Picking up on my comments from last week about the increased use of military language within business, I know it is only a matter of time before I hear an executive speak the following words during a meeting: “We need to SEAL Team 6 this problem.” Referencing the elite team of Navy SEALs who have been deployed around the globe to solve extremely challenging situations and problems, the notion is that a small group of people can solve a problem in a precise and very timely matter.
Having taught team building and team work for decades, I always find it curious when a noun becomes a verb. I also find it very interesting when the business community, particularly senior leadership, becomes interested in the capabilities of elite special forces. While I suspect some companies do hire former special forces personnel to solve unique problems, what intrigues me today is when the general business community wants to develop and deploy small groups of people to solve specific problems. Whether this is done through a LEAN manufacturing analysis or the application of Six Sigma principals, the notion is that a group of select individuals can quickly become a team and more effectively, if not in a surgical like manner, solve a problem. While the use of the words SEAL Team 6 as a noun or a verb sounds powerful and triumphant if not impressive, I believe most leaders do not have a clue about what it takes to create this level of effective action.
First, the people who might become part of a Navy SEAL Team are extensively vetted and carefully selected. They are the cream of the “best of the best.”
Second, their training is intense, physically and mentally. There are no one day workshops or seminars in this line of work. Much of the training is related to developing a concise and specific mind-set for problem solving and decision-making. This level of training also includes advanced training in order for specialized skill sets to be achieved. Basic skills and mastery level skills are constantly practiced, refined and upgraded.
Third, not a single one of these teams operates independent of an extensive systems of supports. They are part of a network of teams which themselves have worked hard to achieve a high degree of expertise and mastery.
What baffles me today is that many businesses want this level of action but have not a clue of what it takes to actually develop it. They often forget that a single action by a SEAL Team reflects many years of work and many years of practice. Furthermore, their deployment and action is always connected to a larger strategy. There is never anything random with this level of expertise.
The lesson to be learned for us this summer is to realize that highly effective team work reflects a significant investment long before it is deployed. As a cancer survivor once told me, “You need to make friends before you need them.” For us as business leaders, we need to invest heavily in developing key people and teams before we need to involve them in mission critical problem solving.