8 Tips From a Green Beret on Planning for Business Success

Sean Patton

11 May 2020

SPONSORED BY: CCU-Online-Logo_Blue


In a previous time, my daily tasks revolved around creating plans to overthrow foreign governments. Before you report me, let me share that I was lucky enough to command two distinct U.S. Army Special Forces Detachments—better known as Green Berets. 

Our primary mission was unconventional warfare that led an insurgent group to overthrow a foreign adversary. Commanding an insurgency is about doing more with less and operating in the most complex battlefields you can imagine. 

Our biggest advantage was our intense mission-planning abilities. In business, too many C-level leaders choose to “office plan” by themselves instead of leading their team through an effective planning process. The ability to utilize the assets of a team to solve complex problems separates good leaders from great ones. 

I’ve modified our complex methodology into a simple, yet powerful, eight-step decision-making framework for business success. If this process works for 12 guys trying to overthrow a foreign government, imagine what it can do for your business. 

  • Restate the problem and clarify your end state. What is the ultimate goal? If you lack a clear definition of success, then solutions will be hard to visualize. You need to know exactly where you want to end up in order to take the proper first step.
  • Identify variables and resources available. What resources do you need to be successful? What’s the budget for this planning project? Do your research. Ultimately, your decision will only be as good as the data you use to make it. 
  • Identify constraints. Constraints restrict your freedom of action. In the military, we would divide constraints into requirements (things you must do) and prohibitions (things you can’t do). This applies to business planning as well. Some constraints are explicit, like laws or standing company policies. Some are implicit and must be identified during the planning process. 
  • Determine the best problem-solving strategy. The critical skill is to be able to formulate the optimal planning process based on all factors involved and being able to effectively communicate this plan to your team. Defined roles and responsibilities, along with delegation, are key factors in maximizing your team’s efforts.
  • Implement strategy and Course of Action development. Your team will need to generate multiple distinct options for your review and evaluation. Once they do, it’s your job to divide up all the generated options and assign planning groups. These small groups will develop an assigned specific COA based on specific guidance from you.
  • Evaluate and compare potential Courses of Action. Your COA development teams present their plans to the leadership and larger group. List evident advantages and disadvantages of each COA. Leadership must ensure the feasibility, suitability and acceptability of these COAs. They must either modify or discard COAs that don’t align in achieving the team’s goals. Once all evaluation is complete it’s time to compare each COA. This is the last chance for members of your team to give their input on which COA you should go with. 
  • Make a decision. Now is your moment. You have all the data and have led your team through a thorough planning process. It is your responsibility to make a decision. If you have created a proper culture and involved others in the process, they will be much more supportive of your decision even if you didn’t choose their preferred option. 
  • Communicate your decision effectively. As I would tell my Special Forces team, “The good-idea fairy’s time is over. Here’s our plan.” It’s your job to clearly communicate your decision; it’s their job to execute this plan to the best of their abilities.  

Federal law prohibits me from sharing details of our plans, but solving complex problems and making decisions is what makes successful leaders. Strong teams involve everyone in the process to achieve organizational buy-in, inherent contingency planning and superior results. Unleash the greatness within your team and plan like a Green Beret.

Sean Patton

Sean Patton is a former U.S. Army Special Forces commander, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and a leadership guru. His blog and YouTube channel highlight concepts about servant leadership, mindset mastery and better living. As a leadership coach, Sean serves clients through four services: elite leadership workshops, one-on-one coaching, keynote speaking and consulting.

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