The essential thing is action. Action has three stages: the decision born of thought, the order or preparation for execution, and the execution itself. All three stages are governed by the will. The will is rooted in character, and for the person of action character is of more critical importance than intellect. Intellect without will is worthless, will without intellect is dangerous.
~Hans von Seeckt, German Army General WWI
In order to win on the organizational battlefield, one must begin with clarity about what the battlefield actually looks like. Not to understand the environment in which we must function, and win, is to invite an apathetic and slow organization, buffeted and controlled by circumstances. Quickness, speed, and agility are the necessary attributes that help an organization respond to the vicissitudes of their situation.
Preparing to act requires that three different, core factors be in place: clarity of mission, character of your people, and the culture. Clarity of mission is situational awareness about the environment, and alignment by your people around a clear, simple, and inspiring destination. Everyone in the organization should understand this mission, particularly being able to articulate why this is being done. A mission should be general, not specific. There is no need to go into detail about how to accomplish the mission. The reason clarity of mission is so critical is that it provides the “what” and the “why” that forms the foundation for people to be empowered and to act toward the end without having to be told what to do. A great leader’s main function is to provide clearly his intentions and expectations. It is not to tell people how to accomplish the mission. People must be trusted and expected to anticipate the vagaries of their situation and to act with speed and agility to change tactics, if necessary.
The second prerequisite for preparing to win is to select and develop people of character. As von Seeckt points out above, this includes the will to act toward what you believe is the right thing to do. It certainly includes being trustworthy, humble, 100% responsible, team player, and other morally correct behaviors. I would not hesitate to hire and welcome a person to my team who had character and competence, but if I had to do one or the other I would choose character.
Finally, to prepare to win, the right culture must be in place. We define culture as the manner in which people of character interact with one another. We believe culture can be defined through seven principles: 100 percent responsibility, high trust, communication, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, and focus on results. All of these attributes can be visited in detail in other Journals we have done.
In summary, we must function within an environment of friction, uncertainty, complexity, and disorder, an environment largely unpredictable. We can only control our response to this environment. Thus, there is a premium on speed, both in time and space, and agility. This kind of approach requires competent leadership at all levels, leaders who demonstrate sound and timely judgment. Initiative, boldness, creativity, and adaptability must be rewarded, encouraged, and mistakes allowed. The formula for winning then is clear. Have a clear and simple mission, select and develop people of moral character, and insist on the creation of a high functioning culture. Then empower them to act and get out of their way. Let them act to carry out the mission.