Iterative Decision Making. Making Small Moves, Rather Than Big Moves
The Debrief w/ Jocko and Dave Berke #6
The DEBRIEF PODCAST
The Debrief w/ Jocko and Dave Berke #6:
Jocko and Good Deal Dave Analyze some issues and look for solutions.
Jocko Willink (00:00):
This is the Jocko Debrief Podcast, episode six, with Dave Berke and me, Jocko Willink. Dave, we got some more debriefing to do. We didn’t get through my Gettysburg debriefs that I had for you. So, if you haven’t listened to those yet, go back to episode five. But moving into some of the other things that I had on my list that I texted to you and said I got some debrief points for you.
Jocko Willink (00:30):
The next one that I wanted to cover is, again, this is something that’s in leadership strategy and tactics, and I believe it’s fairly well spelled out. I’ve been briefing this a lot lately in the current environment that we’re in. It’s 2020 right now. There’s a virus that currently seems like a, it’s a world impacting virus, so we’ve all been dealing with it and been helping people make decisions and maneuver their companies.
Jocko Willink (01:02):
One of the things that I’ve been talking a lot about is iterative decision making, which is a good way to lead in unknown circumstances. And what you do is you basically make a small decision, and then you take a small step in that direction.
Jocko Willink (01:17):
What I realized during this Gettysburg battlefield walk that we did discussing the various leadership decisions that were made, there was certain situations where leaders on the battlefield could have made small moves instead of big ones. In no case did they do that. I’m sure I’ll find some eventually, but in the major movements that were made, especially the major mistakes that were made, there was no time where someone made a small decision and made a small step in that direction.
Jocko Willink (01:55):
So, what I was saying, and again, I’m there with a bunch of people from Echelon Front, it’s me, it’s Leif, it’s Mike Sarraille, who else was there? Oh, Steve Ward, Jason Gardner and Jamie. We’ve got this big crew there. I started talking through one of the things that could have solved one of these major problems, and that is when General Longstreet didn’t like a plan that General Lee had come up with, and he dragged his feet for an extended period of time, and it ended up being a total disaster.
Jocko Willink (02:29):
And I said, hey, everyone’s kind of going on, what would you have done, what would you have done, what would you have done? If you’re either person, what would you have done? [inaudible 00:02:37] I’ll draw a line in the sand, I would never do this, I don’t agree with it. I would’ve ordered him to do it. I would’ve fired him. Went through all those things. And I said, here’s what I would’ve done. If I was either person, if I was General Lee or General Longstreet, I would’ve done iterative decision making and therefore iterative execution.
Jocko Willink (02:57):
I think that there’s just a gap, and I want to explain that gap. Iterative decision making is not just making decision, it’s the execution of that small decision. So, Dave, if I tell you, hey, I want you to assault that hill, and you say, I don’t think that’s a good idea. And I say, well, we need to get it done. And you say, well, I don’t think it’s going to be worth the effort and the casualties that we could take. There’s where we’re at. There’s our line in the sand.
Jocko Willink (03:31):
Either one of us at this point, I can say, well, I’ll tell you what, why don’t you move another 100 yards forward and push a couple point men up and see what they can see and see if they start taking fire, see if there’s any cover you could get on the way there. How does that sound? And you go, that actually makes sense. Or you could also say that to me. You know what, Jocko, I don’t know about assaulting that hill. Why don’t we start with this. I’ll move 100 meters closer, I’ll send a couple scouts up. We’ll see if there’s any cover that we could get. If it looks like we are taking fire, I can pull them back. If we’re not taking fire and we find good cover, I’ll proceed a little further. That’s it. That’s iterative decision making. And it includes iterative execution.
Jocko Willink (04:17):
What you find is that when you make small decision, and then you take a small step, when you make that small step, you learn more. When you learn more, you can make a decision on which direction to go now. So that’s fairly straightforward.
Jocko Willink (04:32):
The next note that I had is that iterative decisions are actually aggressive. You can make much more aggressive moves when they are small. I’ve been telling a lot of clients that I had a reputation in the seal teams of being very, very decisive. But I was cheating. I was cheating because I wouldn’t make decisive massive moves. I would make many small moves very rapidly.
Jocko Willink (05:03):
If we started taking fire, I didn’t say, oh, everyone assault now, because I don’t even know where we’re taking fire from or how many people there are or what the situation is. I’m not going to say everyone assault now. And I’m not going to say everyone run away, we’re taking fire. That’s a big decision, I don’t take that [inaudible 00:05:23]. What I say is, hey, two people go up to the roof. Dave and Mike, go up to the roof, tell me what you see.
Jocko Willink (05:30):
Everyone thinks I just made a power decision. There’s absolutely no risk. We’re in a building that we already own, you have cover up on the roof, cool. That is being aggressive. Iterative decisions, where some people might think, well, that’s kind weak. What are you doing, that’s weak. You’re just taking small steps. I’m taking small steps rapidly and that is the best way to be aggressive. Look, caveat, sometimes you have to make a bold decision that’s big, yes you do, absolutely. Should happen very seldomly. It should happen very seldomly. And hopefully it doesn’t happen at all.
Dave Berke (06:05):
Yeah. One of the reasons why you and the team we’ve been talking about iterative decision making so much more recently is because of what you just described. At the very beginning, I wrote down the word unknown. We all understand that this is a period of unknown. Nobody had a playbook for COVID, nobody saw this thing coming.
Dave Berke (06:28):
Part of the reason why we have been talking about iterative decision making and several fast short movements is how you maneuver in this unknown environment. It makes sense, and to what we should be talking about.
Dave Berke (06:42):
The other side of that, though, when you talk about iterative decision making is, if you take this whole situation, let’s go back a year where things were just kind of jamming, everything was going really well, there’s actually a lot of unknown there too. The thing that complacency creeps in, when you think you’ve got the whole way of the land, you think you know what’s going on, and you start to make these bigger, longer, less iterative decisions, if you’re not complacent, even if you think you know everything, you’ve got all this information, you know what, there’s things out there we don’t know.
Dave Berke (07:18):
I’ve got all the intel, I’ve seen this 50 times, I’ve done it throughout my entire career. Everything is the ways. If you keep that mindset of, you know what, there is something out there maybe we don’t know, you’re actually going to end up doing the exact same decision making process now at you would a year ago or a year from now. And this idea of iterative decisions isn’t just because we know there’s unknowns, it’s because there’s always unknowns. It may be really obvious now, and it is, it’s glaringly obvious. But we don’t know what’s going on sometimes.
Dave Berke (07:48):
But the truth of the matter is, if you’re in a leadership role, it’s always like that. And if you think you’ve got this whole thing figured out, we can go, hey, Jocko, just take your team, go 10 miles down the road and plant the flag on that hill. If you think between here and there, you’re going to set yourself up. You need to make those same decision making approach, that same iterative decision making, no matter what the situation is. And if it turns out I get there, hey, no factor, cool, keep moving. You can do it quickly.
Dave Berke (08:11):
But you don’t not do that just because you think you’ve got the situation understood.
Jocko Willink (08:17):
I’ve been explaining this to clients, I’ve doing a little set up with them. I’ll say, what you want to do as a leader in this position, is you want to take a guess on what to do next.
Jocko Willink (08:30):
Then I say, nobody wants to hear that. Nobody wants to hear that the leader is taking a guess as to what to do next. But guess what, in any situation if you’re in a leadership position, the number of times that you’re going to have 100% accurate information spoon fed to you, and you’re going to be able to line up that and come up with a perfect decision, is never. if you’re in a leadership position, guess what, you are making guesses. That’s what you’re doing, that’s what leaders do.
Jocko Willink (08:57):
How do we mitigate the risk of the guess? We take a little tiny step. Don’t commit all your forces or all your resources or all your assets to a guess, commit just a little tiny bit of them. And then do an assessment to see if it was the right move or not.
Dave Berke (09:14):
And it cost you so little. Even that guess, there’s nothing wrong with me admitting as a leader, hey, you know what, I don’t have all the answers here. As a matter of fact, when you give me those orders, go take that hill. And I’m thinking, this is a terrible idea, I’m not doing that. Why would I come back and go, hey, that’s a terrible idea, we’re not going to do that. How about I go, hey boss, I think I hear what you’re saying. Look, I don’t have a recon between here. Let me take my team, I’m going to push them out. Give about an hour, I’ll radio you back what you see, we’re going to take this first move and set out some scouts.
Dave Berke (09:41):
I don’t need to dig into my position. I need to go, okay, cool, I can make that happen. I apply the same thing. But if I come in and go, this is a terrible idea, we shouldn’t do this, and it turns out I go out there and wow, this is actually really easy. Now I have to call back and hey, you were right. There is no reason not to just say, I actually don’t know. The best way for us to know is we’re going to go out and start to move in this direction.
Jocko Willink (10:02):
That’s the other thing I’ve been telling all my clients, is after you make that guess and it turns out your guess is wrong, what do you then? You tell everyone, hey, I guessed a little bit wrong. I assessed this wrong. Here’s some things that changed. Here’s a different view. Now that we see this part of the market or this part of the battlefield, here’s the adjustments we’re going to make. You have to be humble enough to make adjustments.
Dave Berke (10:21):
But doesn’t it make you look really dumb and weak when you get something wrong?
Jocko Willink (10:24):
That goes back to your perspective, your ego being able to detach, because everybody knows that if I stand up and say, listen, I know we’re meeting more resistance that we thought but we’re going forward anyways. Everyone looks at me and goes, you’re a freaking idiot.
Dave Berke (10:38):
It’s crazy. Yeah.
Jocko Willink (10:41):
All right, next. The last one of these Debrief podcasts that we did. We were talking a lot about intent and implied intent, meaning just through my attitude, you know what I want. Then there’s actual verbal or written commander’s intent, here’s what I want you to do, here’s my overall intent. Then there’s culture and there’s values, and you stack all these things together. We should have a situation that if you take my verbal commander’s intent or my written commander’s intent, like hey, this is what I want you to do, the implied intent, the values, the culture, you should be able to make 99.9% of decisions without having to talk to me at all if you’re working for me. That’s the way it should be.
Jocko Willink (11:29):
How do I know that? Well, here’s a little drill that I can run through with you to see if you understand these various forms of my intent. And that is discussing contingencies. Because if I say, hey Dave, what will you do if you get into an enemy contact before you get to the target? And you say, if we take enemy contact, we’re going full auto and we’re going to assault from wherever we are. And what I actually wanted you to do was not reveal your position. Well, guess what, I’ve obvious not explained any level of these intents to you.
Jocko Willink (12:18):
If you’re in a leadership position and you want to understand if people, look, and if I say, Hey, Dave, the commander’s intent for tonight is you get in and out without being compromised, and you say, got it, boss. I go, okay, read back to me what the intent is. You say, it’s to get in and out without being compromised. Cool, got it.
Jocko Willink (12:36):
This only means that you could repeat the words that I said. So then I say, let me run through some scenarios with you. Here’s a contingency. You roll up, you get out of your vehicles, and all of a sudden there’s dogs barking and lights start coming on inside the village, what are you going to do? You’re like shoot the dogs …
Dave Berke (12:53):
Assault the building.
Jocko Willink (12:55):
That’s what I’m saying, it’s really simple. It’s a really simple thing. But if you talk through contingencies with people, you find out what they’re thinking, and it reveals whether they understand your intent or not.
Dave Berke (13:11):
We didn’t rehearse any of this. You sent me this text last week and I’m like cool, I wonder what this is. And we’re talking about it now, and as I read this bullet, the contingencies reveal understanding of your intent. It took me a minute to understand the context and as you’re describing it. Then same thing I always do is I put myself in a position of being a subordinate. And everybody should understand, and this is true for you, you and I, despite the fact that we’ve commanded teams, we’ve always also been subordinates. I’ve been a subordinate my entire career. I was never not without a boss in the military.
Dave Berke (13:48):
The role of being a subordinate is something I’m very familiar with, even when I was a commander, I was a subordinate to some other senior commander. The question of just, Hey, what would you do here? Sometimes when my boss would ask me that, I would feel like, is he questioning me? But really what a good boss is doing there is actually evaluating how good of a job he has done to prepare me to handle, which he absolutely knows is going to happen, which is a contingency. Contingencies always happen. Nothing ever happens the way you plan.
Dave Berke (14:24):
And as a leader, when you’re saying, okay Jocko, walk me through this scenario, you got my intent, but this happens, what are you going to do? That’s not me testing you. That’s me testing me. Have I explained myself well? As you’re explaining, I’m picturing again, you know what, how many times did I hear my boss run me through a contingency scenario?
Dave Berke (14:42):
I’m thinking, what the hell’s wrong with this guy? Why is he asking me all these questions, questioning whether I know what I’m doing, I know what I’m doing. It’s like no, he’s actually measuring himself. Did he explain it well enough to set me up to be successful when he knows full well there are going to be problems as I go execute, because he knows what’s out there waiting for me.
Dave Berke (15:01):
The understanding and the intent, I mean, how critical is that I know your intent as a leader so I can do something in real time and get it right.
Jocko Willink (15:11):
You know what else is interesting, I had this conversation with Jamie the other day, and Jamie has been participating more and more on answering questions and stuff. She’s like, “I’m starting to feel like I am doing a better job answering questions.” I’m like, “You knock it out of the park.” And she says, “Yeah, I’m just answering the way I would answer a client when they ask me a question.” And of course I know I make everyone nervous. Everyone wants to say the right thing. She kind of alluded to that. She’s like, “Sometimes when I know you’re on EF Online and I know that if I say something, I want to get it right and it makes me trip up, and I don’t want to do that anymore.” And I go, “Jamie, trust me, you nailed these questions.”
Jocko Willink (15:59):
And then I told her, “Look, this used to happen when I was running training for the seals.” You’d get these young seal leaders and I’d put them in some pressure situation. I would be looking at them and they would do something really stupid. I’d go, “Why did you do that?” They were like, “I thought you’d want me to be aggressive or I thought you’d want me to,” whatever, “I thought you’d want me to take the high ground.” And I’d go, “Bro, don’t do what you think I want you to do. Don’t try and interpret what you think I might want you to do. Do what you think you should do right then, that’s what you need to do.”
Jocko Willink (16:32):
That’s another thing that walking through contingencies reveals. Look, I don’t want someone in the field that is going to make a decision based on what they think I might want them to do if I was there. I want them to actually do what makes sense in that situation. Let’s go through some contingencies so we can remove that. And then we truly understand they know what the intent is. And again, now we’ve got multiple levels of intent to try and comprehend. Obviously they’re all aligned, but they all hit a different spectrum, and they’re all important.
Jocko Willink (17:09):
And by the way, do you have your pen ready? By the way, there’s a hierarchy of these intents. If I’ve told you, hey, I want you to avoid getting an enemy contact tonight, but something happens where your troops are in danger, there’s a hierarchy of intents, which we actually need to have understanding of.
Jocko Willink (17:45):
Now look, most of the time they’re aligned. I want you to complete the mission. Most of the time they’re aligned, but there can be nuanced scenarios where a leader’s going to have to say, look, I know the intent that Jocko told me was to make sure we make money on this deal. But right now, the only way we make money on this deal is by me screwing over this client. I know there’s a hierarchy of intents here and I know that I’m not supposed to do that. So not only do we have multiple intents, they should be aligned, but there is a hierarchy.
Dave Berke (18:27):
That makes sense. If you understand the strategy, if you understand what you really want us to do in the long run, it makes it easier to do that. You’ve used example like this before too, which was, you could say, hey Dave, my intent is actually don’t give away your position, keep a very low profile, and if there’s any risk of that, I want you to withdraw and back up. That’s what I want you to do. But there are times that might actually put me at more risk. You don’t want me to come back and go, hey, we lost two guys, but I followed what I thought you wanted me to do, which was back up. That’s the thing you’re talking about is don’t do what you think I want you to do.
Dave Berke (19:06):
When we all first joined Echelon Front and you started talking and training us about how to do Q&A, and hey, how do we answer client’s questions, the goal that you said was, I want you to answer the question in the way that you would actually solve that problem. If you have a question, you think about what you would do. If you have the humility to say, this is what I do, and it turns out that’s wrong, now we can actually have a debrief. You can go, hey Dave, let me talk to you why maybe this wouldn’t work and I can learn from that and get better at that.
Dave Berke (19:33):
But I’ve been spending all my time thinking about what you would say, and I know what Jamie’s talking about, we all know what it’s like to have Jocko on a gig with us, like, oh God, he’s watching me answer. If I can have you humility to just do what I think I should do, I’ll actually learn more and get better at it than trying to calculate what would Jocko say and how would Jocko, and that’s just doing nothing but causing problems for me. And you actually don’t want me doing that anyway. You want me to do what I think I should do. And if it’s right, great, and if it’s wrong, then we can debrief it and learn from it and get better.
Jocko Willink (20:02):
Yup. There’s a level of detachment reflection that goes on there too because saying, here’s a classic example I’ve seen guys get caught in, and it’s a straight up, well, what would Jocko do. What would Jocko do? This is why this is so scary, they have their implied intent that they’ve received. Is it possible that the implied intent that someone has received from me is not accurate? Yes, it’s absolutely possible because Jocko is aggressive and he makes things happen. And so, what do I think when I get asked a question, what should I do when my subordinate just says, hey, this sounds like a horrible plan and we’re not doing it. And the thought is, well, Jocko is default aggressive. You know what, you shut up and do what I told you to do.
Jocko Willink (20:54):
So here’s what I tell people. Actually ask yourself if you could picture me doing that. Actually say, wait a second, if I was to put Jocko in the situation and I was saying, hey, I don’t want to do your plan, would Jocko say shut up and do what I told you to do? No, Actually he wouldn’t do that. What would he do? He would say, what is it that you don’t like about the plan and do you have a different idea? There’s a whole level. And what this comes down to is these really good conversations that you can have based on contingencies and how the people are going to act in certain situations. And then you take this hierarchy of intent that we’re now exposing to the world because it exists.
Jocko Willink (21:34):
And by way, if my implied intent is received in an inaccurate way, that’s a horrible thing. That’s why we need to pay attention to it. There’s plenty of leaders that don’t pay attention to it, they don’t understand it, they don’t know that it exists. They’ve got this implied intent that is don’t ask me any questions. Don’t ask me any questions. Do what I tell you to do. That’s an implied intent and some people like that implied intent. You shut up and don’t ask me any questions, do what I told you to do.
Jocko Willink (22:05):
The next thing. This one should be relatively simple. What winning looks like to you versus what winning looks like to the troops. Again, this is aligned with intent. You have to make sure that what winning looks like to me is what winning looks like to, if you’re working for me, actually, you’re not working for me, but if you’re on the front lines and I’m the boss, I have to make sure that winning looks the same to both of us, because if winning to you looks like closing a deal and it doesn’t matter if we ever do anything with this, if you’re a car salesman and you want to close that deal and make as much money as you possibly can and get that person out the door and you don’t care that it’s a lemon and they’re going to complain about it on Yelp, that’s a win for you. It’s a loss for me.
Jocko Willink (23:02):
What do I need to do? I need to make sure that winning for you looks the same as winning for me. If I do a good job of setting up my compensations and the missions and the way we’re doing things, I can make sure that those are aligned. But oftentimes, you see situations where, hey, what the frontline troop thinks is winning is not aligned with what the senior leadership thinks winning is. So we have to be careful with that.
Dave Berke (23:33):
As I’m thinking about what you’re just saying and then think about things that you’ve said and before and piecing together a lot of conversations we have, one of the easiest ways to make sure that what winning looks like for me, I’m now the big boss, whatever, I’m in charge of those things, you’re four levels down and you’re a frontline guy selling cars or whatever that scenario was, one of the best ways for me as a leader to make sure winning to me and winning to you look the same is I actually have to care about you more than me. I have to really believe that you being successful is what this is all about, that this team that I’m in charge of or responsible for or tasked to lead, whatever that is.
Dave Berke (24:13):
And you have said that so many times, and you really have to think about what that means is that when you as a task unit commander made decisions, and you talk about the challenge of understanding that you’re putting your men at risk, and knowing what really was potentially out there for them, that you cared about them more than yourself, how much easier it is to align them winning with you winning than if you actually are in it for you.
Dave Berke (24:48):
How destructive that is in the long run for an organization when you as a leader see your own success as the secret goal that you really want at the expense of your team. And how simple it sounds to say, put your people before you [inaudible 00:25:09] of taking care of your people. If you don’t actually believe that, it’s going to be really hard for winning to be the same for you and for them.
Jocko Willink (25:19):
We did that podcast not too long ago. I forget the quote, I wish I could remember it off the top of my head, but it was something like, if you provide evidence of you caring about your troops, you don’t even have to worry about morale. They will fight.
Dave Berke (25:38):
They will fight. I think it was the Jocko podcast 245. And it was provide evidence. Let your people believe that you can, show them that you actually [inaudible 00:25:51] more, and all the other problems take care of themselves because they’ll go fight.
Jocko Willink (25:54):
Yup. Next thing. There’s some really dumb things that happened in the battle of Gettysburg. Some people did some really, really dumb things. There’s a bunch of reasons why. There’s a bunch of things that could have helped that, mostly being relationships. If I have a relationship with you, Dave, look, if I have a relationship with you, I at least have a dumb detector, and I can say, you know what, Dave, he has propensity to do some dumb stuff. I’m going to keep him in my back pocket. I’m going to keep an eye on him. I’m not going to give him the mission that’s going to take a lot of decision making.
Jocko Willink (26:40):
But if I don’t have relationship with you, then I don’t know how dumb you could be, and there’s a chance that you could do things that are so dumb that I really didn’t even conceive of a contingency where you could be this stupid. What you have to do is you have to think about the parameters, wrapping some wide parameters around stupidity in situations where you don’t know somebody well enough.
Jocko Willink (27:23):
And I’ll tell you, even when you do know people well, first time you put them in a combat, or first time they get put under stress, or the first time that they’re in an unknown, there’s situations where even someone you know and trust, you might need to throw some parameters around the most outlandish things that people could do. This is extreme ownership.
Jocko Willink (27:46):
Listen, If Dave does something, if I’m in charge and Dave does something that is so stupid, that is my fault because I didn’t put the parameters in place, I didn’t know him well enough. I didn’t anticipate this level of stupidity. And you know what that makes me? Stupid. You start to hear people saying, well, that person did that, that was just absolutely ridiculous. That’s just so dumb. It’s like yep, you got to remember people are going to do dumb things. Put some parameters in place to prevent really dumb things from happening. By the way, when they do happen, okay, you let it happen, go clean it up.
Jocko Willink (28:37):
I hate it when people do really dumb things. And the reason I hate it is because I know that I screwed up. I know that I screwed up.
Jocko Willink (28:47):
Here’s a question. Was it a good move or not? Was that call a good move or a bad call? And where this comes into play in the battle of Gettysburg and elsewhere, but where it really comes into play is we want our people to be default aggressive, we want our subordinate leaders to have a bias for action. We want them to step up and make things happen. We want to have decentralized command. All those things are good.
Jocko Willink (29:12):
Well, guess what, Dave, if you’re in the field and I’m in charge, you could show initiative. You could maneuver your troops to beyond the limit of advance because you saw an opportunity or you saw a situation that needed to be dealt with immediately. And that could cost us the battle. It might have been the wrong move and it cost us the battle. It might have been the right move and it won us the battle.
Jocko Willink (29:44):
There’s situations that happen at Gettysburg and there’s situations that have happened throughout battles throughout history. There’s situations that happen in business where somebody makes a move, somebody does something, it destroys the whole business. Somebody makes a gamble. Somebody throws out a product that they should, there’s just all these things that happened. Was it a good move or not? So you can sit back from a hindsight is 20/20 perspective and say, well, how do we know if something was a good move or not? How do we know if something was a good move or not?
Jocko Willink (30:18):
Well, what we have to do is we have to look at the fundamental principles that we are operating within. Cover and move is a good example. Cover and move, you could take that as implied intent from me. If you worked for me and you weren’t covering and moving, look, I said it to you, but you better freaking just know it as well. Cover and move is the way it is. This is a principle that doesn’t change.
Jocko Willink (30:43):
If you came back to me and you said, hey Jocko, here’s what I did. This element was moving, I moved to a position where I could better cover for them. They were able to move, but then I got flanked and I had to retreat, and then they retreated and that’s why we had to fail the mission.
Jocko Willink (31:05):
Was it a good move or not? Did you violate cover and move? Nope, you didn’t. So, I can look at that and say, you know what, you didn’t get the result you wanted, you failed the mission, but at least you didn’t violate the principles. If you came back and said, hey, you know what, Jocko, I saw an opportunity, I started flanking, I lost contact with the element that was supporting us. I’m trying to drive this in a good way.
Jocko Willink (31:32):
What really happened is you got target fixated and you moved too far and now all of a sudden you’re out of supporting distance and they can’t help you anymore. Now you can’t cover and move for each other. And that’s when they got ambushed and there was no support of for them. That’s why we took casualties. But I was just being aggressive. Actually, bro, you violated a principle. You violated cover and move.
Jocko Willink (31:54):
So now, if we want to stack things up, we go back to this idea of implied intent, commander’s intent, values, culture. We stack all those things up. If we start violating these things, now we can look back and we can objectively say this was a bad move, it didn’t support the intent, it didn’t support the implied intent, it didn’t support the commander’s intent. All those things are bad.
Jocko Willink (32:23):
Now where I have a problem is, I can’t count on you. I can’t hold you accountable for understanding my implied intent if I never talk about it with you. It can be a reason, but unless I turn that implied intent into a value, a culture and a commander’s intent, then it doesn’t help me. Those are some ways, if you think about situations and you want to debrief your people properly, and you say, well, do you know Dave, we’ve talked about cover and move since day one. I’ve seen you rehearse it and practice it. And you got out there and you’re wondering why I’m thinking that you made a bad move. It’s because you violated the only principle that I told you never to violate.
Jocko Willink (33:21):
That’s where we’re at as a leader. We’ve got people that are going to do things and we have to be able to explain to them why it was right or why it was wrong. Because we want initiative. And all this comes back to decentralized command, because we want people to have initiative. So where this is all going is the parameters that we allow people to operate within, the parameters that we allow people to operate within, We have to make sure that they understand them, goes back to revealing intent through contingencies, all these things stack up. If we want to be able to debrief someone properly and say, hey, here’s why this was a bad move and here’s why you can’t do it again, because it violated this, it violated this.
Jocko Willink (34:10):
By the way, it revealed to me that I’ve given you an implied intent that you didn’t understand. You thought I always thought go, and I don’t think that, and I gave you that impression, that’s my fault.
Jocko Willink (34:25):
When you make a bad move, I’m not saying it’s your fault, but I’ve got to be able to explain to you why it was a bad move. Good things to think about. When somebody makes a move, when they do something and you want to explain to them why it was wrong, you have to be able to display to them what they violated so that you can explain to them in a more clear manner what the violation was and why it can’t happen again.
Jocko Willink (35:05):
This one’s pretty simple and straightforward. There’s heroic activities at the battle of Gettysburg. And I just got to thinking, how is it that we as human beings can look at someone and say that was heroic? Why is that? Why is this heroic? Why is what this person did heroic and why what somebody else did not heroic? And it took me 20 seconds of thinking about it, what makes something a heroic act? And it’s so blatantly obvious. When somebody does something heroic, they do it not for themselves, but for others.
Jocko Willink (35:51):
Like I said, I’m going to cover the battle of Gettysburg in probably multiple podcasts. But this guy, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who was in charge of the 20th Maine, and he just made a heroic effort of leadership and personal fortitude at the moment of truth. And it’s awesome. But as I looked at all these different things as they unfolded it, and you also see other things that happen in the battle of Gettysburg, where you think, well, that was a move, but we’re not looking at it as heroic. Why? Well, it’s because it was done really for personal glory, or at least there was elements of personal glory in there.
Jocko Willink (36:38):
As a matter of fact, what’s interesting is when you start looking at the personalities, you start getting these caricatures of personalities at the Battle of Gettysburg, you’ll hear the word like oh, this guy was flamboyant. And it’s really hard to then take that person who’s flamboyant and start applying the heroic to them because you feel well, they’re flamboyant and they made sacrifices, but you get that, and look, I’m not being critical, I’m just saying that you get this tinge of, oh, this person was flamboyant, and all of a sudden you think, well, you know.
Jocko Willink (37:16):
But you see someone that’s not flamboyant, someone that was a former freaking school teacher like Colonel Chamberlain, and you think, yup, he’s doing this not for himself, not for any level of glory whatsoever. He’s doing this to sacrifice and to help others, that’s what he’s doing.
Jocko Willink (37:36):
And then you take all that and this whole experience at Gettysburg, you’re basically hearing this incredible story. And since you’re on the hollowed ground itself and it’s something that, I said on this podcast since day one, I used to do it more often, but I would say, hey, as I’m reading this, I want you to remember that this isn’t a character in a story. This isn’t an actor playing a role in a movie. This is a person, they did this.
Jocko Willink (38:13):
As I was at Gettysburg and you feel very, you can feel the gravity and the weight of the battlefield. You can feel it. And I know some of it is because we have been to war. So we all kind of have some taste in our mouth, some memory of loss and of fire and of blood and of fear. So we know it, and you’re there, and you hear these stories. It was very heavy for me because you start recognizing these stories.
Jocko Willink (38:58):
And I did a podcast about this with Darryl, with Darryl Cooper on Unraveling. It’s about the fact that, the way human beings absorb stories, and how we actually create stories in order to better understand the world around us. This isn’t, hey, theoretically, this is what we do. This is what we do. Our brain is programmed to do this. Our brain is programmed to look at a set of circumstances and build a story around it so that we can survive better in the world. That’s what we actually do.
Jocko Willink (39:37):
And you hear these stories of the way things unfolded at Gettysburg, and you realize that our current situation, it’s America, it’s 2020, we don’t often tell the right stories, or we have a battle of stories. And people have opposing stories of the way things are, the way things were, what happened and how things unfolded. And what that all tells me, it reinforced the fact that stories truly matter.
Jocko Willink (40:19):
If you’re on a team, if you’re organization, if you’re running a business, the story that you elevate has a massive impact on the mindset and the culture of the people that you are leading. Think about that and know that, and understand that. Dave, in the Marine Corps, think about the story of the Marine Corps and then think about the little stories that make up the Marine Corps. It’s a religious lore. It’s a biblical level story. And it provides the Marine Corps, tying back, it provides the Marine Corps with an implied intent, with a culture and with values that aren’t rooted in words. They are absolutely rooted in stories.
Jocko Willink (41:23):
And I’ve covered a bunch of Marine Corps doctrine. They root their values, they root their statements in stories so that they have meaning. If you’re running an organization, think about that because stories absolutely matter.
Dave Berke (41:46):
To have an organization that you can take someone like me and have those stories be so powerful that somehow I, Dave Berke, feel connected to Smedley Butler or Chesty Puller, or people I have never known and will never meet, but feel obligated to perform in some way that makes them proud of me being part of that organization, when you talk about culture like that, I haven’t thought about the stories in the way that you describe them and what they mean.
Dave Berke (42:24):
But as you’re saying it, that’s why I became a Marine was the stories. I didn’t know these people. And it wasn’t even that I read about these people in a chronological sense, it was that the stories of what these people were and feeling the sense of wanting to be a part of that and feeling obligated to meet some standard that almost seemed impossible.
Dave Berke (42:48):
The tying in of as you’re going from what makes someone heroic to the meaning of stories, think about what an organization can do if you can make that connection for your people. That’s why I became a Marine, that’s why I became a Marine.
Jocko Willink (43:06):
That’s why millions of people have become Marines.
Dave Berke (43:09):
Jocko Willink (43:12):
With that, I think it’s a good place to stop for tonight. If you want to dig deeper into these and all other aspects of leadership in any arena, you can join Dave and me and the rest of the Echelon Front team live. We are actually there. You want to talk to us? People on social media say, I’d love to meet you someday. Come on to efonline.com and come and meet me, meet Dave, meet the rest of the team. We’re there. We will answer your questions, we will help you solve your problems through leadership. If you want leadership guidance inside your organization, inside your company, come and check out our leadership consultancy at echelonfront.com. It’s what we do.
Jocko Willink (43:52):
I’ve also written a bunch of books about leadership, Extreme Ownership, The Dichotomy of Leadership, Leadership Strategy and Tactics. I’ve got some other podcasts. Jocko Podcast is my main podcast. I guess that’s the root of everything. Jocko Unraveling with my friend Darryl Cooper. We talk about very in-depth subjects. We also have Grounded, which is pretty about jujitsu and the Warrior Kid Podcast for all the warrior kids out there. If you want to support any of these podcasts, including this one, you can get some gear from jockostore.com or originmaine.com. That’s all we’ve got for tonight. Thank you for listening to The Debrief. Now, go lead.
Jocko Willink (44:38):
This is Dave and Jocko, out.
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