As they say, it is always better when it comes from someone else’s mouth, than yours when trying to “sell” or promote your work.
I had an outstanding week at the US Military Academy at West Point. The instructors there from the director down are great people to work with, and are moving to evolve the way DMI develops adaptability in our future leaders. I also invited my friend and comrade, Lieutenant Fred Leland of the Walpo Police Department (outside Boston MA) to attend my workshop and meet several of the instructors at the USMA Department of Military Instruction (DMI). DMI is likened to what ROTC does, focuses on the military education portion of a cadet’s development (while other departments or the college focuses on academic development). My intention of inviting Fred was to give instructors of DMI his prospective of using Adaptive Leader Methodology (ALM). Fred used my book Raising the Bar: Creating and Nurturing Adaptive Leaders to Deal with the Changing Face of War as a foundational document to reform his police department.
The following is Fred’s recent post,
Law Enforcement & Security published a new entry entitled “United States Military Academy West Point Raising the Bar” on 8/8/2008 8:04:52 AM, written by Fred Leland.
United States Military Academy West Point Raising the Bar
I had a unique opportunity to participate in the Deciding Under Pressure…and Fast workshop as an invited guest of Don Vandergriff U.S. Army, Ret; along with the training staff of the United States Military Academy, West Point. The class consisted of 15 officers, of the training cadre whose job it will be to teach new cadets the critical tasks of decision making and leadership. Decisions that will need to be made in the heat of the moment under the stress of combat.
The workshop, Deciding Under Pressure…and Fast is part of Don Vandergriff’s effort to reshape the culture of training and leadership. To enhance decision making in the field and create an atmosphere of adaptability. This is critical in dangerous and time critical situations such as military combat, police use of force and problem solving, Security reacted issues as well as businesses trying to get the most effective performance out of their organizations.
This class started out with a tactical decision game that tasked all participating in finding a solution to a military problem of security in a area of the world that required humanitarian aid. There is an enemy force large but untrained who fled the city. Your platoon is tasked with conducting security patrols outside the city in heavily wooded terrain with rolling hills. About an hour into the patrol your point man spots what appears to be an enemy patrol armed with small arms moving towards your squad, 2 kilometers south of the city. You are in a concealed position and decide to establish and ambush and position your squad accordingly. You radio headquarter to inform them of the situation. Just as you are about to initiate your ambush the first team leader points out another enemy unit moving toward and behind you. There is at least six enemy with more following. He is not sure how many. Your location is still unknown to the enemy.
Don exclaims In a time limit of 30 seconds decide whether you will spring your ambush. Develop your scheme of maneuver for either case and rationale for your decision. No questions!
Those participating begin writing their decisions on paper and what seemed like a second Vandergriff began the countdown ten seconds, 5 seconds, 4, 3, 2, 1, ok with a finger pointed at a participant, “what is your decision?” It did not seem like a lot of time but, what was apparent, everyone participating came up with a decision. Each decision was discussed and reviewed over a 40 minute time frame, not planned, just the time it took. Lessons learned; viable, workable, and good decisions were made as to how to handle this rapidly unfolding set of circumstances.
Then came the unconventional tennis ball game, I have seen Don use this once before, its a game he often uses. Seven people form a circle and Vandergriff gives his instructions; the ball starts with me and ends with me. It is not to touch anyone more than once, but must touch everyone. The process begins, 9.34 seconds to make the first evolution. How do we make it faster? Quickly one of the officers took charge and offered advise as to how the team could expedite the process. They give it a try and it is faster. Now Don adds a second tennis ball and then a third which is meant to show the effect of more information and policy and procedure has on complicating things. Then all seven members begin to communicate and work through the problem of getting three tennis balls around fast as possible. They communication picked up and ideas were bandied about and in the end 3 balls .69 of a second. From 1 ball 9.34 to 3 balls .69 in just a few short minutes.
These examples and others conducted throughout the day were proof in my view of the decision making process being conditioned to make rapid decisions under pressure. You could see it take place as you participated in the class. Don Vandergriff has spent years mastering this process and has written about it in his Book Raisin g the Bar; Creating and Nurturing Adaptability in the Changing Face of War. The book in my view is the most comprehensive and concise how too book, only 114 pages. The book describes Vandergriff’s Adaptive Leadership Methodology which in short is about leadership, training and decision making.
The workshop was not solely about decision making; but making sense of new situations, seeing patterns, and spotting opportunities and options that were not seen before. The participants evolve throughout the days workshop and become more comfortable in a variety of situations, building moral courage and strength of character, that’s needed for good decisions in high stress situations. The tactical decision games also teach and assist in developing more advanced and ambitious tactics in a vast array of circumstances. It also stress the importance of knowing your stuff and becoming more familiar with weapons capabilities, employment techniques and other technical details needed to decide. Vandergriff’s efforts are to clear the way for rapid decision making under pressure and have been tested through training and in real world experience in combat.
This workshop was also about how to teach, facilitate, mentor and evaluate adaptability. All participating were split into two groups, and tasked with developing our own tactical decision game which was played out by the other group and then reviewed. Clearly you could see all were enthusiastic about the process of creating a scenario. In the end both games developed by the participants were great educational tools and indeed taught decision making and adaptability.
An important note on this training is that not one power point slide was shown and everyone in the room instructor and student were vigorously participating. No morning break, it was lunch before you knew it! No afternoon break, it was 4PM before you knew it! All spent learning and educating the mind to make decisions under pressure and fast. It worked! And worked well!
These Army Officers and instructor/facilitators will be teaching young cadets, up and coming leaders in our Military. The Instructors will take their experiences from life and combat themselves and apply these valuable lessons to help prepare the Cadets for the critical decisions they may indeed have to make under pressure in the real world of combat. I was proud to participate and prouder to know these great young men and women are out there, life on the line, making the decisions that need to be made in the defense of freedom! This type of workshop will insure those who participate, as well, as those under their command will be the safer for it!