Figure 86: Sample Excerpt from James D. Murphy’s Business Text (Whole Form)

Below is an excerpt that falls under the comment “Analysis.”

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Figure 86: Sample Excerpt from James D. Murphy’s Business Text (Whole Form)

As a fighter pilot, I care very much about the overall objectives laid out by the general officers of the United States Air Force. . . . But I don’t operate in a generalized world.  My world is very specific.  I’m an F-15 air superiority fighter pilot.  I don’t drop bombs.  I don’t have a thirty-millimeter tank-killing gun like the A-10. . . . I do one thing well, and that’s provide air cover for ingressing bombers by taking out airborne threats.  I do not operate under the same rules as an F-117 Stealth pilot, or an F-16 pilot.  My mission objective is very specific, tied totally to my individual capability and my training.As such, it’s imperative that the mission I’m assigned is specific and precise, not vague or general.  Imagine if I went up in the air with only the following orders:  ‘Murphy, your objective is to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.  Good luck—let’s go kick some ass.’  It’s okay for Norman Schwarzkopf to say that; in fact, that’s what he’s supposed to say.

His job is to establish an overall objective for the troops, and to do it in such a way that all participants understand it and get behind it.  He probably doesn’t even know how I do what I do.  But he doesn’t need to know.  He simply needs to lay out a straightforward overall objective that can be divided into manageable parts that, when activated, will lead inexorably to the achievement of his objective.

How does this happen?  The military command structure underneath Schwarzkopf has to take his general vision and push it down through the ranks and into the cockpits, subs, and trenches—where it is presented not as a vision, but as a mission.  Directly underneath Schwarzkopf, the brigadier generals break the vision down into its individual parts—the Army does this, the Air Force does that, and so on.  Next, the commanding generals evaluate their individual assets and create an overall operations plan.  This called the frag, short for fragmentary order, the overall battle plan broken down into the relevant parts.  The bombers, fighters, and ground forces are all commanded to converge on a certain target at a certain time and in a certain sequence.

One level down, other officers convert the frag into even smaller parts.  The 1st Fighter Wing and its F-15s do this; the F-117 guys from Holliman do that.  The KC-10s will be waiting to give gas here, the A-10s will attack tanks there.

Yet another level down, wing commanders divide the frag again.  For example, they might decide that twelve F-15s will be responsible for providing air cover over a specific piece of ground, so that thirty-six bombers can come in under them and pound enemy targets that our ground troops will then secure.

With the group objective stated for the F-15s, the individual flight leaders, who might be young captains or lieutenants, will look at the airspace they need to sanitize and organize the F-15s with altitude blocks and lanes of responsibility so that we can absolutely, positively do our job—which is to make certain no one hops on the tails of the bombers.

At this point Schwarzkopf’s vision has become a mission for me, the individual pilot.  I don’t set my sights on something as personally unattainable as kicking Iraqis out of Kuwait, but I am ready to give my life to protect an important lane of airspace with my F-15.  I’m ready to give my life in the execution of a clear, measurable, attainable mission that supports the overall vision of my commander. . . .

How often do companies ask their employees to execute their jobs under the banner of a ‘mission statement’ or a generalized corporate goal?  A mission statement is fine, but like an overall objective, it isn’t specific enough to lead anybody anywhere.  Mission statements aren’t marching orders.  They sound good, they make sense, but they have zero effect until the organization breaks them down into finer and finer pieces, from rank to rank, presented clearly to each and every employee as a specific task with a measurable outcome that is his and his alone to perform. . . .

Like the Air Force, your company should use its command structure to filter a general vision down to the level of the individual employee.  And it shouldn’t be a great leap from the general vision to the individual missions, either.  There should be a logical, sequential breakdown of the vision, so that each group can responsibly accomplish its human-scale goals.

Source:  Business is Combat by James D. Murphy, pages 42-25

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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