The Six Steps of Mission Planning


Is This Mission Planning Too Good To Be True?

Planning. We’ve defined it and described it. Now, as the anticipation has reached a dull roar, we will tell you how to do it (at least, how we think you should do it). The Six Steps of Mission Planning SM is an elite military-proven, universally applicable framework that helps companies define expectations, align actions, create accountability, and maintain execution rhythm from start to finish in each and every mission—sounds like snake oil for organizational excellence, right?

Make Sure Your Mission Planning Process Is Focused

We regularly remind our clients that while Flawless ExecutionSM is likely impossible, it’s the pursuit of perfection that will get you closer to achieving it. Yet even basic execution is doomed to fail without a mission planning framework driven by a strategic planning process. Without an aligned strategy, projects are liable to stall as deadlines get pushed back or go unchecked, resulting in delayed results, progress, and improvements. Simple and scalable, these six steps can help you address any execution gaps your organization is currently facing. Whether your project outcomes are not meeting expectation or failing altogether, the Flawless Execution model is a methodology with nearly decades of proven effect on performance and results—are you ready?

Learn More: How a Top Gun Experience can arm you with a great mission plan – and the skills to execute on it.

Make Strategic Business Planning Your Mission

Step One: Setting a Mission Objective

The first step in successful strategic business planning is to create a mission objective that is clear, measurable, achievable, and aligned with the HDD. By that, we mean:

  • Clear: all team members have the exact same understanding of what success looks like at the end of the mission
  • Measurable: the team must know when they’ve crossed the finish line, so the Mission Objective must be quantifiable
  • Achievable: there should be no uncertainty as to the efficacy or achievability of the objective, this will negatively impact how your team will approach the entire mission
  • Aligned with the High Definition Destination (HDD): The HDD is the big picture that an organization’s leadership has defined as its long-term goal, and no mission should be executed that does not support this goal.

In mission planning before setting the mission objective, understanding how high-performing teams come together on the road to Flawless Execution is a critical portion of tackling failure rates and planning for success. An open, collaborative team, including three echelons of rank-leveraging TeamstormingSM, ensures the best thinking, buy-in, and ownership of the entire team.

Step Two: Evaluating Threats

A vital undertaking prior to developing “action” is ensuring the team has an appropriate level of concern for the potential threats to project completion or barriers to flawless execution. This is done by identifying obstacles and classifying them:

  • Is the threat internal to the organization or is it external in the marketplace?
  • Is the threat controllable or is it uncontrollable?

By classifying threats, team members will not only be more informed of what can derail mission success, they will be more prepared to address those threats once they arise. Most businesses’ execution failures can be traced back to the omission of this step: action steps are put into motion without a full understanding of the challenges that stand in the organization’s path to success, resulting in an overall failure of the strategic planning process.

Step Three: Identifying Resources

The next task in mission planning is to evaluate the resources available or required for the team that will lead to success. If more resources are needed to support flawless execution – whether brain power, funds, or equipment – this is the time to identify the need. Ideally, at least one resource will be allocated for each identified threat.

Step Four: Evaluating Lessons Learned

There is an obvious benefit to learning from the mistakes and successes of prior missions, which is why the collection, analysis, and dissemination of Lessons Learned is so important. By focusing on Lessons Learned, your organization can foster a culture of continued learning and accelerated performance, thereby iteratively improving through each business cycle.

The Go/No-Go — Because the Flawless Execution methodology facilitates success and encourages both failure and success analysis, the Go/No-Go is a simple risk assessment that follows the situational analysis of the first four steps of mission planning and occurs prior to any more effort. This is where the team evaluates the “cost” of the mission in light of the obstacles and resources evaluated, and whether the mission objective is it still achievable considering the results of the previous four steps. If there is any question, stop now, re-evaluate with the organization’s leadership, and evaluate what is needed in order for the Mission Objective to be achievable once again. In other words, fail fast or move forward to flawless execution.

Step Five: Planning the Course of Action

Teamstorm, analyze, and finalize! This is often where the best ideas come to light; gather these ideas, formulate them into individually accountable, actionable items with a specific completion expectation. This step is the core of mission planning — where the action in execution originates. What is important to stress is that each person is in charge of his or her particular task and must meet the team deadlines in order to achieve flawless execution. Accountability, therefore, becomes an important byproduct of the strategic planning process as well as project success – everyone will strive to meet goals, while pushing hard for success, driving personal improvement, and ultimately, flawless execution.

The Red Team— The plan is done and it’s – finally – time to get moving, right? Hold on….is there an opportunity to tighten up your Course Of Action even further? We never stride to the jets, the battlefield of the marketplace without first asking a team of peers to review our plan. Have you been overconfident? Is there subjective bias? Have you fallen in love with your plan and overlooked critical items? Asking a peer group to review in the structured language of building allows you to further refine and strengthen your plan without having to learn the hard way.

Step Six: Contingency Planning

Now that you have a specific, well-vetted plan, consider the “what-if’s.” What will happen if threat X occurs? Or threat Y? What if resource Z fails? Having a contingency plan to refer to is a must, and without one, your team is left scrambling when contingencies arise (and they inevitably will). Prepare for an off-schedule project beforehand and the possibility of a contingency occurring becomes less consequential.

One last thing… Achieving Flawless Execution is challenging, especially when it comes to closing the Execution Gap. While falling into the execution phase of Flawless Execution rather than the Planning phase, one of the most important components of successful mission execution is the X-Gap meeting. Quick, to the point, and scheduled iteratively throughout the mission at the same time and place, X-Gap meetings move projects along at the planned pace, drive individual accountability and group discipline, and help to support the overall Mission Plan. We’ll discuss these meetings in more detail when we cover Execution.

Reaching the Finish Line

Which steps in Flawless Execution could your current planning process use? Maybe it’s incorporating Lessons Learned or planning for the “what-if’s?” Or maybe it’s threat and resource assessment or crafting a more complete Mission Objective? Whatever step it may be, start using it today for the results you want to see next week, next month, and next quarter. Are you ready to start planning for Flawless Execution? Get in touch to learn how you can build a great mission plan.


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