As the nation enters the endemic stage of COVID-19, one of the biggest points of contention between workers and leadership teams is the question of permanent work-from-home (WFH). Forbes reported results of a survey that revealed 67 percent of Apple’s employees were unhappy with the company’s new policy requiring a return to the office three days weekly. Fifty-six percent stated they were actively seeking new fully remote jobs at other tech companies. JP Morgan Chase’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, recently bowed to pressure from outraged junior bankers and backtracked on his demand that all employees return to the office, telling shareholders, “It’s clear that working from home will become more permanent in American business.”
The most common complaint from leaders opposed to permanent WFH is that distractions inevitably disrupt the workday: Kids need to be picked up from school, dogs need to be walked, the Amazon delivery just arrived, etc. The best solution is to bring everyone back to the office where home-based distractions are eliminated, and employees can be seen. Some employers, like Goldman Sachs’ CEO, who frequently decries work from home as “an aberration,” are uncompromising in this belief. The reality of the “Great Resignation,” however, means that attracting the best candidates to fill fully onsite roles will remain a challenge.
If you are wrestling with the challenges of staffing and managing a permanently remote team, you can learn valuable lessons from the way General Dwight Eisenhower and his staff approached preparing for the Normandy invasion wherein the combined Allied naval, land, and air forces would land on the French coast and punch a hole through Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall” to establish a foothold and set the stage for the advance on Germany.
To have any hope of succeeding, the operation code-named “OVERLORD” had to be planned in the utmost secrecy; every possible contingency had to be considered to mitigate the enormous risks. It was a daunting task for Eisenhower, his commanders, and staff who, as recent appointees, were mostly unaccustomed to working together.
Planning began in December 1943. The concept came together quickly. The plan was for three airborne divisions, along with glider troops, to land behind the beaches with naval forces. They were to bombard German defenses to set the conditions for seaborne landings on the beaches dubbed, “Utah,” “Omaha,” “Sword,” “Gold,” and “Juno.” It was a massive undertaking. The naval forces consisted of 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers participating. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops crossed the English Channel.
While OVERLORD’s scale is staggering, so too were the preparations. Eisenhower made training a priority. In the months leading up to D-Day, airborne troops made multiple jumps over drop zones all over England where the geography was like Normandy’s. Seaborne troops practiced loading and disembarking from landing craft. Glider pilots practiced their landings. Each soldier, sailor, and airman trained on the fundamentals of his job until he could perform them in his sleep. Once the operational plan was approved, Eisenhower cascaded it all the way down the ranks. Models depicting the invasion area were provided for soldiers to study and commit to memory. Commanders briefed the plan to their men and had them repeat it. Everyone understood they would have to work together without the benefit of constant contact.
Once the invasion was underway, problems ensued. Pilots under heavy German fire dropped the airborne troops over the wrong drop zones. Paratroopers lost equipment as they exited their planes that were flying at the wrong speed and found themselves alone on the ground. Strong tides pushed some landing craft farther down the beaches. Still, the invasion was ultimately a success. The lesson from OVERLORD is that careful planning, robust training, and clear communication of the plan can enable team members to overcome the challenges of operating away from one another amid a complex, rapidly changing environment.
Battlefield Leadership’s Normandy program will take you to the beaches and drop zones of June 6, 1944. Walk in the footsteps of the US Army Rangers who climbed Point du Hoc, stand at Pegasus Bridge, and explore Brécourt Manor where Major Dick Winters and the soldiers of Easy Company,101st Airborne Division immortalized in Band of Brothers assaulted a German artillery battery. On that hallowed ground, you will not only get a sense of what D-Day was like, but also gain an appreciation of the Herculean leadership that underpinned it.
We will see you on the battlefield.
Through our unique programs, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, government entities and higher education institutions learn how to overcome these challenges and transform their organizations, positioning them for future successes. Find out how Battlefield Leadership can help your team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 864.386.9637.