Contingencies For War And For Work

In 216 BC, Hannibal invaded Italy during the Second Punic War as part of Carthage’s strategy to challenge the growing power of Rome.

In the First Punic War (264-241 BCE), Carthage had suffered a humiliating defeat, which resulted in the loss of its territories in Sicily and Sardinia to Rome.

Hannibal wanted to avenge this defeat and restore prestige to his countrymen by attacking Rome directly. The best defense at times is a good offense.

Hannibal believed that by invading Italy, he could force the Romans to fight on their own territory where he could exploit the rough terrain, using his own army’s mobility to his advantage. He also understood the importance of focus.

Nowadays you might hear middle managers talk about span of control. In the ancient world, resources, including personnel, were finite. By occupying Rome’s focus at home Hannibal could compel them to divert resources away from its other military theaters, such as Spain and Sicily.

During the Battle of Cannae (216 BCE), Hannibal executed a double envelopment maneuver, encircling and trapping a much larger Roman army. It is a military tactic that is still studied today.

Despite being outnumbered, Hannibal had a contingency plan. His forces exploited the Romans’ rigid formation and turned their own strength against them. Hannibal faced the Roman army led by consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro. Despite being outnumbered, he used his cavalry to draw the Romans into the trap. He then positioned his infantry in a crescent shape with his own Carthaginian troops in the center and his weaker Gallic and Spanish troops on the flanks, creating the appearance of a weaker center.

When the battle began, Hannibal’s center fell back slowly, drawing the Roman infantry deeper into the trap. The Carthaginian cavalry harassed the Roman cavalry on the flanks. Once the Romans were fully engaged, Hannibal’s cavalry returned to attack the Roman infantry from the rear. This encirclement effectively trapped the Romans, preventing them from maneuvering or retreating.

The result was a catastrophic defeat for the Romans. According to ancient sources, the Romans suffered 50,000 to 70,000 casualties. It’s considered one of the worst defeats in Roman military history.

Why was Hannibal so successful with his double envelopment maneuver? He knew instinctively the importance of risk mitigation, value creation, and risk taking.

It was a great risk to cross the Alps and invade Italy. The terrain was rugged and the weather was harsh. Historians estimate that he traveled approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from Carthage across the Alps into Italy. This arduous journey was before any real battle took place. He navigated steep mountain passes, battled hostile tribes, and overcame logistical obstacles, which included the transportation of his army’s equipment and the care of his war elephants. Yet again he had a contingency plan.

Despite the difficulties, Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps was a remarkable feat of military strategy and endurance. It allowed him to surprise the Romans by appearing in Italy with a formidable army.

Why is Risk Mitigation so important? Contingencies matter. It is up to you and your team to protect your resources, move with purpose, and plan ahead. Time works against you, especially if you are too slow.

Think about all the risks involved in your project, whether in real estate, in manufacturing, or in any profession:

-Schedule delays

-Document errors

-Unforeseen changes

-Subcontractor default

-Supply chain challenges

-Poor communication

-Poor management

-Labor shortages

-Poorly defined scopes of work

-Health and safety hazards

-Payment disputes

-Inferior workmanship

You overcome these risks not through technical knowledge, but mastering soft skills. You plan for contingencies.

What are you doing instead to create value? A reason to fight and a clear why help you to find purpose and value where none may exist. Working for a larger purpose helps to give you and your team a clear direction.

Do you understand the difference between Risk Mitigation and Risk Taking? If you do, you will find ways to use your opponent’s strengths to your advantage. If they are big and slow, you are small and fast. If they are everywhere, you are nowhere. If they tell everyone what they are doing, you tell no one, using surprise and tenacity as your competitive advantages.

History teaches us many lessons. But the most important lesson is that contingencies are required no matter what.

Life does not happen according to plan. You must be prepared to adapt. You must be prepared to fight. You must have the will to win.

The Real Con 67

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