In this exercise, you will work through a mock mission plan related to either your business or personal life — for example, to launch a new product, service, or venue, or to lose weight.
Part 1: Select a Target that FITS
Use the FITS process (Fit, Importance, Timing, and Simplicity) to analyze your potential targets (which should all be SMART goals, as we’ll discuss under Principle 5) and narrow the choices down to the most high-value targets so you can map out an effective mission plan. You can use the guidelines provided to evaluate a preselected target, or you can use a simple 1 to 5 ranking system for each category to help determine which target out of several is optimal. The latter approach would serve well as an opportunity analysis tool to rank new business or project possibilities.
- Fit. Does the target you’re considering fit your team? Is it the best use of talent, time, and energy? What will it cost to engage this target, and does the return on investment (ROI) make it worth the effort?
- Importance. How important is the target to your broader strategic mission? What effect will mission accomplishment have on you? On your competitors?
- Timing. Is the timing right to go after this target? Are you too early or too late? Are you ready? Can you find and reach the target, and how is the competition going to respond when you reach it?
- Simplicity. Is the target simple and clear? Is it something you can achieve without degrading your reputation, future capacities, or team cohesiveness?
Part 2: PROP Up Your Actions
Armed with your selected high-value target(s), use the PROP system (Priorities, Realities, Options, and Path) to develop at least three courses of action and choose one clear path forward.
- Priorities. Of your high-value targets, determine and prioritize your top three or four for mission success. Are there any other priorities related to achieving your top high-value targets?
- Realities. Get clear about the realities of your current situation and the influence these have on your targets and overall mission. How do these aspects affect your ability to satisfY your priorities?
- Options. Based on your evaluation of your priorities and situation, develop and rank up to three options or courses of action for achieving your top high-value targets and, ultimately, your mission. Often you’ll end up combining elements from two or all three options in the final plan. (Note: You can use a creativity-building exercise like the one below to help support this step.)
- Path. Which course of action is the best fit? This is your path, along which you will develop your plan for hitting each target on the way to overall mission success.
Part 3: SMACC Down Your Mission
Decide on an initial course of action from Part 2 and create the visual mosaic or “story” you will use to communicate the mission to others. You can frame your story with a process I call SMACC:
- Situation. What are the background circumstances leading to a need for action? Why is it that the target FITS the team right here and now? You must envision and research every detail so everyone can understand the backdrop to your mission.
- Mission. What exactly is the mission? Write a statement using SMART terminology (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely or Time-Bound — see Principle 5 for more on this). Make sure you include your targets and use words that conjure images in your audience’s mind.
- Action. What actions will your operating team perform? What about your administrative and logistical support teams? Actions are the meat and potatoes of your plan. No plan survives contact with the enemy — meaning that reality often requires adjustments — so make sure you include contingencies for when things go wrong.
- Command. Who’s in charge of what and when? This is important, since leadership roles will likely shift during the mission. Plan contingencies for this part as well.
- Communication. How will teammates communicate with each other and to others? Who will communicate which messages in what timeframe, using what methods?
Use visual terms and avoid jargon; for example, say “It’ll be dark as heck” instead of “The illumination will be at 10 percent due to a waning moon.” Use pictures and videos to tell your story as I did when seeking investors for the CBC. Have your team visualize completing the mission at each stage, and then rehearse it physically and/or mentally as appropriate to the mission.
The Idea Lab
Bulletproofing your mission against failure in part depends on ensuring you’ve chosen your targets wisely. Before you can use the tools in this chapter to assess your options, you need to become aware of what they are! This exercise is essentially a was approach to brainstorming that can be just as effective at the individual level as with a team.
When you’re considering your options for pursuing a target, for example, begin by putting on your “Morale Officer” hat and ensure you are in a positive, playful, and creative state of mind. In your journal, articulate your challenge clearly, drawing pictures if possible to tap into the powers of your subconscious.
Now, stop thinking. Sit in silence with your eyes closed, letting your mind settle. Visit your mind gym following the usual meditation as outlined on page 54. When you get there, you will use it as an idea lab by bringing your attention back to the challenge or question as you’ve articulated it and just watch the projection screen and wait for a response. You’ll want to record whatever comes up, so to avoid interrupting your flow, consider having a mini-recorder handy, or let someone you trust write down your thoughts for you as you speak them aloud. It’s important that you remember (or ask your partner to remind you) not to fall back on actively thinking about a solution; rather, let your mind remain blank and clear. Record anything that rises into your consciousness or appears on your projection screen, whether it is a word, a fully formed thought, a feeling, or an image.
After five or ten minutes, transfer your ideas and impressions onto sticky notes, which you will post up on a wall or board (or simply use your journal). Now, review your collection of notes and see what connections or further thoughts spring to mind. First impressions are typically closest to the mark, no matter how odd they may seem, so refrain from judging yours. Anything goes.
If you’re doing this exercise with a team, the instructions are essentially the same. State the challenge out loud so everyone is on the same page, then have each participant visit their mind gym or just sit silently if they aren’t familiar with the mind gym practice. Everyone should speak their ideas, images, and impressions out loud while one person records these on sticky notes as described. Remember, anything goes, so no judging or teasing each other while you review the results.
The above is an excerpt from the book The Way of the Seal: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed by Mark Divine with Allyson Edelhertz Machate. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2013 Mark Divine, author of The Way of the Seal: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed
Mark Divine served in the U.S. Navy SEALs for 20 years, retiring as a commander, and holds an MBA from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business. The founder of SEALFIT, NavySeals.com, and U.S. CrossFit, he has started and led six multimillion dollar business ventures.
Allyson Edelhertz Machate is a Phi Beta Kappa member and the founder of Ambitious Enterprises, an award-winning business that offers expert writing and editorial services to business professionals, publishers, agents, and authors.