What D-Day and Your Career Have in Common

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D-Day had a rocky start with huge hurdles to overcome

“Despite all the best of plans… anybody that’s been in war knows that things are really going to go wrong, and boy did they go wrong on D-Day,” said General Jack Keane, U.S. Army (Ret.), during an interview about the Normandy invasion.

On June 6th, 2019, the U.S. and its Allies paused to commemorate and pay tribute to the 75th anniversary of D-Day. From the onset, General Keane noted the landing at Normandy faced monumental hurdles—obstacles that ought to have derailed the largest invasion force in history and doomed it to failure. According to General Keane, here are 5 major reasons D-Day should have been a bust: 

  • Bad weather. This slowed the boarding of troops from the ships onto the landing crafts, resulting in the invasion unfolding in daylight. More visible during the day, the troops were more vulnerable to enemy fire. 
  • Premature unloading of troops. The landing crafts dropped troops off too far from shore, making troops disembark in heavy surf. 
  • Enemy fortifications remained intact. U.S. naval and air bombardment failed to knock out all the enemy’s fortified bunkers.
  • Missed bombing targets. The plan was to drop bombs along the beach to create protective foxholes for the incoming troops. But this didn’t pan out, because the bombs were dropped in the wrong area. 
  • Paratroopers missed the jump area. Not a single paratroop unit landed on the correct drop zones, because they had to exit planes prematurely due to relentless anti-aircraft fire.

After such a troubled start, why did the D-Day invasion ultimately succeed?

According to General Keane, “troops… improvised, innovated, adapted. It was their courage for sure, but it was also their incredible flexibility to deal with the unexpected. Their performance on that day rescued an operation that could have possibly been doomed on those beaches.” When Plan A failed, they quickly created a Plan B and carried it out.

What does D-Day have to do with your career? 

As you read this, it’s probably safe to say you’re not currently crawling across a beach while enemy bullets rain down, trying to figure out your next move. But there is a common thread between D-Day and navigating professional terrain. In both scenarios, there are plans in place, as well as the possibility that those plans won’t play out exactly as imagined. On both the Normandy beaches and in your career, if plans do fall through, there’s always a choice: Give up or go on. Admit defeat, or improvise and adapt. 

And let’s face it—things rarely go exactly as planned. 

Perhaps your plan was to retire from the company you worked at for years, but they decided to downsize or merge your division five years earlier than your planned retirement. Or perhaps your plan was to have more leisure time, but you’ve now realized one can only play so much golf and go on so many relaxing cruises. Like those troops on the beach, you have to scrap the plan that isn’t working and come up with another strategy. 

Let’s look at some stats about the gig economy: 

  • $864B: amount generated by the U.S. gig economy in 2018 (SIA - Staffing Industry Analysts)
  • $2.7T: projected worldwide gig economy in 2025 (Wharton School of Business)
  • $330B: U.S. Serviceable Addressable Market (SAM) for independent workers making over $100K/year in 2018 (MBO Partners)
  • 60% - percent of workers who want to continue to work after retirement, but not full time (*US Department of Labor)

Is it time for Plan B?
As the stats say, the gig economy is growing, and the days of working a lifetime at a single company are fading. With transitions being the norm, defining and gaining job security may require a shift in the original plan. The former “Plan A” of full-time employment may not offer the best opportunities going forward for job security and personal satisfaction. Rather, “Plan B” of fractional engagement with multiple companies is becoming the new Plan A. 

The gig economy is here to stay—it’s not a fad. Executives who are able to react to this phenomenon by adapting and redeploying their skills as fractional executives will be the early benefactors. Fractional executives are discovering the benefits of a portfolio career. Having the independence to choose when, where, how and with what companies to engage with may just be the answer on how to redefine success, both personally and professionally. 

If your Plan A isn’t working, how do you come up with a new strategy? Follow these 4 steps to create a plan B:

  1. Identify your goal(s). After the setback, are your goals still the same, or do you want to revise them? Where do you want to go from here?
  2. Assess current position. Are you transitioning into retirement, adjusting to a layoff, or building a career as a fractional executive? Take stock of where you are now. Assessing your current position should include getting up to speed on the gig economy, which has increasing impact on the professional landscape. How does this current landscape impact your goals? 
  3. Create a new strategy. After assessing the known facts on the ground and embracing and accepting the new normal, you can come up with a new plan of action. Executives at all stages of their careers often create a Plan B that includes employment as a fractional CxO.
  4. Commit to the new plan. Even if you have a great new plan, it’s not going to work unless you go all in. Landing on that beachhead, under enormous assault from the enemy, the troops knew their original plans had been thwarted. Those that made it up the beach regrouped and came up with a new plan of attack. They fully committed to this new plan and courageously executed it. Their commitment was a critical component that led to the liberation of France and ultimately, freedom for the world.

 

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