Laws of Combat: Cover and Move
Written by Jocko Willink
December 9, 2022
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. As a Dirt World leader, you know the competition is fierce. But inside your organization, more competition is the last thing you need. If you want your company to run optimally, teamwork is essential. No one wants an unproductive team. You want your teams to function well and be as efficient as possible.
And that’s where the principle of Cover and Move comes into play. Drawn from the battlefield, this law of combat is a powerful way to teach your teams how to have each other’s back.
What's the principle of Cover and Move?
The Cover and Move principle comes from a gun-fighting tactic used by the military. It’s a principle that’s easy for your team to understand and incredibly powerful on and off the battlefield.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with “Cover and Move,” chances are you’ve already seen it in action. You know those scenes in movies where one guy yells, “I’ll cover you! Go, go go!” and the other guy runs while the first guy shoots? Right there, you’re seeing how Cover and Move works.
Willink explained, “This gun fighting tactic is about one person shooting at the bad guys. It’s called suppressive fire, and it gets the bad guys to put their heads down and hide. And while the bad guys have their heads down and they’re hiding, the other individual gets up and moves. That’s Cover and Move. And fundamentally what it is, is teamwork.”
When one person fails, we all fail
Even though Cover and Move originated on the battlefield, it can be applied to every industry, including the construction industry. The tactic works well when you have certain tasks dependent on one another.
For example, let’s say you need the right materials to be delivered on time to one of your sites. If the materials don’t show up, the team members who are supposed to use those materials are out of luck. Your onsite team might say, “We were here to build, but the materials didn’t show up. So it’s not our fault, it’s their fault. It’s the supply department that failed.”
But the reality is, it’s not just the supply department that failed. “With Cover and Move, if one part of the team fails, the whole team fails,” Willink said. “Going back to the gunfight analogy, if I’m supposed to be shooting at the enemy so you can move, but I stop shooting because I’m thirsty, and I want a drink, well, yes, now you’re going to get shot. But it’s not just a failure for you. Because if you’re shot, I don’t have my support anymore. And now the enemy can maneuver by using the Cover and Move tactic on me.”
How Cover and Move benefits your team
Cover and Move is a powerful team approach because it gets your team working together towards a goal. And if one part of your team fails, the entire team fails. The result? Each team member takes ownership.
The gunfight analogy may be more of an extreme example because on the battlefield if one person doesn’t do their job of covering, the person who’s moving might die. And, of course, in the Dirt World, if you don’t order supplies on time or the supplies you’ve ordered fail to show up, no one's life is at stake.
But there are times when the analogy isn’t extreme at all. For example, construction is a heavy industry, and when things go wrong, people can die. “We work with construction companies all the time,” Willink said. “And we recognize the hazards. There’s a massive number of deaths every year in the industry. So yes, people can die if others aren’t doing their job.”
No matter the circumstances, when one person or part of the team doesn’t do their job, your entire team falls off the critical path. They won’t get the job done, and there will be consequences resulting from this. Cover and Move is effective because it gets your team working together, so they stay productive, keeping the project running smoothly.
Build effective teams with Cover and Move
To be an effective leader, you must build effective teams. To be an effective team, your crew members must work well together. They have to have each other’s back. And there’s no better way to achieve this than through the principle of Cover and Move.
To sum it up with Cover and Move, the members of your team know that when one person fails, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. Because when one person fails, the entire team fails. Team members learn that they must support each other and work together to move forward and succeed at a shared goal.
Take it one step further
The principle of Cover and Move is bigger than just what it can do for your business. It's the key to making the Dirt World a thriving, successful industry—not getting shot down by higher education and tech companies.
Cover and Move at the industry level means, "When one company fails, we all fail." When one company has a people problem, so does everyone else. When one company isn't training its workers or helping develop their careers, everyone's reputation, productivity, and crew member satisfaction suffer.
If you want to succeed, you must stop thinking every other company in the Dirt World is your competition. On the contrary, you're all in this together. Your survival depends on your ability to come together to find solutions to industry-wide problems.
Written by Jocko Willink
December 9, 2022