Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2020-07-05

Implementing Strategy: Analysing Time and Performance

By: Dr. John R.Ballard

At this date, many around the world are wondering if the current COVID-19 battle is nearly over, or if this is only the first contact in a longer, worrisome campaign of re-occurring infections. We are now becoming concerned that we do not yet understand the periodicity of the disease and whether people can become infected twice, which could unleash a second COVID-19 pandemic this year. This essential uncertainty is not unique to the COVID-19 crisis.
 
Responding strategically to any crisis requires that we understand important factors of Duration and Periodicity; they lead to essential assumptions that must be made concerning Time for any strategy to be executed effectively. Such factors must be anticipated during execution, or even the best strategies will fail. Luckily, there are some proven techniques that help leaders prevent their nations from falling prey to the “ravages of Time.” 
 
Duration and Periodicity must be assessed in every strategic appreciation of a situation. Duration refers simply to the length of time a given threat or crisis situation affects one’s national interests. Many wars were begun with the expectation that they would only last a matter of weeks (World War I was expected to end in December 1914, but lasted four long years); others ended much more abruptly than had been anticipated (combat lasted only a matter of days in Iraq in 1991 rather than the months anticipated). The overriding concern with issue of Duration is amount of sustainment – both in supplies and in national will, that must be stockpiled and managed.
 
Periodicity refers to the ability of a threat to repeat through time. The primary concern resulting from Periodicity is whether a given threat will mutate or will return in nearly the same form as it had previously. A virus that mutates, like an enemy that changes its style of fighting, is much harder to predict and defeat, even when it occurs a second time. In addition, repeated attacks can wear down national will and lessen essential resilience.
 
Regardless of Duration and Periodicity, all strategic crisis situations merit a thorough study or Lessons Learned Review: a structured process analysing what happened, why it happened, and how it can be done better by those responsible for the project or event. Any such study should always include ways to sustain what was done well and recommendations to overcome obstacles/improve what did not go well. Leaders need to admit mistakes and be open to changing approaches; leaders also need to ensure corrections are acted upon.
 
Anticipating and building sound assumptions about Duration and Periodicity are difficult but crucial. These are both examples of the great value of developing creative mindsets and critical analysis skills among staff members; using Lessons Learned so that strategies can be both robust and flexible is also key. Nothing can fully prepare leaders to deal with the complexities of Time for every crisis, but these techniques can at least reduce the risk associated with making such decisions. Dealing with Time must always employ approaches that match the particular circumstances of a crisis, but managing it always remains a prerequisite for success, particularly for an exemplary nation such as the UAE.
 

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