Laws of Combat: Cover and Move


It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. As a leader in the Dirt World, 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. You want your teams to function well together so they can get more done faster.

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 both on and off the battlefield.

Even if you’re not familiar with the name “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.

As 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 any time you have multiple elements working together to get a project or job moving forward.

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. Now, 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 gun fight 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 any more. 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 stands out as 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 end result? There’s a lot riding on making sure every team member succeeds.

The gun fight 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 will die.

But there are definitely 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 what the circumstances, when one person or one 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 on that critical path, moving forward toward a common goal.

Build effective teams with Cover and Move.

To be an effective leader, you must build effective teams. In order to be an effective team, your crew members have to 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 one that's 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 reputations, productivity, and crew member satisfaction suffer. 

If you want to succeed, you have to 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.

That's why BuildWitt created Better Dirt World—a community of companies and individuals that's uniting to solve the industry's people problem by paving career paths, changing perceptions about the industry, raising awareness, training great workers, and more. 

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