So I have another comparison between the military and agile and in this case it’s lean specifically. Lean prescribes making decisions as late as possible but sometimes it’s hard to know when it’s time to make a decision. In the military my last company commander taught me a rule he thought work well. It was the one third rule. The rule is that each commander have a third of the time available to prepare and give orders. The rest of the time is needed by the subordinates to execute the order. This means that if there is something that has to be done in one hour the company commander can use 20 minutes of that. Each platoon then have 40 minutes of which the platoon commander should use 13 minutes. Of the remaining 27 minutes the squad leader should use nine minutes to prepare the squad leaving 18 minutes to execute the order.
So this to me sounds very much like a waterfall because of the different levels involved and the 18 minute execution time out of one hour does not sound that efficient. The rule is not really a rule but more of a rule of thumb. I think the important lesson from this is that you should not make a hasty decision just because you’re pressed for time. Instead set a time limit, gather as much information s you can and then make your decision. Another important lesson is that you must allow enough time to complete the order. So consider the thing that needs to be done in one hour. Assume you, as a company commander, knows that it takes 40 minutes to complete. So there is only 20 minutes of preparation and the company commander can only use one third of it. That’s about seven minutes. The platoon commander get four minutes (one third of 13). The squad leader get three minutes to give orders and the squad get six minutes to prepare.
So far this is hardly revolutionary. Essentially the military decision making process states that you should gather as much intelligence as possible before making a decision (same as lean) and make sure there is enough time to complete whatever decision you make. Also if there is no hard deadline, set a deadline and make a decision.
Another important part about military decision making is that it’s important to make a decision. Because acting is better that reacting. In the military you want to keep the initiative because the one who has the initiative will win. The essence is that it’s better to make a decision now than the perfect decision later. And you must also know that you’re making a decision that you may have to change later when you have more information. So you’re essentially improving your decision iteratively. All this is sounds very lean in my ears.
I think good decisions makers make informed decisions. But they do not try to make the perfect decision and are prepared to change their decision when new facts are available. And they make sure there is enough time to complete what needs to be done. And I think being a great decision maker is really hard since it involves balancing between waiting and not waiting for more information.