75th anniversary of Operation Hurry On

Nick Engelen

Operation Market Garden evokes images of the classic film A Bridge Too Far, where paratroopers led by Sean Connery fight a pitched battle against the German hordes, while hoping to be relieved by Allied ground forces advancing all the way from the Belgian border towards Arnhem. In September 1944 the Germans were on the backfoot and retreating. In the north of the Belgian borders, there was a huge gap in the German lines. The door to the Third Reich seemed open. Like water, an army attacks the gaps — the voids — and rather than trying to muscle trough the Siegfried line, Field Marshal Montgomery saw the opportunity to take the path of least resistance to bypass these defensive lines and attack the Rurh area, Germany’s industrial heart.

However a 24-hour pause not only made the allies lose momentum but also gave German commanders the opportunity to reorganize their retreating forces and send them right back to grind the allied advance to a halt. This and some other factors resulted in the what’s now called a magnificent disaster wherein more people lost their lives than during the landings in Normandy.

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One more picture from the Islands

As you can probably surmise, we had a great time with the kids and grandkids over Christmas. We all went in and rented a townhouse for a week on the Sea Pines Resort, and as a bonus, we were only a 5-minute walk from Harbour Town.

So one last picture, from the Marina on Christmas Eve:

We’ve been coming to Hilton Head since my Dad started teaching at nearby Georgia Southern in the late 1960s. Now we’re retired about 12 miles away.

Relax and enjoy

With all that’s going on in the world, I thought you might appreciate some ambiance from the South Carolina Lowcountry.

The Harbour Town Lighthouse, on the southern end of Hilton Head Island. Evening of December 25th, 2019.
Sunset, seen from Coligny Beach on the Atlantic side of Hilton Head Island on December 26th, 2019. The island tilts northeast to southwest, so near the Winter solstice, sunsets are visible from the “eastern” side.
A wood stork getting in a little fishing at dawn on January 3rd, 2020. Sun City Hilton Head.

A bit of the old ultra-violence

Of the roughly 36,000 words that Boyd left behind, only about a tenth are in the form of a paper, that is, a linear stream of text. What if Boyd had expanded his textual output by 100,000 words and written a sci-fi novel along the lines of Starship Troopers? (Some of you believe that his one paper, “Destruction and Creation,” (1976) is written in an alien tongue but that doesn’t count). One of Scottish author Charles Stross’s characters does use the OODA loop, and quite appropriately, in the The Apocalypse Codex, as I described back in 2016, and so it might be a candidate for a “What if John Boyd …?” novel.

Here’s another. New author Ian Michael is serializing his novel, Ultra-Violence, on Sundays at the Fabius Maximus site. I think you’ll find lots of operating inside the OODA loop, cheng / chi, penetration along multiple thrusts, and even some moral conflict. So far, I haven’t stumbled across an explicit reference to the OODA loop, yet — although there’s plenty of messing with peoples’ orientations — but he’s only on chapter 4.

Check it out.

Here’s an obscure tip — there is a character named “Alex.” If that doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t worry about it.

Creating agile leaders

All forms of mission-oriented leadership, from maneuver warfare to the Toyota Production System, share a common foundation: Fire up the creativity and initiative of all members of the organization and harmonize their efforts to accomplish the objectives of the organization. Such an orientation allows them to create and exploit fleeting opportunities before their opponents can understand what is going on.

As Don Vandergriff quotes one of the principal architects of the German blitzkrieg:

The principle thing now is to increase the responsibilities of the individual man, particularly his independence of action, and thereby to increase the efficiency of the entire army. . . .The limitations imposed by exterior circumstances cause us to give the mind more freedom of activity, with the profitable result of increasing the ability of the individual.

HANS VON SEECKT, Commander of the German Army, 1920 -1926

This approach is often called Auftragstaktik, and it is hard to find any military organization that doesn’t claim to be using it.

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Sunday morning at the SNWR

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, near our house in Sun City Hilton Head.
With everything going on the world, thought you all might enjoy a few pictures of nature:

Along the 4-mile driving trail. The refuge sits along the northeast bank of the Savannah River just outside downtown Savannah. I’m a sucker for Spanish moss.
A moorhen and a couple of snowy egrets
An anhinga takes flight (it’s not actually caught in the branches)

Magic and illusion: Foundation for leadership

Aspiring leaders typically concentrate on history and case studies, creating theories of success and failure in their disciplines.  This is fine but won’t produce great practitioners in either war or business. As the German General Hermann Balck once told Boyd, “The training of the infantryman can never be too many sided.”  Miyamoto Musashi in 1645 wrote that samurai (much less top-level commanders) should study the arts and sciences and master fields other than their own. And this was just to keep them from getting hacked to bits. And then there’s Steve Jobs with his famous calligraphy course and Zen training. Continue reading

Business Agility Podcast Today

Assuming that Hurricane Dorian cooperates,  I’ll be broadcasting from Hilton Head at noon today EDT/GMT-4, Thursday, September 5th.

You can register here: http://catalyzingbusinessagility.com/community/#CR

Right now, 3:45 am, the hurricane is ambling about 60 miles/100 km offshore as a Category 3 moving northward at about 7 mph.  We could still lose power, so don’t be too surprised if the podcast is delayed.

So far, we’ve been extremely lucky in this area.  Unfortunately words can’t describe what’s happened to the Bahamas. Please consider donating to hurricane relief at, for example https://www.redcross.org/  Words also don’t exist to describe the scammers out there who will try to exploit the situation, so be careful and only visit legitimate sites to make contributions — e.g., not over the phone or responding to emails.