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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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