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Mission First, Always | Mark Wales | Leadership Speaker - 04 March 2019

Mission First, Always | Mark Wales | Leadership Speaker

Mark Wales is an extraordinarily skilled person. As a former SAS Troop Commander, Mark carries an impeccable military career that took him to Afghanistan on multiple tours, leading elite teams in the toughest and most stressful environments. Mark now dedicates his life to educating others on leadership, strategy and peak performance while under stress. Mark is a fresh and impressive speaker right from the opening line, delivering his message in a clear and engaging way that leaves his audience empowered.

Here Mark talks to us about how constantly examining your goal - your purpose - is a critical task.

I remember standing in a command post during my first tour in Afghanistan. I had been handed a campaign plan that outlined the war strategy to 2012. Year by year, we would be ‘degrading the Taliban and Al Qaeda, installing a stable police force, and improving governance.’ 

The year was 2006, and I remember thinking “there is no way on Earth we will still be in Afghanistan by 2012. The war will be over in the next few years.” 13 years after reading that paper, and 18 years after the war began, Allied troops are still fighting in Afghanistan. If the original mission was to destroy Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, what happened? Why are they still present? 

I realised after, that constantly examining your mission - your purpose - is a critical task. It keeps you in worthy battles and allows you to recognise ‘mission creep’ quickly. ‘Mission creep’ occurs when you lose focus on the success criteria you initially set, and continue to chase ever-expanding objectives. This can result in protracted and costly campaigns. Constantly reviewing your mission relevance is key to avoiding this mistake.

Defining the problem

I joined a top consulting firm after leaving the military and was impressed to see that ‘defining the problem’ was seen as the first step in their problem-solving approach. This was the precursor to a clear mission statement that included the parameters for success. It was reviewed on a weekly basis, ensuring no resources were spent on tasks that were no longer relevant to the broader mission. This approach saved time, resources and will power.

Taking the time to define the problem you are solving is the most important step, all subsequent acts will support solving this problem. ‘Mission Analysis’ is the term the military uses for this. The maxim that ‘plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy’ I found to be often true. Often our mission would become irrelevant early in an operation. This would mean discarding old plans and adapting to the limitations our inconsiderate enemies had imposed on us.

Teams that constantly check in on their initial reasons for fighting, can quickly prevent themselves from going down the wrong path. Management guru Peter Drucker summed it up well: 'there is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.' 

Create systems that allow you to check this often as a team, so you can make amendments quickly if you diverge from your original mission.

Mission first, always.

Discover more about Mark here.

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