The Yom Kippur War in 1973 was, in many ways, a continuation of the 1967 Six-Day War, as WWII was a continuation of WWI.  And, as with many wars, there are many lessons to be learned – assumptions lead to surprises, modern weaponry changes the landscape, and strategic thinking is important at all levels.  The War started on October 6thwith the Egyptians and Syrians coordinating attacks on Israel.  Israel had assumed they would have 48 hours’ notice, but they only had 6 hours.  Egypt’s anti-air defense prevented the Israel Air Force from totally dominating the skies.  But the biggest feature of the war was Ariel Sharon’s splitting of the Egyptian armies, crossing the Suez Canal and advancing on Cairo.  It was a fantastic tactical move that pushed the war to a ceasefire and eventually the Camp David Accords.

But it was a strategic blunder that almost broke the nation of Israel.  Israel doesn’t have a large standing army – most of its military strength is in the form of reserves – basically people who work at civilian jobs and spend a few weekends and a couple of weeks each year being soldiers (think of the National Guard here in the US).  Because Sharon crossed the Suez Canal, when a ceasefire was finally agreed to, there was no natural barrier separating the armies – so all those reserve soldiers had to stay in their units rather than return home to do their civilian jobs.  This increased the military budget (you have to pay salaries and feed them), decreased civilian productivity and therefore taxes – the result was Israel was spending money they didn’t have to just preserve the status quo.

This type of thinking is frequently seen in organizations of all stripes.  It’s thinking of short term needs or desires and ignoring the long term

  •  It’s Lance Armstrong using steroids to win the Tour de France and ignoring what would happen when the truth came out – returning the medals and money with penalties, losing the endorsements and being sued for fraud, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of people that he let down.
  • It’s Ken Lay hiding losses in subsidiaries and ignoring what would happen to his employees when the truth came out.
  • It’s Japanese composer, Mamoru Samuragochi, having another write compositions that he claimed for his own and ignoring the shame that would follow when the truth came out.

Its classic and evokes the typical shake of the head and the exclamation, “Couldn’t they see what would happen?”  The answer, surprisingly, is that they couldn’t because they are so fixed on the immediate situation that looking beyond is impossible.  Its groupthink – everyone buying into the same scenario of what would happen – and completely ignoring reality.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.