Plan First, Improvise Later.

Another update from the Jungle…

unnamedNo plan survives first contact with the enemy. This military maxim is credited to many famous military leaders, including Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Rommel was famous for improvising on the battlefield. But he always started with a plan.

In World War II, Rommel led the Africa Corps in what is now eastern Libya as it attacked British forces in Egypt. In every battle, Rommel’s forces were outnumbered by the British troops they were attacking. That meant that Rommel needed to make real-time changes to his plan of attack as the battle developed in order to exploit weaknesses in the enemy line. He was remarkably successful at it.

Rommel’s true improvisational skills were demonstrated at the battle of El Alamein. Rommel designed a plan to attack the British forces in Egypt. The ultimate goal of the plan was to defeat the British and advance to the oil fields in Iraq. Before Rommel’s plan could begin, the British forces attacked with overwhelming numbers and equipment. (The British had broken German military codes using Enigma and knew of Rommel’s plan.)

The Africa Corps was overwhelmed and fell back toward Libya. Rommel continuously fashioned makeshift defensive lines to save his troops from destruction. Ultimately, he was successful but it was the beginning of the end for the Axis powers in North Africa.

So what does all this mean for your company? Every company faces crises and no matter how well your company plans, an actual crisis will always present new problems that were not covered in the crisis plan. The key is to have a plan and then to improvise real-time solutions from that plan as the crisis develops.

Think back to the Great Flood of 2010. Thousands of businesses were literally under water and they lacked a plan (a disaster plan and a business continuity plan) to handle the crisis. Meanwhile, businesses with a disaster plan and a business continuity plan could improvise a solution in real-time as the crisis developed. Companies with a plan were back in business while their unprepared competitors were still floundering.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented. To learn more about Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in his own words look at The Rommel Papers, edited by Sir Basil Liddell-Hart (WWII exploits) and Infantry Attacks (WWI exploits). Among his many biographies is Knight’s Cross, by David Fraser (1993).

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