The Strategic Management Methodology

The Strategic Management Methodology

Bringing the methodology of the Corporate Strategy discipline to the analysis of five battles of the Great War; the Aisne, Loos, the Bazentin Ridge, Cambrai, and Amiens.

Table of Contents:
Case Studies methodology
Building on the continuing interest in Military Strategy
Adding a Corporate Strategy dimension to Historiography
Selection of the Offensive Battles from 1914 to 1918
Why were these Battles chosen?
The Application of Benchmarking the Quality of Performance
The Quality of Performance Questions
Analysing the Data
The Advantages and Limitations of the Questions
What do these Findings mean – as Corporate Strategy?
Stimulating Learning through Military Case Studies
Prepared for the Website

Case Studies methodology
This article lays out the methodology used in analysing the battlefield performance of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918. The techniques and tools of Corporate Strategy are employed to scale the importance of the historical facts surrounding the five battles selected as case studies for demonstrating the best practices in assaulting the continuous German trench-line in each of the five years.
This innovative approach can be used alongside historical analysis to deepen understanding of past military campaigns. It also offers material for students of corporate strategy interested in examining the use of strategy under the extreme conditions of warfare to better understand how to achieve competitive advantage in peacetime commercial and public organizations.

Building on the continuing interest in Military Strategy
During recent decades, the techniques of Corporate Strategy have become powerful tools for the analysis of competitive performance. The understanding of Corporate Strategy has usually developed through case studies based on commercial organizations, and to a lesser extent on those in the public sector.
For many years also, general military theories have been analysed in order to illustrate business management practices. The two most prominent military theorists examined are Sun Tzu and von Clausewitz. The writings of Sun Tzu date from some 2,500 years ago, and those of Karl von Clausewitz from the period of Napoleon.
Management strategy books have used military examples such as the section from Barbara Tuchman’s classic book ‘August 1914’ (1962), included in the two books by de Wit and Meyer (1994), and Mintzberg and Quinn (1991). The European Case Clearing House has covered introducing case studies into a military environment based on defence contracting and current military management (1998).

Adding a Corporate Strategy dimension to Historiography
This analysis presents an innovative cross-disciplinary approach – by showing how contemporary strategic analysis can be used to study afresh some of the great military events that have shaped the history of both Europe and the world in the Twentieth century. The campaigns of the Great War, World War One, continue to exercise a strong hold over many within the United Kingdom.
Most of the books on the events of the Great War understandably examine them from a historical perspective. Such a perspective is based on recording factually what happened and then interpreting the facts. However when it comes to interpreting these facts, even the facts themselves can become sources of dispute. Recognising this, the analysis focuses on the application of corporate strategy techniques to the military events, the facts are taken as being those printed in books which are generally accepted by historians. Hence they are recorded as working material capable of being used to underpin the strategic analysis. No attempt has been made to confirm any particular hypothesis, for example, that Sir Douglas Haig was a blunderer, or he was brilliant, as a military commander.
In fairness to historiography, the problem of the selective presentation of facts may also be present in many of the commercial case studies published in the numerous books on corporate strategy. The historiographer’s concern for the authenticity of facts may not be considered to be so important as to be put in the way of ‘telling a good story’.

Selection of the Offensive Battles from 1914 to 1918
In this approach, the events used to apply the corporate strategy techniques are based on a sample of the offensive battles the British and Empire troops fought from 1914 to 1918. They were chosen as appearing to illustrate the application of experience in seeking to implement a straightforward mission. This mission was to break into and through the German trench system so as to defeat the German army on the battlefield. Implementation thus required the British Expeditionary Force to adapt to the new style of Continental warfare pioneered by the German Empire after the Prussian disasters at the battles of Jena and Auerstadt in 1806. Previously the British experiences had been mainly colonial campaigning although the Second Boer War of 1899 to 1902 was a signpost to what would be faced in 1914.
The examples chosen to show the evolution of the processes of change are:
• the battle of the Aisne, 12th September 1914
• Loos, 25th September 1915
• the Bazentin Ridge, 14th July 1916, on the Somme
• Cambrai, 20th November 1917, and
• the battle of Amiens, 8th of August 1918.

Why were these Battles chosen?
Briefly, at the Aisne river the British Expeditionary Force, pursuing the retreating German armies after the battle of the Marne, faced for the first time the trenches which expanded into the trench system of the Western Front. At Loos, the lessons from earlier assaults in 1915 were used in an attempt to achieve a break-through. On the Bazentin Ridge, the British did achieve a remarkable break-in following the heavy losses for limited gains suffered during the first fortnight of July, 1916. Unfortunately they were unable to enhance their success in time. At Cambrai, in November 1917, the tank-force was exploited properly but mechanical weaknesses limited the extent of the success achieved during the first 48 hours. And at Amiens in 1918, the plan was so successful that it began the Advance to Victory, which ended in the Armistice on the 11th of November.
Once the battles of early 1915 demonstrated that the traditional methods no longer brought sustainable success, the British forces did instigate changes in their techniques and continued to refine these changes (although with some serious relapses) until November 1918. Despite the setbacks of the Somme, Arras and Third Ypres, where losses in manpower outweighed the gains in land, the British forces gradually began to profit from the changes they were introducing. The full flowering of the effectiveness of these changes was seen from July 1918.

The Application of Benchmarking the Quality of Performance
Whereas the traditional approach of historians is to bring academic judgement to interpret the lessons from events, this analysis uses ‘scientific’ techniques of analysis, as far as is practicable, to objectively assess competitive performance. The approach is that of those business theorists and managers seeking to understand the processes by which decisions are created, decided upon and implemented. They benchmark examples against each other to decide which ones are the best. Building on their approach, the methodology used in this paper is designed to assess success or failure under the umbrella term Quality of Performance.
Quality is defined as ‘fitness of purpose’, that is, the plan achieving what the planners were requiring. In the Marketing discipline and in consumer protection legislation, ‘fitness for purpose’ is the term used to decide whether or not what is being offered is of an acceptable standard.
Based on the corporate strategy techniques currently used, including the PESTEL analysis, SWOT, the Five Forces model, and the Ansoff Matrix, questions can be devised which explore practical military and political management issues likely to have been relevant during the Great War. The approach adopted is taken from that used in developing market research questionnaires. The 34 questions are not ranked in a special order because each seeks to cover a stand-alone issue. Yet, because the listing is not randomly presented, different issues that are linked may seem to follow on each other. However the response to one question was not intended to influence the reaction to the next, and then the one after.
In order to use the questions to arrive at measurements of the Quality of Performance the Likert Scale was employed to assess on a range from 1 to 5 the performance of the individual questions. 1 is very poor or adverse, 2 is poor or adverse, 3 is neither favourable nor adverse, 4 is good or favourable, and 5 is very good or favourable.
Because the decisions being made on quality cannot be guaranteed to always be free of some subjectivity, limiting the scale to five choices, although making it somewhat coarse, nevertheless avoids trying to impose an artificially high level of sophistication. Imposing such a level is not practical when the accuracy of all the information cannot be verified after a period of 80 years and the passing away of all those who planned and made the important decisions. Owing to this, the selection of 3 also covers those situations where it is not known whether a decision was made. As can be seen from the way the statistical analysis handles the Scale this can both neutralise the impact of the question posed on the overall findings as well as allow there to be a neutral response when the performance can be assessed.

The Quality of Performance Questions
The thirty four questions are set out below. The term ‘military command’ covers the military personnel planning (the Head Quarters staff officers) and making (Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and his Army Commanders) the decisions.
1. Were the political pressures being put upon the military command helpful?
2. Did the military command accede to these willingly?
3. Did economic strengths enhance the flow of war materials to the Western Front?
4. Did political support increase the flow of soldiers to the Front?
5. Was the physical condition of these soldiers good enough to replace that of the casualties?
6. Were these two flows sufficient to allow military plans to be implemented?
7. In terms of machinery and weaponry, did the military command make best use of that now available?
8. Did the military command incorporate the latest thinking on command structures?
9. Were advances in communications technology properly incorporated into the plans?
10. Were successful practices pioneered by the enemy or allies exploited at the earliest opportunity?
11. Did the breaking of international agreements on weaponry not affect soldiers’ morale?
12. Were there no unhelpful political repercussions to exploiting broken agreements?
13. Did favourable weather conditions assist the conduct of the battles?
14. Were geological/topographical factors influential in planning the battles?
15. Did the military command seek battlefields of which they already had experience?
16. Were battlefields chosen because their conditions had not been affected by earlier battles?
17. Were the methods of attack used a logical extension of earlier assaults?
18. Did the military command attempt to try radical or innovative methods of attack?
19. Was the political support given adequate to provide the men and material needed for success.
20. Did the military command attempt to minimise the risk of failure?
21. Did they modify their plans during implementation as the consequence of new intelligence?
22. Were they able to do so with sufficient speed to take advantage of changed conditions?
23. Were they solely focused on implementing their plan so not reacting to those of the enemy?
24. Did the military command have contingency plans to cover the way the enemy might react?
25. Were the fighting units spearheading the assaults ones used on many previous occasions?
26. Was the military command concerned about the impact on units’ morale of continuous use?
27. Did units frequently put into action as back-ups perform well through having good morale?
28. Did the planners accurately assess the capabilities of their own units?
29. Were they good in properly taking into account the capabilities of the enemy units opposite?
30. Was appropriate training used to prepare all units for the assaults?
31. Did the training programmes incorporate flexibility of response should conditions change?
32. Were all units used ‘fit’ to be committed to battle?
33. Was morale not adversely affected despite other units being seen to have been ‘wasted’?
34. Had units sent into action had time to absorb the effects of major re-organization or new enemy defensive systems?

Table 1: Quality of Performance Questions and Scores

Aisne Loos BazentinRidge Cambrai Amiens

1. Political pressures on military 3 1 3 2 3
2. Willing agreement of military 3 1 3 4 3
3. Economic resources plentiful 3 4 5 5 5
4. Support for more troops 4 5 5 4 5
5. Their physical condition 3 2 5 4 3
6. Thus allowing implementation 3 4 5 4 5
7. Exploiting available machinery 2 2 4 4 5
8. Installing new command structures 3 3 2 3 5
9. Incorporating new communications 2 1 1 2 4
10. Exploiting enemy’s practices 2 4 3 3 5
11. Breaking international agreements 3 2 3 3 3
12. Political repercussions 3 3 3 3 3
13. Favourable weather conditions 2 3 4 4 4
14. Geological/topographical factors 4 5 4 5 3
15. Use of known battlefields 3 2 1 4 4
16. Selecting if not used before 3 4 3 5 4
17. Logically extending previous assaults 5 5 2 1 5
18. Were innovative methods used 1 4 4 5 5
19. Sufficient political support of resources 3 4 4 3 4
20. Attempts to minimise risk of failure 3 2 4 4 5
21. Modifying plans during implementation 4 4 5 2 3
22. Fast reaction to changing conditions 4 2 1 2 4
23. Commanders tightly focused 3 2 3 2 4
24. Preparation of contingency plans 2 1 3 2 3
25. Spearhead units continuously used 5 2 2 2 5
26. Impact of continuous use on morale 3 2 3 3 4
27. Morale of units used as back-ups 4 5 3 3 4
28. Assessment of fighting capabilities 4 2 4 3 4
29. Capabilities of enemy units opposite 3 2 3 2 5
30. Appropriate training for all units 3 2 5 4 5
31. Did they include flexible responses 3 1 3 2 4
32. Were all units ‘fit’ for battle 3 1 4 3 4
33. Affect on morale of other units’ fate 4 2 4 3 4
34. Enough time to absorb changes 3 2 5 2 4

Average: 3.12 2.68 3.41 3.15 4.12

Variation from 3 as %, Favourable/Adverse:
3.9%F 10.8%A 3.7%F 4.9%F 37.3%F

Analysing the Data
Using the Likert Scale to assess the performance as measured by each question, the matrix shown in Table 1 was constructed. Adding up the scores and dividing by the number of questions gives the total level of performance. Subtracting that figure from 3, the neutral or unknown decision position, and expressing the difference as a percentage of 3 gives the deviation from the neutral position (variation from 3). The battle with the highest favourable deviation can be considered as the one in which the quality of performance was best.
In Table 1 can be seen the values given to each question for each of the battles. The battle with the highest positive deviation is Amiens, followed some distance behind by the Bazentin Ridge. Cambrai and the Aisne are closest to neutral whilst Loos is strongly negative. Table 2 below shows the numbers of answers falling into each of the Likert Scale categories for each battle. The Aisne is close to being a normal distribution but has a peaked distribution. Loos is a battle of contrasts, many favourable and even more that are adverse but few that are neutral. The Bazentin Ridge shows a shift towards the very favourable performance, Cambrai to a lesser extent. Amiens clearly has a quality of performance which is outstanding.

Table 2: Frequencies of Battle Performance

Aisne Loos Bazentin Ridge Cambrai Amiens

Scale 5 – Very good/favourable 2 4 7 4 12
Scale 4 – Good/favourable 7 7 9 9 14
Scale 3 – Neither favourable nor adverse 19 3 12 10 8
Scale 2 – Poor/adverse 5 14 3 10 0
Scale 1 – Very poor/adverse 1 6 3 1 0
A statistical analysis was performed on the observed data above using the Chi-square Test. Adding each category (very good/favourable, poor/adverse, etc) and dividing the sum by 5 gives the expected distribution. Hence the category very good/favourable sums to 29, divided by 5 gives 5.8, whilst the category poor/adverse sums to 32, divided by 5 gives 6.4. Squaring the difference between the observed and the expected and adding together the squares gives a total of 378.8 which is highly significant.
The theoretical limitation of this analysis is that the columns can be claimed not to be independent of each other in that each column influences performance in the next. Nevertheless merely scanning the data confirms the level of improvement in battle performance from 1914 to 1918.

The Advantages and Limitations of the Questions
It has to be understood that the likelihood of relevance of each question must be qualified by accepting the problem of hindsight. Because a question can be posed in 2001, it does not mean that the knowledge or understanding to have been able to pose it in, say, 1916 may have been available at that time. Hence the findings reached in this paper should be placed beside historians’ analyses and not be used to supplant them.
The importance of each question in its contribution to the overall decision-making process relative to that of the other questions is not likely to be equal. If it was certain that the importance remained the same for each battle, then a factor to express the degree of importance could be incorporated. But detailed knowledge of these battles suggests that an individual question had greater importance in some and less in others. The advantage of there being many questions is that possible bias is likely to be overwhelmed and effectively neutralised. Though the way is open for others to incorporate such factors, by adding complexity they court having to justify their decisions. The simplicity as adopted in this analysis is a recognition that battles fought in earlier times cannot be treated as laboratory experiments.
In some cases, the style of the questions may seem somewhat obscure. This is because each question has to be able to equate favourable performance to the positive scale number of 4 or 5. Unfortunately it is sometimes easier to phrase a question so that it draws a negative response – especially when taking a subjective and too often prejudiced view about the toll of casualties on the Western Front.
Not only do these questions cover many of the main issues which arose in planning and implementing the five selected battles, they also provide sufficient depth of analysis to compare the effectiveness of performance between the battles. Furthermore they offer a methodology for comparing battles in other conflicts such as the Second World War. With suitable modification they could be applied also to sea and air battles, examples from British history being the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and the Battle of Britain in 1940. However caution is needed if trying to compare the quality of performance between wars of different ages even when they were separated by just 21 years, as with the two World Wars. With the passage of time, changes in the external environment meant that what was found to be successful in implementation earlier may no longer lead to success. Witness the French reliance on the Maginot Line in 1940 and France’s rapid defeat. What was achieved at Verdun in 1916 could not be repeated successfully in 1940.
Applying this methodology to comparing battles in the Great War is proposed as being acceptable, even over the span of its four years, because there is not an overwhelming impact caused by changes in the external conditions surrounding the operations on the Western Front during those years. The Gallipoli Campaign, the German use of unlimited submarine warfare, the collapse of the Russian Imperial State, the arrival of military units of the United States at the Western Front, the effect of the blockade upon home conditions in Germany; these were significant events but not sufficient to completely change the conditions under which these five battles were fought. Hence there appears to be an acceptable level of consistency in what had to be faced and overcome in the long series of battles stretching from the Aisne to Amiens.

What do these Findings mean – as Corporate Strategy?
From a statistical analysis of the 34 questions asked about the battles, using the five-point Likert Scale, the best performance was seen at Amiens in 1918. The Bazentin Ridge (1916) follows, with Cambrai (1917) and the Aisne (1914) being very similar in overall performance. Loos (1915) is shown to be the battle where performance was weakest.
The findings from the analysis offer a guide to assessing the strategic conduct of each battle using contemporary corporate strategy techniques. However care is needed in comparing corporate strategy directly with military strategy. Whereas the former seeks to gain and hold competitive advantage, the latter takes guidance from von Clausewitz in seeking to use military expertise and pressure to achieve a political end. Thus corporate strategy focuses on short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives (because organizations want to survive for many years), whereas military campaign strategy tends to focus on the short-term because even one defeat may be irreversible. Hence it can be claimed that the First World War was a short-erm military success but a long-term ‘corporate strategy’ failure – because it created the conditions in which the seeds of the Second World War could germinate and grow.

Stimulating Learning through Military Case Studies
This analysis presents the innovative approach of using contemporary corporate strategy techniques to analyse the military performances of the British, Dominion and Empire units in the Great War. Turning the techniques into a series of questions of military significance allows the relative quality of the various performances during selected battles to be assessed. The findings for the five chosen battles make sense in terms of their military outcomes, the battle of Amiens was an outstanding success, Loos being largely a dreadful failure.
By contrast, because of the continuing interest in military history, case studies from it can be used as additions to normal commercial case studies to assist towards reinforcing the learning of the principles and practices of corporate strategy. This analysis advances an approach which can be built upon as an aid to furthering that learning. As part of a website, it contributes to the international discussion of military case studies using contemporary management techniques. And it will enable the nationals of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa to participate in assessing the important contributions of their nations towards achieving the war-winning competitive advantage of the British Expeditionary Force during the summer and autumn of 1918.

De Wit, B. and Meyer, R. (1994) Strategy Process, Content, Context: An International Perspective, West Publishing, 1st Edition, Books 2 and 3 adapted from ‘On War’ by Karl von Clausewitz.
De Wit, B. and Meyer, R. (1994) Strategy Process, Content, Context: An International Perspective, West Publishing, 1st Edition, Case entitled “The Guns of August: German and French Strategy in 1914″.
European Case Clearing House, (1998), Eccho newsletter, Spring edition, an article by Mike Sweeney and Martyn Jones, ‘Introducing case studies in a defence environment’, pp. 20-21.
Mintzberg, H. and Quinn, J.B. (1991) The Strategy Process Concepts, Contexts and Cases, 2nd ed., Prentice-Hall International, section entitled “The Guns of August: German and French Strategy in 1914″.
Tuchman, B.W. (1962) August 1914, Constable and Co.

Prepared for the Website
28 March 2001