Strategy – A History – Lawrence Freeman 2013
A great overview of strategic thought – I wanted to see a bit more of Freeman’s own thought.
“By and large, strategy comes into play where there is actual or potential conflict, when interests collide and forms of resolution are required.” (Freeman, 2013, p.xi). “It is about getting more out of a situation than the starting balance of power would suggest. It is the art of creating power.” (Freeman, 2013, p.xii).
“From Homer came the contrasting qualities, represented respectively by Achilles and Odysseus, of bie and metis (strength and cunning).” (Freeman, 2013, p.23). “The play underlined the difficulty of relying on deception and then expecting to be trusted.” (Freeman, 2013, p.28). “Supreme excellence in war was not found in winning “one hundred victories in one hundred battles.” Rather, it was better “to subdue the enemy without fighting.”” (Freeman quoting Sun Tzu, 2013, p.44).
“Despite its dangers, battle had a special role as an occasional means of agreeing on who had won and what victory meant.” (Freeman, 2013, p.49). “The battles were limited in time and space, fought on a defined field within a single day (tension at dawn, exhaustion by dusk). Within those confines they would be bloody and vicious, but at least they might produce a conclusion without spilling over into the rest of the country.” (Freeman, 2013, p.49).
“Most importantly, he (Alexander) understood that Napoleon wanted battle. If that was what he wanted, that was exactly what he should not have.” (Freeman, 2013, p.79). “”Time which is allowed to pass unused accumulates to the credit of the defender.”” (Freeman, 2013, p.90).
“Friction helped explain the difference between was as it might be – that is, absolute and unrestrained – and actual war.” (Freeman, 2013, p.87). “His advice was to keep the plan simple, especially against a capable opponent. (…) the strategic plan survived so long as successive engagements were being won.” (Freeman, 2013, p.90).
“”A center of gravity,” he explained, “is always found where the mass is concentrated the most densely. It presents the most effective target for a blow; furthermore, the heaviest blow is that struck by the center of gravity.” (Freeman, 2013, p.91).
“Niederwerfungsstrategie, the strategy of annihilation. (…) Ermattungsstrategie, the strategy of exhaustion, sometimes translated as attrition. Whereas with a strategy of annihilation there was just one pole, the battle, with exhaustion there was another pole, involving a variety of ways to achieve the political ends of war, including occupying territory, destroying crops, and blockading.” (Freeman, 2013, p.108).
“In this respect, the “ideal concentration” was “an appearance of weakness that covers the reality of strength.”” (Freeman, 2013, p.120).
“Fuller became one of the first to focus on the possibility of disorienting the enemy’s “brain” rather than eliminating his physical strength. (…) using tanks and aircraft in a battle would be decisive as a result of psychological dislocation rather than physical destruction.” (Freeman, 2013, p.131).
“The manoeuvre which brings an ally into the field is as serviceable as that which win a great battle.” (Freeman, 2013, p.139). “Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them.” (Freeman, 2013, p.146).“”The power to hurt is bargaining power. (…) Under this proposition, strategy moved from consideration of conquest and resistance to deterrence, intimidations, blackmail, and threats.” (Freeman, 2013, p.163).
“the greater the success of the original strategy the greater the risk of friction as an army moved away from home base.” (Freeman, 2013, p.212).
“When a radical spoke of the “Spirit of History, the ceaseless March of Progress,” Herzen exclaimed, “A curse on your capital letters! We’re asking people to spill their blood – at least spare them the conceit that they are acting out the biography of an abstract noun.” (Freeman, 2013, p.266).
“War involved nationalism, which was in principle threatening class solidarity.” (Freeman, 2013, p.295).“If war came it should be used to hasten the revolution.” (Freeman, 2013, p.295).
“At the heart of his (Tolstoy’s) antistrategic vision was the belief that divisions within human society were unnatural, and so if they were healed there would be no need for struggle and conflict.” (Freeman, 2013, p.308). “evil can only be overcome with good and cannot be opposed.” (Freeman, 2013, p.311).
“He (James) define the pragmatic method as “the attitude of looking away from first things, principles, ‘categories’, supposed necessities; and of looking towards last things, fruits, consequences, fact.” (Freeman, 2013, p.317). “He (Gandhi) argued the inseparability of ends and means: violent methods could not deliver a peaceful society.” (Freeman, 2013, p.348).
“Instead of decisions being taken by individuals who were detached, remote, and looking after their own interests, a way had to be found to engage people so that they could shape their own destinies.” (Freeman, 2013, p.367).
“Critical to this school of thought was the conviction, bolstered by research, that social problems had social rather than personal causes.” (Freeman, 2013, p.378). “They understood the futility of expecting people absorbed in a daily struggle for survival to sign up for an even larger and more dangerous struggle defined only by vague slogans.” (Freeman, 2013, p.409).
“At every moment the relationship of power may become a confrontation between two adversaris.” (Freeman quoting Foucault, 2013, p.426). “In an inversion of Clausewitz, he presented politics as a continuation of war.” (Freeman, 2013, p.426).
“Mark Turner argued that life would be chaotic without simple stories turning pieces of information into a coherent patterns.” (Freeman, 2013, p.429). “It was another way the weak could take on the strong: less muscle but better stories. A battle of narratives was to be preferred to a real battle.” (Freeman, 2013, p.430).
“When in 1914 Ford started to have difficulty maintaining a stable workforce because of the dreary and routine nature if assembly-line work, he announced that his workers would be paid five dollars a day. This he described as one of the “finest cost-cutting moves we ever made.”” (Freeman, 2013, p.480).
At first Sloan was reporting to Pierre DuPont, who was chairman and chief executive. This meant that, unlike Ford, Sloan had to have an internal strategy as well one to deal with the competition.” (Freeman, 2013, p.484).
“With a social role far beyond anything implied in the term “private enterprise,” this was an economic power that could compete on its own terms with the political power of the state. A new form of struggle was developing: “The state seeks in some aspects to regulate the corporation, while the corporation, steadily becoming more powerful, makes every effort to avoid such regulation.”” (Freeman, 2013, p.490).
“Drucker blamed Taylor for separating planning from doing.” (Freeman, 2013, p.493)
“The fundamental strategic rule was: “Induce your competitors not to invest in those products, markets, and services where you expect to invest most.”” (Freeman, 2013, p.507).
“In this way, Justin Fox remarked, “rational market idea” moved from “theoretical economics into the empirical subdivision of finance.” There it “lost in nuance and gained in intensity.” It was now seeking to use the “stock market’s collective judgements to resolve conflicts of interest that had plagued scholars, executives, and shareholders for generations.” (Freeman, 2013, p.526).
“the start to consider human beings as social actors and organizations as bundles of social relationships.” (Freeman, 2013, p.542). “critique of modernist forms of rational bureaucracy.” (Freeman, 2013, p.542).“Once organizations began to be viewed as social systems in their own right rather than as means to some management goal, questions arose (…) how organizations could be arranged to make for a more fulfilling life for the workforce.” (Freeman, 2013, p.543). “Business should be about heart, beauty and art – not some “disembodied bloodless enterprise” but “the selfless pursuit of an ideal.” (Freeman quoting Peters and Waterman, 2013, p.547).
“It (bounded rationality) accepted human fallibility without losing the predictability that might still result from a modicum of rationality. Simon showed how people might reasonably accept suboptimal outcomes because of the excessive effort required to get to the optimal.” (Freeman, 2013, p.592).
“It is the easy problems – the mundane math problems of daily life – that are the best suited to the conscious brain. (…) Complex problems, on the other hand, require the processing power of the emotional brain the supercomputer of the mind.” (Freeman, 2013, p.602). “The revelation lay in just how much computation and analysis humans were capable of before they were really aware of any serious thought underway at all. Here in the subconscious could be found the various heuristics and biases explored by the behavioural economists, or the repressed feelings.” (Freeman, 2013, p.602). “Human beings did, what felt right, but that did not mean their behaviour was uninformed or irrational.” (Freeman, 2013, p.602).
“To this end this chapter explores the value of considering strategy as a story about power told in the future tense from the perspective of the leading character” (Freeman, 2013, p.606). “Strategy therefore starts with an existing state of affairs and only gains meaning by an awareness of how, for better or worse, it could be different.” (Freeman, 2013, p.611). “Strategy is best understood modestly, as moving to the “next stage” rather than to a definitive and permanent conclusion.” (Freeman, 2013, p.611).
“The reason this book has returned so often to questions of language and communication is because strategy is meaningless without them. Not only does strategy need to be out into words so that others can follow, but it works through affecting the behaviour of others. Thus it is always about persuasion.” (Freeman, 2013, p.614). “The challenges for the strategist – indeed, the essence of strategy – is to force or persuade those who are hostile or unsympathetic to act differently than their current intentions.” (Freeman, 2013, p.627).