relieve often - why generals were more successful in WWII

2022-01-11 ยท 2 min read


    Thesis: During WWII, commanders were relieved early and often. Afterwards, tacit policy of never firing, never relieving, and frequent deployment rotation leads to culture of stagnation and risk-aversion.

    • Marshall was sworn into office on the eve of WWII. He knew the US was unprepared and the existing general staff was too old and incompetant--he fired almost all of them.
    • Command expected results from new commanders in 60-90 days. If you fail to deliver, you are relieved (NOT fired, but effectively demoted or reshuffled). + Is relief like moving laterally inside Corp? Usually lateral movement is employee initiated, but can also be "suggested" by manager, so maybe different. + Engineers and managers usually move laterally every 1-3 years. Fresh problems, fresh people--keeps one from getting comfortable.
    • Claim: as relief becomes more commonplace, it feels less like a punishment.
    • Relieved commanders could often regain or exceed their old positions in only a year if they had success again.
    • Use relief as a tool to prevent complacency--if you notice someone just coasting, relieve them. Need to keep them engaged.
    • Two extremes of management: micromanagement vs complete autonomy. Relief is the price of autonomy. Relief allows managerial "liquidity", like a credit card. You are given a loan of autonomy with the price (relief) due in 60-90 days if you don't succeed. + Imagine in Corp you get a manager promo / extra headcount / project lead for a half, then reshuffled if you don't hit success criteria. + Claim: prevents the Peter Principle (every employee rises to their level of incompetence) by facilitating quick level promotions (to find their plateau) then quickly relieving once you've exceeded their plateau.