The 70thanniversary of the D-Day invasion, a huge military operation which changed the course of World War II, was being discussed on the radio the other day, and I heard this great quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower : Plans are worthless, but planning is essential.
I wondered how Eisenhower came up with this nugget and if it had anything to do with the D-Day invasion he led?
If you have heard the story of the D-Day invasion, you know that D-Day itself was planned and organized to the last detail. But this wasn’t just an invasion plan. Prior to the invasion, there were activities planned to deprive the Germans of valuable information on weather conditions, and to provide false information about where and when the invasion was to take place. These plans increased the likelihood of success by confusing the Germans.
The weather was not something anyone could control or plan. Due to unfavorable conditions on June 4th, a decision was made to delay until June 6th. There was no guarantee that the weather would be good that day either, only a forecast. As it turned out, the weather was not great on the 6th, yet they went ahead with the invasion.
The plan for the invasion said that on Day 1 the Allies would capture the towns of Carentan, St. Lo, Caen and Bayeax. They actually did capture 4 of these towns, but Caen was not captured until July 21st. The plan for Day 1 also called for formation of a front line 6-10 miles inland linking all of the 5 invasion beachheads . The beachheads were not linked to a front line until several days later, on June 12thand this front line was a few miles further inland than called for in the plan.
So, the timeline of the plan was not met and the goals of the plan were not fully achieved. And yet, it was considered a success in that it paved the way for invasion of Germany and an Allied victory in Europe.
Running a business is usually not as dramatic as a massive military operation which changes the course of history. However, there are common themes to both.
- Having a defined goal in mind is essential
- Information is your friend, and lack of information puts you at a distinct disadvantage
- You can’t control everything but that shouldn’t stop you
- You need to choose a best course of action and go for it
- Being persistent can pay off
Over the next few posts, I will discuss each of these points and make a case for business planning as a way of life that enables businesses to be as successful as possible.