Unfolding plans 166 – War and Peace

I’m not sure if I remember this correctly as it is a long time since I’ve read War and Peace.  I’ve always loved the way that the Russian classics were written and whilst it is a long book, (my version was in three separate books) it is well worth a read.  I think I have got through it twice.

That’s not the story though and so please forgive me if my memory wanders.  I think it was set around the Napoleonic Wars, 1812 and all that.  (I should be more certain if I’ve read it twice.)  One of the impressions I was left with though was how Napoleon’s troops got as far as Moscow and even further.  The objective of the war had been achieved and a certain French victory was imminent until Russia unleashed its most potent weapon – winter.

In their rush to capture the capital, the French supply lines had become stretched and as the ground hardened and the snow fell the routes became impassable and the lines became fractured.  Without provisions, morale in the French troops soon collapsed and the war was lost.  Many thousands of troops died attempting to make their way back home.

It was a salutary lesson but one that has been repeatedly forgotten throughout history.  How many times has the weather come to the rescue of mother Russia?

None of this may be true yet that is how I remember it and so in my mind that is the way it was.

My little tale does have a point, two in fact and the moral depends upon which side you are on.  For the French the lesson is that sometimes it is better not to rush these things.  An unsustainable victory is no victory.  Many times at work I have witnessed projects that seem highly successful and break eggs with sticks in their first flush of delivery only to flounder as enthusiasm wanes and funding dries up.  Local broadband projects are a case in point.  People don’t just want a service now, they want one that will be around for years to come.  Sustainability is vital.

As for the Russians, the lesson I am taking away is that when you are under pressure and things aren’t going your way it is sometimes best to wait.  People will come and go, ideas will wax and wane, enthusiasm will bluster and fizzle and what seems important today may well be forgotten in a couple of weeks-time.  Bad weather may well kick in.

Rather than responding to every irritation and minor infraction it is sometimes better just to stay calm, stick to your guns (literally) and focus on the bigger picture.  Sanity will eventually prevail.  Supply lines will fracture, morale will fall and the threat will drift away only to be covered with snow.

A colleague of mine once told me to pick my battles.  His words ring in my ears every time I rise to the bait.  I’m learning to bite my lip and wait for winter to come.

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