How do you plan the mission to kill Bin Laden?
As much as it pains me to admit it, SEALs are not super human. Short of having a higher pain tolerance than most and an over developed need to protect, we are not that much different.
What separates us and what helps us to successfully pull off incredible operations, is our specialized training and planning. This type of training and planning was seen in the SEAL Sniper’s at sea rescue of Capt. Phillips and in the Osama bin Laden raid.
The planning process that is used by Navy SEALs was developed in the muddy jungle during the Vietnam War and has constantly evolved since then. This planning process is referred to as contingency planning and is used to varying degrees across the corporate world as well.
Most planning processes focus on the “perfect operation.” A plan is put together that describes the operation as you would want it to unfold in a perfect world. Once this plan is developed, than you practice it and conduct many dry runs. As SEALs we view this traditional contingency planning process as only the very beginning of the planning process. For those of you who have attended a Sealed Mindset Date Night and have seen our emergency plan, you know what I mean….
In contingency planning we as SEALS not only plan for the “perfect operation,” but we also spend a great deal of time planning for contingencies. Another word for contingencies would be problems. Everyone has heard of Murphy’s Law, “What can go wrong, will go wrong.” As SEALs we want to make it as uncomfortable for “Murphy” as we can.
We do this by breaking the mission down into individual sections. Each section represents one part of the overall plan. For example, we may break a mission down into insertion, actions at the objective, and extraction. In layman’s terms, this means getting there, what you do when you are there, and getting home.
After the mission is broken up into phases, we discuss (as a team) every problem that may come up during that section of the mission. The top three most likely problems (contingencies) will be decided upon and assigned to individual team members. Each person will them be tasked with preparing three plans that solve his assigned problem. After all of these “contingency plans” are finished, the plans are presented to the team as a whole. At that point, responsibilities are assigned and the required equipment is prepared.
Interestingly enough, most of the time the problems that occur during a mission are rarely the same as the problems planned for during this contingency planning process. But, one of the most important benefits of this process is that by working together as a team to find and plan for expected problems, the entire team truly understands the overall intent of the plan. This understanding of mission intent allows the operators to seamlessly work though any problem that may arise.
The effectiveness of this planning process was seen in action during the bin Laden raid. Even with the loss of a helicopter, the SEALs were able to instantly adjust and complete the mission.
This planning process is just as effective in any environment where there is a potential for problems to arise. If you are interested in learning more about the SEAL contingency planning process, or how you can learn to implement this process across your organization for mission success, please contact us at email@example.com.