Dispatches from the entrepreneurial front part 2: Delegation

The title of this was going to be about blowing things up, but I suspected that there may be unintended consequences by writing that!

I’d already been planning to talk about delegation in this week’s dispatch when I happened to read an article all about delegation by Vikas Shah in the inflight magazine on a BA flight I was on this week. Luckily, I learnt about this in the army.

A few years ago, one of my former commanding officers sent out some guidelines to his commanders telling us to delegate until it’s uncomfortable, and then delegate some more. Last week, I started thinking about how similar it is between being an infantry officer and being the CEO of a start up – fundamentally, it is about being a generalist with a good understanding of the assets and resources that you can use to execute against your mission.

In the infantry, it’s about seeking out, closing and killing the enemy, holding ground and repelling attack regardless of season, weather or terrain. Running a business is the same – seeking out opportunities, closing sales leads and building/ holding market share. You can’t do this alone though.

From the very beginning of your first posting as an infantry officer, you have assets to execute against your mission and you learn all about delegation (in part through the often ‘gentle’ mentoring of your platoon sergeant). On operations, you then add on specialist capabilities, such as combat engineers to do bridge building through to explosive methods of entry (or EMO). I certainly haven’t always got it right, but learning about this in the military has been invaluable.

I had the opportunity to learn first hand about setting out a small charge of explosive and blowing it up. While it was admittedly lots of fun, it also provided me with a great insight into how combat engineers did this and some of the issues that they needed to plan for. It definitely isn’t my job to blow things up, but having a bit of understanding is really useful to help with knowing how to delegate a bit better.

So last week was very much about getting all the assets aligned and the tasks delegated and we will continue to do this in the coming few days, and ensure our synchronisation matrix is good. Whether we can get it all done remains to be seen, particularly as circumstances change. We’ve already picked up a new client this year, so that will have an impact. Thanks to an innovation program set up by RBS, we have also just had our first kick off meeting for a pilot trial which hopefully will lead onto bigger and better things (but may also result in the plan changing a bit). Luckily, flexibility is a principle of war so it’s something we are used to dealing with!

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