Is a military approach the solution to current crisis management?
In their updates and press releases, political leaders regularly apply military metaphors, using terms such as “wartime posture”, “waging war”, “mobilize”, “join the battle”, and “losing ground”. Applying militaristic metaphors and concepts in business, politics, and industry is not unique to current affairs. In the 1960s, Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, credited armies for influencing the structure of modern businesses and related management processes. Conceptually non-military leaders routinely speak in terms of strategy, the Greek word for general, strategos. Technically, the genesis of many logistical processes used by the industry was established to meet the demands to support the industrialization of warfare in the 20th Century. It is because the military has specific capabilities and expertise that are not present in public health agencies, and related government departments, that plan, support, and conduct the activities required to respond to a Pandemic.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that nations, Canada included, are deploying their military forces in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The military is routinely used in response to emergencies and natural disasters to provide support, expertise, and augment civil authorities and agencies. During my time in the Army, some of the most fulfilling experiences were operations where we provided support to domestic or international responses to natural disasters or emergencies. One such deployment was a request for assistance in support of the Province of Newfoundland & Labrador after Hurricane Igor made landfall on the Bonavista Peninsula in 2010. In the photo below, Royal Canadian Engineers are building an ACROW Bridge to replace the washed-out causeway that cut off the community of Trouty.
Photo: Canadian Forces Combat Camera
Here in Ontario, former Army General Rick Hillier is now leading the Ministers’ COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force. A task force is a term most often equated to armed forces organized for specific operations. To the best of my knowledge General (Retired) Hillier is not an expert on vaccines, however, I can attest that he is an expert on planning and leading teams consisting of multiple disciplines and capabilities.
Beyond the obvious capabilities of logistical expertise, command, and control, and, if required, security, there resides a capability inherent to professional armed forces that sets them apart from most other organizations and industries—planning.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower is credited with saying “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”. Considering his achievements as a military commander and subsequent success as President of the United States, there is significant merit in this statement. It is worth considering the principles of planning identified in the United States Military’s Joint Planning Publication 5-0. They are outlined as follows:
- Focuses on the End State: Plans and actions positively contribute to the greater objective.
- Integrated and Coordinated: The operational environment in its entirety is considered.
- Resource Informed: A realistic assessment and use of available resources are applied.
- Risk-Informed: An honest assessment of costs and potential consequences is provided to decision-makers.
- Framed within the Operational Environment: Continuous monitoring and understanding of the conditions affecting the operational environment.
- Informs Decision Making: Assumptions, issues, and risks are identified, and sound courses of action are assessed and selected.
- Adaptive and Flexible: Planning is networked, collaborative, and concurrently developed across departments.
Professional modern militaries bring with them a vast array of capabilities and expertise. Not the least of which are those related to planning. Military planning is a structured and scalable process. Its comprehensive approach is designed to manage complexity, instill resilience, mitigate risk, and respond and manage crises.
In his treatise On War, Clausewitz refers to the elements of fog and friction, to describe the uncertainty and unexpected that are inherent characteristics of the nature of warfare. These elements are not unique to military operations and extend to the conduct of business. Although the consequences may not be as extreme, they affect the bottom line, culture, and effectiveness, and efficiency of the conduct of business.
As described by General Eisenhower, planning is “indispensable”. At Gasparotto Group our Team has decades of combined military experience, planning and subsequently executing operations, and leading multidisciplinary teams of diverse capabilities. Contact us to learn how we have transformed this experience and knowledge to link to business, and how we can help your team plan and succeed, in your respective battleground.
Senior Leadership of CAF and DND conducting a Rehearsal of Concept (ROC) drill in preparation to deploy Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel in response to COVID-19. Photo: Canadian Forces Combat Camera
To learn how our team can help your team overcome the challenges and limitations of prolonged virtual interaction, contact us at email@example.com.
Written by Shawn Groves
Gasparotto Group helps organizations create cultures that develop highly effective leaders and build strong, resilient teams.