Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How is military’s strategy execution?

  Terrible earthquake was happened around east side of Japan on March 11th 2011. A lot of people had died because of a big tsunami; 15,854 people had died and 3,155 people are still missing. However, many people had also helped and they could save their lives. Especially, Japanese Self Defense Force (SDF; so-called Japanese Military) rescued more than 19,000 people within three days though SDF had lost many its planes and equipment. Why did they contribute greatly to rescuing many people? In the reading “The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution”, it mentioned about elements of strong execution. I think SDF also had some elements of strong execution. I would like to mention about 5 most important elements as follows.

 One of the elements, everyone has a good idea of the decisions and actions for which he or she is responsible. SDF’s chain of command is very clear, this means SDF defines clearly who has to decide and provide direction. In fact, there happened a lot of accident beyond SDF members’ prediction (e.g. planes were broken by tsunami, cars were lost by tsunami), however, commanders gave orders on a case-by-case basis, for example, SDF members hastily built boats to rescue by using rubble. Thanks to such kind of orders, SDF could help a lot of people rapidly and effectively.

 Second crucial element, important information about the competitive environment gets to headquarters quickly. In spite of very bad condition, field members reported their information to their boss quickly and precisely, after that, the information also had been sent to Ministry of Defense. This means important information about the competitive environment against terrible earthquake got to Ministry of Defense (headquarters) quickly. As a result, army, navy and air-force had combined and they had unified chains of command, this was the event without precedent.

 Third, once made, decisions are rarely second-guessed, this is also important element. SDF members were trained very well, so, once they received orders from their bosses, they had to do their best until achievement without complaint. For example, some of SDF field members received an order that they rescued people by using helicopter in the midnight, this means life-threatening mission because helicopter rescuing in dark environment was very dangerous. However, they rescued about 200 people only by one helicopter and they continued to rescue until morning, after that, they accomplished the mission completely. This means once the order was made, decisions were rarely second-guessed by members, so they could accomplish.

 Next important element, information flows freely across organizational boundaries. SDF was hierarchical organization not flat, but SDF members did not forget to contact among other organizations. In fact, each army post had organizational boundary, however, SDF members in army posts around earthquake area shared their information among each other. Therefore, they could know which army posts were suffered from tsunami. After that, they could set up some army posts as the crucial site immediately. This is because their information crossed over organizational boundaries.

 Finally, field and line employees usually have the information they need to understand the bottom-line impact of their day-to-day choices, this is also crucial. Also in SDF, field members know the impact of each member’s activity. For example, though some SDF field members were also gone missing after tsunami for a few days, almost of them had rescued many general citizens on their own responsibility without any equipment until they had come back to their army posts. This was very dangerous because they did not have any equipment. This means they know their rescue encourage all sufferers and this was very huge impact, so, they chose to rescue at their peril though their boss did not give an order. In fact, not only sufferers but also almost Japanese people had admired.

 As above, I think SDF had these elements of strong execution. Military often comes up against the situation which is fatal to humans. Therefore, I think strongly that military should be one of the best strategy execution organizations. How do you think? In addition, how is your country’s military?


Lessons from Higashi-Nippon-Earthquake by Japanese Ministry of Defense

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