At La Fiere Bridge and throughout Normandy on the day of the invasion, soldiers were separated from those that they had trained with for over two years. The leadership ranks and familiarity were lost. Most men were in the wrong place, unsure of their location, without their gear, and were forced to proceed alone. The training of regrouping and proceeding did not serve the Airborne well on that first morning of battle.
What could be described as a case study in disaster is instead one of success. These individuals proactively began to join up with other members of the Allied forces. As the groups grew from two, to four, to ten, and onward, the natural command structure came into force. The individuals became effective in their fields and began to seek out their objectives as a whole.
This was possible due to the training instilled in each other, the respect they had for service they were in, and the ingrained ‘take-the-initiative’ culture of each leader. This was certainly true for the Airborne, but also can be found with the Infantry landing on the beaches.
The success here is broken down to two main areas: respect and training. Each individual knew what was demanded of them and what was demanded of the individuals around them. There was an appreciation and respect for the chain of command and authority. This respect was carried from the training to the battle fields. Leaders demonstrated their experience and capability with the troops from the beginning up to the bitter end.
Following the military analogy in business, the battle at La Fiere Bridge conveys a need to have an organization that promotes respectable individuals based on skill and capability. Business success also requires some form of hierarchy that instills direction and command within the units. The hierarchy in some business can be quite flat but even in the flattest organization, there are those who are the ‘go-to’ employees due to experience, budget, and capability to make larger company decisions. This business structure also allows for the smallest of groups to function without the most-senior leadership, so long as there is some senior party involved.
If an organization establishes the first two baseline requirements (skill and capability), it is able to mix individuals and teams together on an as-needed basis. The caveat here is a shared awareness on the ‘command objective,’ or simply ‘the big picture.’
The potential to mix resources has proven highly effective in every branch of the military and is true in business as well. Deploying a team of pure technical individuals is a mistake, and one of only business-minded individuals is similarly at risk of failure. The benefits of diversity within an organization are innumerable. The key here is to instill a level of respect through authority, experience, and competency among diverse crowds.
- Does your organization have a hierarchy that is based on merit?
- Is the culture of your business one that respects the established hierarchy?
- Is the command objective known?
- Is the capability and competency of all levels consistent to allow for the smallest teams to achieve command objectives?
- What is the effective size of the teams and what supports are offered to the teams?
What is Battlefield Leadership and what is this series about …
This is the final paper in this series. As part of my pursuit to learn and grow, I sought out the excellent management training team at Battlefield Leadership. I am professionally leveraging this across multi-million dollar projects I am overseeing (currently I am the lead executive building global compliance and security programs specifically in the online services / cloud leader space). Personally I am bringing these lessons to bear within my pursuits to cross the chasm. To often I see brilliant technical individuals fail to communicate to very smart business leaders and to the common person on the street. My new book – How Not to be hacked seeks to be a first step in bringing deep information security practices beyond the technologist.
Most exciting the Battlefield group for this training placed it in Normandy France. This allowed for senior executives to be trained in a setting where serious decisions were placed by both sides, and each provided a lesson. This series represents my notes (that I could take down) and takeaways. I share to continue the conversation with those great individuals I met, and with the larger community.