Practice for Small Business Managers

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Not long ago I was advising a boss on a product roll out. His team had never done anything quite as large. I suggested a ‘FireDrill.’

FireDrill consists of 3 parts:

1)  The Plan (planning)
2) The Drill (practice)
3) The Fire (execution)

The Plan is a checklist, The Fire is the execution, But The Drill, the practice is the toughest. Because teams need dry runs to learn because things will always, always go wrong. Your team will gain wisdom and judgment through simulation. And learn. Today, permit me to be Your Drill Instructor. And learn how I was surprised by a pilot project.

Your (Army) Business Blogger had no business in the cockpit. My instructor was a Vietnam vet with MigKlr license plates on his truck.

He said the F-14 was a “Man’s Plane.” Sounded sexist. He explained that the old hydraulics required real strength — after a couple of hours, even the strongest studs needed two hands on the stick.

Not for girls.

Or so I thought.

But I was wrong, again.

I bring the 5 kid Penta-Posse to Oceana Naval Air Station to show them how macho military men (like their father) defeated Communism.

We get invited to some F-14 training. I climb in the trainer. The instructor guides me through the take- off and some maneuvers. The room spins. The world spins.

And nobody was shooting at me. Although lots of people were yelling at me…

Time to bring the baby home. I turn. Lots more yelling. It might have been me.

The world, the screen freezes. At a funny angle. IRL it would have been a $38 million mistake and DNA remains of Your Business Blogger.

My instructor: “Success. You did great!”

Me: ?

My instructor: “The seat is dry.”

Me: ?

My instructor: “No puke, no p!ss.”

Navy humor.

After my showing off, the Posse is not impressed. The Diva, age 6, female, issue-one-each slides into the (dry, thankyouverymuch) front seat sim. Confident. In control. And zooms.

Perfect landing. “Just like PlayStation,” she says.

I expected a few more years to pass before they passed by the Old Man. She had practiced. I didn’t.

During the Drill no one is hurt. And we all process lessons and understand our capabilities.

And learn the limitations of the team.

And the boss.

A FireDrill will bring out the best in your people. And your managers.

Without the crash and burn.


Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.

7 Reactions
  1. Anita,

    Great post. Businesses need to plan, but to suceed must execute properly. A drill (practice) can make for successful execution.


  2. It’s a great idead that I’ve never even thought of but could definitely see the benefits of. Great idea!

  3. Jim, thankyou for reminding us on the value of execution. See how the NFL not only does the drills, but plans for growing a customer base. See:


  4. Kudos to the Diva, age 6, female!

    And to the author on pointing out the limitations that managers create when they cling to outdated, sexist attitudes.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree on the need for small businesses to practice. You’re bound to get better, the more times you do something.

    And what a great story to drive home the point. Every time I read this post, Jack, it makes me laugh.

    – Anita

  6. Sandy, thank you for your kind words encouraging (all) our young girls. Even with high test scores, women have high hurtles to clear. And should be hired first because of obstacles. See:

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