Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Developing strategy from a solid foundation 3: a case study example of the consequences of a priori underlying assumptions 2

Posted in macroeconomics, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 28, 2014

This is my third posting to a series on strategy as it is developed in practice, and on where it is developed from (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 for Part 1 and Part 2.)

I initially set the stage for the larger discussion of this series in Part 1 where I wrote about building strategy from a clearly known foundation as to what is assumed. And I stress here that what you start out assuming, and particularly what you start out implicitly assuming and without examination shapes your potential for long-term success in all that you strategically plan and operationally carry through upon.

• I wrote in Part 1 about some of the types of problems that can emerge when assumptions are simply made without being examined,
• And both for developing and operationalizing a strategy
• And for discerning the impact and effectiveness of that strategy arrived at as it evolves out of its underlying assumptions.

I then began moving from this more abstract discussion in Part 2, to at least begin a public policy case study of specific strategic importance, and its underlying assumptions and consequences. I chose an admittedly politically charged public and governmental policy arena for this case study to highlight the fact that the issues I write of here apply much more widely that just to a strictly business context. And my specific case study example chosen was:

• The currently very topical issue of using volunteer or conscription approaches for maintaining enlisted troop strength as they have historically been pursued as mechanisms for securing national defense.

I gave in Part 2, some of the basic history of this complex of issues, as both military personnel enlistment approaches have been enacted into policy and practice in the United States. And at the end of that selective summary I stated that I would continue its discussion with this installment, here looking at underlying assumptions and emerging consequences that have both shaped this history and led us to our current situation. My goal for all of this is to then tie this case study example more firmly back to the organizing model that I began developing in Part 1, expanding on the basic model itself from that. And in keeping with the basic outline and approach of Part 2, I take an historical timeline approach here too.

First, let’s consider the basic objectives and goals:

• Even peaceful nations that seek to remain so, see legitimate need for national defense and both through their own efforts and initiatives and through mutually supportive treaty alliances with other nations. Their own defense efforts and their capability to enter into mutually supportive treaties both require developing and maintaining credible national defense capabilities, and that calls for manpower – a self-defense force that reaches a level of size and capability to offer a credible deterrence against outside aggression and that can offer perceivable value to potential treaty partners.
• This deterrence buffer does not always work as a potential aggressor can come to see potential gain to themselves as outweighing any risk faced from defense deterrence displayed but that is another matter. The key issue here is that a strong historically based claim can be made for a need for a military deterrence force if nothing else and that requires at least a core of active full time military personnel. Beyond that are discussions and arguments that could be made as to the scale and resource allocation needed for building and maintaining this deterrence, and how and where it and its personnel would be distributed and utilized. But that all falls outside of the scope of this discussion.
• The key point here is that essentially all nation states see a need for at least something of a defense capability, and this calls for at least some standing personnel. And with that general point, I return to my case study where I focus on how potential military personnel enter into this system, and I add how and how long they are required to remain in it. And I begin here at the same historical timeline starting point that I chose for Part 2.

The British colonies in the Americas faced direct governmentally organized military threat and even overt war in the so called French and Indian War of 1754-1763 and episodic ongoing conflict with their Native American neighbors as well, even absent more direct conflict-generating involvement of competing European powers. So a defensive need was seen for creating and maintaining, and for staffing defense force militias. I wrote briefly of these colonial era forces in Part 1, noting that while many saw this as prudent and reasonable, many also saw this as unwarranted intrusion and particularly as enlistment was often not voluntary, coming from forced conscription. And I add that colonists deeply resented being forced to house and feed militia and other British led military forces as an act of enforced colonial law. Colonists were given script authorizing payment for what was taken from them but they could not feed their families on these papers when they needed these food and other supplies for their own needs.

As a matter of irony, many of the officers trained in military tactics and strategy who went on to fight against the British in the American Revolutionary War of 1775-1783, on behalf of break-away colonial forces, first learned their military skills from fighting with and for the British Army in these earlier conflicts. I particularly note here, the experience and training so gained particularly during the French and Indian War, where these colonists came into direct conflict with forces from organized armies, and in the use of what we now know of as guerilla warfare tactics against them as well as more set piece military tactics.

And as noted in Part 2, both involuntary conscription and voluntary enlistment were used by both sides during this revolutionary war in order to build up and maintain what were seen to be essential troop forces. And I add the British also hired and brought in large numbers of Hessian mercenaries for this too, due to resistance to voluntary enlistment for this conflict in Britain itself from that country’s own citizens. This distant colonial conflict, taking place far off across the Atlantic was widely seen as unnecessary and unjustifiable. I will return to that detail later in this overall case study discussion for its saliency to understanding socioeconomic and related assumptions and consequences here, of a type often not thought through when developing military personnel policy per se. And I will also raise in that context the points that I cited in Part 2 as to American colonist support of and resistance to military duty and entering into it on their side to this conflict.

My initial thought when starting this installment was to follow the historical timeline briefly sketched out in Part 2 to the present and then build from there – here in this series Part 3. At 1,100 plus words now I have decided to continue this case study example into a fourth installment. I will begin that posting where I leave off here, moving forward historically to the United States Civil War of 1861-1865 again (as in Part 2.) And my goal for Part 4 will take a more explicitly socioeconomic turn as begun here, and lead into a discussion of the types of assumptions and consequences that have historically arisen out of all of this.

After this continuation discussion on the US Civil War and its conscription challenges I will successively delve in greater depth into the remaining core events of this overall case study discussion. I will then, as promised above apply this narrative and its findings to the more general and abstracted model that I began outlining in Part 1 of this series. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. Also see Macroeconomics and Business.

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