Developing South African business teams using principles derived from South African Special Forces

Jonsson, Wesley-Mark
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ABSTRACT How are Special Forces teams able to adapt to dynamic situations while successfully conducting highly dangerous operations? This study aimed to identify and understand how the South African Special Forces from 1972–2010 built their teams and how this team building and development took place. In order to better understand what goes into building South African Special Forces teams, I interviewed six former South African Special Forces operators and a current South African Special Forces operator, whose interview could not be recorded due to security reasons. A private individual who assisted the Special Forces in developing their manuals was also interviewed. Initially, I believed that the Special Forces had a secret that I was going to uncover. However, I quickly realised that this was not the case. My next thought was that it was the Special Forces Training Cycle, selection and training that enabled them to adapt to these environments. Although correct, this was not the sole reason. I had to investigate more. In the end, I could identify the reasons that the South African Special Forces teams were so effective. Firstly, they selected individuals who were able to work in teams effectively as well as operate individually, and who were able to perform the tasks required of them by Special Forces. Secondly, their training through the Special Forces Cycle as well as their training with their teams in their regiments helped develop their shared mental models, team awareness and understanding of how their roles impact on the team and what information the team members needed. Their operation-specific training, often referred to as rehearsals, helped develop the team’s shared mental models, team awareness and understanding further. Coupled with this was the Special Forces teams’ ability to plan. All their operators were involved in the planning process. This is because the operators had different specialities and skills and were therefore able to view a problem from different perspectives while also being able to identify different solutions for the same problem. They also planned for different “what if” scenarios and rehearsed these scenarios until it became second nature. Finally, their team leaders or leadership roles were one of paramount reasons for the success of Special Forces teams. Team leaders had the ability to convey the required information and obtain understanding from their team so that the team knew what to do and how they were going to do it. It is due to these reasons that the South African Special Forces were able to successfully adapt and successfully complete their operations.
MBA Thesis
Teams in the workplace, South Africa -- Armed Forces -- Personnel management.