Turning Defeat into Victory: Leadership lessons from a beaten military commander | Episode 38



Listen to this episode and gain insight into why construction projects fail, how to analyze the causes and how to avoid failure in the future. 

In this episode of Construction Genius I explore the failed Burma Campaign of 1942 through the eyes of the British commander on the ground, Field-Marshall Viscount William Slim, who was defeated by the Japanese.

I read from his book Defeat into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945

According to historians Alan Millet and Williamson Murray Slim was: 

A hardened field soldier who had learned his trade on the Western Front and in the Indian Army, Slim combined troop-leading and training skills with personal and moral courage as well as charm, a sound grasp of soldiering, and a solid appreciation of Asian warfare and the excellence of the Japanese Army.”

Slim took lessons learned from the defeat in 1942 to heart, and used them to transform the training and tactics of the troops he was responsible for. The result was a sound defeat of Japan in 1944-45.

Episode Highlights include: 

  • The Commander’s Duty: Victory 
  • What it means to succeed as a construction leader
  • Three causes of British defeat
    • Lack of Preparation 
    • Unclear Overall Objective and Strategy 
    • Poor Execution
  • How silos and poor communication hinder success 
  • Why terrain specific training is vital and how that applies in construction 
  • Why sharing bad news with your employees is essential to avoiding defeat
  • The necessity of a clear objective communicated from the executive level
  • The importance of good intelligence 
  • How to conduct a debrief on failed projects 
    • Questions include:
      • What worked? 
      • What didn’t work? 
      • What will we do differently, knowing what we now know? 
  • Ways to avoid failure in the future 
  • The learning from your failures and then moving on