UK/USA: Heller on management - Take a tip from Stormin' Norman. (2 of 2)

UK/USA: Heller on management - Take a tip from Stormin' Norman. (2 of 2) - There is much more to the analogy, of course. Desert Storm had an enormous supply of two vital elements: information and planning. They come in that order, because nothing can be

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

There is much more to the analogy, of course. Desert Storm had an enormous supply of two vital elements: information and planning. They come in that order, because nothing can be effectively planned without efficient information. But the planners and the information experts were not disembodied backroom boys: whether in Washington or the war zone, they were an integral part of the effort. The distinction between line and staff should be meaningless.

The analogy does not have to be pressed very far to show that many American (and British) difficulties in world markets, and increasingly in domestic ones, have been caused by under-investment in equipment, R and D and worker training, under the direction of men who are themselves underprepared for the task. They operate top-heavy command structures in which subordinates are constantly second-guessed or stultified. The leaders have no incentive to amend any of these defects, because their rewards are enormous, win or lose.

The average "compensation" of chief executives in the United States was $1.86 million in 1989. That is 18 times Schwarzkopf's income and nine times the income of Desert Storm's highest paid executive, President Bush (whose chairman-of-the-board performance seems to have been immaculate). Of course, Bush is a multi-millionaire, and Schwarzkopf (aged 57) can effortlessly become one on his imminent retirement: which raises another highly significant point. The new breed of able and talented military leaders leaves the scene at the age when a quite typical chief executive gets appointed. Is there any doubt which is the better policy - either on remuneration of retirement?

Many objections can be made to these comparisons. Financial constraints did not enter the picture (although the US looks like turning a handy direct profit on the conflict, after "voluntary" contributions, let alone the indirects). The competition proved to be weak - but that did not appear to be the case when the world's fourth largest army took the field. The US massed overwhelming force to overwhelm. But in business that is the whole meaning of "competitive advantage". You do not want to leave the opposition any chance of success.

And there is a final, powerful analogy. The US formed a network of alliances, which are integral to today's global competition; but its effort - like the excellent performance of the British services - was focused around internal strengths. In contrast, its opponent, a dominant chairman and chief executive who delegated nothing and ruled by fear, made a large, rash and doomed takeover bid. QED.

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