Veteran Shares Memories of General Patton

General Patton was one of the ultimate planners and detail guys that have ever sharpened a pencil and wrote an operations order.  Many people do not know this, but he was senior to Dwight Eisenhower, and he helped then Major Eisenhower get through Command and General Staff College by giving him advice and helping him with his papers – while not cheating.   Patton knew how far his tanks could go on a tank of fuel, and how many fuelers he had, and how many gallons each fuel truck held.  Same for ammo.  He wargamed out different scenarios in every battle that considered logistics and combat losses.  In short, General Patton didn’t just stumble his way through WWII, he planned and he wargamed it.

Learn from Patton, and start planning your way through life’s engagements.  Learn to use a decision matrix and wargaming of scenarios.

WWII vet shares memories of General Patton

Decision Point and Half-Time Adjustments

 

Don’t make a decision until you’re ready to or you have to.  Sounds like an argument for procrastination, right? It is – sort of.

People often make decisions too soon and too quickly, far before they have to make the decision.  More information and more analysis will lead to better decisions and improve your life, your relationships, your balance sheet and income statement.  And who doesn’t want to improve your life in these ways? Just take the time to make good decisions, even if it means giving up some leisure time to do research.

Via formal decision making and war gaming, decision-makers and players plan for a point where we will get the information we need or we have to make a decision due to the actions of opposing forces, information or not.  In other words, there is either a place on the ground or a set time & date where we will make the decision, but not before. People who use formal decision-making processes know that when they make a decision is as almost important as how.  Do not make it too early or before you consider what the opposing forces will do. And sometimes, a decision is a reaction to opposing forces, it’s a half-time adjustment that saves the game.

In the Army, we set decision points and look for indicators of enemy intention. Often, the enemy does not do what you think it will do. We plan, and yes we add a bit of hope, to have the required information to make a decision when we get to a decision point. That’s why we have an entire branch of the Army known as intelligence – people who collect information. But we don’t make decisions until we have to.

For example, the military has commands: “on order” and “be prepared to” which help to prepare a subordinate unit for a mission without committing to the decision. The higher headquarters is gathering information and analyzing, then it makes the decision when the situation reaches a decision point.

Let me give you a civilian example, a small company develops a new product and they want to decide how to release it and what channels to use.  Some managers would plan for how to distribute the product while developing the product, but we suggest that there are several approaches. Perhaps the company should use a test market or a trial?  We would need at least three pieces of information – First, who are our competitors and how will they react?  Second, how are our partners going to behave?  Third, how do our customers prefer to buy the product?  You have to test and examine these questions – don’t prognosticate.  Or perhaps the product is so revolutionary – a huge market release will provide the best advantage.  The company needs to do the analysis and make a formal decision, but information is key to the decision. A test market gives you more information.

One note, you may not think that most decisions involve the presence of an enemy.  For example, just deciding what car to buy does not involve an enemy or rival – but it does involve a bank or finance company.  Their role definitely could resemble the role of an enemy – if you miss your payments.  So, almost all decisions have a rival, enemy or competitor involved if you think about it deeply enough.

 

 

Stop Guessing and Start Planning Your Life

“Gut instinct” rarely works. Sure, people get lucky, especially in a subject area where they have experience and knowledge. But, the rest of us, the regular ones, often guess wrong. We all know famous industry leaders, especially hi-tech weenies, who have risen to the top of their game by making quick decisions, and they repeat their stories of glory on CNBC on late-night biographies. In reality, many of them just got lucky.  Other people who are as intelligent or more intelligent did not have such illustrious careers, and it is not because they’re not good, but because they didn’t make lucky guesses. It’s sad when you meet someone who’s gifted, intelligent and hard-working who has not had the success they deserve because they keep accepting what fate has in store for them.  I’m trying to get them to stop guessing and start developing problem-solving and decision-making skills.

If you want to stop guessing, start learning all you can about two disciplines: problem-solving and structured decision-making.  What is the difference between decision-making and problem-solving?   Problem-solving involves finding a way to change a process or relationship in order to return to a satisfactory steady-state. For example, we problem solve around a machine that is malfunctioning in order to get it back to running smoothly. The goal is to get past something and return to normal. Maybe we want to get past an issue in a marriage and return to a steady-state of marital bliss. In contrast, decision-making involves anticipating the future, and making choices that will have favorable odds to bring about the best future.  (Hint: both work best when you have a little fun with them.)

When problem-solving, spend time researching the problem and digging around just as a hobbyist who is passionate about the subject area.  People with intellectual curiosity make the best problem solvers.  Want to solve a problem? — be interested! That’s worth repeating.  Be interested!  Think about this scenario: a guy who is into model railroading has a great train set in his basement, but there’s a problem – when certain engines go around a tight corner, they lose power. How should he solve the problem?  First, I suggest that he avoid guessing and avoid thinking that it is anything related to anything that has happened before. Instead, he’s a hobbyist and he should think like a hobbyist, in other words he should have fun and treat the problem as an opportunity to learn.  He should dig around, look at the track via a magnifying glass, test the voltage on the track, or try different engines.  Without thinking of what the answer is, eventually it will come to him.  In technical terms, what he’s doing is a “variable analysis”, but he’s also having fun with his variable analysis and the fun makes a difference. Many variables could cause the problem – and they could be totally different than the “last time” or previous problem. Maybe that section of track is dirty because his son put something on it – like a greasy teddy bear – when our hero was not there, maybe the curve is to tight and the inside wheels lose contact with the rails, maybe the curve puts torque on the train and makes it harder to pull,… who knows?  Don’t guess. Investigate. Dig into it. Have fun. And do not guess.

The end-state for this HO train hobbyist (based on a true story from someone I know) is that he finds an unexplained layer of grease on the track – due to his youngest son and a wild sleep-over party involving silly sling putty and a pillow fight. He cleaned the tracks, and then all engines ran the same – not what you would think.

Sometimes, you problem-solve in the short term, to set yourself up to make a decision in the long-term. For example, in a marital spat, you solve the short-term problem, and then decide together what you want to do together or apart in the long-term.

When decision-making, use a structured process. The military, primarily the United States Army, has evolved a process called the Military Decision Making Process. It’s a complex 8-step process with a lot of staff functions in support.  General Patton used this process to win the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.  Another decision-making process is known as a decision matrix.  You don’t have to use such complicated tools, but you should use a pencil and paper to try to quantify what the decision is, why you are making it, and the pluses and minuses of each choice. The military outlines what it calls “courses of action” as the potential choices. And then the military uses war gaming to play-out what might happen at each stage during each course of action.  At the end, we military gentlemen quantify each course of action and we make a decision, a complicated process, which I will add more detail to in further writings.

If luck goes against you, do not take it personally and retreat to your planning table, gather allies, seek input and develop your next plan. Do not take bad luck as a personal insult.   If luck flies against you, blame it on the gods, and start re-planning. It ain’t over until you’re in the grave and maybe not even then.

In summary, take control of your life and stop relying on luck in many aspects of your life: what car to buy, what college to go to, who to marry, where to live, what dog to get, etc… Stop guessing and start living a life according to your problem-solving and decision-making skills.

Mark O’Neill serves in the Army Reserve as an Officer in Information Operations and Intelligence. He has served in Korea, Honduras, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He authored two fiction novels, Slave to the Lender and Bound to Get Burned. He is currently writing a book on the Civilian Decision-Making Process that features deep analysis of General Patton’s use of the military decision-making process in comparison to present-day civilian problems.   He lives in Helena, Montana.

He can be reached at   mro.producer  at gmail dot com

“Play ball!” said General Patton

“Play ball!” General George S. Patton said,   over the phone.

Play ball?  On the phone?

“Play ball” were the code words he had pre-planned so that when he got his plan approved he could call back to the Third Army staff and they would enact his plan on how to react to the German offensive of the 6th Panzer Army into the Belgian Ardennes.  General Patton’s divisions were in the south, pushing ahead towards the Rhine and fighting in the hills around Saarbrucken against well-hidden German infantry and anti-tank units.  He was not involved in the fighting for the lower, flatter terrain around Belgium.  But, Patton knew as Hitler counter-attacked, the Germans were putting their best Panzer divisions in a run into the heart of the allied lines. Patton knew that if the Germans broke through to the allied rear area within northern France, they could create chaos with the allied logistics, which is what Hitler hoped for…  General Patton wanted to be included in the counter-attack.

But, to obtain approval and fight north, General Patton had to show his old friend, General Dwight Eisenhower, nick-named “Ike”, that he had a course of action that was possible in terms of logistics, movement and time. General Patton developed his plan and was able to prove that he could turn and drive his tanks that far north in time to make an impact. General Eisenhower made General Patton walk through the pains-taking details of food, fuel, water, and parts consumption for a given march of tanks through the relatively rugged terrain.  Of highest concern were fuel and re-fueling.  Patton had to show on paper with extensive calculations that he could make the rate-of-march needed to get to the battle and impact the southern flank of the “bulge” given the constraints on fuel, and logistics.  Patton wanted to be the anvil to crush the German offensive.

General George Patton had left his position on the front lines to meet with Generals Bradley and Eisenhower, along with the British Generals. He took with him three courses of action, all of which he could show were feasible in terms of logistics: bullets, food, travel distance, bullets and fuel.  General Eisenhower and General Patton jointly decided on which was the best option, and Eisenhower approved the plan.

General Patton had taken his commission in the United States Army before General Eisenhower and had been senior to Ike during most of his career. They had known one another since they were both Captains, and Patton turned Eisenhower on to the value of the tank as a fighting vehicle.  In fact, Lieutenant Colonel Patton had sent notes to Major Eisenhower on how to pass General Command and Staff College during the 1930s. And they were both fans of logical, formal decision making processes that used the slow, methodical processes that moved decision-making out of the “gut feel” and onto decision matrices, charts, graphs and equations.  Generals Eisenhower and Patton turned the “art of war” into the “science of shoot, move, communicate to dominate the terrain and the enemy”.  At heart, they were engineers and accountants, designers of human conflict.

You can learn from these men the science of gaining control over your decisions and how to out-maneuver your opponents. It’s not an art, it’s a science and thus any person who puts enough effort into the process, can master it.  We need to use the tools of logic and decision that have been developed, such as the military decision making process.

Oh, and the ending? General Patton drove his Third Army hard to the north, and closed in on the Germans as the southern flank of the pincers that squeezed the Germans and killed their offensive.  But, ironically, it was the Germans own lack of planning that stopped them “in their tracks” as the slang saying goes from WWII.  The Panzer divisions stopped in their tracks because they ran out of fuel.   And a tank without fuel is about as useful as a guard dog tied to a stake.  The allies crushed the last German units and most of the Germans surrendered, clearing the way for the final assault into Germany.

If this is of any interest to you, contact me at:   mro  dot producer  at gmail dot com

or call me at 310   four zero nine  8159

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Lost in the Woods?

If you are lost in the woods, what do you do?   Your GPS is not working, your cell phone is out of range, and you did not bring a map.  In fact, you’ve just been wandering around smelling the flowers and having fun.  You thought you had walked down a trail that you came up earlier in the day, but now everything looks different.  The trees don’t seem to be the same trees…. Even the rocks don’t look like the same rocks you saw that morning.  Aye yiy yiy!  One path leads downhill in front of you, into some dark woods, and it splits into two.  And the path you came from, goes back up the hill, onto a rocky, windswept hillside.

You gather information.  Instinctively, you look up at the mountains or trees for a landmark, you look back on the trail from where you came, you search the area for clues as to where you are.  You know that the path you take could mean life or death, so you take your time and try to make the right decision.  Wisely, you walk down the path in front of you to get a better look. And you see that it looks like the path continues through the woods.  Then, you retrace your steps back up the hill, to see if you missed a turn. Finally, you lay out your options and take the time to make a decision…..

The best decision requires information and a process.  Do not make this life or death decision based on your intestinal feelings.  Though it’s easier, do not go by instinct.  Use the side of your brain that evolved to give you logic.

Now, let’s say you are back in the urban wilderness known as civilization, and you feel lost.  You do not know what to do with your life,  where to live, what college to go to.  The old landmarks your parents gave you are gone.  Remember, you have time.   Take a deep breath, or two or a hundred deep breaths, and follow a formal decision process.  Over time, you’ll make better decisions, one after another, after another, and you’ll get out of the wilderness.

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