but the leader must also give them room to maneuver. After all, the ‘boots on the ground’ are there to get the job done because of their skill set right?
  • Project Management Application: After the project charter more detailed planning will take place for sure. More documents, schedules, budgets, etc. Similar to the Planning Section Chief in all-hazards incident management, the Project Manager (PM) does not really make the plan, the project team experts do. This is where the PM’s ability to facilitate discussion build relationships and empower the team really pay dividends. By ‘decentralizing’ command the PM shows his or her team that they trust their judgement, but that the PM is never too far away to help them if they get stuck somewhere.

Thank you everyone that took the time to read through my $.02 on how the ‘4 Laws of Combat’, the ‘Foundational 4’ and ‘Project Management Foundations’ mirror each other quite a bit. As @jockowillink and @realleifbabin have stated themselves, these principals are not unique to combat, and my add, not unique to incident management or project management. The key is to remember that good process is good process anywhere just as good leadership traits translate across disciplines and professions.

Thank you for reading and listening to the podcast,

Stay safe, wash your hands and Godspeed,

Kevin

Kevin Pannell, PMP, Creator & Host, ‘People, Process, Progress’ podcast
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