What are Troop Leading Procedures?
Troop Leading Procedures (TLP) is the name given to the operational planning and preparation stages that are used in the military.
Troop Leading Procedures can be used to plan for battles and military actions, but they can also be employed to ensure that any task is completed efficiently and effectively. The TLP is designed to be the immediate reaction of every leader because it is a systematic approach that can be used to bring success.
The TLP consists of eight steps, and they are designed to be completed in any order, or in some cases concurrently - they are essentially a series of guideposts to help small unit leaders like Officers and NCOs utilize their resources in the most effective ways.
Origin and development of TLP
The Troop Leading Procedures are a relatively modern phenomenon, although military leaders have been using structured planning since the beginning of organized militaries.
What we recognize as the modern TLP is based on the details of the 1910 publication of Regulations for Field Maneuvers, but it took until 1977 to become the fully-fleshed, structured and detailed planning steps that we recognize today.
Purpose of TLP in military operations
In military operations, the TLP is used to both conduct analyses and to plan for an upcoming mission.
The commander of the mission is responsible for the success of the mission, and by referring to the structured planning steps of the TLP the leaders can ensure that they understand the scope of the mission and what the goal is, and they can form a plan to accomplish all required actions.
Importance of TLP
The TLP is an integral part of the leader's thought process, and when any orders are given they should be the first thing that is considered.
The dynamic process has been created to help small unit leaders get through mission planning, so this routine way of thinking can guide decision-making until the mission is successfully completed.
Using the TLP helps small unit leaders to make the best use of the time that they have between receiving orders and commencing, while ensuring that they are making the best use of the equipment, resources, and personnel resources.
Following the TLP allows leaders to launch troops into battle or the mission quickly and with maximum preparation - all the required actions are accomplished before commencement.
While the number of steps and the required actions that come with them can seem to be long-winded, it gives a solid, structured framework to the preparation that is needed for success and saves time because it is flexible and can be undertaken in any order, with some items running concurrently.
The Eight Steps of Troop Leading Procedures
Step 1 - Receive the Mission
Small unit leaders like Officers and NCOs will receive a mission brief from headquarters. This might be written or it could be verbal, and the order itself might be to go into battle or to clean the latrines.
Orders come in two main forms - an OPORD (Operations Order) or a WARNO (Warning Order) and they will provide an outline of what needs to be accomplished.
When received, an initial analysis of the tasks should be completed by the leader, following the METT-TC framework:
- What is the Mission?
- What is known about the Enemy?
- What is the Terrain and weather like?
- What Troops are available?
- How much time until the mission starts?
- Are there any Civilian considerations
The bulk of the planning will come later, but these initial thoughts will help leaders prepare for the next step, which should be undertaken as soon as possible.
Step 2 - Issue a Warning Order
The leader who receives the mission should then pass a WARNORD to their direct reports. This is essentially passing the bare bones of the mission to lower-level leaders so they can prepare their personnel and equipment accordingly.
There is no specific format to this step, leaders just need to make sure that all subordinates are aware of what is going to happen - and they should have clear knowledge of what they need to do.
If possible, the WARNORD should include:
It should also include a time and a place for the issuance of the Operation Order to the troops.
Step 3 - Make a Tentative Plan
This part of the TLP should bring together all the known variables and a clear understanding of the primary objective of the mission. The initial METT-TC analysis should have enough data to be useful here.
The tentative plan should be a consideration of two or three potential courses of action, with a comparison made to choose the plan that is best designed to achieve the primary objective of the mission.
This tentative plan can be updated as more data comes in, but it should be used to form the starting point for coordination, reconnaissance, movement instructions, and task organization.
While leaders need to include as much detail as possible, this is a dynamic planning structure so at this stage the focus should be on the bigger picture and high-level ideas
Step 4 - Initiate Movement
One of the biggest time wasters in planning an operation is waiting until there is a firm plan to begin moving on it.
Initiating movement early can help get troops into position quicker, especially if they have to relocate for the mission, and it gives everyone enough time to complete preparations and essential maintenance on supplies and weaponry.
Preparation is key, and starting to gather everything together well before the mission is due to begin will give enough time to sort any issues out and prevent delays.
Step 5 - Conduct Reconnaissance
Leaders should undertake a personal visit to the operational area where possible, but if this cannot be achieved then every avenue of reconnaissance should be explored to build the most in-depth picture.
Combining physical reconnaissance with a review of relevant intelligence is the best way to achieve this.
Leaders should always be aware of the risk of personal recon - it can be inherently dangerous, so it may be necessary to use scouts or subordinates instead.
The best recon methods for this, in order, are:
- Personal recon
- Fly over
- Interactive or 3D mapping
- Satellite imagery
- Ground-level photography
- Drawings or sketched maps
- Verbal descriptions
Reconnaissance should look for the following:
- Available routes for movement
- Obstacles and hazards
- Weather and terrain
- Special equipment required
- Any specific advantages or disadvantages for the troops or for the enemy
- Civilian considerations
Step 6 - Complete the Plan
If the tentative planning stage was undertaken properly, the details from the reconnaissance should validate the chosen course of action - but if not, then adjustments should be made to allow for the latest intelligence.
The plan should then be coordinated with higher Headquarters and other units where needed. These details will become the official OPORD, but at this stage, they can be shared verbally with subordinates to save time and make sure that preparations are well underway.
Step 7 - Issue the Order
The OPORD should be officially issued, and it is best to complete it at a vantage point overlooking the objective. When delivering to troops, it can be done orally, but a written copy needs to be given to each direct report, with any maps or additional information attached.
At this point, a terrain model should be used where possible to demonstrate a walkthrough of the mission, and it should be rehearsed. Every single person involved in the mission should know what their role is and should be prepared to carry it out.
It is important to remember that as a dynamic process, the plan can still evolve past this point as more intelligence is gathered.
Step 8 - Supervise and Refine
Although this is given as the last step, it is a task that should be happening throughout the process. For troops, standard operating procedures (SOPs) should be in place to govern the preparation process, so every member of the team knows exactly what they need to do when they receive a WARNORD.
The supervision process should also include rehearsals of missions to highlight weaknesses as well as inspections of uniforms, equipment, weapons, and ammunition.
Leaders should be confident that everyone knows the mission objective. With the TLP in place, the process should be that officers plan, NCOs supervise, and soldiers execute.
Revision and refining of the plan are all part of this; changes might need to be made to ensure success if there are any deficiencies in the current plan.
Practical Application of TLP
TLP in Training and Exercises
The Troop Leading Procedure is one of the most important tools that a small unit leader can have, and it is used in both training and exercises to make it become second nature when operations are being planned.
Leaders should immediately fall back on their knowledge of TLP when planning anything - no matter how big or small - and this reliance on procedure comes from training with it at all stages of leadership development.
Exercises are essentially rehearsals for bigger missions, and they are the time when mistakes can be safely made (and learned from). This is why Troop Leading Procedures should be used for dealing with any order from higher Headquarters, no matter how mundane.
TLP in Real-World Operations
The importance of following TLP in real-world situations cannot be stressed enough. When it comes to dangerous objectives or the possibility of battle, nothing will work properly without structured planning and preparation.
The dynamic design of the TLP allows for changes to be made to follow the latest recon and intelligence, and ensures that every last soldier is aware of the overall mission objective but also their particular role in getting it done successfully.
Developing Leadership Skills Through TLP
Utilizing the TLP in exercises, training, and real-world situations is not just about getting a mission completed successfully - it also develops specific leadership skills that are essential for a small unit leader to have. Some of these skills are described below.
There are several different stages where effective communication is essential to the TLP. Initially, leaders have to be able to understand the original OPORD from headquarters, and then issue the WARNORD to their subordinates.
Leaders need to be able to get all the relevant information out to their direct reports in the way that makes the most sense, whether that is verbally or in writing as well - and that is all about effective communication.
The whole structure of the TLP is designed for decision-making, and to make the right decisions when it comes to achieving a given objective leaders need to be able to think logically and gather information from different sources.
Making decisions without having a structured way of approaching a problem can lead to poor actions.
Building Teamwork and Trust
Giving every member of the team the knowledge that they need to be able to play their part is inherent in the TLP, and this is a tool that fosters both teamwork and trust.
Individuals know their role and their SOPs manage their response to receiving orders, and leaders can trust them to get on with what they need to do. Everyone has a part to play and can rely on each other to achieve the mission goal.
TLP Adaptations and Innovations
TLP in the Modern Battlefield
In the modern battlefield, TLPs are essential to ensuring mission success. The gathering of intelligence and new ways of getting reconnaissance adds extra dimensions to the execution of a plan, and thanks to technical innovations personal recon doesn't have to take place in person - camouflaged drones are capable of providing instant feedback about an operational area.
Small unit leaders rely on the structure and dynamic design of the TLP to ensure that even on a modern battlefield, every aspect of preparation can take place before the mission begins.
TLP in Non-Combat Scenarios
The structure of the TLP planning guide is something that can be adapted to suit any situation where decisions need to be made and teams need to work together to achieve a common goal.
Leaders who are aware of the TLP and can refer to it every time they have to make a plan or prepare for something will be able to work faster and more effectively, utilizing all the resources that are available to them to succeed.