patch-500x500A huge part of the key to success in a Special Forces mission is the planning. I’ve found applying aspects of this planning process in the civilian world has aided me greatly in building a successful writing career, a seven-figure publishing company, and a consulting and speaking business (which uses Special Forces tactics and techniques in other fields).

Here are five tools we used, which you can also:

  1. Conduct an area study. We spent a considerable amount of time researching the environment and locale in which we would be operating. We had an extensive checklist of items to consider, from the obvious like terrain and enemy forces, to the less obvious, such as flora and fauna, power grids, medical issues, infrastructure, etc. Going into a place blind is a formula for disaster. Have an area study checklist for your area of operations.
  2. We went into ‘isolation’. Once we were handed a mission packet, we were locked up in a secure compound. This was not only for security reasons, but also to allow us to focus with no distractions. While a 24/7 isolation might be extreme in the civilian world, it is possible to conduct a form of isolation. When in the key planning stages, do you limit outside distractors? As a writer, I sometimes rent an apartment or house in a different locale with no television, cable, internet or phone. It allows me to focus completely on the writing.
  3. Make contingency plans. What can go wrong, will go wrong. I was a bit taken aback reading Lone Survivor and the lack of mission planning and contingency planning that was conducted before that operation. One thing we always factored in was that we were going to be found by the indigenous personnel no matter where in the world we went. In isolation we “war-gamed” as many possibilities as we could imagine. And then planned for them. Even before isolation, we had a team Standing Operating Procedure that laid out many of our contingencies for stock situations. (More on SOPs in another post). Remember, it’s too late to plan for Murphy to visit, when he’s amongst you.
  4. Rehearse. Then rehearse some more. And then more. And make sure everyone is cross-trained so that if only one member of the A-Team makes it to the target, then he can achieve the mission. There is no substitute for rehearsal. Think of sport’s teams: they call rehearsal ‘practice.’ And make sure your rehearsals are as realistic as possible. There were times our training was more dangerous than the actual mission. But there is no substitute for rehearsal. And prioritize your rehearsals based on time available. We always started with ‘actions on the objective’, which was the mission and then worked backward from that.
  5. hConduct a briefback. This is critical and a valuable tool that can be used in any environment prior to launching on a mission. After finishing your plan to do something, you should conduct a briefback. A briefback is an effective tool a leader can use to make sure subordinates have developed a plan that will accomplish the goals and whether adequate support has been allocated. The briefback is a way of insuring that everyone understands the mission and all key parties such as operational, logistics, communications, transport, etc. are on the same sheet of music. The briefback also assigns responsibilities. When the FOB (forward operating baser) commander gives the team a go at the end of the briefback he is taking responsibility for the team on this mission. The briefback is attended by the A-Team, the FOB commander, his staff, and any other parties that are connected to the mission. It is limited to those who have a need to know and classified at least at secret level. In essence, though, a briefback can be used in any situation where a group must work together to accomplish a mission to insure that the planning and preparation are well done.

These are just some Special Forces tools that can be modified and used in pretty much any setting and for any mission. For more detail, you can check out Who Dares Wins: Special Operations Strategies for Success, or ask in the comment section.