Making it up as you go along (sort of)

24 03 2016

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” ~Colin Powell

The thing about a battle plan is this:  your enemy is also making a plan.  So the generals and their minions sit in the HQ tent, looking at a map with lines on it, and decide that they’re going to make a push at this hill, or breach that obstacle.  Sounds great, but the map they’re looking at is a snapshot of how things WERE, usually hours ago.  I’ve been one of the radio operators who gets relayed the coordinates of an enemy unit, obstacle, etc.  That then goes on a laminated piece of acetate, which is stuck to a map.  Units around the brigade did the same thing, and, literally, hours later, the general comes in and looks at the map, and comes up with bright ideas.  By then, though, the map has changed.

Strategic Plans, Budgets, Projections, Performance goals, customer surveys (and your plan to address issues) are all versions of a battle plan.  As soon as they’re written up, the situation on the ground may have changed.  That’s why those Sergeants and Captains (i.e. line managers and their leaders) who are out on the ground, managing the troops, need the authority to improvise.  Many people think that improvisation means “just make something up”, but the years of training these leaders had allowed them to sharpen all the tools in their leadership tool bag, so that when an unknown situation presents itself, they have a handful of good tools that help them react appropriately to a challenging position.

Speaking of contact…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.




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