When a Special Operations (Spec Ops) Team deploys, they are usually well prepared and have analyzed as many contingencies (the what if’s) as they possibly can.


The success of these operations is down to many factors such as accurate and timely intelligence as well as a strong support system. Not all spec ops teams have access to countless resources, but all spec ops teams do rely on basic core skills which help them adapt and overcome in dynamic and high pressure situations.

I decided to look at what some of the basic principles that highly trained special forces teams have and how they can help corporate crisis, emergency, security and business continuity leaders in preparing their own teams for crises.

1. Build the right team

Before a team can go into battle, they must be on the same page in terms of understanding the goals and values. The corporate incident response / management team must consist of a core group of well trained and engaged individuals as well as a second and third tier of backups that participate in regular training and exercises. Build capacity as well as experience.


2. Build a strong risk assessment process

Special forces will often have up to date data before they go into battle which increases their success rate. In the corporate world of horizon scanning and evaluating risk, teams need to meet regularly to ensure they understand what and how the organization may be exposed to threats. We need to continually analyze our business environments to ensure we have the most recent data which will enable us to be better prepared.


3. Learn to adapt

Special forces teams have the ability to adapt quickly to changing environments due to them being well prepared for many eventualities. Crisis management teams and especially leaders need to be able to adapt to an incident as it unfolds and becomes more complex. Leaders can’t afford to get bogged down with the details of the event. They need to step back and look at the bigger picture or the 1000 foot view as I call it. Only when we step back do we have a greater appreciation for the situation and therefore decision-making is often easier.


Related:  5 Leadership Skills the Army Taught Me


4. Practice like its real

It is extremely important that your team rehearses as often as they possibly can. A special forces team will scenario plan and run through a multitude contingencies in near real circumstances. This ensures they get a very strong understanding of how they’ll perform when they are in the salutation for real. A corporate team should try to implement a robust exercise program that involves larger more realistic exercises and not just the annual power point driven tabletop exercise.


5. Get creative and enjoy

The serious nature of crisis preparedness can sometimes reduce active participation from those involved. Create new ways to test the team. Build interesting scenarios that involve all elements of the team and not just operations or PR. There’s nothing more enjoyable than creating scenarios that are both engaging and challenging. Finally, your team should enjoy their roles. If they don’t, then it’s probably time to get creative and make some changes.

Is your team as prepared as a Spec Ops Team?

Rob Burton

Rob Burton

Rob is a Principal at PreparedEx where he manages a team of crisis preparedness professionals and has over 20 years of experience preparing for and responding to crises. Part of his leadership role includes assisting PreparedEx clients in designing, implementing and evaluating crisis, emergency, security and business continuity management programs. During his career Rob has worked for the US State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, as a crisis management consultant in Pakistan and Afghanistan where he negotiated with the UN and Pashtun tribal warlords and he served with the United Kingdom Special Forces where he operated internationally under hazardous covert and confidential conditions. Rob was also part of a disciplined and prestigious unit The Grenadier Guards where he served Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Palaces in London. Rob was a highly trained and experienced infantryman serving in Desert Storm and commanded covert operational teams and was a sniper. Rob has keynoted disaster recovery conferences and participated in live debates on FOX News regarding complex security requirements and terrorism. Rob has a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.