Charge of the Light Brigade Strategy




“When the wind of change blows, some people build walls and others build windmills.” —Chinese Proverb


Change initiatives fail far more than they succeed; surveys put failure at somewhere between 45 and 75 percent. Those failure rates work in baseball, but if you’re running a business you’ve got to do better.

I call misguided change leadership the “Charge of the Light Brigade Strategy.” The Charge of the Light Brigade was an assault by British light cavalry against Russian forces during the Crimean War, in the 1854 Battle of Balaclava. The commander of the British forces, Lord Raglan, had intended to send the Light Brigade to pursue a retreating Russian artillery battery. Owing to miscommunication in the chain of command, the Light Brigade was sent on a frontal assault against a different artillery battery, one with massive amounts of fire power. Charging in to direct fire, the decimated brigade was forced to retreat almost immediately. The assault ended with horrific British casualties and no military gain. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, immortalized the ill-advised charge in the poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

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The Knack of Giving Good Advice


“Advice is seldom welcome, and those who need it the most like it the least.” —Philip Dormer Stanhope, British statesman

You may have really good advice to give to Joe, but if it’s delivered the wrong way (“Joe, I know you’re having difficulty with Mary, but honestly, you should keep your ignorant mouth shut.”), Joe will understandably resent your interference. On the flipside, you could masterfully deliver terrible advice that leads to tragedy, like the invasion of Iraq based on weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. Advice is much easier to give when someone asks for it, and it’s a privilege to be asked. Tread carefully when giving unsolicited advice.   Continue reading