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Over one month in the summer of 1940 the German military forced the French to surrender. Most people would assume that the German’s had a mighty military machine and simply overpowered the French.

However, the French had as many or more military personnel as the Germans, more heavy equipment (tanks, airplanes, etc.) and much of their equipment was technically superior to the German’s.

What they didn’t have was leadership, strategy and communications.

  • Leadership –They did have leadership, actually too much. There were two leaders of the French military, an overall chief of staff and a head of the Northern region.
  • Strategy – Of the two leaders, one was more battlefield astute and the other had political clout. The latter was older and not as up-to-speed as he should have been, however, he had the ear of the government. Thus, there was no agreed upon strategy, even though they knew the Germans were a threat to attack, they could only disagree, so nothing was done.
  • Communications – The French military eschewed the most modern communications tool of the era and didn’t use the telephone. They were still using human messengers, the same way they did during WW I. When the Germans attacked the reaction was slow and disjointed.

So the business lessons here are pretty straightforward.

  • There can only be one leader (per company, department, etc.) and that leader has to delegate.
  • There has to be a strategy, buy-in to that strategy and solid implementation.
  • Good communications means speed to implement, move and react. This means communicate to your team, customers and the world.

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