#1221 Mission Algorithms

Binary Pre-Commitments

A couple +1s ago, we spent some time with Admiral McRaven hours before the launch of his successful mission to bring justice to Osama bin Laden.

Today I want to go back to the weeks leading up to that raid.

Let’s flip open our copies of Sea Stories to page 299 where he gives us some insight into their strategic planning process: “The list of possible problems was extensive, but the decisions were easy. Hard to make, but easy to discern. If we were compromised crossing the border we would turn around and try for another day. If we had a helo set down for mechanical problems at a hundred miles out from target, but the helo was not detected, we would continue on with the force we had. If a helo crashed, but we still had sufficient force to move to the target, we would continue the mission, but alert the Quick Reaction Force and medevac. Everything was binary. On missions like these you don’t want emotions driving your decisions. If we were compromised crossing the border and the Pakistanis threatened to shoot down our helos, you could easily convince yourself that the mission was so important that you must press forward. Decisions like that rarely ended well. We had a backup plan for every contingency and a backup to the backup.”

The amount of planning that went into Operation Neptune’s Spear (by a broad range of U.S. agencies working together) is astonishing.


At the end of the day, as they were making the final, most important tactical decisions, it got really (!) simple.

If A happens, then B.
If C happens, then D.

All the way through the alphabet.

The decisions were tough to make but once they were made, it was easy to discern what was up and what needed to get done—as the decision was ALREADY made.

Whatever obstacles they faced, they just ran the pre-commitment algorithm.

There was no emotion involved.

As I read the strategic thinking behind one of the most important covert operations in U.S. military history, I thought about how we can apply that same wisdom to our lives. (Of course.)

Steve Chandler and his wisdom came to mind.

Back in the day when he and I worked together one-on-one, we talked about the same sort of binary decision making that removes emotion from the equation. We captured the essence of that wisdom in a +1 called “Robot, Do This!

Basic idea: Decide in advance what you’re going to do on any given day/in a given situation. Then do it. No emotion. Just run the algorithm.

Today’s +1.

What’s ONE “If this happens… Then I’ll do this!” binary algorithm you KNOW you’d be wise to adopt?


What is it?

Let’s run it.

Like a robot.

And successfully complete our most important Missions.


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