The importance of operational common sense: lessons from a 'strange defeat'

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Posted by APM on 15th Nov 2010

On May 15th 1940, Winston Churchill, still in bed, was called by Paul Reynaud, the French Prime Minister:

He spoke in English, and evidently under stress. We have been defeated. As Churchill did not immediately respond he said again: We are beaten; we have lost the battle. Churchill replied: Surely it cant have happened so soon? But Reynaud said: The front is broken near Sedan; they are pouring through in great numbers with tanks and armoured cars'. Military history provides management with an opportunity to visualise theoretical stances.

Elmar Kutch'spresentation focused on the events between the 10th 15th May 1940 when the fate of France was sealed and led to a 5 year brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. Such downfall of a mighty military machine can be attributed to capabilities of resilience, a concept which is of increasing importance for managers to deal with the unexpected - as unexpected, in fact, as was the win of the German Wehrmacht over the French Forces.

To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable, but to be certain is to be ridiculous. Chinese Proverb

Being uncomfortable is both a challenge and an opportunity for Elmar. As a passionate skydiver his interests, both privately and professionally, revolve around management of the unexpected.

Elmars first real exposure to the rather paradox world of uncertainty began in 1998, when he held a variety of commercial and senior management positions within the Information Technology (IT) industry. Working for one of the biggest IT service providers in Germany he was responsible for the successful delivery of a number of large projects, including major roll out and outsourcing projects. Clients included the Commerzbank, the Deutsche Brse (German Stock Exchange) and the Polizei Rheinland Pfalz (State police Rheinland Pfalz).

His passion for the management of uncertainty in projects led him to pursue a career in academia. In 2001, Elmar won a prestigious Doctoral Studentship from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to complete his PhD in Project Risk Management at the University of Bath. He then served as a Lecturer in Operations Management at the University of Surrey and has been at Cranfield University since 2007.

Over the past few years, Elmar has become deeply involved in the development of Graduate Programmes and Customised Executive Development, providing common-sense, intuitive, and deliverable based methods for planning and executing projects. He also publishes widely on aspects of Risk Management, Resilience and High Reliability Organisations.

He still skydives and hopes for blue skies!

To view Elmar's presentation please click on the link below.

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