Planning is everything.
Omaha Beach. Photo: Robert Sargent. Source: Department of Defense
75 years ago the Allied troops executed Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower oversaw the most massive amphibious military operation of all time, involving over a million soldiers. A lot went wrong: paratroopers missed their drop zones; beach landings happened at the wrong place; and Army intelligence woefully underestimated enemy strength on Omaha Beach.
But the plan was a good one, using misinformation, fake radio traffic, and even the poor weather to deceive the Germans into thinking a different landing-place would be targeted at a different time. The Allies had air-superiority and advanced weapons – like phosphorous bombs – which had a devastating effect on enemy strongholds.
Source: DOD, US Army
Most importantly, the Allies had a well-developed plan to move tons and tons of material and men to secure the beachheads and continue moving inland. The plan had to be altered and adapted as conditions changed – that’s the nature of all plans. None of the first-day objectives were met: only two of the beaches were linked up, and they didn’t capture the deep-water port of Cherbourg until June 26th. But they were able to establish an expanding front, augmented by Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France from the Mediterranean. And the Allies liberated Paris in late August, 2½ months later.
Plans are meant to be changed. The initial landings at Utah Beach were blown a mile south of where they intended to come ashore. Officers wondered if they needed to go back and re-land, a correction that would take hours. But the assistant commander, General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., was able to come ashore, assess the situation, and determined that the new landing place was actually better. The subsequent landings were re-routed to the new beach, and the operation remained on-schedule.
Eisenhower later commented, “Plans are useless. Planning is everything.” The process of planning forces us to consider all the variables. In the case of military operations, there’s weapons, intelligence, logistics, personnel, weather, and myriad other factors that have to be considered. The same principle can be applied to financial planning. There’s our financial goals, but we also need to consider volatility, the time horizon, our liquidity needs, taxes, insurance, legal structures, regulations, current market conditions, and many other financial and non-financial issues. The process of planning, Eisenhower noted, demands a thorough exploration of options and contingencies. The knowledge we gain during this probing is critical to making good decisions as future events unfold.
Source: Pixabay. CC0
Military planning and financial planning also have this in common: the other parties – markets, economies, opposing armies – have their own objectives and keep upsetting things. The best generals and the most successful investors arrive at the results of planning without being tied to their plans.
We’re all indebted to the brave men and women who made Operation Overlord successful and helped defeat a cruel tyranny. 75 years ago that success was only a hope. It was the troops’ valor combined with meticulous planning that made that hope a reality. We must never forget.
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Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Charter Trust Company
“The Best Trust Company in New England”