Do you ignore game changing information?
Have you ever seen leaders or projects ignore game changing information and then go on to spectacular failure because they did not accept that the market, competition or industry had changed?
In September 1944, Field Marshal Montgomery of the British Army was given permission from General Eisenhower to execute a battle plan known as Market Garden.
The goal of Market Garden was:
- Cut off and capture a sizable German force in Belgium and Holland
- Capture a deep water port that could be used to supply the Allied ground forces
- Place the Allied forces in position to invade Germany and the German industrial heartland
Montgomery planned to accomplish the above goals by using paratroopers to drop into Belgium and The Netherlands capturing valuable bridges so that the Allied armor and infantry troops could quickly drive into those countries and catch the Germans in a disoriented and confused state. If the plan worked, the hope was that the war in Europe would be over by Christmas of 1944.
As the final preparations were being made on Market Garden, lower level intelligence officers learned that the Germans had moved tanks and heavily armed forces around the very bridges that the paratroopers needed to capture intact in order to execute Montgomery’s plan.
The critical information about the movement of the German forces as well as other game changing information was hidden and in some cases ignored all together by high-ranking officers.
Errors with Market Garden
Leaving out the soundness of the strategy, Montgomery and his staff made several critical errors including:
- Ignoring critical last-minute changes made by the enemy
- Not communicating those changes by the Germans to the leaders responsible for implementing the strategy
- Not listening to other leaders concerns about the plan
- Discounting the risk of the plan due to personal/professional reasons
- No room for error or slack to adjust or pivot should one sub component of the plan be delayed or defeated
Don’t be like Monty
I remind my business-coaching clients that ambitious plans or big goals are fine and I encourage those kinds of goals. However, I don’t want them to be like Montgomery in how they create their plans, manage their team leaders and deal with game changing information.
Communicate and Evaluate information
To be an effective leader you have to make sure that your team knows how to transmit game changing information to you including good and bad information. Business leaders, just as military leaders need to be able to “read their troops” watch their collective behavior coming into and out of meetings about the project. What isn’t being said is just as important as what the team is saying to your face.
From the point of receiving that information, a good leader will evaluate the impact of this information to the known risks of the plan.
Good leaders are not solitary thinkers as Montgomery was. Good leaders will develop operational plans with their team and be willing to put personal agenda’s aside. These leaders will not simply create a plan in isolation then force subordinates to execute without the information, resources and the ability to pivot as circumstances present themselves.
Have you ever created or pushed a project “a bridge too far?” Or have you been involved with business decisions where success was completely reliant on every part being executed flawlessly? If you have, please share your experience with our Get2it Community.