‘Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat’. (Sun Tzu)

Elite Hostage Rescue Teams are specialists in project strategy and execution. They train for excellence and plan for chaos to ensure they achieve high level results in any situation.

Tactical Execution principles used by Hostage Rescue Teams can be applied to any business, government, not for profit, or sporting organisation to execute projects fast and efficiently. Some of those principles include planning, briefing, tactics, debrief, and extreme leadership.


Hostage Rescue Operation plans need not be overly complex. The most successful plans for complex situations are simple, adaptable and sustainable. A typical Hostage Rescue Team plan will include the situation, mission, team actions, resources and coordination. The plan should be prepared in such a way as to ensure all teams are given sufficient information to execute their own tasks while being aware of other teams actions and requirements.

The mission statement is kept brief and concise to ensure clarity and understanding within the teams. Restricting the mission to one or two carefully worded statements allows teams to subconsciously retain the information and therefore remain mission focused throughout the most chaotic operations.

The same principles and planning format can be applied to project execution in any organisation. The project leader initially ensures that the project is aligned to the strategic goals of the organisation. The project leader is not likely to be the expert at technical aspects of the project, and therefore should consult with subject matter experts to discuss the best courses of action before developing the plan.


Once the plan has been developed and approved, the Hostage Rescue Team operation leader will schedule a briefing with all teams. At times team members may not be able to attend the briefing. It is important that at least all team leaders attend the briefing to ensure all teams are aware of the situation, mission, and each teams roles and responsibilities.

Organisations applying the same briefing principles create an awareness among team members of ‘why’ their role is significant. They commence the project with a sound knowledge of the actions their team and others will be taking while working towards the shared mission. Effective communication throughout the project ensures teams maintain situational awareness and are better placed to make decisions and support each other when inevitable changes occur.


Hostage Rescue Teams train to support their teammates using proven tactics such as cover and movement, and room clearance techniques. Applying the tactics effectively requires constant communication between teams and team members, and an awareness of each teams movements.

Similarly, an organisation executing a project involving one team, multiple teams, or multiple organisations, can use supportive tactics to ensure that all team members are receiving timely, relevant information. Team members are then able to make critical decisions based on the most current information. Thanks to modern technology, effective group communication has never been easier. Securely encrypted information sharing apps such as ‘Whatsapp’ or ‘Evernote’ make information sharing simple and instantaneous.


Every high risk operation undertaken by a Hostage Rescue Team is followed by an open and honest debrief. This would cover everything from the strategy and planning of the operation, to the execution and results.

A structured debrief format ensures learning points are raised at the appropriate time and important points are discussed. A typical debrief would summarise the execution phase before raising issues relating to decisions, actions taken, equipment issues, training issues and OHS. Team leaders can raise any issues and suggest ways to improve. Debriefs should always be recorded so they can be referred to when planning similar projects.

Extreme Leadership

Extreme leadership is a combination of extreme ownership and strong, adaptable leadership. The most respected leaders in Hostage Rescue Teams are those willing to accept ownership of mistakes regardless of whether they were made by themselves or others.

For example, the operation leader instructs Team Alpha to enter a building from the rear to ensure offenders don’t have an escape route, however they choose an easier entry point on the side of the building. As a result, offenders run out of the building and are apprehended by another team nearby.

Scenario 1 – The operation leader could blame Team Apha for making a poor decision. Team Alpha become defensive and starts making excuses or blames others. In this instance nobody accepts ownership of the mistake.

Scenario 2 – The operation leader admits that he could have given clearer instructions to Team Alpha and the mistake would have been avoided. Team Alpha inspired by this, also accept ownership admitting they should have clarified the instructions before taking action. As a result, lessons are learned and mistakes are rectified in the future.

Leadership styles during Tactical Execution should be flexible as leaders adapt to dynamic situations. For example, leaders may prefer to use a coaching style at times to develop their team however when the environment changes and things become chaotic, a direct approach becomes more appropriate. Applying appropriate styles of leadership during project execution allows the leader to promote individual and team development while keeping the team motivated and mission focused.

Tactical Execution used by Hostage Rescue Teams has been proven in the harshest, most unpredictable environments and refined through countless iterations. As can be seen, the principles are not restricted to tactical teams and can easily be applied to any organisation, small, medium or large, to achieve rapid results. The organisation capable of delivering strategic goals through fast, efficient Tactical Execution can expect exceptional results.