In the Army, small unit leaders (officers and NCOs) utilize the Troop Leading Procedures to conduct mission analysis and plan for upcoming missions.
The Troop Leading Procedures are a systematic approach to plan, resource, and execute any mission. In essence, the Troop Leading Procedures consist of eight simple steps military leaders should follow when planning missions.
Although the Troop Leading Procedures consist of eight steps, they don’t need to be followed in exact order. Leaders can “move freely” between the steps as they create their plan. Therefore, it’s best to think of the Troop Leading Procedures as a guidepost to follow when planning for a future mission.
Troop Leading Procedures: The 8 Steps
Listed below are the eight steps involved in the Troop Leading Procedures. I will also provide you some success tips and cover the most common mistakes when mission planning.
Step # 1: Receive the Mission
All mission planning begins when a leader receives a mission brief from their higher headquarters. Examples of a mission could include: (1) clean the latrine, (2) conduct a raid, or (3) defend your area of operations. As you can see, missions can be simple tasks or major operations.
Leaders can receive the mission brief via a written or verbal OPORD. In most cases, small missions are issued verbally with no OPORD.
Step # 2: Issue a Warning Order
Upon receipt of a mission, all leaders should immediately issue a WARNORD to their direct reports.
For example, if a Company Commander receives a mission brief from their Battalion HQs, they would immediately issue an WARNORD to their First Sergeant, Company XO, and Platoon Leaders. They would share any pertinent information with their direct reports to give them a “heads up” about the upcoming mission.
Even though the Company Commander won’t have a final plan drafted up yet, they should still share the information they do have via a WARNORD. This gives their subordinate leaders time to issue their own WARNORD to their direct reports, and start preparing their own plan.
Step # 3: Make a Tentative Plan
Once you’ve informed your direct reports via a WARNORD, your next step is to make a tentative plan. To do so, you should review your higher Commander’s Intent to figure out what their primary objective is.
Next, you should draft up two to three potential Courses of Action (COAs). Once you have two to three COAs, you should compare them and choose the best possible one.
Once you choose the best COA, you should develop a concept of operations. In other words, how will you execute the plan? This information will be the “meat and potatoes” of your final OPORD.
Step # 4: Start Necessary Movement
Depending upon the requirements of your specific mission, you may need to re-position your forces. Or, you may need to relocate your logistics.
You may need to launch your convoy. Everything depends upon your mission, the location, and the available time.
Step # 5: Conduct Recon
In most cases, it behooves you to conduct a leader’s recon. This gives you an “eye on the objective.”
For instance, if you are going to conduct an ambush, you should conduct a recon to that site so you can familiarize yourself with the terrain.
If you do not have time to conduct a recon, you should at least refer to a map or terrain model. Or, you could send one of your subordinates to do the recon for you.
Step # 6: Complete the Plan
Once you’ve completed the steps above, the next step involved in the Troop Leading Procedures is to complete the plan.
At this point, you should draft your plan on paper into a finished OPORD. It can be typed or handwritten.
The most important thing is to provide as many “details” and “guidance” as you can in the OPORD. This will explain the mission, intent, and concept of operations.
Step # 7: Issue the Complete Order
Once you finish the plan and draft an OPORD, you must issue the complete OPORD. In most cases, you should have an OPORD brief where you can verbally brief the mission to your direct reports.
At the brief, you should provide a written OPORD to each direct report with any annexes, maps, or additional information you might have. Once you finish the brief, make sure you answer your subordinate’s questions.
When possible, you should have a terrain model, too. This way, you can “walk through” and “rehearse” your mission.
Step # 8: Supervise
The final element of the Troop Leading Procedures is to supervise the mission.
Remember, officers plan, NCOs supervise and Soldiers execute the mission. If you planned well, your subordinate leaders will execute the mission with their Soldiers.
You will provide supervision and guidance during the mission, but in most cases you won’t be the one to actually execute the mission.
Keep in mind, the Troop Leading Procedures are done at the company-level and lower. Battalion headquarters (and higher) utilize the Military Decision Making Process.
As a company-level leader, your objective is to create the best plan possible, in the shortest amount of time. Try to follow the 1/3 – 2/3 rule.
For example, if you have 72-hours before the mission starts, you should spend no more than 24-hours planning. That way, you give your subordinates the maximum amount of time possible to draft their own plans and prepare for the mission.
When leading troops, one mistake can cost lives.
Here are some success tips to help you lead troops to Army standards.
- Pick the brain of experienced leaders. Just as you are reading this post, do not be afraid to seek out an experienced leader and be mentored by them.
- Do not procrastinate. Make sure your subordinate leaders have ample time to complete their planning and preparation.
- Issue a warning order immediately, even if you do not have all the information yet. Provide what information you do have and you can update it as more information becomes available.
- If unsure of any situation, ask your superior. The stupid question is the one that isn’t asked.
- Listen to your subordinate’s suggestions and answer all of their questions. Be willing to explain why or why you don’t agree with their suggestion.
- Do not micro-manage your subordinates. You have talented people working for you. Let them do their job.
- When issuing the complete order, if time permits, put it in writing. It is imperative that your subordinates understand their roles and tasks in the mission. Have them repeat their duties and even question them to make sure they understand.
- Rehearse if time permits. Rehearsals are the best method to identify problem areas so they can be fixed before the actual operation commences.
- Have regular and unpredictable inspections. Inspections are one of the best tools to keep troops on their toes. Inspect all equipment essential to the mission, and question Soldiers to their knowledge of their roles in the mission.
Planning is the primary task you have in Troop Leading Procedures. We all know that failing to plan is planning to fail.
The Army Field Manual puts a perfect definition with this:
Planning is the art and science of understanding a situation, envisioning a desired future, and laying out effective ways of bringing that future about. Army leaders plan to create a common vision among subordinate commanders, staffs, …. for the successful execution of operations.
The Troop Leading Procedure steps were designed to work. As is often said, do not try to redesign or reinvent the wheel. Follow the procedures by the book, and success is in your path.
Troop Leading Procedures Common Mistakes
The most common and unforgivable mistake in troop leading procedures is the assumption that a mission is not important. Every mission is important or it wouldn’t be called for.
And while I am with the word assumption, I want to state that assuming anything in troop leading procedures can be a huge mistake. My step dad used to tell me that assume stands for “Make an ASS of yoU and ME.
Do not assume anything; verify and double check and you will be on the road to troop leading success.
Other common mistakes in troop leading procedures are:
- Not asking questions.
- Not reviewing the enemy.
- Not researching the terrain and weather.
- Not providing subordinates enough time to properly complete their planning and preparations.
- Not updating warning orders as information becomes available.
- Not starting movement as early as possible.
- Bypassing reconnaissance. Reconnaissance will help you completely understand the terrain, enemy and other items that can help you develop a good plan.
- Not ensuring that subordinates understand the plan.
- Not preparing with rehearsals.
- Not confronting and fixing and deficiencies found in inspections.
- Not holding subordinates accountable for errors.
- Having a negative attitude.
While the majority of these mistakes can be fixed, I will be the first to say that if the last one is you, it is time to quit. No matter how difficult the mission seems, negative attitudes lead to a negative outcome.
Troops imitate their leader and if you are showing a positive mental attitude towards the operation, they will too. If you follow the steps outlined, the odds of victory are completely in your favor.
In conclusion, the Troop Leading Procedures are a very effective way for small unit leaders to plan for upcoming missions. The secret to success is to create a “good plan” in the shortest amount of time possible.
Don’t worry about creating a “perfect plan,” because there is no such thing as perfect. It’s better to create a “good plan” today than a “perfect plan” in a couple days from now.
I’d like to close out this article with a quote:
As military leaders, we spend much of our time planning. We plan multiple courses of action, we plan for numerous contingencies, and we plan for events that we pray never come to fruition. Ultimately, we plan so that we are ready to confidently and successfully lead our Soldiers into a situation for which we have considered the likely scenarios and potential outcomes. Troop leading procedures give us a proven planning and decision-making process by which we can effectively and expeditiously plan, prepare, and execute at the company level and below. ~ Army U Press
Now you know! What are your thoughts about the Troop Leading Procedures? How do you use them to be an effective military leader? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.
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Former Army Major (resigned)
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