Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Developing strategy from a solid foundation 6: a case study example of the consequences of a priori underlying assumptions 5

Posted in macroeconomics, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 8, 2015

This is my sixth installment to a series on strategy as it is developed in practice, and on where it is developed from (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, postings 490 and loosely following for Parts 1-5.)

I began this series by briefly outlining the beginning to a general approach for developing more business-specific strategy so to more effectively meet the specific needs of the particular organization that it would be applied to (see Part 1.) And as I noted in preceding installments, my goal for that is to present an approach to developing and aligning strategy that would work in a wide range of contexts, including for profit, not for profit and nonprofit businesses, and government agencies and departments.

Since then I have been developing a public sector case study example of how strategy is developed, executed and changed. My working example here has come from US federal government policy as it has addressed the challenge of developing and maintaining necessary personnel levels in military forces. And I have been following an historical timeline approach there, beginning at a point prior to the American Revolution itself, and at a time that the then still British American colonies employed conscription practices for ongoing colonial defense (see Part 2 and following.)

I began a discussion of troop levels policy for the United States during the Second World War in Part 5 as a part of this historical narrative and continue that here, and with what might be considered a point of irony. The United States as a country was established as a bastion of democracy, and under the declared banner that “all men are created equal.” Thomas Jefferson proclaimed this when drafting the US Declaration of Independence and this has been held up as one of America’s defining principles. But Jefferson himself owned as many as two hundred and more slaves at one time, and even while he did free some of them, he never afforded this to Sally Hemmings, a black woman who he owned as a slave but kept as his mistress, and who is said to have born six of his children. Many of the Founding Fathers of the United States were very clear on the point of emancipation from slavery. Even if they found the institution itself to be problematical and both to professed principles and as a matter of practice, they still saw it as essential if their new country was to survive.

My point here is not to point out that even the most revered of this country’s founders had feet of clay. It is to point out and acknowledge that this proclamation of idealized intent is one that we as a country have struggled with, and I add it is one that is still a source of struggle and conflict. We as a nation fought a civil war, which I discuss in the context of this series in its Part 2 and then again in Part 4, and the issue of slavery was a significant factor that led to that conflict. And slavery was formally, legally ended throughout the United States and its territories through constitutional amendment with the 13th amendment. The restrictions of gender of “all men …” were successfully challenged in giving women the right to vote and the same legal standing as men by the 19th amendment to the constitution. And I skip over a multitude of details in this brief narrative as to how “all men are created equal” has been expanded in scope and reach, and yes challenged for that and every step along the way. And this still continues and on many fronts, including but not limited to gay rights and the right for gays to marry, pay equality for women, and as a point of contention that is not paid enough attention to now, and particularly during our current War on Terror, religious freedom and full acceptance of followers of Islam and people of Middle Eastern, Islamic nation decent.

The United States is still a work in progress on this. And it is in this context that I address the specific groups that I raised as topics for this posting, at the end of Part 5:

• The Tuskegee Airmen, and
• The internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry in the Western United States, even as their equally ethnic-Japanese fathers, husbands, sons and brothers fought in Europe in the US military in the 442nd Infantry Regiment.

And in that, this posting and this portion of this series is about how intent as framed in that declaration of equality can and at times does collide with the ongoing momentum of history and tradition, and yes – with those so difficult-to-uproot challenges to any proclamation of equality: bigotry and its near cousin, fear of difference.

I begin with black Americans as they have sought to join the US military, noting that blacks have served since the colonial period and during the American Revolution. But for many, this meant support services such as janitorial and kitchen help work. There have been systematic exceptions to this, and in that regard I cite the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and other units of black soldiers that were assembled and that fought for the Union Army during the Civil War. And I also cite the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, originally formed in September 1866, immediately after the Civil War. But almost without exception and certainly throughout their early years, officers of these military units were white. (With time, the Buffalo soldiers came to comprise the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments and the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments and 22 officers and men from these units were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.)

The Tuskegee Airmen were in many respects an exception to this two (or more) tier system, that let blacks into the US military and as pilots of advanced military aircraft. But even there, the intention of senior commanders in the military and of Congressional oversight committees and others that signed off on this program through civilian oversight was that these pilots would primarily ferry new aircraft from production and storage areas to war zones, for others to fly into combat. They were, as a result only given minimal load outs of ammunition for their guns for self-defense. And once gain their officers were white. But they were military pilots and many saw combat.

I have been writing in this case study about the issues and challenges of voluntary enlistment and involuntary conscription, but any such discussion would be incomplete if issues of opportunity to serve, and in what capacities were not included.

At this point, I have passed the 1,100 word count to this posting, so I will hold off on discussing the Nisei soldiers of World War II – American soldiers of Japanese ancestry who fought for this country in the European Theatre of Operations, primarily in the 442nd Infantry Regiment, and their contexts in doing so. After that, I will move ahead to strategy and policy for developing and maintaining troop levels, and particularly in critical needs specialties as were developed and followed during the Vietnam War, and then more recently during the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as carried out as parts of the overall post-9/11 War on Terror. And then I will at least attempt to distill some overall patterns and lessons out of all of this that would by way of real world example, illustrate lessons that are at the very least learnable as to how to better develop strategy and policy.

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 and its Page 2 continuation.

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