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Monday, September 13, 2010

It Doesn't Take a Hero : The Autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

David A. ZimmerPrint

It Doesn't Take a Hero : The Autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf
by Norman Schwarzkopf


Comment: "This was a very interesting book. Gen. Schwarzkopf details his life starting out as a young boy all the way through his military career. I didn't know of Schwarzkopf until the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operation to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi invasion. I learned numerous things from this book aside from it being an attention grabbing novel.

I learned a lot about "my" war - the war I never had to fight in but came close because of my age - Vietnam. My former business partner fly several missions in Vietnam and of course, I knew about it from the news reports, anti-war demonstrations, etc., but Schwarzkopf gave me a different perspective. He helped me understand why Vietnam seems to remain as a dark spot on American history because of its disrespect soldiers received when returning home - something I felt was totally wrong. We did not gain other countries approval for the conflict.

Fast-forward many years and Desert Shield/Desert Storm seemed to have a 180 degree turn around from the Vietnam era. Schwarzkopf gave insights into the Mid-east culture and how difficult it was, because of culture, to create a coalition to oust Iraq from Kuwait - Arab nation against Arab nation. At the same time, Israel being mortal enemies of the Arab nations had to be kept out of the conflict while still maintaining the friendly relationship with the US. There were many challenges, but they were overcome. Just as we project managers sometimes have to work with warring factions, bring them to a common ground and get them to join the efforts for a greater cause and overcome their differences, while at the same time, maintaining a relationship with a party that cannot be involved.

Overall, I gained insights that many people don't have about either conflicts. I learned the insights from one with direct involvement, not just as soldier, but also as a leader.

If I apply this book to project management, I see, just as in war, projects have the mission (meet the project's objectives), a political coalition (building cohesion among the various stakeholders - always a fragile relationship unless managed properly), training the troops (marshaling the team members not only with positional authority but with personal traits) and coordinating efforts with the authorities (Schwarzkopf was the man managing the troops while Gen. Colin Powell was managing the politicians, etc.). You need a champion as Schwarzkopf had Powell in order for your project to be successfully completed.

It is a long book - slightly over 500 pages - but certainly one I'd recommend if you want to understand chains of authority and learn some subtle techniques to working those chains.



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