BAMCIS—Six Leadership Steps, the Marine Corps Way
Not everything you do at work is project-oriented; everything doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and end. Some things are ongoing and require your attention every day. Sometimes a management task doesn’t lend itself to an involved process. At times like that, it is helpful to have a “yardstick” handy, a maxim that is easy to remember, provides structure, and reminds you of a process. For this, leaders in the US Marine Corps use BAMCIS.
BAMCIS is an acronym for: Begin planning, Arrange for reconnaissance, Make reconnaissance, Complete the plan, Issue the order, and SUPERVISE. This article will provide a closer look at these “troop leading steps” and how they relate to business management.
BEGIN PLANNING: At this point a situation has presented itself that requires action. Whether it is an employee who is habitually late that hasn’t showed up for work yet again or a major customer has announced that they are looking for a solution your company can provide them, the first thing you need to do is develop a plan of action. Begin planning is a sort of brainstorming phase. You’ll identify one or more actions you may want to take. You will want to get a general idea of the costs involved, resources required, and people you will need to involve. During this phase you’ll come up with an idea of some of the risks involved with your course(s) of action.
ARRANGE FOR RECONNAISSANCE: BAMCIS was developed with the infantry leader in mind, so the steps are titled towards the conduct of an attack. But they apply just as well to the business world. Arranging for reconnaissance is nothing more than identifying the things you don’t know from the first step, figuring out what you need to know to take appropriate action, and taking whatever steps you need to take to gather your information.
In our example of the prospective client, you’ll likely want to know more about them. You can arrange for reconnaissance by planning to consult their corporate website, or using other Web resources. You might want to know if any of your people has dealt with the company in the past—as a customer, an employee, or in a sales call to them. You might want to use a social networking site like LinkedIn to see if you have any connections to their senior staff or you may want to call them and arrange for a lunch or to meet for coffee or drinks. Maybe there are trade publications, press releases, or white pages that need to be read.
MAKE RECONNAISSANCE: In combat, it is vitally important for a leader to get “eyes on the target”—to see what is going on for himself. In business, you may not find yourself in the middle of a jungle with a map and a compass, but the thing to remember about this step is that you are the decision maker and it is up to you to stay engaged.
Before your salesman heads off to try to land the big contract, you need to know what they found out—Will the product meet the needs? Did all your questions get answered? And what were those answers? There’s an old saying, “you can delegate work, but you can’t delegate responsibility,” so you’d better be sure your information-gathering needs were met.
COMPLETE THE PLAN: Here’s where you return to your initial brainstorming and “fill in the blanks”. It’s possible that your “reconnaissance” has ruled out a plan that looked good initially. Or it may have caused you to make major changes to it. Information-gathering may have even shown you a completely different direction that you want to take. This, like reconnaissance, is a step that you can and probably should delegate to subordinates most of the time, but you will ultimately approve, deny, or ask for further work on the plan before executing it.
ISSUE THE ORDER: Again, in the military this can be as involved as an order several hundreds of pages long, with exhibits and attachments, or it can be as simple as “Bad guys coming up the trail. Set up an ambush on this side of the trail, with the machine guns on the flanks. Hold your fire until I fire first.”
SUPERVISE: This step is referred to as “the most important troop-leading step.” By now you’ve probably realized this supervision is continuous throughout the process. As a leader you’re not going to have the time to do everything yourself. You may not even have the skills or information needed for the earlier steps, but ultimately it is you who is responsible, so you need to supervise continuously. “How’d the lunch go?” “What did we find out?” “Did we get the shipment that was supposed to come in this morning?” “Why isn’t this set up the way we agreed on?”
While it has its origins in leading Marines in combat, the Six Leadership Steps will serve you just as well as you lead in the business world.
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