Assigning the Big A

by | Jan 7, 2020 | Crisis Prevention, History | 0 comments

The tension in Tehran was palpable. It could be felt throughout every sector of the city – from the increased security at the airport all the way down to street vendors selling their wares from push carts.

Just hours earlier, a number of would-be assassins had been captured in the hills outside of the city. They had parachuted into Iran a few days prior in hopes of causing an international incident. As a result of this news, a world leader had been moved as a precaution in case other assassins had escaped capture.

With this as the backdrop and the fate of countries across the globe hanging in the balance, a question was asked which the most powerful nations in the world were not able to answer.

The time was not January of 2020, but December of 1943. The assassins were German and the world leader who had been moved to more secure quarters was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who relocated from the Iranian American Legation to the Soviet Embassy in Tehran.

For two years, the Allied forces of Great Britain and the United States had been promising the Soviet Union they would open a second front against Germany somewhere in Europe in an effort to split Hitler’s forces and provide some relief to the Soviet army. The day prior, Winston Churchill and Roosevelt had committed to launching Operation Overlord (commonly known as D-Day) in May of the following year.

After sleeping on this welcome (and overdue) news for a night, Stalin opened that morning’s session with a question:

“Who will command Overlord?”

Roosevelt replied that the decision had not yet been made.

Stalin retorted that nothing would come of the operation unless one man was made responsible for both its preparation and execution.

We are now in the first full week of a new year and a new decade and still at the beginning of a new century and millennium. Organizations and enterprises everywhere are designing and launching initiatives, new operations, and establishing new goals. Fortunately, the fate of Western Civilization will not depend on our plans for 2020. Yet whether our aims are grand or humble, we would still be wise to heed Stalin’s warning. Nothing much will come of those efforts unless one individual is made accountable for the results. One person. One name written on a dotted line. This is something I refer to as “assigning the Big A.”

There is too much cover and potential for finger-pointing when a committee, team, or group is considered to be accountable. To have any chance at success, you need to name one person who will be responsible for that success. Click To Tweet Or subsequent failure. One person who knows unequivocally that – as FDR’s successor Harry Truman often said – “the buck stops here.”

As you look at your business’s most important initiatives and goals that will launch this year, ask yourself, “Whose name do I have written down next to this effort? To whom will I hand the Big A?

One week after Stalin asked his pointed question, Roosevelt made his choice and informed Dwight Eisenhower that he would have command of Operation Overlord. Six months later, 160,000 troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France and turned the tide of World War II. The second front in Europe provided the relief the Soviet troops had been waiting for and less than a year later in April of 1945, U.S., British, and Soviet troops would converge on Berlin and declare victory over Nazi Germany. Eisenhower would ride the success of D-Day and World War II victory all the way to two terms as President of the United States.

Who will you put in command of your organization’s most crucial efforts?


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