This year at Leap London, our very own Deven Ravel, former Marine Captain, gave a brilliant presentation on the lessons he’s taken away from his time in the Marines and how he’s applied them to real-world, corporate challenges. Deven told the story of his tour in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province where two members of his squad suffered life-changing injuries in a Taliban ambush and how those events proved to be the best change agents he’d ever encountered—forcing the Marines to adapt to their changed circumstances and breaking new ground in their lives.
He set out 10 key lessons from his experience:
1. Know yourself
It’s not just what you do. You have to think of yourself as the whole organization. Look at the people and the tools you have. What are the expectations of those people? And what about the people you are going to need but haven’t hired yet? Are you thinking two steps ahead?
2. Know your mission
Solutions need to be aligned up and down and organization. This means ensuring that strategic goals (business objectives) are aligned with operational goals (processes and procedures) and tactical goals (delivery).
3. Study history
Know the culture of your organization and understand where it came from. Understanding the history of an organization—knowing where its core values come from—can help tailor change programs to the character of the business.
4. Set expectations
Clear expectations prevent wriggle-room for mistakes. It means you can ask, ‘Do you not understand what was expected?’ or ‘Did I explain it wrong?’
5. Be brilliant in the basics
What are the core standards you expect everyone to have? What are the basic skills that are needed? It’s not about job performance; this is about bare minimum expectations. For his squad of Marines, that meant basic first aid, understanding communication signals, and weapons training.
6. Standardize communications
Define what different communication channels are used for. Make it clear when a team should use instant messenger tools like Slack, email, or Workfront to share information.
7. Build trust
This is hard to measure—it comes from the gut. The key step is to identify change agents within an organization who can help promote change. Those change agents have common attributes among their peers:
8. Decentralize and empower
If you have established clear expectations, clear communication and aligned objectives, smaller teams will be empowered to act and innovate.
9. Execute with a plan
We ask, ‘What works for the tools you have and the type of work you do?’ If the plan doesn’t fit the tools, the people, or the type of organization, it’s going to be tough to execute.
10. Reflect openly and often
You can only reflect openly and often once you’ve built a culture of trust in your organization. As managers, we need to ask, ‘How can I help you do this better?’