The recent U.S. military action known as “Operation Iraqi Freedom” provided many lessons about the logistics of prosecuting a war. It is said these lessons will be taught in the top military institutions for decades to come.
A roofing project has more than just a few things in common with a military operation. The size and scope are considerably smaller, and while roofing work is dangerous, it is not that dangerous. Our competitors (usually) don’t shoot at us. Both actions, however, begin with a mission and require the orchestrated movement of personnel, equipment and material to accomplish it.
So what lessons might the roofing industry learn from Operation Iraqi Freedom? The first thing that impressed me is the obvious level of training to which the military has dedicated itself. It is clear that everyone — from the generals, pilots and special operations forces on down to the regular troops — knew their mission and knew their jobs. There were “no trainees” here.
The armchair generals and other pundits had much to say early on about how effective the war plan was. Nevertheless, it soon became evident that the strategy was complete, flexible and ultimately successful. In any operation, you must have a solid plan, but it must be able to accommodate changing circumstances.
In addition, the American military has historically embraced technology and this operation set new marks for the use of computers. Similarly, in the roofing industry, we continue to see advances in equipment and materials. In this competitive environment, you must adopt new technologies; delay can cost you dearly.
Many of the military strategies in Operation Iraqi Freedom were described by the experts as “aggressive.” At the same time, the Untied States went to great lengths to provide the safest possible environment for its troops as well as the civilian population of Iraq. The political gains of this tactic are obvious. There are human resource benefits as well. In an all-volunteer military, dealing with human resources now will define the next important mission. Would you voluntarily go to war as part of an inept, ill-equipped military? A military that doesn’t care if you are fed, or if you are injured, or if you live or die? In the roofing industry, we struggle every day to attract good people. We, too, must balance our “aggressive” moves with concern and care for our workers at every level. They always define our next project.
Speaking of the troops, wasn’t it obvious that they all understood the mission? The plan may have been complex, but each one knew his or her part as well as the ultimate goal of the overall operation. Do your people know what your mission is at large, and do they know what the mission is project to project?
Perhaps the most compelling lesson from Operation Iraqi Freedom was the seamless communication between the separate branches of the military and the ability to get a message all the way up and down the chain of command almost flawlessly. They even did an excellent job communicating with those of us back home.
When the dust clears, the troops will go back to their home bases where the training will begin anew. We can be assured that they will analyze every single aspect of this operation. And the next time they are called on to defend freedom, they will be better at it. This too, is a most valuable lesson in our business. After every project is completed, take a look back at what went right and what went wrong. We speak of “continuous process improvement” in business, and taking the time to measure results is key to making it happen.
God bless the U.S. military for continuously protecting our freedom and for sharing these valuable lessons with us.