Any athlete, any musician, any stage actor, any performance person at all — especially those who perform in public — have experienced the fundamental differences between knowing and doing.
Knowing can be obtained via books, conversations, videos, and any other medium that simply transfers information. It can be a very private activity. Or it can be a classroom experience. It only takes a review of the history of the printing press to see what a game-changing, powerful activity that this is.
But it falls short of doing.
Successfully doing an activity, especially in public, requires a profound knowledge, usually obtained via books, conversations, videos, etc. But it is also accompanied by unexpected twists, the exhilaration of hitting the mark, and the potential for the agony of failure.
It is not only the experience of practice, but also this caldron of emotions that help to transform your knowledge into expertise.
A great example of this is the monthly sustainment risk review meeting. Each person is there with a role to play and has the opportunity to transform their understanding of what to do, into the ability to do it well.
The Risk Administrator (RA) makes sure the meeting is called and all the resources and people needed are on hand. The RA starts and ends the meeting. The RA reminds everyone of the rules of civil discussion and how the risk system process works. The RA tracks requested changes to both risks and risk processes.
The Risk Integrator (RI) arrives having working with the experts on crafting a risk summary with sufficient detail to brief the Big Boss. Typically, it is the RI that stands in front of the room full of experts and summarizes the issues, probabilities, potential consequences, and suggested mitigations… with help from the RI’s experts.
The experts are there to back up the RI and provide details as needed. They, along with the RI, learn how to think on their feet. They also get a feel for their boss’ priorities. And they painfully discover when they were not as able to explain as they thought they’d be. In addition, great experts have an internal dialogue that makes them go answer questions after the meeting that the bosses didn’t think to ask.
The bosses are at the front table with their Big Boss. They should be rooting for their RI and the experts to do well. They should have already prepared for this by having their own risk meeting. The bosses also learn about the priorities of the Big Boss and this affects their next risk meeting. Bosses learn how to act as the Big Boss when circumstances require.
If the bosses don’t ask and the RI hasn’t mentioned it, it is the Big Boss who says: “How exactly does this risk affect sustainment? Which readiness factor does it impact? Availability? Reliability? How does this affect the mission?” If civil discussion begins to descend into nasty argument, the Big Boss stops it and focuses everyone back on the mission.
If no one else is emphasizing it, the Big Boss always takes the opportunity to remind everyone that it is the mission of the system that they, the sustainers, are serving. The Big Boss looks around the room at the entire team and encourages them to respectfully participate.
And if the Big Boss doesn’t have to say any of this, if the bosses at the front table did a great job ensuring their experts were prepared, it is not only a great meeting, it is a great team.