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    Leadership Reverie: "Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics."

    A blog about leadership and management in health care.

    Leadership Reverie

    Life is all about metaphors and personal stories. I wanted a place to collect random thoughts, musings, and stories about leadership in general and more specifically on leadership and management in health care.

    FRIDAY, MAY 8, 2020

    "Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics."

    It's almost a truism that commonly cited quotes were never really said by the individual who is often credited with them.  Case in point is the title of today's post.  General Omar Bradley (famous World War II general, one of only five 5-star Generals in the history of the U.S. Army, and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) is often credited with saying it, though he likely never did say the exact quote.  There was a passage in his autobiography, that is similar, "For military command is as much a practice of human relations as it is a science of tactics and a knowledge of logistics."

    Former U.S. Marine Corps General Robert Hilliard Barrow (General Barrow was the 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1979 to 1983 and served for a total of 41 years in the Marine Corps) was interviewed by the San Diego Union Tribune on November 11, 1979 and apparently said, "Amateurs talk about strategy and tactics.  Professionals talk about logistics and sustainability in warfare."

    Regardless of who said it, if anyone, it summarizes a really important point.  While there are many definitions of strategy, tactics, and logistics (and these three concepts, particularly strategy and tactics are often confused), here are my favorites.  "Strategy" describes the overall objective - the destination, if you will - and how a team is going reach that objective.  "Tactics" describe the specific actions that will be required to meet the overall objective.  "Logistics" describes the process by which the right people are placed in the right position at the right time to execute the tactics necessary to successfully achieve the strategic objective.

    While "strategy" defines the long-term goals, "tactics" are much more concrete, specific, and detailed (in this context, the initiatives that will be completed to reach the objective).  The ancient Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu wrote in , "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.  Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."  But Sun Tzu also had an important comment to make about logistics.  He said, "The line between disorder and order lies in logistics."

    Strategy, tactics, and logistics truly represent the sine qua non of leadership.  Management guru Tom Peters said, "Leaders win through logistics.  Vision, sure.  Strategy, yes.  But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time.  In other words, you must win through superior logistics."

    King Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) reportedly was once leading his army on a campaign and stopped to make camp for the night.  As he prepared his orders, one of his aides stopped him and told him that the location for the army's camp lacked sufficient pasture for the army's horses and pack animals.  Philip II reportedly cursed and said, "O Hercules, what a life I lead if I am obliged to live for the benefit of my asses!"

    During business school, I participated in a simulation called "The Beer Game."  The "Beer Game" was developed by an individual named Jay Wright Forrester at the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1960 and is probably the best illustration of the importance of logistics.  I first learned about the "Beer Game" in the book "The Fifth Discipline" by Peter Senge.  There are a number of simulations available for free online, but essentially individuals play the game as a brewer, a distributor, a wholesaler, or a local retail store.  The game's objective is simple in concept, but difficult in execution - keep up with the changing customer demand for beer.  By playing the game, individuals will learn firsthand the concept of the "Bullwhip effect".  If players master the art of supply chain logistics, they will win the game.  It's actually a lot of fun to play, and you learn a lot about logistics while doing so!

    Logistics is just as important as strategy and tactics.  And the best leaders worry about logistics as much as, if not more than, strategy and tactics.

    Posted by Derek S. Wheeler at 8:52 AM

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    MuchaMay 11, 2020 at 9:31 AM

    Never thought of it all like this before and agree with it wholeheartedly. One question: would it be more appropriate to say that that Logistics describes the process by which the right RESOURCES are placed in the right position...? Especially since, in the war example, it can also refer to toilet paper and horses!


    UnknownApril 16, 2021 at 12:51 AM

    Enlightening piece - thank you for this!


    AnonymousSeptember 7, 2021 at 10:02 PM

    Very enlightening indeed. I particularly enjoyed all the references. Thank you.

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    Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics!

    Anyone over the age of 40 will be familiar with the T.V. series MASH and the fact it was based on true stories. What may be less familiar is the…


    Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics!

    July 11, 2018 in BUSINESS & ECONOMY 1

    Brendan Richards

    National Sector Leader, Transport & Logistics

    The crew of the Air Ambulance Victoria helicopter Helimed 1 check the country road for vehicles as they hover just above the ground during lift-off.

    Anyone over the age of 40 will be familiar with the T.V. series MASH and the fact it was based on true stories. What may be less familiar is the truth behind those stories and how the MASH units actually came about.

    The Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit was conceived by Michael E. DeBakey and other surgical consultants as a response to a single central problem – how do we maximise the experience and fighting effectiveness of the troops? Now a non-logistics mindset would be looking at issues like training, weapons, and strategy but DeBakey saw things differently. As General Omar Bradley famously said: “Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.”

    DeBakey’s solution was about ensuring more of the wounded troops survived their injuries and were therefore able to take advantage of their combat experience by not only living, but also returning to combat. His idea turned the traditional thinking behind the use of portable surgical hospitals, field hospitals, and general hospitals on its head. MASH’s were designed to get experienced medical personnel closer to the front so that the wounded could be treated sooner and with greater success. Casualties were first treated at the point of injury through buddy aid, then routed through Battalion Aid Stations for emergency stabilising surgery, and finally routed to the MASH for the most extensive treatment. It was so successful that, in the Korean War, seriously wounded soldiers who made it to MASH units alive had a 97% chance of survival. Those are the kinds of statistics that win wars.

    What DeBakey and his colleagues saw, that no one else did, was that the real problem here was a logistical one – how do we get our wounded treated better and faster so that their chances of survival increase. Solving that problem required a logistical solution that could put the medical personnel who could treat the wounded closer to them. The existing logistics simply weren’t doing that.

    Ambulance Victoria in association with KPMG hosted a kind of logistics hackathon designed to pick up on DeBakey’s thinking and deliver a way for ambulance services to be more effective. As Mick Stephenson, Executive Director of Emergency Operations at Ambulance Victoria said, “30 seconds, or 30 minutes, is a whole lot of brain cells or a whole lot of heart muscle so, to a patient, any time we can save in the improvement of the service we offer is of immense importance.”

    The effort brought together 17 teams from 12 countries and gave them 96 hours and 2.5 years of data to solve two challenges:

    Predicting short term demand per geographic area, and;

    What is the best hospital to send a patient to?

    Between them, they came up with 17 different solutions. The winners of the hackathon were Team UK who created a tool to determine the best hospital for a patient that spanned across hospital congestion and performance, the clinical needs of the patient, travel time to the hospital and historical decision making. But all 18 solutions are now being trialled and further developed for use right around the world.

    This is what a logistics mindset is all about. How can we find ways to shave 30 seconds or 30 minutes? How do we change traditional service delivery to better reflect the true needs of our customers? How do we turn all of our thinking on its head and come up with a better way of moving products, services, hearts and minds?

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    Source : newsroom.kpmg.com.au

    Where does the quote of 'Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics' come from? Is it true or not?

    Answer: Where does the quote of "Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics" come from? Is it true or not? I believe that was a quote from General Omar Bradley there is a lot of truth to it. You could lay out a strategy for an invasion, then because of logistics, you might then see you...

    Where does the quote of "Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics" come from? Is it true or not?

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    1 Answer S. Patrick Maiorca , amateur historian

    Answered Mar 7, 2022 · Author has 23K answers and 39.3M answer views

    Where does the quote of "Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics" come from? Is it true or not?

    I believe that was a quote from General Omar Bradley there is a lot of truth to it. You could lay out a strategy for an invasion, then because of logistics, you might then see your main column grind to a halt because they lack fuel.

    1.2K viewsView upvotes

    Related answers Related Answer Keith Hisey

    , Geologist, Researcher, Senior Manager, Historian at Consulting (1980-present)

    Updated 4 years ago · Author has 1.9K answers and 15.8M answer views

    Why do people claim that amateurs study tactics while masters study logistics? Given that superior tactics win big battles which can determine the outcome of a war, aren't tactics as important as logistics?

    No. and it isn’t “Masters” it is “professionals” study logistics.

    You cannot fight without supplies: food, ammunition, fuel, etc.

    So no matter how good your tactics are, you’ll lose eventually.

    Consider this. The US waged two wars on different continents at the same time. They kept supplied 98 divisions on a supply line that was well over 10,000 miles long: 7,000 from San Fran to Manila, 4000 from NYC to Normandy.

    When planning to invade an island in the Pacific everything was done on timetables. Convoys loaded with ammunition had to be planned and loaded months in advance, making sure that they h

    Related Answer Pat Sullivan

    Answered 1 year ago · Author has 4.6K answers and 9.8M answer views

    Why are logistics considered more important than strategy and tactics nowadays?


    Keep in mind that during WWII, the US and the other allied powers possessed 90% of the world’s production of petroleum. Both Japan and Germany spent a good portion of the war and devoted their entire global strategy to trying to overcome this disparity,… and failed, utterly.

    Warfare is always about logistics, operationally and strategically.

    407 viewsView upvotesAnswer requested by

    Mohamed Boubendir Related Answer Timothy Soh

    , I count dead bodies in the army

    Answered 1 year ago · Author has 1K answers and 8.9M answer views

    What do you think of this statement: "All wars, no matter what you’re told, are won or lost on logistics"?

    I used to believe that. But after a decade in the war planning side of CSS (combat service support. Practically logistics and force projection), I have come to disregard that maxim.

    You want to know what wins wars? Exceptional planning. There's no way about it.

    Let me present you two choices,

    Exceptional logistics, but less than adequate planning.

    Exceptional planning, but less than adequate logistics.

    Who do you think is going to win the war?

    It is a bit of an extreme for an example but also a clear one.

    With exceptional planning you might even be able to solve your less than adequate logistical sit

    Related Answer Zug Standing Bear

    , former Retired Military Police Officer/Commander at U.S. Army (1958-1991)

    Answered 2 years ago · Author has 282 answers and 275.7K answer views

    Why is logistics important in the military?

    In World War II, my mother's brother was a tank destroyer commander (read: M-10 gun carriage death trap). He had served in an independent tank destroyer battalion under three U.S. armies and the XXX British Corps. After eating Spam as a regular diet for over a year, upon his unit being assigned to the XXX Corps, they had a visit from their new commanding general, British Lieutenant General Sir Brian Horrocks. Gen. Horrocks first comment was "Why don't these men have hot food? If you can have it in the rear, then you can have it up here!" That ended my uncle's Spam diet, a food that he would ne

    Related Answer Paul Adam

    , Chief Analyst at Cassandra Defence Consulting Ltd (2015-present)

    Answered 2 years ago · Author has 3.9K answers and 37.3M answer views

    How does Clausewitz view logistics?

    Clausewitz touches very lightly on supply and logistics, since these weren’t seen as critical issues back in the 1800s when he was involved in warfare.

    An army might expect to carry the ammunition it needed (a hundred or so rounds of powder and shot per cannon, about the same number of cartridges for each soldier) with the fighting units or as a rolling reserve; it was the early 20th century where quick-firing artillery could expend as much ammunition in one day, as a 19th-century field gun could expect to fire over the course of a campaign.

    Food for the troops was, under Napoleon’s system, most

    Related Answer Sachin Kaushal , SEO Consultant

    Updated 3 years ago · Upvoted by

    Stefan Kim

    , studied Marketing at Mittuniversitetet (1994)

    What are the best examples/stories of an awesome strategy?

    Originally Answered: What are the great examples of business strategy?

    “How Yellow Tail Went From Having 0.3% Import Market Share to 20% Import Market Share, And Leading As America’s #1 Imported Wine…”

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