McNamara’s 11 Lessons Applied to Cloud IT

The accelerating pace of technological and business change wrought by Cloud development and advancement too often leads IT providers into situations where they lose sight of their goals, or lose their ability to concentrate on those goals and effectively manage according to an operative strategy.

Discussions about this with current and former military leaders working with IT providers led more than one of them to note the consistent similarities between the “fog” of uncertainties, change, and positioning within Cloud-speed IT markets, and the so-called “fog of war” – the confusion that tends to reign among commanders and combatants, either prior to action, during action, or after action – and often, in all three circumstances combined.

In 2003, former US Secretary of Defense and World Bank CEO Robert S. McNamara was the subject of an Academy award-winning American documentary film entitled “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara.”  In the film, director Errol Morris interviews McNamara about eleven “lessons” contained in McNamara’s 1995 book, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. The conditions, thinking, and actions described in those lessons are particularly well-suited to complex and rapidly-changing business environments, such as those enabled, driven, and shaped by Cloud IT.

A recent Strategic Perspective published for Saugatuck’s premium subscription research clients reviews McNamara’s 11 lessons with an eye toward understanding and managing strategy in Cloud IT markets. Those lessons are listed below:

  1. Empathize with your enemy
  2. Rationality will not save us
  3. There’s something beyond oneself
  4. Maximize efficiency
  5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war
  6. Get the data
  7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong
  8. Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning
  9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil
  10. Never say never
  11. You can’t change human nature

Many former military leaders have sought to translate their command and planning experiences to business environments over centuries. Most have been less than successful, while a few have done well. For example, the centuries-old Art of War by Sun Tzu has been a business best-seller since the invention of best-seller lists, but especially in the 1980s and 1990s. McNamara’s “lessons” – the above 11 as well as several others that he developed later – are being studied and applied in several business schools in the U.S.

But schoolroom study of historical philosophy is one thing; applied reality is another. What makes these lessons readily applicable to the reality of Cloud IT markets is how they were specifically developed and refined from unique, real-world military and business management experiences to address the aspects of behavior and change in unpredictable arenas and circumstances. Saugatuck research subscribers can click here for access to the complete analysis of McNamara’s lessons as applied to Cloud IT markets and competition.

Note: Ongoing Saugatuck subscription clients can access this premium research piece (1354STR) by clicking here, and inputting your ID and password. 

Bruce Guptill

About Bruce Guptill

Bruce Guptill is Saugatuck Technology’s SVP and Head of Research, leading the development and delivery of Saugatuck’s ongoing research programs and output. His own work focuses on the changing business of IT, including provider-side business models and go-to-market strategies, enterprise buy-side IT planning/budgeting/acquisition, and the changing roles and value of enterprise IT and Finance organizations. His insight and guidance on IT vendor channel management, market identification and development, and buyer behavior analysis has enabled hundreds of established and startup IT providers to find, enter, and profit from new and traditional markets, while helping to guide user enterprise leaders toward optimal IT procurement and vendor management. In addition to a wide range of technical and professional certifications, Guptill holds an MBA in marketing and finance, and a BA in the psychology and business of mass media communication. Married with three children, Guptill resides on Cape Cod in southeastern Massachusetts, and is a lifelong fan of the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and the University of Connecticut Huskies.