What the Navy SEALS can teach you about Lesson Planning

SMACC DOWN YOUR LESSON

       Most people don’t know how to plan well. For the most part it is not their fault. They run out of time due to various factors and cognitive biases. Among these are the planning fallacy and Parkinson’s Law.

Frankly if its good enough for a Navy SEAL Commander, its good enough for me.

The planning fallacy is a “phenomenon in which predictions about how much time will be needed to complete a future task display an optimistic bias (underestimate the time needed). This phenomenon occurs regardless of the individual’s knowledge that past tasks of a similar nature have taken longer to complete than generally planned.”[i] We are simply too optimistic to take into account the many factors that could delay completion of projects or missions.

Cyril Northcote Parkinson first described Parkinson’s Law in a 1955 edition of the economist. After studying the British Civil Service he determined that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”[ii] It is the reason that people wait until the last minute to turn in projects or assignments. However, these can be overcome by using proper planning.

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An important lesson on planning can be found in The Way of the SEAL by Mark Divine.

US_Navy_SEALs_insignia

Mark Divine discusses how SEALs do not plan like others.  Their planning accounts for inevitable issues that will come up. The best way that I have come across to plan is to employ the SMACC method. You can use this method to plan anything.

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Divine used this type of planning in the Navy SEALS and frankly if its good enough for a Navy SEAL Commander, its good enough for me.

Situation

Mission

Actions

Command

Communications

Situation. What are the background circumstances leading to a need for action? Why is it that the target FITS the team right here and now? You must envision and research every detail so everyone can understand the backdrop to your mission.

Mission. What exactly is the mission? Write a statement using SMART terminology (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely or Time-Bound — see Principle 5 for more on this). Make sure you include your targets and use words that conjure images in your audience’s mind.

Action. What actions will your operating team perform? What about your administrative and logistical support teams? Actions are the meat and potatoes of your plan. No plan survives contact with the enemy — meaning that reality often requires adjustments — so make sure you include contingencies for when things go wrong.

Command. Who’s in charge of what and when? This is important, since leadership roles will likely shift during the mission. Plan contingencies for this part as well.

Communication. How will teammates communicate with each other and to others? Who will communicate which messages in what timeframe, using what methods?_

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Application

 

Think about a field trip. How could you use this structure if you were going to the zoo?

Situation: 7th Grade Class needs to get field research done on animals

Mission: 7th Grade Class needs to safely attend, tour, and extract notes on the experience at the zoo.

Actions:

Reserve buses

Administer permission slips

Acquire chaperones

Leave at 8:00

Rendezvous at 12 at the food court

Exit zoo at 2:30

Command:

Mission Leader: Mr. Palank

Buses- Mrs Johnson

Slips- Mr. White

Chaperones- Ms Lee

Food Court Rendezvous – Mr White

Communications:

Begin process of acquisitions one month out

Check in at weekly intervals for updates on progress

Check in the day before for last minute issues

Check in with chaperones via cell phone call each hour

This simple framework is very powerful when used correctly. There is still a lot of wiggle room to make judgments but at least you have a framework to fall back on. Below is a graphic organizer that you can use to plan for any project, mission, or goal that needs to be achieved.

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Targets Evidence of Meeting Targets
Situation

What are the background circumstances leading to a need for action? Why is it that the target FITS the team right here and now? You must envision and research every detail so everyone can understand the backdrop to your mission.

Mission

Mission. What exactly is the mission? Write a statement using SMART terminology (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely or Time-Bound — see Principle 5 for more on this). Make sure you include your targets and use words that conjure images in your audience’s mind.

Actions

Action. What actions will your operating team perform? What about your administrative and logistical support teams? Actions are the meat and potatoes of your plan. No plan survives contact with the enemy — meaning that reality often requires adjustments — so make sure you include contingencies for when things go wrong.

Command

Command. Who’s in charge of what and when? This is important, since leadership roles will likely shift during the mission. Plan contingencies for this part as well.

Communications

Communication. How will teammates communicate with each other and to others? Who will communicate which messages in what timeframe, using what methods?
 

References:http://www.wayoftheseal.com/

[i] Kahneman, D., Tversky, A. (1979). “Intuitive prediction: biases and corrective procedures”. TIMS Studies in Management Science 12: 313–327.

[ii] Parkinson, Cyril Northcote (November 19, 1955). Parkinson’s law. The Economist.

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