General Eisenhower on Projects, Management and Leadership
Lessons from famous leaders
Many of you almost entirely forgot about one of the most significant events to ever happen in June. As I begin to write this, it is almost 9:30 p.m., and my neighbors have jolted me back into reality by firing their weapons. Scary? Not at all, since my neighbor, about 50 yards away, is Marine Corp Base Camp Pendleton. We frequently hear the sounds of artillery rounds, rifle fire and helicopters. For us, it’s the sound of freedom. More than that, it’s the price of freedom.
But all of that training today reminds me that there is a purpose to it, and rarely has there been anything as purposeful as that fateful morning, June 6, 1944: D-Day. As contractors, we are about management and leadership, if we hope to be profitable. Some of our projects are small, and some much larger. Well, from a PM perspective, D-Day was huge. And, it seems appropriate to pause and reflect upon what our Greatest Generation was able to accomplish, ensuring we’d even be here today. Consider these statistics, provided by the Portsmouth Museum (www.ddaymuseum.co.uk) in England, near the area where the troops were staged, awaiting the landing:
The countries involved from the Allies (our side): United Kingdom, Canada,Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland and, of course, the United States. And you thought you had a diverse crew!
How many Allied troops were involved in D-Day? On D-Day, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy. The American forces landed 73,000 (23,250 on Utah Beach, 34,250 on Omaha Beach, and 15,500 airborne troops). In the British and Canadian sector, 83,115 troops were landed – 61,715 of them British (24,970 on Gold Beach, 21,400 on Juno Beach, 28,845 on Sword Beach, and 7900 airborne troops).
In addition, 11,590 aircrafts were available to support the landings. On D-Day, Allied aircrafts flew 14,674 sorties, and 127 were lost.
In the airborne landings on both flanks of the beaches, 2,395 aircrafts and 867 gliders of the RAF and U.S. Army Air Force were used on D-Day.
The naval operation (called Neptune) involved huge amounts of forces, including 6,939 vessels: 1,213 naval combat ships, 4,126 landing ships and landing craft, 736 ancillary craft, and 864 merchant vessels. Some 195,700 personnel were assigned to Operation Neptune: 52,889 U.S., 112,824 British, and 4,988 from other Allied countries.
The landing was so huge that it was not all accomplished on D-Day, but took another five full days. So, by June 11 (D + 5), these are the totals: 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies had been landed on the beaches. How would you like to put that onto your construction schedule?
Including the troops who landed in Normandy on D-Day, and those in supporting roles at sea and in the air, millions more men and women in the Allied countries were involved in the preparations for D-Day. They played thousands of different roles, both in the armed forces and as civilians.
Can you imagine being 18 years old, jumping off a landing craft through a hail of gun fire and, if you survived and were able to make it across the beach, scaling cliffs and overpowering concrete bunkers holding entrenched machine gun crews?
It’s important to remember moments like these. They point to the greatness of our country, and of our leaders. They remind us of the importance of leaders, and the skills – both learned and inherent – that are a part of leadership.
Lots of planning and leadership occurred, to be sure, but only one guy in charge, ultimately: General Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower. Win or lose, the ball was in his court. He had the title of Supreme Allied Commander. On June 5, he drafted a handwritten statement, written with the knowledge that it would be published should the invasion fail, which was a real possibility. In it, he praised the troops, the Navy and the Air Force for their bravery. But responsibility and blame for the failure of the mission would lie with him alone.
General Eisenhower realized that he had ultimate responsibility, but his crew had to carry out the mission, complete the project, and do it all on time.
Ike addressed his troops just before the invasion: “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”
Eisenhower valued his professional soldiers: “The sergeant is the Army.”
So,we should value our foremen and journeymen. They are our industry.
And, Ike would have been a great negotiator for us today: “There is no victory at bargain basement prices.”
We might say that to our clients when they question safety, cost of craftsmanship, and quality workmanship. Obviously, those things aren’t free, and they cannot happen without great planning, competent crews and excellent leadership.
Everybody in our industry realizes things still are pretty grim out there. We might question daily whether we can survive until the next job, next month, next week, and even tomorrow. But, put it all into perspective: Coach Gary is going to wave his magic wand and give you a choice. Learn everything you possibly can, right now, to protect your family, business and industry, today and into tomorrow. Or, become that 18-year-old, standing in the landing craft, watching the ramp let down onto the beach, and machine gun fire sweeping everything that moves. And, they didn’t even have Kevlar helmets and flak jackets!
I’m not sure that I have the courage anymore for that. But, I’m thankful that many had it, and that many still do, including my neighbors.
How about you, me and our industry? It might feel like a war, but it’s not. If bullets are flying, they are made of rubber and can sting, but they won’t kill us.
Let’s be worthy of the legacy we’ve inherited, and which we will protect.
About the Author
Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at FullContactTeam@gmail.com.