By Julie Cummings • August 05, 2016•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence, Careers, Nonprofits and the Public Interest, Law School, Pre-Law, Other Law School Issues, Issues, •Other Issues
Inefficient, disorganized, unproductive. These adjectives describe many well-intended, yet poorly managed student organizations – also known as SORGs.
With a new school year beginning, most students will either help lead a SORG, or at least attend SORG meetings during their time in law school. Sadly, student-led SORGs often lack disciplined management. This results in inefficient use of scarce resources, and it frustrates members.
The problem lies in students not having a general grasp of how to run a small-scale organization. While other methods exist, today I present a simple framework to help you become a better leader should you choose to become a SORG leader. These 8 steps come from the Army’s Troop Leading Procedures (TLP) – a method used to quickly mold junior officers into solid leaders.
To demonstrate the TLP, let’s pretend we are a SORG, and we want to perform a charitable collection drive as part of our community outreach. Common examples include collecting toys, blankets, or living necessities for underserved populations.
Using this set-up, let’s now walk through the TLP steps to illustrate how to efficiently guide SORG members into helping complete this task while maximizing resources and staying acutely focused on the end goal.
1. Receive the Mission
Here you decide what specific task you want to accomplish with your membership – a charitable donation drive, in our example.
Think about your intent and purpose for the task. Is it to provide a maximum quantity of items? Is it to provide specific items to a narrow group? Consider things like how you will physically deliver the items, how to use the available time you have, and whether you want to join with other SORGs to broaden your scope.
2. Issue WARNO
This stands for issuing the Warning Order. For our purposes, think of this as the moment when you first give your board, and later your general membership, the basic overview about the upcoming task. You want to inform people early about your idea so they commit with you. You will provide a more refined plan later.
At a minimum, tell people the 5Ws – who, what, where, when, and why.
3. Make a Tentative Plan
Next, begin formulating a tentative plan. Use your board in this phase to help brainstorm. Identify exactly what you want to accomplish. Gather information and analyze how best to achieve your goal. Remember to compare alternative solutions.
4. Start Movement
Here you will begin coordinating, even though you have not yet issued a full plan to your membership. Identify whom among your board will be responsible for various phases of your plan. For example, who will be responsible for publicity?
You should begin to delegate some initial tasks. In our scenario, that might include having someone coordinate with your charity to set dates, locations, and other details.
Short for “reconnoiter,” this simply means surveying where you will execute your plan. You won’t always need to complete this step. But if you are planning on personally delivering your collected donations, you will benefit from inspecting the place of delivery. This allows you to better visualize the space and to clearly describe it to members increasing their likelihood of participating.
6. Complete the Plan
Just like it sounds, you now make final adjustments based on what you have learned from the planning process thus far.
7. Issue Complete OPORD
OPORD stands for Operations Order. For our purposes, think of this as your fully developed plan. You should by now have thought through exactly how you will complete your task from start to finish. You will have thought through details, decided who will handle what, and anticipated problems, already arriving at potential solutions.
Now you clearly and fully present your plan to the membership. Use visual aids as necessary to help explain your ideas. Deliver clear guidance, purpose, and further direction. Ask for questions at the end to ensure everyone understands.
Finally, supervise! Ideally, your clearly presented plan will have made it easy for people to want to follow you. Just as importantly, you will have delegated tasks in order to free yourself up to oversee the project.
But don’t expect success without supervision. As a leader, your role is to supervise along the way. Answer questions, redirect when you see missteps, and offer solutions to smooth the way for everyone.
While at first the TLP may seem onerous, the steps quickly become intuitive. I encourage you to try this method should you decide to become a SORG leader. You will be more productive and find far more willing participants if you demonstrate organized leadership skills from the beginning.
I welcome your comments and questions below.
Julie Cummings is one of Ms. JD’s 2016 Writers in Residence. Her monthly column, Soldier On: Boot Camp to Law School translates valuable military skills into strategies for succeeding in law school.