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Building a NCO: Your Personal Mission Essential Task List


J. D. Pendry


Before you start working on your personal mission essential task list (METL), you need to do an after action review (AAR) of what you've done so far. While doing the AAR, remember the important questions to ask your self: What went well? Why? What didn't go well? Why? What changes do I need to make? You may discover that you need to do some more work before you write your personal METL. This short review will help you with your AAR.


        The first thing you addressed was your foundation. You examined your values - most importantly your level of personal integrity. This is where you became the judge of your own character. Reflect on your values assessment and honestly answer for yourself the AAR questions.


        Next, you conducted a self-assessment of your attitudes, knowledge, and skills. This is where you became the judge of your own competence. Reflect on the self-assessment you made and answer the AAR questions.


        After the self-assessment, you started to develop your personal vision and mission. This is where you took charge by laying out the road map you'll follow. In other words, you established direction for yourself. Examine your personal vision and mission statements and address the AAR questions.

After you finish your AAR, you'll be better prepared to work on the next step which is to identify and write your personal mission essential tasks.


What are mission essential tasks? Mission essential tasks are tasks a unit must perform to accomplish its mission. Your personal METL are tasks you must perform to achieve your personal mission.


Where do they come from? Mission essential tasks come from several sources. On the personal level, they come mainly from your personal vision and mission. What is important to remember is that the only thing that drives a task is whether it's essential to accomplishing your mission. You may discover that you have an essential task that is not within your resources to accomplish right away. That fact does not make it any less essential.


What are battle tasks? Battle tasks are tasks a unit must perform that enable the next higher organization to accomplish its mission. Personal battle tasks are tasks you must perform that enable others (those who depend on you), your team and unit to accomplish their missions.


What is an individual task list? As a NCO, you'll become proficient at breaking your unit's METL down to its basic form. Its basic form is the individual tasks that soldiers must perform before the unit can accomplish the METL task. After you develop your personal METL, you will have to break each down into its basic tasks.


Get started. To help you get started with your METL development I will make some assumptions. The first assumption is that somewhere in your personal mission statement you addressed proficiency or becoming the best NCO possible. The next assumption is that in your mission you addressed meeting the needs of those who are dependent on you. With those in mind, let's look at some sample METL tasks. Remember that a METL task normally includes many supporting tasks. Your personal METL may consist of only three or four essential tasks, but with each having many supporting tasks. Here are some samples.


METL 1: Constantly improve my proficiency as a soldier and noncommissioned officer.

If you select this, or something similar as a mission essential task you already have a start on breaking it into supporting tasks. Refer back to your self-assessment. All of the items on the checklist become supporting tasks to this METL statement. Additionally, you have already rated them as T (for trained), P (for needs practice), and U (for untrained). Not only do you have a list, but you also know where to focus our efforts in order to achieve a T in the mission essential task.

Constant improvement is a METL task where you will never achieve a T in every supporting task. This METL task, like any other, is a continuing process. You give yourself a T in a task such as this once you have a systematic plan for improvement that you use. We'll get into that more when we discuss your Personal Mission Training Plan.


METL 2: Meet the needs of those who are dependent on me.

When developing the supporting tasks for a METL statement such as this one, think back to the process you used to develop you personal mission statement. Recall the questions you answered when building your personal mission. Who depends on me? What do they depend on me for? Breaking the answer to these questions down into manageable tasks is what is required. The answer to the first question, for example, may be your team or squad, your unit, your subordinates, peers, and superiors. Each group will depend on you for different things. Also, remember that this is your personal METL derived from your personal mission. Don't forget that your family also depends on you.

Next, determine if either of these tasks meets the definition of a battle task. If the METL task is critical to your next higher element being able to accomplish its mission, it's a battle task for you. For example, a task that you have to perform before your squad can meet its mission requirements is a battle task for you. You'll have to study each task and decide for yourself how critical it is to someone else.

Everything you've started now must link together. Think in terms of a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid sits your vision statement - that's where you want to be some day. Beneath that is your mission statement - that's your purpose or in other words, how you are going to achieve your vision. Next, are your personal mission essential tasks - the tasks you must perform in order to accomplish your personal mission. Finally, at the base of the pyramid are all of the supporting tasks you must perform to accomplish each METL task.

When you are developing your pyramid, ensure that everything aligns. By that, I mean your mission statement must lead to achieving your vision, your METL must lead to accomplishing your mission and your supporting task must enable you to perform your METL tasks. Once in awhile you'll have to make adjustments.

You can see that this is not an easy process and requires much thought and effort on your part. But, I don't remember telling you that being a good NCO is easy. Every successful NCO and leader uses some system to accomplish the things we've talked about so far.

If you work through this process, you'll end up with many tasks to manage. You should probably finish with three or four personal METL tasks and their supporting tasks. It will look like much to do and it is. What you must keep in mind is that you're planning your life and career as a NCO here, not just next week. Next time, we'll look at how you manage all of your tasks when we work on your Personal Mission Training Plan.


This is the fourth in a series of seven articles on NCO self-development. CSM (ret) J. D. Pendry is Author of The Three Meter Zone: Common Sense Leadership for NCOs.


Copyright 1999, James D. Pendry, All Rights Reserved.