Thursday, September 22, 2016

The value of strategy

"I will not take by sacrifice that which I can achieve by strategy"
General Douglas MacArthur

And, so what we have in that philosophy, when put in project context, is the oft-criticized 'brute force approach' vs a more subtle tactical alternative. Where this shows up more often than not is using the right tool for the right job, and preparing the context for using the tools.

We see it all the time: rather than taking the time to obtain -- and perhaps train on -- the right tool, practitioners barge ahead with brute force because they think they are saving time. No strategy required. I have a hammer, so every problem is a nail!

Ooops! It takes more time to clean up the mess than do it right the first time --- and, how many times have you heard that one?

More brute; more force

Remember this from a prior post? "Measure with a micrometer; mark it with chalk; cut it with an axe"? Just brute piling on top of brute

And, of course, the other brute force idea is more force -- more people. More is better -- until you get to Brooks Law: "Adding people to a late project makes it later" *

* Fred Brooks: "The Mythical Manmonth"
More subtle tactics
  • First we have the Tom Sawyer approach: get someone else to paint the fence; and, better still, make them think it's a privilege.
  • Ignore the inconvenient: Also known as: answer the question you wished they had asked and not the question asked. And, jump over, around, or dodge adversity -- the MacArthur approach
  • Don't confuse cost and unit cost: experts may cost more per hour, but throughput is what counts. They may finish a lot faster and better. This is the case for "made in America"

Historians are in general accord that during the Pacific war MacArthur was able use strategy both as a force multiplier and a means to avoid casualties more effectively than any other strategic leader. *
At the single battle of Anzio in Italy, 72K casualties; in 2 years in the campaigns from Australia to the Philippine invasion, MacArthur suffered 27K casualties. There are many other examples.
* From: "American Caesar" by William Manchester

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