Military Training vs. Management Training

What’s a war story doing in an article about training? Surely not another cliched message about “if it worked in the Navy, it ought to work in a bank, or textile plant, or social agency.”

There are differences between the environment found in the military and that found in other organizations. Military (particularly combat) employees tolerate conditions clearly not imposable on civilians. Can you imagine requiring an engineering recruit to crawl through a 40-yard mud pit as a condition of employment? Even the thought is preposterous. Yet, there may be useful parallels worthy of exploration.

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The current war cry across corpo¬rate battlefields is productivity. Already the in-baskets of many managers are littered with brochures claiming the inside track on methods to improve productivity—the word it¬self is the eye-catcher used to sell snake oil. Some solutions are therapeutic; most are placebos.

Managers want their units to operate as a high-performance team. Most recognize a direct link between effective team functioning and output per employee hour. Coordination and commitment are crucial commodities in efforts to gain this effectiveness. One only has to observe a Sunday af¬ternoon pro football game or a Friday evening ballet to appreciate the by¬products of teamwork at its best.

There are numerous blueprints for creating a high-performance team. Researchers, writers and motivation filmmakers have for many years ob¬served human effectiveness and de¬rived valid principles to preach broader application.

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The Hawthorne studies of Elton Mayo led to new principles of group dynamics; the Texas Instruments studies by Ford, Myers, Walters and others led to new principles of job enrichment. Quality circles, situational leadership, assessment centers and a host of other interventions have come from a simi¬lar observe derive principles—apply in other contexts approach. Many have led to greater worker productivity and improved worker satisfaction.

The SEAL story
The U.S. Navy SEALS get their name for the elements Sea, Air, Land—in and from which they oper¬ate. They are unique on and under the sea. They parachute at night to minimize detection. On land they are masters of terrain, wise in the ways of the jungle.

The underlying spirit of SEALS is excellence, confidence and a high sense of winning. Recruiting litera¬ture labels them as unique, superbly trained and independent.

They typically operate in highly dangerous environments, conducting small-unit reconnaissance patrols, raids and demolition missions with little support. Word-of-mouth publicity characterizes them as among the most effective combat soldiers in the world.

SEAL principles can be applied to many organizational units, but the training department is an excellent area for experimentation. Trainers value the fostering of personal growth and aiding organizational change. Their enjoyment of novel approaches and social encounters makes the fraternity of a high-performance team appealing.

Many training units are currently undergoing change. They are separating ling- from their historical place right under personnel on the organizational chart. Some are expanding their vision to encompass human re¬sources development and broadening their approach to include internal consulting. As the training unit strives for higher performance, it is likely to receive such pay-offs as greater credibility and new opportunities to influence a wider range of organizational clients.

SEAL principles for high performance emerge from a framework or model which honors a number of elements: superior competence, high energy levels, self-esteem, motivating situations and the experience of exclusivity. The principles employed by the U.S. Navy to select, train and maintain this high-performance human system hold promise for appli¬cation to the American work force, but particularly the training function.

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By : Chop Bell. Training Magazine.