The military defines battle rhythm as “a deliberate daily cycle of command, staff and unit activities intended to synchronize current and future operations.” Businesses can learn much from the key aspects of military battle rhythm: organization, strategic routines and informed decision-making. Read on to learn what battle rhythm entails, how to set up a strategic battle rhythm and how battle rhythm can accelerate your company’s growth trajectory.
Battle rhythm is part strategic routine and part information processing. Together, these two components develop better quality and more useful information that encourages strategic decision-making. The military even uses battle rhythm as a strategy to gain a competitive edge. In an office, your battle rhythm will consist of timed meetings and briefings (so the information from each lower-level meeting can inform the decisions of higher-level meetings). The frequency of those meetings within your battle rhythm will vary depending on your business’s needs. You may choose daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly debriefs to supplement your regularly scheduled meetings and communication.
Regardless of what you choose, all members of your organization should understand your business’s battle rhythm to enable better cooperation and context for each person’s role in the greater mission. Every meeting should have a clear purpose, and only team members necessary for the meeting should be in attendance. A successful battle rhythm depends largely on organization. Without organization, nothing comes together in harmony. While some routines can be mixed up within a company, in general, there needs to be a set process that all team members follow. If one team member deviates, the entire organization becomes off-key.
Communication is key to success. Exchange all project information freely so everyone knows their parts as well as their colleagues’. By knowing each other’s battle rhythms, your team can effectively schedule meetings and projects without disrupting that schedule. If your company is adopting a battle rhythm to deal with a particular issue, make everyone aware of that issue instead of trying to hide it. Then provide regular updates on the situation for as long as it lasts. You should also cc employees on emails pertaining to important projects and outline what your team members should do before and after each meeting. Will you have someone take minutes during the meeting? Will you send follow-up emails? How will the results of each meeting be passed up the ladder?
Make sure teams that are interdependent are in communication with each other and that their battle rhythm interlocks as necessary. For example, if your hiring team is opening up for applications, they need to be in contact with your social media team to share the call for applicants. Your social media team will have to wait until the hiring team has prepared their list of application requirements, so their meeting should be scheduled after the hiring team has theirs.
Defined roles set up an organization for success and should be detailed from the moment a new team member is hired. You should incorporate new hires into your company’s battle rhythm and let them know when they will be part of meetings and what work they will need to complete in advance of those conferences.
Routine can hamper innovation, but using deadlines and reporting routines will give all members of your organization the framework to structure their work and tasks. They will know what to focus on and deliver updates regularly.
To set up effective weekly and monthly routines, first identify what information or status updates you need for key operational decisions each month. This could be related to inventory, sales or customers, for instance. Then, work backward to determine which inputs are necessary to make those key decisions. Develop a cadence for receiving necessary reports or pulling the needed data, as well as for manager review and reporting on the raw data. This will enable each employee to structure their weeks in order to develop and prepare the necessary report.
Avoid meeting too frequently, as employees need time to actually complete their work to help ensure decisions aren’t made on statistically insignificant data.
One common mistake businesses make when implementing a battle rhythm is not planning for high-stress situations. It can be easy to institute a routine during your company’s slow period, but routine can fall by the wayside when the pressure is on. Factor in your busy times and be realistic about what your team will be able to accomplish. Build in time buffers and chances for flexibility so you’re as prepared as possible for the unknown.
Battle rhythm strategy involves sharing important information up the chain of command. As the information moves upward, it should gain strategic value. Business owners should leverage their managers’ areas of expertise and years of experience by having them synthesize collected information from their reports. Something that is reported by base-level employees can be interpreted in a more meaningful way by more senior employees. These higher-level employees will have a better sense of what that data means in the grand scheme of operations. The managers should then deliver meaningful interpretations in an actionable manner. This will help you, the business owner, make the best decisions for the company. Debriefs should only include information you need to make decisions in the short term; otherwise, you could easily become overwhelmed by unrelated information that will ultimately confuse decision-making and waste time.
A battle rhythm can also help your small business reduce waste, boost efficiency and accomplish goals in less time. A widely adopted rhythm also ensures your employees are working in harmony and supporting one another’s efforts to the fullest extent. All of these things will inherently make your business stronger and more successful. With the resource and capital you save or earn thanks to your battle rhythm, focus on ways you can grow and expand your business. Try to minimize your risks by expanding a source of revenue you’re already secure in instead of branching out into an entirely new sphere. You can also try funneling some of your extra resources into improving your customer or client experience.
You can apply the battle rhythm system to a specific growth goal as well. Begin with the goal, then determine what benchmarks or improvements need to occur to make it possible. Set the benchmarks and timetables as goals for your departments, and have them determine a work schedule or their own plans for achieving the benchmarks in the time period needed. Check-ins ahead of benchmarks will both keep employees accountable and keep you informed on their progress. Frequent communication will keep you on top of any sudden changes or issues. Work with your managers to ensure that your goals and timetables are correct – you’ll need their support to drive their departments toward the goals.
Although you don’t want to get bogged down in far-out data while you make short-term decisions, all businesses benefit from having long-term goals and a sense of their trajectory to keep your business competitive.
A NASA janitor once told President John F. Kennedy that his job was to help put a man on the moon. He had an understanding of his role within the overall process. Synchronized efforts and clearly defined roles are crucial to a successful and strategic battle rhythm. All employees in your organization should know how their role helps the business grow as well as understand the goals of the company.
Lower levels in the chain will need to know the information required of them in order to shape their battle rhythm in the first place. You and your upper-level managers can outline company goals to the lower-level teams and explain what you need from them in order to make your decisions. From there, they can figure out when they need to meet to best prepare that data.
Greater understanding of the rhythm and roles will improve coordination and employee motivation. Departments within your business can more easily coordinate their activities if they know each other’s battle rhythm.