Week 5 Forum

300 words


Ah, here is where we really get to the heart of the matter. Strategic thinking is essentially long term in nature. (Please see additional information in the weekly announcement.) It answers the question, “Where are we going?” Everything else is operational. Think of General Patton going to Berlin. His direction (strategy) was clear: get to Berlin and get Hitler. Everything else — how many tanks he had; how much ammunition he had; how many C rations; how many medical personnel; whether the radios were working — was operational.

Now, here is an interesting insight into Patton. Everybody thinks going to Berlin was a universal goal. Not really. Eisenhower was more interested in knocking out the German manufacturing capability. Just think about that. The Russians were heading to Berlin and could take care of the remnants of the German army in the east and around Berlin. Why not take out their manufacturing plants where they made tanks, airplanes, ammunition and other war implements? Maybe Eisenhower was right!

A second issue needs to be considered. The Battle of the Bulge was underway. Many Germans were still fighting across Western Europe. Going to Berlin with a large American force would leave the other American units to fight the Germans across France and other parts of western Europe without Patton’s help.

Then you had Field Marshal Montgomery, the British leader. He wanted to go to Berlin — so he sort of agreed with Patton — but he wanted to lead the charge and have Patton follow him.

So, going to Berlin was not so automatic as people think. In fact, the famous Red Ball Express (Patton’s route to Berlin) did bypass many American units.

What this Patton story illustrates is that there may be alternate directional ideas (strategies), all of which answer the question, “Where should we go?” Typically, the organization has to answer the directional question once – only one strategy. Although divisions of massive organizations like the US Army in World War II may pursue more than one strategy. That means one strategic direction per division.

The key issue is that strategy looks at the long term. Now, here is an interesting topic related to this. Once you decide on a long-term strategy, such as going to Berlin, how do you create a plan? Do you start at the end of the process — being in Berlin — and work backward? Or, do you start from where you are now, on the ground in western France — and move step-by-step to the goal?

It seems either approach would work. What do you think?


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