When a soldier reports to their new command and takes over their new position, the first order of business after meeting the commander is meeting the person they’re replacing. If they’re lucky, they will get an in-depth transition period known as Replace in Place and Transfer of Authority with the outgoing soldier. But more than likely, the outgoing soldier has already transferred or retired.
Here is a good leadership tool to mitigate the turbulence of assuming a new position: the Continuation Book. This tool, which is not used enough across the Army, is not rank-dependent, and both officers and enlisted soldiers will benefit from it. The idea is to improve the unit by streamlining any turbulence caused by transfer and assimilation of your replacement.
Every position I have transferred to in the Army, if there was no Continuation Book, I made one to set up my successor for success. Everything nowadays is electronic, and you can make an electronic version of a Continuation Book, but cloud and power issues can make an electronic version difficult. I chose an analog method of a spiral-bound notebook to pass along to the next person occupying my position. If I left before my successor arrived, then I gave the notebook to someone I trusted to pass it along.
The Continuation Book is divided into four sections and can be used to improve your unit and track your accomplishments throughout your tenure. The first section of the book concerns the unit you work in, followed by administrative, current operations and future operations sections.
The Unit Section is a touchstone to remain focused on the unit’s mission and the commander’s vision. It consists of the mission statement, vision statement, Commander’s Critical Information Requirements, unit awards and decorations, and the unit’s address and telephone numbers.
The unit’s mission statement is a short statement of why an organization exists; what its overall goal is. It identifies what kind of product or service the unit provides, its primary customers or market, and its geographical region of operation. The statement may include a short summary of such fundamental matters as the organization’s values or philosophies, its main competitive advantages or a desired future state—the “vision.”
A vision statement is a company or group’s inspirational statement of an idealistic emotional future. “Vision” describes the basic human emotion a founder intends for people with whom the organization interacts. A vision statement grounds the group so the group can actualize some existential impact on the world.
Commander’s Critical Information Requirements are defined by DoD as comprehensive information requirements identified by the commander as critical to facilitating timely information management and the decision-making process that influence successful mission accomplishment.
I included a subsection of the unit’s mission statement and vision statement in this section to ensure my replacement was guided to support the unit commander’s vision and mission.
The last part of this section should include higher headquarters’ Commander’s Critical Information Requirements to assist your replacement and your unit in accomplishing a successful mission.
The Administrative Section contains such details as the line/paragraph/position number obtained from the Unit Manning Report of your unit. Below “Daily Duties and Scope” will be areas of special emphasis and any appointed duties.
The next part of the administration section follows the personnel status report and logistics status report for your section. How many soldiers are you responsible for within your squad/section/platoon/company? If you include authorized and actual on-hand soldiers by rank and title, you should have a handle on your staffing requirements. You are also responsible for equipment if your unit is a Modified Table of Organization and Equipment unit. Write down the equipment title, National Stock Number and location.
You should include the unit’s unique identification code, address and telephone numbers, along with the higher headquarters information for quick reference.
The Current Operations Section contains information about your unit’s daily operations with activities, meetings, missions, products and teleconferences. It seems like you spend all your time in meetings and on phone calls instead of with soldiers. But when you write this information down, it will act as a scheduling tool.
I had a subsection of yearly accomplishments for each rating period. This subsection will help keep track of what you and your team completed during your tenure. This subsection will assist your successor in continuing your efforts to meet the unit’s mission statement and vision.
The Future Operations Section contains ideas about improving your unit’s efficiency. Perhaps on your daily comings and goings, you observe a deficiency, and you cannot find a solution right away. Make a note of the deficiency and research it, talk to your team about it, and you might be pleasantly surprised when the team comes up with a solution you did not think of before. Always make sure the team gets credit. You can also use this section for evaluations and awards. As you complete each accomplishment, write down the date and any assistance received.
If you have repetitive operations on a yearly basis, such as the Best Warrior Competition, or on a greater basis, like a biennial deployment, write them down to keep track of what must happen for completion, and include your network of addresses and cellphone numbers. This will assist you and your successor from having to reinvent the wheel each time the event happens.
I included a subsection of helpful and difficult people I had the pleasure and displeasure of working with while at a unit. Everyone has good and bad points when it comes to their work ethic. If they have assisted you with something, write it down. I also included something about them personally (i.e., their anniversary, number of children, etc.) to allow for a personal connection.
If a co-worker hindered my progress on a project, I wrote that down, too, along with attempts to rectify any miscommunication. Maybe they are overloaded with work and do not want to take on another project. Ask them if it would be OK for you to do the work for them. This is a win-win for both you and the person hindering your progress. They do not have to take on another project, and you complete a task to help improve your unit.
I also had a subsection of meeting minutes with required actions needed to help me remember everything from the meeting. If you have a great memory, you may not need this.
Tying It All Together
A tool is only good when it is being used. When you arrive at a new unit, you want a smooth turnover from the person you are relieving and vice versa. The Continuation Book will act as a guide for you to give a full and complete picture for the next person. Different commands will have different formats and requirements. Use what works for you.
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Sgt. Maj. Dirk Livingston, U.S. Army Reserve retired, served for over 40 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, the California Army National Guard and the U.S. Navy. He held leadership and staff positions from the platoon to division level across combat, combat support and combat service support fields. He deployed to Kosovo and Iraq in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.