Saturday, November 19, 2011

Strategy and Tactics in the Kingdom

I was asked by a friend to develop an outline for strategic and tactical operations that could be used for the kingdom of God. The best way I could find to approach the subject was to draw on my experiences as a firefighter - paramedic. I’d like to explain the concepts we use in the fire service regarding strategies and tactics and then draw some analogies on how they apply to the kingdom.

Without going into great detail about the history of fire ground operations, let me briefly explain why formal protocols were developed to deal with fire ground operations.

Fire agencies did an exhaustive review of line of duty deaths and disabilities. In looking at them, they saw some dangerous patterns emerge. A major one was the fact that firefighters who operated on their own or became involved in tasks not assigned to them became victims of the incidents they responded to.

Firefighters are passionate people who respond when they see a need. It gives us the ability to do the crazy things others won’t. But our passionate nature can drive us to do things impulsively. And some of those impulsive behaviors get us in trouble.

Fire ground operations generally fall into two categories. They are:
1) Things we want to accomplish. These are referred to as strategies.
2) Actions we can take. These are referred to as tactics.

The things we want to accomplish are usually stated as strategic goals and objectives. If we want to put out a structure fire within 15 minutes, without the loss of life or property, we can state that as our main goal. Once the main goal is stated, everything that follows must support that goal. Anything proposed which doesn’t support the goal is rejected. Defining goals helps focus the efforts on what is most effective and prevents us from doing things that are distractions. Once the goal is established, the next step is to define the objectives we’ll use to achieve the goal.

Objectives are strategies we can employ which support and help accomplish the goal. If our goal is to put out a structure fire without the loss of life or property, our objectives might look something like this:

1) Establish a water supply
2) Perform a search of the property and remove occupants
3) Extinguish the fire
4) Verify that the fire hasn’t spread to other locations
5) Protect, remove and secure personal property

Once our objectives have been defined, we can assign teams to do certain tasks. If the teams perform the tasks correctly, they will accomplish the objectives. When all the objectives are met, we will have achieved the goal.

Teams perform tasks >> Tasks accomplish objectives>> Objectives accomplish the goal

Firefighters involved in fire ground activities almost never work alone. In recent years, firefighter safety has been taken more seriously, resulting in the development of a system requiring a team of at least two people for most of the things we do. Two firefighters assigned the same task are called a team or task force.

A team may be assigned to take pike poles into a room and pull down the ceiling after the hose teams have put out the fire in that room. (This is a common practice, which enables us to inspect the void spaces between floors to make sure the fire hasn’t spread to hidden areas)

Once assigned to this task, the team is authorized to engage only in this activity until it is completed or they are assigned a different task by the incident commander. While it may be tempting to do other things as they see needs that appear to require immediate attention, firefighters must focus on their task and avoid being distracted. Allow me to illustrate:

A team assigned to pull ceiling hears what sounds like a trapped firefighter nearby. Perceiving an immediate need, they drop their pike poles and begin searching for the trapped firefighter. Not being able to see well, they follow the sounds which become faint and then disappear completely. The firefighters are not aware that the trapped firefighter was rescued by the RIT (Rapid Intervention Team) that was sent to find him. But now, the team of would-be rescuers are themselves, lost somewhere in the building. Not only that, but the fire has now spread through the ceiling, because they abandoned their assignment of pulling ceiling. As the fire spreads, hose teams are sent back in to try to put out the fire and the RIT is sent in again to locate them, putting more people at risk.

This example is an all too common reality. The safety of those involved and the success of the mission can be completely compromised by the actions of just one or two members who can’t resist the urge to step outside of their assigned tasks. When we engage in activities outside our assigned task, it's called freelancing.

Freelancing causes death and disability because the individuals doing it are involved in dangerous activities, often without a partner and usually, without anyone knowing where they are or what they’re doing. Once the freelancer finds trouble, getting them help is a huge problem. If they run out of air or become trapped, they can die before a rescue team finds them.

In an effort to reduce death and disability and to maximize efficiency, fire training agencies developed a system of controlling what happens on the fire ground. This system is called the Incident Command System (ICS). Knowing the importance of assigning tasks and limiting freelancing, the ICS system assigns a position and task to everyone on scene, which (if followed) provides a safe, consistent flow of operation. A position describes who you are, like a commander, support officer, or firefighter. A task is what you do while occupying that position. Here are just a few of the positions and tasks you might find in the ICS system:

1) An individual assigned to the task of coordinating the overall operation and communicating clearly the goals and objectives to all team members. This person's position is the incident commander (IC).
2) An individual assigned the task of seeing to the safety of all team members. Their only task is to observe the teams in operation and correct any unsafe activity. This person's position is the incident safety officer (ISO)
3) An individual assigned to oversee the medical needs of all team members. They also coordinate the actions of the medical team. This person's position is the medical officer.
4) An individual who communicates with the press about the incident. This person is the public information officer (PIO)
5) Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) this team is on stand by for the purpose of rescuing any team members who get in trouble.

This isn’t a complete list, but it illustrates a few of the different functions (tasks) and positions that team members might be assigned to. Depending on the type of operation, other positions can be added and if the team is small, one person might fill several roles. The beauty of the ICS system is that it can be expanded almost infinitely or adapted to a small operation.

Application In The Kingdom
In conducting kingdom operations, we might consider using some of these concepts to operate with greater safety and success in the things we do.

Let’s address one objection first; many of us have no interest in anything pertaining to the kingdom that appears structured or has levels of authority among believers. We’ve been burned already by people on power trips and something like this would be hard to swallow.

Unlike the formal structure of the fire service, which has the threat of disciplinary action for those who don’t follow orders, the application in the kingdom carries no such threat. We don’t appoint chiefs and promote people to captain or lieutenant in the kingdom. Newbies don’t wear yellow helmets signifying their inexperience. Although the denominational church has a love affair with hierarchies of power, in the kingdom, we are equals. No one Lords themselves over another if they are in obedience to the instruction of Christ.

When we come together on a mission, we must have one thing in common. We must agree on who our King is and know that we take orders only from Him. We should also seek to be with men and women of the same heart and mind concerning the kingdom and the missions we accept. That common bond of love for the king and trust in His leadership of the team allows us to rest in His guidance and protection of us. If we’re confident in Him and in the team He has assembled, we have nothing to fear in carrying out our tasks or allowing others to carry out theirs.

Let’s consider some of the benefits of working on a mission that uses an approach to accomplishing goals, strategically.

Consider whether you’ve ever gone on a mission where the goals and objectives became clouded and it wasn’t clear to some members why they were there in the first place or what their task was. These situations lead to confusion, mistrust and ultimately a breakdown of the team and a failed mission. If we were to have a member whose task was to communicate these things clearly then fear, doubt, confusion and disagreement would be minimized.

Consider whether you’ve ever had an assignment go poorly or fail because team members became severely sick and all the efforts turned toward keeping them alive, instead of accomplishing the goal. If a team trained and equipped in divine healing were assigned to every mission, you’d know in advance how that problem would be handled if it were to come up, which would increase the confidence of all team members in their ability to handle the enemy’s harassment and complete the mission.

Consider whether you’ve ever been blindsided by an enemy presence that no one saw in advance and the mission was cancelled because you didn’t have the resources to handle the opposition. Now consider what might happen if a team were employed whose task was to spy out the enemy and report back to the team before the mission began and to continually assess and report on what the enemy is doing during the mission. How much more confidence would you have if this team were a part of every mission?

Adapting this model for the kingdom is really just a mater of deciding on a goal (What has God asked you to do?) Define the objectives (What things must be accomplished to achieve the goal?) And once the team is gathered, discuss the particulars of who does what and when. Once a plan is agreed upon, it becomes the blueprint for the mission.

If we were to use some of the elements and safeguards used by the fire service, which have been proven to reduce loss of life, we might create an environment where we’d succeed more than we fail and where no one’s safety would be jeopardized.