Developing the Strategic and Tactical Mindset, The Value of History And Practice, Practice, Practice!


My good friend Scott Shipman the purveyor of has a short but very enlightening piece on the value of practice,practice, practice. What's striking to me is the examples Scott sites come from history and Baron Von Steuben (1730-1794) who was George Washington’s ace at organizing, equipping, and training the army—a job for which Von Steuben was eminently qualified. His was the latest training in the methods of Frederick the Great and his vaunted Prussian General Staff.


What is fascinating to me, is the more I read and and learn from history is that in those who were very good at what they did understood, they needed to be knowledgeable and then “the critical step” take that knowledge and translate it to the battlefield, the street or to their discipline of choice.

“He found that military success depends, not upon profound theoretical knowledge, but upon sound judgment and quick resolute decision under stress. Directing a successful attack is therefore not the same thing as writing an essay about it. It is a question of grasping a situation, making a practical decision, and issuing intelligible orders to the several parts of a military command. It is a question of not merely knowing but of doing.”

Examples from history have a powerful effect on how we see the world and hence how respond or adapt to it. Lessons from history helps us in developing a presence of mind. We learn from the experience and yes, even the mistakes of others. Efforts in learning from others combined with continued practice we begin to explore situations in a deeper way. We begin to search for opportunities. We start to recognize patterns of conflict and behavior.Once we have created and nurtured our skills of awareness we develop the ability to see into situations and recognize changes in the patterns, or anomalies with a  flash of insight, (aka; coup d’oeil, Napoleons glance, strike of the eye). In other words our environment influences our orientation and we begin to make sound tactical decisions based on unfolding conditions. Making the time and effort to practice and develop these skills is really, solely up to you! The process of learning is simple but the effort to learn and apply what's learned is difficult . Again the efforts you make is UP TO YOU!

“This led Frederick to form the habit of giving himself tactical problems in his daily walks and rides. Carlyle gives us the following interesting glimpse of the great king after he had become a distinguished and successful general:

For Friedrich is always looking out, were it even form the window of his carriage, and putting military problems to himself in all manner of scenery. What would a man do, in that kind of ground, if attacking, if attacked? With that hill, that brook, that bit of bog? And advises every officer to be continually doing the like. That is the value of picturesque or other scenery to Friedrich.

“From making this a method of self-culture to making it a means of instructing others is but a step…It is the continual test of judgment, of decision, and of facility in issuing effective orders.”

Above I mentioned Scott’s examples were striking. WHY striking? Because we often think ideas such as; if/then or when/then thinking, tactical decision games and after action reviews are new. We often times think that developing  the strategic and tactical mindset are new methods and it is quite obvious they are not. The bigger lesson here is in our efforts to apply lessons from the past, lessons from history such as discussed in this piece and even more importantly lessons from our own law enforcement history.

The efforts you take to continually practice, practice, practice  and leveraging every lesson we learn has a powerful effect on our abilities to bring dynamic encounters to safe and effective resolutions. Isn’t it time we all started to practice, practice, practice what we preach? 

Be sure to continue reading Scotts post and continue to monitor they are doing some great work there with a focus on business, yet the lessons apply to what we do.

Stay Oriented!