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Supply Chain Challenges

Warehousing Operations Leadership: The Marine Corps Way

Richard Reilly | April 03, 2013

As a candidate attending Marine Corps Officer Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, I learned what it meant to be a leader with the help of the Six Troop-Leading Steps, commonly referred to as BAMCIS.  My Sergeant Instructors (Drill Instructors are only at enlisted boot camps at Parris Island and San Diego) were diligent in ensuring that their future leaders understood and lived the Six Troop-Leading Steps.  These steps certainly apply to warehouse operations leadership. 

Begin the planning – Even if every plan is changed, at first contact it provides a baseline to adjust.  In a warehouse environment, this could be the beginning of a project plan.

Arrange for the reconnaissance – If you have the luxury of available time and resources to get feet on the ground and actually conduct a reconnaissance of your objective to gather intelligence, it is invaluable.  In the warehouse world, it's about seeing the operation and watching how processes are currently carried out.

Make the reconnaissance – This step is where you pull together your initial plan and what you have developed from your reconnaissance, and develop multiple courses of action.  In performing warehousing services, it's where we develop process options to present to the customer or internal leadership.

Complete the plan – This is where coordination, timing, and the final course of action is determined and formulated into the actual plan to accomplish your mission.  In warehouse leadership, this could be where the detailed project plan for changing a process is rolled out.

Issue the order – At this stage, you pull together your subordinate leadership and issue your detailed plan for them to execute.  In the warehouse, it's where you deliver your plan to your Operations Manager for execution.

Supervise – This is the senior leader's responsibility along with all of the subordinate leaders.  Doers do what checkers check.

Can you guess which of the six steps is the most important?

On multiple occasions at Quantico, whether it was in the field or in a classroom environment, this answer was what the Sergeant Instructors called a FOOT STOMPER!  When they told you the answer they would stomp their foot and that was our cue that we should pay attention.

If you haven't figured it out yet the answer is Supervise.  Whether it's a military operation or a problem that you are trying to solve in your warehouse, too many times we fail because of our lack of supervision.  As warehouse leaders, we spend hours planning how to execute.  Then we spend hours developing detailed plans and presentations.  Then we expend valuable time delivering our plans to our subordinate leadership.  However, for some reason, we tend to stop there and assume, "Well, I told them what to do, so it will get done."  Then, we fail and wonder why. 

There are multiple examples throughout business case studies and military operations where the first five elements were executed flawlessly.  However, the overall plan failed due to a lack of continuous leadership (supervision) throughout the process.

BAMCIS is as applicable in any aspect of business just as it is in any military operation.  We as warehouse leaders owe it to those we lead to Supervise after the orders are issued.  There can be a fine line between supervision and micro management.  However, if you focus on issuing mission type orders to your subordinates and give them appropriate guidance, you'll allow them to complete the mission while still have opportunities for innovation.  Let your junior warehouse leaders spread their wings and succeed, but never forget we must be there to STOMP! STOMP! STOMP!  Yes, Supervise.