The Leaders Playbook: The balance between risk and resourcing

For years I’ve kept a small notebook handy all the time.  The ones from my deployments are worn, stained, and full of rich incredibly insightful notes and lessons. 

I spent much of 2018 and 2019 deployed in the Middle East working with some incredible leaders engaged in the fight against ISIS and terrorism.  As I paged through my deployment notebooks this morning, I was reminded how much thinking we did on risk and resources and the tough decisions that came along with these challenges.

Some lessons I learned and re-learned during this past year:

  • Even in combat, there are restrictions on resources.
  • As leaders regardless of our role(s), we must always be very deliberate and thoughtful on what priorities we are going to resource, and equally clear on what we are not going to resource, and why.
  • Resourcing and risk are inextricably linked.  Leaders must have a laser focus on understanding the various elements of risk and how, if at all, we may control that risk level to an acceptable level. 
  • Be as clear as possible on the type and level of risk you are dealing with; risks to strategy, risks to our forces, risks to our mission, risk of inaction, etc.
  • Oftentimes there are disconnects between strategy and the essential resources that underpin them – which drives risk levels.  Seek to identify those disconnects and work to align resources but be mindful that we as leaders may not control all the dynamics at play.

Making smart, informed, and sound resourcing decisions in a risky environment is hard and gritty work.  Sometimes people’s lives, national interests, or business interests are at stake but making these difficult decisions a fundamental component of what leaders get paid to do. 

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.