Leadership Competencies

The Plan to Capture Bin Laden

A wise man learns more from his enemies, than a fool does from his friends”

Baltasar Gracian

While details of Osama bin Laden’s capture are sketchy, one thing that is clear is that the U.S. military executed a nearly flawless raid with pinpoint precision.

For me, the most interesting revelation this week was that the CIA had intelligence about bin Laden’s  Islamabad hideout as early  as August of last year. The intelligence was seemingly developed over years of digging, prodding and fact finding, which eventually yielded a tip about one of his handlers.

While the bravery of the team that struck the compound is absolute and unquestioned, we should be equally impressed with the methodical approach exhibited by our military command, who demonstrated remarkable patience and fortitude. It seems that every detail of the strike was planned meticulously.  With the lives of American soldiers at risk, no detail was left to chance.

Strategy and tactics are born out of military doctrine, and the ability of operatives to plan their attack preciously, and execute flawlessly should give us pause.  The operation lends credence to the notion that any strategy is only as good as that tactics that support it, and that execution of bad strategy can yield devastating results. It is often necessary to have a well thought out contingency plan in the event of a calamity, such as a helicopter being caught in a “vortex”.

Both strategy and tactics are reliant on good information, and to act prematurely without knowing the facts will often generate a less than desirable outcome. As Stephen Covey points out, part of our time we spend planning, and part of it reacting. The greater the time we invest in planning, the less total energy we must expend. Whether it is in the military or business, the cost of a failed strategy can be high.

Once strategies (which is best defined as which battles should be fought) are determined, an organization must develop core competencies and resources to support them.  While the US of A may have taken a hit in recent years, we still have the finest technology and training in the world, and our enemies should still be weary of that lethal combination.

The Wall Street Journal reported that that CIA Chief Leon Panetta thought that there was a “60% chance” that bin Laden was actually present in the compound. Clearly, the decision to strike took guts. Intelligence officials and the military developed the best information available, planned the attack and took a calculated risk.  For that, our nation is eternally grateful. We should run our businesses with a similar level of preparedness.

Category: Leadership Competencies

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About the Author: Marc Emmer

Marc Emmer is President of Optimize Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning. Emmer is a sixteen-year Vistage member and a Vistage speaker. The release of his second book, “Momentum, Ho

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