Published here August, 2007.  

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Summary | Postscript

What We Liked

For those looking for a brief history of Napoleon's achievements and failures, but with a project management slant, this is the book for you. Because the real history of Napoleon is long and tortuous and encumbered with Machiavellian political intrigue, this is no doubt a very simplified and selective version. The objective of the book is, after all, to provide lessons in project planning, execution and leadership.

As Jerry says in his Introduction:

"There are lessons in the way Napoleon conducted extensive research before each campaign and in the way he organized his army for maximum effectiveness. There are lessons in the way he turned chaos into order and in the way he communicated to his troops, allies, and the general public. There are lessons in the way he motivated his soldiers, building fierce loyalty amid challenging times. And there are lessons in the way he kept track of all the activities in his vast empire, using simple and effective means. Perhaps most importantly, there are lessons in the way he began his fall at the very height of his power."[6]

To this list, Jerry might have added that there are lessons in the way that Napoleon chose not to worry about the costs of his efforts either in terms of money or in terms of soldiers' lives, but we'll gloss over that aspect.

So Jerry draws on the history of Napoleon's exploits as well as Napoleon's memoirs. In fact, Jerry thinks that Napoleon was surprisingly candid in his memoirs. For example, Napoleon wrote:

"I could listen to intelligence of the death of my wife, my son, or all of my family, without a change of feature. Not the slightest sign of emotion, or alternation of countenance, would be visible. Everything would appear indifferent and calm. But when alone in my room, then I suffer. Then the feelings of the man burst forth."[7]

Jerry admits that this may be a great exaggeration, but as a lesson for the project manager, he suggests:

"It is important for the leader to show strength and confidence if problems arise, either with the project or with some external factor that could impact the team or the leader. Nothing can unravel a team more quickly than a leader who overreacts or becomes disillusioned. That is not to say the leader should display false bravado or inappropriate cheerfulness, but merely a solid, even temperament."[8]

That's good advice indeed.

And so Chapter 1 concludes with these "Marching Orders":

  • Develop a good memory (through association, repetition, and use of a PDA or memo system.)
  • Harness the power of mathematics (calculate - do not guess)
  • Stay cool and collected (at all times)
  • Go among the soldiers (be visible to your team)
  • Understand the futility of tyranny (don't let positional power trick you into going it alone)
  • Cater to popularity - within reason (listen to public opinion)

Subsequent chapters flow in a similar vein, each drawing on Napoleon's recorded history to make valid points for the project manager.

Part 2 of Jerry's book is devoted to "Six Winning Principles" that Jerry has deduced from the recorded history of Napoleon's activities. As noted earlier, each of these is described in detail in Chapters 6 through 11 that results in a further breakdown into some thirty detailed descriptors. The structure of this arrangement is recaptured graphically in Jerry's final Chapter 15.

For example, Chapter 9 deals with Simplicity. Jerry quotes Napoleon as saying:

"The art of war does not require complicated maneuvers; the simplest are the best, and common sense is fundamental. From which one might wonder how it is generals make blunders; it is because they try to be [too] clever."

That is a very good lesson for project management generals, too.

Part 3 of the book is devoted to Napoleon's downfall. This, Jerry ascribes to becoming overly self-confident following his successes on the one hand, and burn out of himself and his troops on the other. The fact is, his best human resources were not just burned out; they were slaughtered in the various campaigns. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned and Jerry deduces "Four Critical Warning Signs", namely: Power; Overzealousness; Unbalanced Lifestyle; and Scarcity of Effective Leaders. These signs, too, are broken down into a dozen subtitles. The structure of this arrangement is also recaptured graphically in Jerry's final Chapter 15.

But you will have to read the book for the details.

Book Structure  Book Structure

6. Ibid, p xiv
7. Ibid, p9
8. Ibid.
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