Flawless Execution by James Murphy

James Murphy, a former F-15 fighter pilot, works with his clients in his consulting firm by adapting many techniques and strategies used by fighter pilots. Flawless Execution, Murphy’s second book, expands on several insightful points from his first book, Business is Combat.

My introduction to his work and business philosophy was via a friend who told me about Business is Combat and its chapter “In the Beginning: Values” knowing I look for writings about values and values clarification in professions and occupations beyond trading.

While I thought the book was more about combative flying than business, he did address three areas I believe are directly applicable to traders and trading:

Briefing: Preparing, rehearsing, and acclimating oneself before doing.

Execution: Doing what you are prepared to do and handling the unexpected based on your preparedness.

De-Briefing: Learning from what worked, what didn’t, and why.

Flawless Execution, in addition to other topics, expands on those three areas and provides the reader with greater insight into each topic especially the ‘briefing’.

In opening his discussion on briefing which covers three chapters, the author makes the statement that ‘the mission is the brief; the brief is the mission’. His meaning is that the two are both a part of the whole in that no fighter pilot would fly a mission without a brief due to it being a critical step in the execution of the mission.

As traders, most of us benefit from doing our requisite preparatory work prior to the opening of the session. And, based on the quality of our preparation, trade both more effectively and with greater confidence. Some of the key points discussed in these chapters on the briefing are:

The time allocated to the briefing–what are your defined start and stop times?
The objective of the mission (session)—what result or outcome are you seeking (when and where)?
The scenario or ‘picture’ of the mission’s (session’s) unfolding events and potential obstacles?
A review of your trading ‘standards’—what are your non-situational guidelines or rules?
The ‘what if’s’—what will you do if ‘X’, ‘Y’, or ‘Z’ happens?

One of the other topics, beyond briefing, execution, and de-briefing, was ‘checklists’ and the undeniable benefit of using checklists. For more on this topic, read our article ‘Checklists: Thought Benchmarks’.

I liked the book in that it reinforces the concept that there’s more to executing a mission than just climbing into an airplane, taking off, going after the bad guys, coming back and landing, and then enjoying some R&R. When applied to trading, it also shows what is required to be a trader versus someone who just takes trades.

Until next time . . .