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There was nothing funny about D-Day …or was there?

June 6, 2012

Today, June 6th we remember the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. A decisive strike, on the Nazi empire, that would lead to victory in Europe – D-Day!

 It was a mission the magnitude of which is difficult to imagine. There were 6,000 ships and 176,000 soldiers. The skies were alive with armament, 822 aircraft carried 18,000 parachutists and another 13,000 aircraft provided coverage and support. This mass of men and machine made its way across the English Channel to the beaches of Normandy.

Operation Overlord, as it was called, was a risk of epic proportions that held the promise of a reward in freeing Europe from an evil oppression. This serious endeavor found success not just because of its magnitude, but because of the initiative and ingenuity of individuals.

Among the ingenious approaches to the battle that truly made a difference were Hobart’s Funnies. Yes, I said “funnies”. These were tanks that had undergone unusual modifications.  Among the many variations in design there were the swimming Duplex Drive tanks, Crab mine clearers and Crocodile flame throwing tanks. They had been specifically designed to overcome obstacles encountered unsuccessfully in previous battles. Named after the division commander Major General Percy Hobart, Hobart’s Funnies, were credited with preventing more deaths on D-Day.

So there was something “funny” about D-Day after all. And there was also a lesson to be learned. You can assemble all the available resources to execute your plan, but your success will always be influenced by the level of creative freedom you give individuals to make the necessary changes and make improvements based on what didn’t work before.

The challenge is to be brave enough to admit your failures and smart enough to trust your team to find a new way forward.

Just as on the beaches in Normandy in healthcare the stakes are high, we must all commit to finding new ways forward…

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