10/12/2012 11:45 am ET Updated Dec 12, 2012

The Process: A Presidential Imperative

JFK to Eisenhower: What went wrong with the Bay of Pigs?

Eisenhower: You didn't have a process.

If the above is true (and if someone has a source please provide it in the comments), then it is also probably true that JFK learned and developed a process which enabled him to deal more effectively with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I recalled hearing about the above incident during a recent conversation with my good friend and former Deloitte partner, Greg Seal. In our discussion, Greg talked about how having a process to make decisions and accomplish a mission is essential to leadership and how it seemed that President Obama appeared to be lacking one.

In the first debate which Romney is seen as having scored a victory, it is not clear that he had a process either, but his criticism of Obama combined with his speaking in such a declarative tone appeared to engender confidence more than Obama's tone which seemed more explanatory (which is a weaker position than being declarative).

Truth be told it is easier to be declarative if you are a challenger, as Obama was in 2008 challenging the Bush/McCain policies, than if you have a track record that didn't live up to grand promises and for which it is difficult to re-declare and for which you instead need to be more explanatory.

Regardless who wins the election, for either to govern successfully they will need to not just have a grand mission, but also have a process for making the necessary decisions to carry it out.

What are the essentials to a successful process that must be clear to all charged with accomplishing it and to those it will affect?

  1. The goal(s)
  2. The objectives that once accomplished will result in reaching that goal
  3. The strategies to reach those objectives
  4. The tactics to execute those strategies
  5. The right people with the right skills performing those tactics that must be in the right place to perform them
  6. A formalized periodic time to review the process and its effectiveness and course correct when necessary
  7. A preset fire team at the ready for any unforeseen crisis

Although we seem to be finding out more about the raid on Bin Laden with various revelations, it still appears clear that one of the key secrets to the success of that mission was that the Navy Seal Team 6 who executed it had a process that contained all the above essentials.