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Part of becoming a good leader is to be a good follower. Staff officers make hundreds of decisions daily to form a single recommendation to the boss; however, after months of working in the staff you may tend to drift away from being a “good subordinate” and go back to old habits. To avoid this problem you can consider using a checklist that John Hammond, in his article, The Hidden Traps in Decision Making, outlines.

These are the Eight Traps and how they apply to becoming a good joint staff planner and developing a good subordinate style. As you go through them, think about how many times you have fallen into one of them. (Taken from an Army point of view, but they apply to all services)

Anchoring: it is giving more importance to the first information received. This is the bias to lean toward Army solutions first. To overcome the trap you should seek out the opinion of staff officers from the other sister services and avoid talking to Army representatives only.

Status Quo: This is the bias to perpetuate the status quo in favor of new and innovative solutions that may show more promise, but would require additional staff work to develop. A way to overcome this trap as a joint staff officer is to always re-validate the status quo in the event that it is selected as the best course of action.

Sunk Cost: This is when a staff officer continues to build upon a failed analysis simply because too many resources have already been dedicated to the effort. The best way to overcome this trap is by the thorough documentation of your position using valid facts and accurate data. There is nothing like the truth to prove your point.

Confirming Evidence: This trap occurs when the diligent staff officer has an issue to prove and only seeks out the facts and data that support his position and disregards any facts that prove him otherwise. The best way to overcome this trap is by involving disinterested officers from the other services and command structures to assists in the review of solutions.

Framing: This is the problem we face when presenting issues, problems and solutions from the aspect of one service only. Your job as a joint staff planner is to remain focused and resolve the problem by framing the question so that each of the services have an opportunity to provide a viable solution and not frame the question so that only one service can participate.

Overconfidence: This is common with a joint staff officer that is too willing to please his boss and accepts assignment that exceeds his capabilities. To overcome this trap you must have the courage to keep your boss informed of your abilities in order for him to maintain confidence in you…and not overconfidence.

Prudence: It's the trap of building a cushion of time for a suspense in order to be on the safe side. Sometimes the timeline remaining becomes almost impossible to meet because of the excessive “safety cushion.” By remaining honest and truthful with your boss on your capabilities, that cushion of safety can become considerably smaller.

Recallability: It is the bias of changing the way you make estimates based on things you remember best. The best way to overcome this trap is to use statistics and facts to make points and not the most recent memories.

These eight traps are just the kind of checklist to confirm or deny your progress as an effective joint staff officer.

Just thought I would share this with the group, hope it is useful.

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