The concepts of Mission Command allows an organisation to make rapid decisions in an uncertain, fast-changing environment and to translate them, without delay, into decisive action. As a philosophy it attempts to maximise human creativity, initiative and diligence.
Principles of Mission Command
- Unity of Effort – in an organisation stems from a well formulated clear intent and mission statements. It also includes use of common doctrine or policies, techniques, procedures, collective training, team work and the designation of a main effort. Taken together, these generate a common understanding throughout the organisation. They also assist the ability to anticipate and respond swiftly to changes in any situation. Failure to achieve unity of effort, will, at best lead to confusion and missed opportunities. Unity of effort is enhanced by subordinates understanding both the intentions of their immediate superiors, and of those two levels up.
- Decentralisation – management sets the conditions for employees to use the delegated freedom of action to make swift decisions and uncertainty of business. It applies at all levels maximising empowerment allowing employees to use their initiative within their delegated freedom of action and provides them with a greater sense of involvement and commitment.
- Trust – must be earned, not demanded. Personal trust can only be built up overtime with experience, rather than by reputation. Achieving trust is one of the cornerstones of leadership, therefore the spirit of mission command requires a presumption of trust between management and employees and between peers, that should be developed through shared experience.
- Mutual Understanding – Like trust, mutual understanding requires time to establish. With experience, senior managers should be in a position to understand the issues and concerns facing their subordinates. Professional knowledge and study will give subordinates, in turn an insight into management at levels higher than their own. Thus a good manager ensures that he understands his employees and that they understand them. Only then can they together conduct operations in a cohesive and effective manner. Mutual understanding is also based on sharing a common perception of potential or occurring problems. Here a common doctrine and philosophy bonds everyone together by providing a unifying framework of understanding.
- Timely and Effective Decision Making – The key to timeliness is that decisions must be made faster than your opponent. Much of the art of command consists of timely recognition of the circumstances and moment demanding a new decision. This is dependent on good judgement and initiative
Benefits to your Organisation
When it comes down to it, nobody does anything because it helps the organisation; they do it because there’s something in it for them. At least empowerment is one of those initiatives that reaps benefits for the individual first whilst enhancing the organisation, because:
- The workforce will discover ways to enhance efficiency and quality through the natural course of their work.
- Everyone is clear about the direction they’re heading in so there is less duplication of effort, if at all.
- Staff are enabled before being empowered so fewer mistakes are likely.
- Wastage of resources is easily identified and eliminated.
- Employees share more in the ‘mission’ and are therefore prepared to give that little bit extra to achieve it (more for less).
- Money that would otherwise have been spent on incentive schemes can be invested in training/enabling with longer-term gains for the organisation.
- More creativity and innovation.
- Less sickness and absenteeism.
- More self motivation rather than just working to pay the bills.
Symptoms to look for to see if your organisation would benefit by maximsing empowerment
- Staff are unproductive much of the time.
- Everyone appears to be busy, but not a lot seems to be achieved.
- Staff don’t criticise the way things are done.
- Ideas or inputs from subordinates are not forthcoming.
- Staff are constantly being reprimanded for either acting without authority or not showing initiative.
- Staff turnover is increasing.
- Customers are dissatisfied with particular aspects of service.
- Employees know what their jobs are, but they don’t know what is expected of them.
- The finger of blame always has to point at someone.
- The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
- Management spends too much time doing other workers’ tasks instead of managing.
- An acute absence of creativity and initiative.