A Sun Tzu Moment.
“He whose ranks are united in purpose will be victorious.”
An organization must build a corporate culture that will support its strategies and their subsequent implementation. The quintessential culture will provide an organizational esprit de corps that will result in all undertaking what has to be done to meet the organization’s goals and objectives.
Nowhere is this observation more evident than examining the Royal Newfoundland Regiment’s participation in the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel.
“On July 1, 1916, British forces began the bloodiest day of their history. The objective of the day was to smash through the German lines located in the Somme region of France behind the artillery barrage they believed had smashed all of the enemy’s defences. The Newfoundland Regiment (as part of the British army pre-1949) was assigned the section of the line at Beaumont-Hamel. … Soon after the attack began it was clear that the German machine guns were not silenced and the barbed wire had not been destroyed.
The bravery of the Newfoundlanders was as undeniable: their chances for success practically non-existent.”9
“The Newfoundlanders were situated in ‘St. John’s Road,’ a support trench, 200 meters behind the British forward line and out of sight of the enemy. Because the communication trenches were congested with dead and wounded and under shell fire, the Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hadow, decided to move immediately into attack formation and advance across the surface. …The Newfoundlanders were now on their own—supported only by limited mortar and machine gun fire.”10
“The Newfoundlanders started their advance at 9:15 a.m., moving in their pre-rehearsed formation with A and B Companies leading in lines of platoons in file or single file at forty pace intervals and twenty five paces between sections, followed at one hundred yards distance by C and D Companies in similar formation. As they breasted the skyline behind the British first line, they were effectively the only troops moving on the battlefield and were subjected to the full wrath of the enemy’s 119th (Reserve) Infantry Regiment manning the positions ahead and the German artillery.
A great many fell before they even crossed the British line. …With exemplary courage, the survivors picked up their assault formations as best they could and “with chins tucked down as if walking into a blizzard” continued towards the German line about 400 meters further on.”11
“By 9:45 a.m. the advance had failed. Within fifteen to twenty minutes of leaving St. John’s Road trench approximately 85% of those who had started forward were dead, dying or wounded. Isolated survivors continued to engage the Germans from No Man’s Land and about forty men, taken under command of a Captain G.E. Malcolm of 1st KOSB, attempted to continue the attack but were finally stopped just short of the enemy line. Of this Captain Malcolm, who was wounded, later reported, ‘I should like to congratulate the Newfoundland Regiment on their extreme steadiness under trying conditions.’”12
The Newfoundland Regiment lost 700 out of 800 men on that day.
I want you to reflect for a moment and ask, what makes persons stand side by side in the face of such risk? The answer lies in the power of organizational culture. In this case the culture of the ‘regimental system’. The feeling of brotherhood to which personal interests must give way.. The esprit de corps of the Regiment prevails against all.
Strategist must nurture a strong healthy culture within their organizations. Failure can result as Thomas Hobbes might observe “… solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”
Leadership drives culture.
Recall how fast the Afghan Army collapsed when the US pulled out last summer… notwithstanding 300 thousand Afghan solders on paper equipped with state of the art weapons against 75 thousand Taliban.
Yet another example even closer to home. See Canadian Airborne Regiment Disbanded. (Link Canadian Airborne Regiment Disbanded (apnews.com))
Don’t disregard the importance of leadership to culture in your organization… be a cultural champion!