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海豹突击队给企业家的五条管理启示

Jeff Bussgang 2011年05月18日

尽管在目前的商业战场上,战争策略被过度借用,但是对于企业领导人而言,一些战场上的经验确实非常值得借鉴。

    自从奥萨马•本•拉登被击毙以来,全世界对海豹突击队(Navy SEALs)的兴趣与日俱增。我承认,我自己对他们也非常着迷。雷迪金融集团(Ready Financial)是我的投资组合中的一家公司,其CEO 威尔•图穆迪便是一位退役的海豹突击队员(服役期1990 – 1995)。好心的威尔向我介绍了他的一位战友——布兰登•罗杰斯(服役期1990 - 2000)。不久前,布兰登为包括我在内的、来自美国纽约市科技行业的20位CEO及公司创始人讲述了海豹突击队的故事——在他们执行作战任务背后的训练、计划制定和运作情况;并且,他还为企业家们给出了几条相关经验。从海豹突击队退役后,布兰登先后加入了哈佛商学院(HBS)和麦肯锡咨询公司(McKinsey),之后与他人共同创办了自己的对冲基金,丰富的阅历让他的观点不但有趣,而且具有多面性。

    讨论非常热烈,涉及的内容也很广泛。布兰登重点给出了五条关键经验:

    1. 艰苦是一种财富。海豹突击队学员需要参加为期6个月的高强度特训,训练的科目名为“基本水中爆破/海豹突击队训练”(BUD/S)。特训的目的是要测试候选人的体能和精神极限。一般情况下,训练结束后,将有70%的学员被淘汰。海豹突击队员们很快就会明白,训练中的折磨和痛苦,会让他们的精神更加坚韧,身体更加强壮,并且逐渐喜欢上这种艰苦的环境。布兰登指出,对于正处于艰苦创业时期的公司高管们来说,他们应该学会爱上这种艰苦,因为这会让他们的团队更加坚韧,为“战斗”做好充分的准备。

    2. 80%的训练,20%的执行。没有实际作战任务时,海豹突击队员们会拿出大部分时间,针对各种不同的任务进行训练。但许多创业公司却恰恰相反,他们的管理人员通常会花全部的时间来执行,却没有给训练留下一丁点时间。布兰登突出强调了训练和实践的重要性,涵盖了所有领域——新员工入职、管理实务等。对于针对意外状况进行训练的重要性,他也发表了自己的看法。他认为,两年前,在拯救人质时,三名海豹突击队员同时击毙三名索马里海盗,便是这种训练的成果,因为他们做好了应对任何情况的准备。听完那个例子,在座的CEO们都睁大了眼睛,他们肯定是在认真考虑自己的培训制度和情景规划。

    3. 每个角色都很重要。布兰登指出了甘于平庸的代价,即便大公司也不能避免。每一位海豹突击队员都需要100%地相信,背后的战友能够拯救他们的生命,帮他们摆脱危险。他向在座的CEO们提了一个问题——他们是否可以同样信任他们的管理团队?而他们的管理团队又是否能够同样信任他们的助手们?其中一位CEO提出的反对理由是:他的公司有1,000名员工,不可能每个人都是最优秀的。

    布兰登用诺曼底登陆日(D-Day)的例子作为反驳。诺曼底登陆由艾森豪威尔和少数几个下属共同策划。他对下属们说:“选择12个你可以托付生命的下属,来完成这个任务。”每个人都是这样做的。而由此产生的连锁效应,实现了200多万军队在欧洲的成功部署,并取得了胜利。这条经验说明了什么呢?那就是,不要把公司人员众多作为平庸的借口。

    4. 每个人都是可替代的。海豹突击队员们以几乎完全相同的方式接受训练,在部队或任务中,没有一位海豹突击队员是不可替代的。战斗的性质决定了每个人随时都可能牺牲。创业公司在执行这一理念时,会遇到更多困难,因为专家和超级明星在公司里是不可或缺的。但是布兰登的建议是,一定要针对各种人员状况,全面考虑应急方案。

    5. 没有经过实践检验,你永远无法衡量一个人。前文提到,海豹突击队的训练课程会淘汰70%的学员。布兰登表示,他认为永远不会退出的人最终却退出了,而其他人被证明适应能力更强,更加坚韧,远超出他的想象。除非你对你的手下真正进行过测试(见“艰苦是一种财富”),否则你永远无法确定,谁会勇往直前,而谁又会畏缩不前。根据模式识别,有一点是可以确定的,那就是,那些嘴上强硬,夸夸其谈的家伙,在面对逆境的时候,通常是最先退缩的人。忍耐的力量和决心对于创业公司非常宝贵。如果你的员工拥有这种品质,好好珍惜吧。

    在聚会结束时,对于那些为国家服务的勇士,还有培养出如此始终如一、如此卓越的“产品”的机制,所有人都非常感激。布兰登也是海豹突击队基金会 (Navy SEALs Foundation)的联合创始人。该基金会是一家非营利性组织。并非每次行动都像几周前在巴基斯坦那么顺利,如果海豹突击队员们因执行任务出现闪失,该基金会将帮助照顾他们的家属。这让我很受鼓舞,宴会一结束,我便为该基金会捐款。这里有更多相关内容。

    最后提到的一点很有趣:布兰登注意到,海豹突击队员的妻子 们在丈夫面前都非常强势。她们会让自己的突击队员丈夫倒垃圾、洗碗和换尿布——不论他们在战场上取得了多么骄人的战绩。我想,许多创业公司的高管们也有类似的“妻管严”现象吧……

    本文作者杰弗里•巴斯冈是风险投资公司飞桥资本合伙公司(Flybridge Capital Partners)的一般合伙人。

    There has been a surge in interest with the world of the Navy SEALs since the Osama bin Laden action, and I confess to being caught up in it myself. One of my portfolio company CEOs, Will Tumulty of Ready Financial, is a former SEAL (1990-1995). Will was kind enough to introduce me to a SEAL classmate of his, Brendan Rogers (SEAL 1990-2000), who joined me and 20 NYC CEOs/founders from the tech scene last night to talk about the SEALs -- the training, the planning and the operations behind their combat operations -- as well as drawing out some relevant lessons for entrepreneurs. Brendan went on to HBS and McKinsey after the SEALs and then co-founded his own hedge fund, so he had an interesting, multi-faceted perspective.

    The discussion was wide-ranging and entertaining. The five key lessons Brendan highlighted were as follows:

    1. What's hard is good.SEALs go through an intensive 6 month training program called Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S). The program is designed to test a candidate's physical and mental limits. Traditionally, by the time of SEAL graduation, the attrition rate is as high as 70%. SEALs quickly learn that the punishment and pain of training hardens their minds and bodies and adapt to embrace the tough environs. Brendan pointed out that start-up executives who go through hard times should learn to relish them, recognizing that the hard times will toughen the team and train them properly for "battle."

    2. 80% training, 20% execution.When SEALs are not on acutal combat deployments, they are spending the vast majority of their time training for a number of different types of missions. In contrast, at startups, executives typically spend 100% of their time executing and 0% of their time training. Brendan emphasized the importance of training and practice in all areas - employee onboarding, management practices, etc. He commented on the importance of training for unexpected situations. The simultaneous shooting of three Somali pirates at sea as part of a hostage rescue two years ago was an example of the kind of outcome possible when SEALs prepare for all conditions. The CEOs in the room had wide eyes and were certainly thinking hard about their training regimens and scenario planning after that example.

    3. Every seat counts.Brendan pointed out the price of settling for mediocrity, even in a big organization. Every SEAL needs to know with 100% confidence that the man behind them will be able to save their life and get them out of a bad situation The CEOs in the room were asked if they could say the same about their management teams and if those management teams, in turn, could say that about their lieutenants. One CEO objected that he had 1,000 employees in his company and couldn't possibly hire all "A's."

    Brendan replied by citing the example of D-Day. Eisenhower planned D-Day with a small number of subordinates who he turned to and said, "Select 12 men underneath you who can trust with your life to execute this mission. " Each of those men did the same. And so on and so on. That cascading effect resulted in the successful employment and combat engagement of over 2 million troops throughout Europe. The lesson? Don't let a large organization be an excuse for mediocrity.

    4. Everyone is expendable.The SEALs are trained in a nearly identical manner and no one SEAL is indispensible to the unit or the mission. The nature of combat is that anyone can be lost at any time. Entrepreneurial companies have a harder time executing on this philosophy since there are specialists and superstars, but Brendan's message was to make sure contingency plans were thought through for any set of personnel circumstances.

    5. You never know the measure of a person until they are tested.As mentioned earlier, the SEALs training program weeds out 70% of participants. Brendn conveyed that the people he thought would never drop out did while others proved to be more resilient and tougher than imagined. Until your people are really tested (see "what is hard is good"), you can never be sure who will step up and who will falter. One sure sign, based on pattern recognition, is that those that talk tough and are full of bluster are predictably those that are the first to blanch in the face of adversity. Quiet strength and determination in a start-up are invaluable. When you see it in your people, bottle it.

    Everyone left with a great appreciation for those brave men who serve our country so ably, and the system behind it that produces such a consistent, excellent "product." Brendan is also the co-founder of the Navy SEALs Foundation, a non-profit that helps take care of the families of SEALs when things don't go as smoothly as they did in Pakistan a few weeks ago. I was inspired to make a donation to the organization immediately after the dinner. You can read more about them here.

    One final humorous note: Brendaen observed that the spouses of Navy SEALs are as tough as nails themselves and impossible to impress. They still make their spouses take out the garbage, do the dishes and change diapers -- no matter how impressive their accomplishments in the field of battle is. I suspect many start-up executives have similar, appropriately humbling marital arrangements...

    Jeffrey Bussgang is general partner at venture capital firm Flybridge Capital Partners.

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