[September 8, 2020] In early 2007, I was selected for command of a Brigade. When I was notified, I was in the middle of planning and executing U.S. President George Bush’s troop “surge” in the Iraq War. I was never busier, and yet, I had dropped into my lap one the most important assignments of my career. What was required and my combat unit needed, was organized thinking.
This selection to Brigade command was a special honor; very few full colonels get to command such a unit. Fortunately, I sat down with my current commander and told him about my next job in the U.S. Army. His guidance was to keep myself and my team organized, get plenty of rest, and stay focused. If I needed his help, he was there just for the asking.
Upon redeployment back to the states in May, I went directly to my newly assigned Brigade for the traditional change of command. That afternoon, I sat down with the staff to discuss the upcoming year’s peacetime training schedule and personnel. I was briefed on higher headquarters’ guidance and got to meet the Brigadier General in charge of my unit and three other Brigades.
I had to admit to myself and my family that I was burnt out mentally after my second full year in combat and that I needed to spend some quality time with both. After a week’s vacation, it was time to jump back into action. But I knew that it would require everything I had and all my skills as an officer to be successful. Fortunately, it was a good unit that functioned well and had only minor personnel problems. Four Battalion Commanders under my unit were excellent, well-educated, and experienced. That made my next task more manageable.
There was no higher headquarters’ guidance for training. Obviously, this was a significant oversight. I immediately had my staff verify that fact and went about conducting their first-ever formal Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) top-to-bottom review. On top of the lack of guidance, we were undergoing a significant unit reorganization of mission and unit layout. It was a challenge that I was not expecting.
After the MDMP, my Operations Officer drafted a new mission statement that better explained what we were doing in the upcoming Fiscal Year. I was very specific and clear. After all my staff and subordinate commanders had received my new orders, it was time to speak with my commander, an experienced Brigadier General.
My commander was happy with my planning (in the absence of her higher headquarters’ guidance). For the next three years, my Brigade consistently achieved better results than other similar units for one reason; we applied organized thinking to our planning and execution efforts.
Here is what organized thinking can do:
- Anyone who will give organized thought to organizing his thinking can achieve unbelievable results. It is paramount that leaders evolve an orderly mental procedure to be consciously followed.
- There is no hard-set mechanical substitute for the magic processes of our brain, which we call thinking. But there is definitely a mental procedure of thought in which a leader can ensure getting the maximum results from the brain capacity with which he is endowed.