Study Guide 13: Leveraging Resources.
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- You think your current competitive situation is hopeless.
- Your traditional resources are increasing limited.
- You need to improve processes to increase productivity and efficiency.
- Your company is suffering from sagging morale due to recent setbacks.;
The defense of Rorke’s Drift, Natal, during The Zulu War is one of the most famous battles in British military history. In late January 1879, British forces at Isandhlwana suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Zulus. Buoyed by their victory and armed with rifles seized from the massacred British, a Zulu army – 4,000 strong – marched on the nearby mission at Rorke’s Drift.
To understand the situation at Rorke’s Drift, imagine yourself as the head of a small group of engineers assigned to build a bridge near the mission. Close by is a small encampment of British infantry assigned to protect the post. You have fewer than 120 men and nearly a third of them are on the injured list. There is no chance to escape, and you have little hope that reinforcements will arrive in time to make a difference. You will have to fight for your survival. You have limited resources of men, ammunition and supplies. You will have to use every means at your disposal to maximize your defensive capability, maintain morale, minimize waste and preserve the honor of the British Empire. Your task is compounded by the fact that you are not clearly in charge and not a combat officer. Indeed, you have never been in a battle; and you soon learn that the officer in charge of the infantry unit hasn’t either. If all this weren’t enough, you have in your midst an alcoholic and highly pacifistic Swedish missionary and his daughter, who are urging your troops to desert you. It’s not just another day at the office.
Zulu illustrates how a small force can beat the odds by leveraging limited resources, establishing a clear chain of command and maintaining discipline. Though told from the British point of view, the movie is notable for the homage it pays Zulu prowess. The Zulus, master tacticians, have a few lessons of their own to teach today’s managers.
An excerpt from the plot summary:
Chard and Bromhead confer with Adendorf (Gert Van Den Bergh), a Boer scout. Chard draws a blueprint of the compound in the dirt: a hospital, the church, a cattle kraal, stables. He suggests creating a fortified outside perimeter, demarcated by the outer walls of the buildings. Instead of going out to meet the Zulus, the British will stay within the perimeter and attempt to secure it. If the outer perimeter collapses, they will fall back to a second, interior perimeter, which they must build from scratch. Bromhead is skeptical. “You mean your only strategy is to stand behind a few measly bags and hold them off until reinforcements arrive?” Bromhead argues that they should ambush the Zulus before they reach the compound. Chard insists on his plan, but adds another element. A final redoubt will be erected for a “last stand” should the second perimeter collapse. His plan will give the British three fortified lines of defense, each increasingly secure, each a fallback position from its predecessor.
Summary of the commentary:
Rorke’s Drift is an isolated outpost with poor supply lines. Chard has to make do with materials on hand to stage his defense. He can’t count on Fedex or UPS to bring him spare parts or ammunition. Throughout the film we see examples of his foresight and resourcefulness in getting maximum value from every resource at his disposal. We first see it when he orders the cook to pour soup on the fires in an effort to conserve potable water and free up the vessels needed to carry it to the troops. We see it again when we he uses the wagons to form the barricades and still later when he uses the spears, shields and bodies of Zulus to reinforce those barricades. In business you can apply Chard’s methods to improve cash flow. How would you stretch office supplies if you knew that when current supplies were gone, they could not be replaced? How many fewer copies would be made in offices if employees believed that the copy machine could only produce half as many copies per month? Can you use a competitor’s luxurious sales materials to shore up your own sales presentations? Do you have assets you’ve never capitalized on? Space to rent? Signage locations to rent? Extra space in your delivery trucks that can be used to haul goods for other companies? Space on the sides of those trucks on which your advertising can appear? The list is endless. You simply have to know what you have and creatively consider the many ways, beyond the obvious, in which your assets might be used.
Chard also maximizes his human resources. He arms every man who can handle a gun, including the cook who has never before held one. How does this apply in a business situation? Let’s say your sales force is outnumbered in a territory by a factor of 25 to 1, roughly the odds at Rorke’s Drift. You can’t add new people; but if you don’t make more calls, you are going to lose your customer base. You have to ask yourself who on your staff is not fully armed? If a cook can deliver ammunition and carry a gun, you might have a secretary who can be handed a sales kit or a bookkeeper or accountant who can do telemarketing (the product has to be sold before the beans are counted!). Always look for opportunities to convert staff positions to line positions when you are under attack. In a crisis, every able body must be mobilized for the critical task of survival in the marketplace.
The commentary is supplemented by Breakout Boxes dealing with these topics:
- Chard’s Rules: What to do When All Hell Breaks Loose
- Zulu Battle Tactics: The Basics of War on the Run
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