I have just finished reading Anthony Beevor’s excellent new book, D-Day: The Battle For Normandy. It’s a fascinating and insightful account of the three-month war of attrition following the D-Day landing, culminating in the German surrender in Paris.

But one thing struck me more than anything: Beevor points out that the greatest psychological stress was placed on the army when they were bogged down, neither moving forward or backward. Even retreats were less stressful for the soldiers than sitting in their foxholes.

Pace and progress also benefit from focus and clarity, and Beevor contrasts the indecision and political manoeuvrings of Montgomery with the terse, forthright approach of the General Patton, commander of the US Third Army.

A typical Patton order was made to Major General Cook on 14 August 1944: “Take Orleans at once.” Within a few hours the lead troops had advanced nearly 100 miles to their objective, and Beevor quotes Patton’s diary from the following day, ”The number of cases of ‘war-wearies’ and self-inflicted wounds have dropped materially since we got moving. People like to play on a winning team.”

In my experience there is a clear parallel with organisational performance. Movement and momentum is critical to organisational confidence and self-belief.

Setting clear objectives, trying stuff and taking action is far more motivational for your managers and teams – even when it leads to some failure – than holding endless meetings in your office trying to make the perfect decision and spinning your wheels.

© Stuart Cross 2009. All rights reserved.