CEObuilder event: Learning from history’s great leaders—The Battle of Bulge: Strategic thinking from Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar N. Bradley and Bernard L. Montgomery Sep 24, 2013, 8:00 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

CEObuilder and Bank of American Fork invite you to join us on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 for a forum and presentation by Mark H. Hansen, assistant professor of organizational leadership and strategy, department of organizational leadership and strategy, BYU Marriott School. Hansen’s presentation will focus on strategic thinking and leadership. You can also join the conversation on Twitter at #ceobuilder or LinkedIn.

At this forum, we will study the strategic thinking of the Allied Supreme Commander and some of his key generals during the Battle of the Bulge, officially known as the German Ardennes Offensive.  We will also briefly examine the strategic thinking of the German High Command.

The Battle of the Bulge is considered to be a decisive turning point in World War II. After the Battle of the Bulge there was little, if any, question as to the ultimate outcome of the war. The Germans had engaged in an absolute, last-hope gamble. In hindsight, it seems easy to see that the gamble was ill-advised.  However, if a few things had gone differently, the gamble may have paid off for the Germans.

Our study of these generals at the Battle of the Bulge will focus on the initial reaction of the Allied generals, the formulation of the Allied response, and the execution of that response. General Eisenhower’s decision making and strategy execution will be the main focus of our discussion. His decision making was swift at times and slow and deliberate at others.  He seems to have had keen insight into how to balance decisiveness and deliberateness.

Another main point of the day will be Eisenhower’s decision to transfer the command of two armies from General Bradley, a friend of many years, to Field Marshall Montgomery, the British commander.  This decision speaks volumes about placing the good of the organization ahead of friendships.

We will watch several video clips from documentaries and the Band of Brothers miniseries.  We will then discuss the principles of leadership and strategy evident in these clips. The main learning points from our morning together will include:

1. Recognizing threat and opportunity, sometimes even recognizing the opportunity in the threat

2. Great strategy depends on accurate information

3. Recognizing the time to be deliberate and the time to be decisive

4. The importance of being specific in communicating strategy

5. Managing the interests of the organization and friendships

Please read the entire packet titled The Battle of the Ardennes:  Analysis of Strategic Leadership and Decisions (participants who RSVP by October 11 will receive it in the mail).  This packet is about 65 pages, double-spaced so it’s not really very long.  From the book titled Generals of the Ardennes, please read the following passages:  47-82, 119-136, 182-205, 345-350 (not required, but can be ordered on Amazon).

We will focus primarily on Eisenhower and Bradley.  Pages 182-205 are focused on Patton (there are really only about four pages of text here, the rest are pictures).  Pay attention to what the authors have to say about Field Marshall Montgomery.  You can go to books.google.com and look up The Longest Winter by Alex Kershaw.  You can scroll down and read from the bottom of page 172 to 174 about the friction between Montgomery and Eisenhower.  This is clearly an American point of view, but it adds an important dimension to Eisenhower’s decision to turn over command of the northern forces to Montgomery.

This forum will be held at Bank of American Fork, Riverton Branch Conference Room, 2691 West 12600 South, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 16. Please RSVP by Monday, October 14 by contacting Heidi at Heidi.carmack@bankaf.com or 801-642-3139.

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