Courage to Execute

Written by:
Afterburner Team

Audentes Fortuna Iuvat: How A Great Mission Plan Builds the Courage to Execute

Inaction is one of the most vexing problems in modern organizations. It’s rarely appropriate to wait until the optimal course of action reveals itself because when it does, you’ve fallen behind your competitors or the market. Businesses do not exist to sit on their hands. They exist to act in a world in constant motion, and that is inherently risky. To act or not to act, that is the question.

A timeless lesson in leadership, the mythical Greek hero Odysseus encountered many challenges on his way home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. In one of his famous encounters, he and his men faced a terrible choice – Scylla or Charybdis. Navigating his ship through a narrow passage, Odysseus faced the ferocious six-headed monster, Scylla, on one side of the passage, and an all-consuming whirlpool, Charybdis, on the other. Hardly a fair choice, the passage was too narrow to avoid both dangers yet a decision was required.

Odysseus’ challenge is an apt analogy for the types of decisions we make as leaders today, the modern manifestation of these two monsters being the Scylla of overconfidence and the Charybdis of timidity. The path of overconfidence is fraught with failure but timidity is no alternative, promising the same through obsolescence. Tough decisions must be made in rapidly changing environment, where threats change and resources vanish in the blink of an eye.

Oddly enough, research shows that we tend to be overconfident in situations where we have less control, yet tend to be less confident in situations where we have more control over our circumstances. Consider a roll of the dice or similar game of chance. A streak of good luck—or an overly optimistic hope to find one—fuels confidence, often leading to poor decision making and negative consequences. But risks are ubiquitous in all aspects of life and business, it’s timidity that prevents us from taking the actions that are ultimately necessary to survive, thrive and dominate.

This paradigm requires your individual contributors and leaders to establish a balance between action and inaction, and we’d argue for a Bias to Action. You can’t do nothing – you must do something, but how? How do you navigate the passage between overconfidence and timidity?

With a great mission plan.

A well-developed plan that leverages a structured, collaborative planning process like the Six Steps of Mission Planning can temper both our natural disposition toward overconfidence and our propensity to allow risk to paralyze decision making and action. Does your mission plan contain the components to enable this level of execution?

► Within Scope
When a plan is developed at the appropriate level (i.e. by the individuals who will execute it), first-hand knowledge of the environment will inform Situational AwarenessSM (SA) for better threat and resource identification, while simultaneously improving each team members understanding of the various interdependent actions throughout its execution.

► Collaborative
With a collaborative plan, the biggest benefit is also your first defense against inaction: heightened Situational Awareness. Elite Military Teams highly regard SA, as it enables rapid, informed decision making. It provides the knowledge and confidence needed to execute without 100% certainty. Collaborative planning processes leverage the diversity in individual experience and knowledge to paint a richer, more complete picture of the execution environment. This accelerates the collective understanding of all operational environments that impact the mission, enabling a Bias To Action when time won’t allow for further discussion or preparation.

► Iterative
Whether driving a car, delivering a presentation or drafting your Fantasy Football team, experience has an impact on both your performance and your confidence in your performance. Even if it’s your first time doing something, best practices from someone more experienced will significantly impact your performance. Lessons Learned derived from your STEALTH DebriefSMare the next best thing to first-hand experience, providing concise, actionable direction for your team to repeat successes and avoid prior shortfalls.

► Aligned & Accountable
When individual contributors have line-of-site alignment between the tactical Courses of Action they are accountable to and the greater organizational strategy, they are better prepared to make difficult decisions during execution. Knowing how each individual effort impacts the overall mission, as well as how that mission factors into the High Definition DestinationSM, equips team members with an understanding of the bigger picture. Ultimately, this drives intentional decision making and the Courage to Execute.

You can’t always avoid failure, but you can avoid inaction. As an individual, a team and an organization, you have to move forward. Navigate the passage between overconfidence and timidity, and use a great mission plan to do it.

Are you ready to build a great mission plan? Check out our Flawless Execution page to learn more about the Six Steps of Mission PlanningSM or call us to speak with a Client Advisor about your mission planning needs.