Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Regimentation and adaptability

Insight from Gen. Stanley McChrystal:

When I got to the Ranger Regiment as a young captain, I was retaught all of the fundamentals of being a soldier: how to hold my weapon, how to pack my ruck, how to tie my shoes. The focus on fundamentalsdoing simple things the right waywas all consuming. But there was a reason for it that went beyond just discipline. A Ranger in combat knows exactly where the medical kit is in his ruck. And he knows where it is in his buddy’s ruck, too. The fundamentals were always in place. Predictability drives adaptability.
I find this interesting on many levels. First, we are prone to think that regimentation leads to sluggishness and pig-headness. Yet here is an accomplished strategist and leader telling us that the opposite is true.

The key thing, it seems, is that the right fundamentals must be identified. After decades of combat, the Rangers know what matters. I wonder if most civilian organizations can say the same thing?
As the combat trainers say, when it hits the fan, you don’t rise to the occasion, you default to your training. On a more trivial note, many coaches could benefit from the Ranger way of doing things. I once heard one of Lombardi old players (I think Jerry Kramer) decrying way the things are now done in the NFL. Players, he said, “were over-coached and under-practiced.” He was not calling for a return to four-a-day practices. His point was that coaches were constantly expecting players to master new plays instead of  having them thoroughly master the fundamentals of their position. (Fundamentals, there is that word again.)

Nearly every NFL game I watch I see a handful of beautifully designed plays (over-coached) which fail because one or more players messes up his assignment (under-practiced).

OTOH, that does give the coach an out. He might not win, but everyone knows who blew his assignment, dropped the ball, or drew the penalty.

Some of the really great coach--Lombardi, Shula, Woodenwere fundamental fanatics. Funny that so few other coaches emulate these winners.

Something I read once from a Spec Ops guy: “Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong."

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