One of the books I just finished working my way through was No Easy Day, the firsthand account of the killing of Osama Bin Laden written by Navy Seal Matt Bissonnette under the pseudonym Mark Owen.
As a bit of a military buff, my main goal for reading No Easy Day was just to learn a bit more about the work that Seals do to defend our nation. Their service goes largely unrecognized simply because of the secretive nature of their missions.
While reading, however, I learned that Seals and full-time classroom teachers actually have something in common.
We both spend half our professional lives pushing back against Good Idea Fairies, who Bissonnette decribes as well-intentioned people working in the “head shed” beyond the mission who dream up ridiculous solutions to nonexistent concerns and slow teams down (Kindle Location 665).
In the case of the raid on Bin Laden’s compound, the Good Idea Fairies — in an an attempt to convince Osama’s Pakistani neighbors that the middle-of-the-night attack was nothing more than a local police action — decided that a group of Seals would be tasked with attaching a police light to the roof of one of Osama’s Land Rovers in the early moments of the attack.
Then, the same group of Seals would work together to push the car — complete with flashing police light — into the street in front of Bin Laden’s house before returning to the battle.
Stew in THAT for a minute, would you?
Why would a group of Seals on a covert mission inside the borders of a country that didn’t know we were coming ever WILLINGLY draw extra attention to themselves by firing up a flashing blue light that they just happened to carry along?
And are we REALLY convinced that neighbors woken in the middle of the night by the sounds of war — helicopters, machine guns, explosions — next door would believe that a local police action was taking place simply because ONE car with a flashing blue light happened to be blocking the street?
But most importantly, do we REALLY want soldiers who are finally in position to capture and/or kill one of the world’s most notorious and elusive terrorists afer YEARS of searching — and who are literally risking their lives on our behalf– to spend ANY time pushing a car out into the street?
And discarded immediately by the guys who knew better because they’d been carrying out raids in Iraq and Afghanistan — rather than calling the shots from Washington DC — for the better part of the last decade.
The leadership lessons learned from Bissonnette’s police light experience is a simple one:
Sometimes the best laid plans — especially in complex, constantly shifting, unpredictable situations — are simple and flexible.
And sometimes the best choice that leaders can make in complex, constantly shifting, unpredictable situations is to trust their talent to execute under fire.
Heavily scripting the shots does nothing but pigeonhole your team into an overly-complicated plan based on nothing more than your predictions about what MIGHT happen.
So what’s the #flashinglight in YOUR school and/or district?
What crazy plan dreamed up by a Good Idea Fairy is distracting you from work that REALLY matters?
Credit: If You Believe in Fairies by JD Hancock
Creative Commons Attribution on December 4, 2012