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Course of Action Analysis—Try the Benjamin Franklin Method

OCT 26, 2012 4:19pm ET
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Over the past few months, this series of articles has focused on how developing a warrior mindset can lead you to success in your business just as it leads a soldier to success on the battlefield. Now, more than ever, we need to develop a warrior mindset to overcome obstacles and challenges in the mortgage business.
The “Military Decision Making Process” used by the United States Army is a seven-step process, three of which have been covered in previous issues. The midpoint of this process, the fourth step in the MDMP, is the “Course of Action Analysis.”
This step is where you analyze the decisions, or Courses of Actions, you have made for your business to ensure you are on target to accomplish the mission you originally intended. One military paper I discovered online actually recommended using the Benjamin Franklin method of decision making when getting to this point.
The method which he suggested was: “To get over this, my way is, to divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns, writing over the one pro, and over the other con. Then during three or four days consideration I put down under the different heads short hints of the different motives that at different times occur to me for or against the measure. When I have thus got them all together in one view, I endeavour to estimate their respective weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out.
“If I find a reason pro equal to some two reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two reasons con equal to some three reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the balance lies; and if after a day or two of farther consideration nothing new that is of importance occurs on either side, I come to a determination accordingly.”
There could be incredible value in this method which Franklin shared over 240 years ago even though his language style differs from ours. Using the Course of Action Analysis method, you list the advantages and disadvantages of the COAs you have chosen. After listing these, then identify, analyze and evaluate the strength and weakness of each COA.
An example in the mortgage industry could be if one of your courses of action was to teach a first-time homebuyer class in your community. To use the COA Analysis method and utilizing the ideas of Franklin, below is just a sampling of a few items for analysis:
• Your objective (mission) for conducting the class.
• The pros and cons of holding the class.
• Does this COA align with your overall mission?
• The resources necessary for the class—time, money, location, additional people to speak.
• Is the time and location of the class conducive to high attendance?
• The long-term value of the class.
• The commitment and resources necessary for follow-up after the class.
Many times we make decisions too quickly without investing the appropriate time and proper analysis of the cost of our resources. How many times have I hastily committed to a project to only discover later it was a total waste. Had I implemented this step—the Course of Action Analysis—at midpoint I could have altered my actions to improve the project, or deleted the project entirely. I like how Franklin calculated the benefits of using this method:
“Tho’ the weight of reasons cannot be taken with the precision of algebraic quantities, yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better, and am less likely to take a rash step; and in fact I have found great advantage from this kind of equation, in what may be called moral or prudential algebra.”

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