Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Churchill Series - Dec. 3, 2008

(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Readers note: I've previously published this post. It always makes me smile, as I hope it does you today.


We often read of Churchill's participation in broad strategy planning during World War II. But he also immersed himself in details. He did it partly because he had to be always ready to answer for his war leadership to the Cabinet, Commons and the public. And he did it partly to enable himself to more effectively discuss and influence government policies and war strategy. And then there's the fact that all his life he was a detail person.

Here's an example of Churchill gathering details:


Prime Minister to Colonel Jacob

Let me have on one sheet of paper lists showing at present time and in September last the strength of British Home Forces in (a) rifles and S.A.A.; (b) artillery - including all types of field and medium guns under one head; and also coast defense batteries, and also A.A. both heavy and light; (c) number of "I" tanks and cruiser tanks in the hands of the troops; (d) ration and rifle strength of the fighting formations, (e) number of divisions and brigade groups; (i) on the beaches, (ii) behind the beaches in Army or G.H.Q. Reserve or otherwise; (f) strength of fighter aircraft available for action at the two dates; (g) strength and weight of discharge of bomber aircraft at the two dates; (h) strength of flotillas in home waters at the two dates.

Very general and round figures will do. Don't go too much into details.
We can wonder what Colonel Jacob thought when he read that "general and round figures" would do; and that he needn't "go too much into details."
Winston S. Churchill,
The Grand Alliance. (p. 756)


Jim in San Diego said...

One reason Churchill sent out his many famous memos asking others to get detailed information for him was to encourage others to have the information for themselves.

It was a gentle way, without being too overbearing or obnoxious, for him to require everyone to learn the details for themselves.

It also had the effect of creating a common framework for discussion of issues. Churchill would use a staff member's own data as the facts upon which to base policy.

This technique greatly facilitated Churchills management of people and events in the British system. It gave him power in a system which was not totatitarian.

Jim Peterson