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Military Teamwork & Communication Applied To Projects

Thursday, July 06, 2017

A successful project requires planning, teamwork and clear, accurate and timely communication. This becomes even more essential on multi-million dollar projects, or where outcomes are business critical. So, how would you manage in a situation where a project really is life or death and communication is impeded? And what can we learn from teams who operate in these kind of conditions successfully every day?

A Clearance Diver (CD) is one of the Navy's most physically and mentally demanding roles. Their primary job is to defuse bombs and remove underwater obstacles, often in the most challenging environments. CD's must be capable of working in small teams and under stress, whilst fatigued, maintaining standards and following rigid dive protocols. And, all this may occur five meters underwater from a hostile shore! As with any project or mission, preparation and training is key. 

Navy divers complete extensive and rigorous training in various dive techniques and run simulated drills for any possible outcome they may encounter. As part of this training, they are taught a complex system of non-verbal communication including body language and hand signals to convey and receive information. This may include the direction to travel to a target, number of contacts, or if someone is injured or out of air and needs help. Effective team communication is not just about transmitting well, but having the necessary attention to detail to receive signs that are often very subtle. 

As an effective team, CD's must work together, however many of these high performer thrive on individual competition and hate to be beaten at anything. Rather from detracting from the team's performance, this extra drive helps the team and the individual to push themselves even harder when the stakes are high. That extra physical training could one day save their own life or another team members.

CD's prepare and train for all outcomes, as it is often plan C or D that is actioned within a mission. Whether on a team at work, in sports, or in the military, project management is almost never smooth sailing. Contingency planning requires smart decision making, attention to detail, and communication. A team has to be flexible with changes. Just because things do not go as planned does not mean you have to go off course - keep moving with a well-communicated contingency plan. 

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