Training — like the Rangers, training for the startup

Training table for the Big Red Car today — looking forward to a nice steak with a 10W40 mushroom sauce.  We are talking training today for both the Rangers and the startup.

So, in the continuum of crawl, walk, run — somewhere about the walk to run transformation, the startup should start thinking about training.

If you look at this picture of these sharp Rangers, the difference between them and the rest of the straight leg Army is the quality of their training. They train to their mission.

U.S. Army Rangers with the 75th Ranger Regiment make up the “honor platoon” in a funeral procession to the gravesite of Gen. (retired) Wayne A. Downing during his internment service at West Point, NY, Sept. 27, 2007.

Couple of tidbits to allow you to understand this picture:

 1. The Rangers are wearing Corcoran jump boots because they are paratroopers. We talked about Corcoran Jump Boots right here:

Adaptability — Breaking In Corcoran Jump Boots, A Metaphor For CEOs — Adapt

 2. The blue rifle with the silver oak leaves on their left chest above their ribbons is the CIB (combat infantryman’s badge) signifying the recipient has been in infantry combat with America’s enemies.
3. The orange arc with the word “RANGER” on it means they graduated from the US Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning, the toughest training the Army has to offer.
4. The colored ribbons are “been there badges” — campaign ribbons — and awards for valor, heroism.
5. The green flashes on the epaulets of some of the men mean they are combat leaders — squad leaders, platoon sergeants, platoon leaders, and the Captain in front is likely a company commander. Being a Ranger company commander is akin to being a Chinese feudal war lord.

To become a Ranger these men had to graduate basic training, graduate advanced individual training (infantry), serve with an infantry unit to learn their trade, graduate Airborne School (death from the skies), and graduate Ranger School (50% attrition rate). Only then did they get to apply for and serve with the Ranger Regiment. The black and gold patch on their left shoulders is that of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

What led them to the 75th Ranger Regiment? TRAINING and performance.

When they got to the Ranger Regiment, they underwent more and more training as the Rangers constantly trained to their missions. Constantly.

Training in your company

In your company, dear startup CEO, you can attain the same level of expertise by utilizing the same methodology — an organized, documented training program.

The Rangers train to their mission — such as parachuting into enemy territory, humping 20 miles to their objective, killing everybody there, and making it back to friendly lines. Rangers are prepared to fight behind enemy lines, win, and come home.

What is the process that you should be training to in your company? Identify the process — sales, production, marketing, whatever it is — and train for success in that process.

The first step is to identify and document the process. Once you do that, develop a training program to support excellence.

The difference between the Rangers and the rest of the straight leg Army is TRAINING.

The impediment to your company being a category killer may also be TRAINING.

What are we supposed to do, Big Red Car?

Dear reader, you are supposed to first THINK about training then decide whether your company might benefit from some training.

Then, you should identify which processes might be able to be “trained to.”

Then, you should sketch out a training program for one of the processes and take a long nap. You can, alternatively, float in a pool for a couple of hours.

Then, you should brainstorm it with the department which is going to undertake the training.

Then, you should actually do the training and get some feedback.

Then, you should perfect the program and make it part of your company’s ecosystem.

Then, you should conduct spaced repetition training — do it at a regular interval.

This is an experiment. You like experiments. You are good at experiments. Training will advance the cause, y’all.

Training is the first step on the pathway to mastery. Think about that.

You’ll wake up one day and say, “Hell, my company reminds me of those badass Rangers. Cause when you train, you get real good at stuff.”

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be good to each other and play nice.



3 thoughts on “Training — like the Rangers, training for the startup

  1. Yes, I’m concerned about training.

    I’m a sole, solo founder, and that’s the best way now, but that’s not what I’m working for, and hiring some people has to be part of the future.

    My startup is in information technology with the crucial core secret sauce some applied math I derived and exploiting current computing and the Internet.

    So, my startup needs some software development. As a solo founder, I’ve designed and written the software that should be enough for production to about $2 million a year in revenue.

    Then more software development will be needed, and then the issue of training will get to be important, and there I am uncertain of what to do. I don’t need an answer now, but if my project is anywhere near as successful as I intend then I will need an answer soon enough.

    I notice two facts:

    (1) I never had any training in computer science or programming. My serious academic training was in pure/applied math; for the computing, I just taught myself. I have taught computer science to others in college and graduate school. So, net, I am unsure about just how important training in computing will be.

    I can see that we might have some expert guest speakers on narrow, advanced, technical subjects, make good videos of their presentations, and have those on-line. But I’m having a tough time seeing the high importance of training in the broad basics of computer science or practical computing. E.g., if someone needs to learn Microsoft’s ASP.NET (active server pages .NET), and some will, then I can suggest the materials I read as I learned and used that topic, show them some well documented, serious, production code, etc.

    (2) To me, the challenging and most important parts of writing software are not very well formulated and, thus, not easy to teach.

    (3) The crucial work is applied math; okay, that’s my job. Beyond math, the most serious contributions will be bright ideas, creativity, and it is very difficult to train people to do that.

    I can develop a list of topics in computing for training, and likely they would help, but the most important material will be difficult to teach, learn, or even formulate.

    Somehow I got to be creative in math; I had some success already in the 10th grade. There are some challenging texts in pure math with a lot of exercises, and if, don’t start to see how to be creative in math, then won’t be able to do the exercises at all! So, part of doing the exercises is working out how to do the creative parts. Later I did publishable, original research in applied math, etc. Just how I did that, I was never taught. The text exercises did help.

    I did work up some techniques: (A) Broadly what could be true here? To make guesses from 50,000 feet, what are the main points, aspects, relevant definitions, and theorems, and what do they suggest about what might be true and, really, nearly as important, what might be false here?

    (B) Next, look at some simple, special cases of the problem and see what is true or false there. So, if conjecture X is false for some simple, special case, then conjecture X can’t be true in general; so, don’t try to prove it in general!

    (C) In more detail, could result X be true? Let’s see: If X were true, what else would be true? Could all that stuff be true? In general, would that be too much to hope for? Are there some specific consequences of X that are known to be false or at least, first-cut, look likely false? If so, then maybe X is false. Before giving up on X, can we find an actual, solid counterexample?

    (D) But if X still looks like it might be true, then intuitively why? Is there a good intuitive reason why? Then what tools might we use?

    Try to get some intuition about X, especially in or from simple cases.


    (A)-(D) are important, and much of that can be just thinking, looking for little models, and writing next to nothing.

    Then as start to get some solid ideas, start to write them down and start to make solid math out of them, e.g., with theorems and proofs.

    No one taught me any of that.

    E.g., I had the central ideas of my Ph.D. research on an airplane ride where I wrote nothing at all. I turned that into a 50 page manuscript of okay math independently in my first summer in grad school. Later I finished and polished the work, wrote some corresponding software, did the writing and typing, stood for an oral exam, and graduated, all with essentially no faculty guidance at all. I did give a seminar on my work, and some other student used that as a seed for their Ph.D. research.

    So, net, I don’t know how to train people to be creative.

    But, Army Rangers have to go into situations of wide variety and find creative, original, first time ever solutions. So, how do the Rangers train for that?

    • .
      Whoa, sigma, you never had any training in CS or programming, but you taught yourself?

      Uhhh, that’s called training. You prove my point — targeted, focused training provides huge dividends. Huge!

      When you talk about being creative, finding creative solutions — you are confronting something fewer than 1% of people even bother to do — THINK.

      A lot of military training is about succession. The CO gets killed, the XO takes over. Also, you are confronted with a problem and required to solve it. There may be ten different solutions, but the one you need is the one you can do right now.

      In the military at your basic course (and also at Ranger School), they play “what now, lieutenant” and you would be amazed at who is good and who is bad at it. There is a difference between being clever and being smart.

      There are plenty of smart people. There are few clever people. Clever people often learn their cleverness from real life.


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