Can Your Business Change Direction? On The Fly?


Einstein once remarked that a sign of intelligence was the ability to change direction quickly. If so, the following video is an excellent example of very destructive thinking.

The short clip is from the military. Ours.

The quick thinking/quick reaction would not surprise a conservative. And would surely disappoint a liberal.

Short Explanation Before Watching The F-16 – SIERRA HOTEL

This is a video from a F16 doing CAS (combat air strike) during the recent fighting in Fallujah. We have been bombing insurgent “safe houses” with some success recently. This F16 was on such a mission, to hit a building with an LGB (laser guided bomb). After the weapon had been launched 30 + insurgents left the building en masse to hurry to a nearby engagement with US Marines. The fighting had been going on for hours.

A new opportunity has come up since the plan was made. Threats and opportunities always, always pop up. Even if your plan has been in place for hours or months, the next action may have to turn in a new direction instantly.

The pilot communicates with the FAC (forward air controller) either in the air or on the ground, and changes the flight path of the bomb while it is en route to the target.

The decision maker may or may not know exactly where his team is located — the team is probably not at his elbow — the team may be off-shore or even out-sourced. But the boss can still guide the action across multiple silos.

You can clearly see the “L” flashing in the MFD (multi-function display), and TGP (terminally guided projectile) is selected.

Every manager has a matrix of info on his dashboard. In this scenario, the decision maker had data, maybe not complete, maybe not 100%, but enough to make a decision.

It is the pilot who says “I got numerous individuals on the road, do you want me to take those out?”

Your Business Blogger senses that the pilot is not quite asking permission in his request; he is merely alerting the controller that a new course of action is needed and will be done immediately. If, for example, there was a radio equipment failure, the pilot may very well have changed the mission rather than bomb an empty building.

Or perhaps like Nelson, the pilot would have turned a “blind eye” to an incomplete command.

Of course,

The FAC says “Take em out!”

The analyst continues,

Now, to put this in focus for you so you can get a glimpse into the complexities of the modern battlefield and the flexibilities of the modern U.S. war fighter: You have a supersonic high performance aircraft being driven by a single pilot who, under the tactical control of a FAC, launches a PGM (precision guided munition) at a designated structure (building).

The pilot uses the aircraft’s laser guidance video display to guide the weapon to the target (precision).

Remember, he is also flying the aircraft. The pilot sees the video on his heads-up display and notices a bunch of combatants leaving the targeted building, turning the corner and heading down the street towards an active firefight. The pilot advises the FAC of the change in the status of the target requesting to target the combatants en route to the firefight rather than hitting an empty building.

Permission is granted.

The key phrase is “change of status.” The US of A military is trained in flexibility. This is how America wins wars.

Wins military campaigns.

Wins civilian marketing campaigns.

Human Resource Managers: Hire a veteran. Not only because it is patriotic and the right thing to do, but because you will have a mature manager who can think and act on his feet. Hire him, if you can find him.

American business needs more vets. The taxpayer has already invested in the Management Training.

Watch the 53 second clip


Thank you (foot)notes:

Thank you to Alert Reader, Stan Honour, for forwarding.

The Army’s definition of discipline is, The prompt obedience to orders, and the initiation of appropriate action in the absence of orders.

Full Disclosure: Your Business Blogger is biased — and is a former Armored Cavalry Captain running a Management Training firm based on military principles. Our Management Training philosophy may surprise even the Alert Reader. See Management Training of DC, LLC.

Read Thomas Thompson’s Tester on at the jump. Your Business Blogger made it required reading for The Dude on the value of initiative.

…Battle of Midway Memorial, which honors the three-day battle one magazine named as the ‘‘Most Significant Naval Event of the Century” and Walter Lord called the ‘‘Incredible Victory.”

Midway is commonly regarded as the turning point of the World War II in the Pacific, but the battle itself turned on five minutes that were, in short, the turning point of the turning point.

It has been said that luck is the residue of design, and these five minutes were just that: the result of a fundamental difference in Japanese and American military training beliefs. The Americans believed, and still believe, that all its military men and women should be able to think on their feet and make command decisions on the battlefield. Their training is designed with that in mind.

American Adm. Chester Nimitz commits nearly his entire fleet to stop them. It includes his only three carriers: Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown. By contrast, the Japanese armada includes 11 battleships, 23 cruisers, 66 destroyers, and six aircraft carriers.

But a third factor will decide this battle.

Individual initiative shown by junior officers will make the difference. It will make Midway the turning point of the Pacific War — and five minutes the turning point of Midway.

Initiative is emphasized heavily in American military training. It is strongly encouraged for all officers to become part of the decision making process. Adm. David L. McDonald said once, ‘‘Seldom will a service person get into trouble by using his own initiative unless in doing so he is knowingly violating a policy that has been set by his senior.” McDonald goes on to say that superior officers would rather see a junior officer try something and fail than do nothing at all.

Compare this atmosphere to the training of Saburo Sakai, Japan’s greatest fighter ace with 64 victories. Japanese training, he notes in his autobiography, ‘‘made human cattle of every one of us. We never dared to question orders, to doubt authority, to do anything but immediately carry out all the commands of our superiors. We were automatons who obeyed without thinking.”

Automatons and cattle do not improvise or show initiative.

Initiative by junior officers first comes into play on June 3. Just before 9 a.m., Ensign Jack Reid, commanding a Catalina search plane, reaches the end of his search pattern 700 miles from Midway. He can turn back and say he’s followed his orders, but he doesn’t. On his own initiative, he flies on for another 30 miles and sights the Japanese invasion force. …

His initiative is rewarded: McClusky finds the Japanese carriers.

By 10 a.m. on June 4, the Japanese First Air Fleet has been under attack. Midway has not been surprised. It can still fight. Things do not go according to the Japanese plan, which is starting to unravel under what Gordon Prange called ‘‘the pressure of the unexpected.”

Nagumo hesitates. He isn’t prepared for this. He has been trained in a system that has not encouraged improvisational thinking, and has not helped him quickly make a decision in a changing situation.

The battle will continue. American dive-bombers sink the last carrier, the Hiryu. The Japanese sink the carrier Yorktown; then they turn for home. From this point on, Japan will be on the defensive.

Midway is the turning point of the Pacific War — but the turning point of Midway is five minutes on June 4th. Squadron Commander Richard Best described the shocking turnabout for the Japanese: ‘‘They were just going to sweep everything from the seas, and it must have been a horrible awakening in those five minutes when four of their magnificent carriers were suddenly reduced to one.”

The seeds of American victory were planted in officer training that says individual initiative is important. Japanese training, for all its other virtues, neglected and discouraged individual initiative.

In the words of Adm. Thomas Moorer, ‘‘Ships and planes are just boxes with electronics in them. People make the difference.”

The men, not the boxes, made the difference in those five minutes at Midway, the turning point of the turning point.

Read Thomas Thompson’s entire article.


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1 Response

  1. Mike Smock says:

    Hi Jack,

    Good post today on flexibility.

    I blogged it here:

    Plus The Anchoress had a hilarious post on a customer revolt inside a liberal book store:

    Hope all is well there!


    Mike Smock | Managing Director

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