The Memo: How the Classified Military Document that Helped the U.S. Win World War II Can Teach You How to Succeed in Business
Did a memo help the U.S. win World War II?
We were losing. By 1941, Germany had conquered significant parts of the Soviet Union. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Italy assaulted Greece.
The Axis Powers were thought to be unstoppable. Great Britain was about to be invaded. Moscow was about to be overrun. China was disintegrating.
But over the next four years, the Axis Powers were crushed and surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.
How did the Free World reverse its losses and go on to win?
Peter Drucker once said that WWII was determined, not by superior arms as we often imagine, but by getting things done. “The Allies won,” said Drucker, “their victory achieved by management.”
The covert doctrine that led to our victory was outlined in a rather mundane sounding memorandum titled: Completed Staff Work.
This message was so vital to the war effort that the USA’s leadership was concerned about its falling into enemy hands. During WWII, the military restricted its distribution because it was concerned with security. However, the closely-held secret was not only about troop movements, armament capabilities or the atom bomb. The Allied generals wanted to ensure that the enemy would not know that the Free World knew how to execute. The Allies had refined the practice of management and wartime discipline.
Today, on the business battlefield, clichés abound: Do the work. Plan your work and work your plan. But the reality is that organizations still struggle to get projects completed on time and within budget. Everyone from newly hired employees up to the CEO is still searching for the “secret sauce.” What is the magic formula that will help employees get work done on time and help people be more effective managers?
In fact, the secret ingredient is spelled out in this military memo and remarkably, The Doctrine of Completed Staff Work has withstood testing–literally–under fire. The Memo is based on original research. The doctrine was published in the 24 January 1942 edition of the Army and Navy Journal and probably classified later.
This book uncovers the origins, history and application of decision-making and execution using vignettes from armed conflicts. The lessons are also recounted in case studies of (somewhat) less violent business situations. The management practice of getting work done through the thinking support of others will be revealed in an entertaining and enlightening style.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of books on leadership development are available. However, there are far fewer tomes about how to be a good subordinate. In addition, there is virtually no literature on that magical intersection of leader and follower. This book provides a fresh examination of the relationship between the manager and staff.
Leadership and management books often focus on the self, the person of the Great Man—but organizations actually succeed through the motivation of others. Look at most job descriptions in every industry and you’ll see something along the lines of “Able to work independently and as part of a team.” Particularly with today’s virtual and remote work patterns, understanding how to get work done in a visible enough way to earn a promotion is a priority for many employees.
This book will serve as a reference guide for both leaders, and those who report to them. I will examine the disparate duties of the manager and his direct reports, situated within the environment around them – and offer strategies that will help the team, and its manager as coach, get work done.
The Memo sits at the juncture of Leadership and Followership.
Leadership and Management and Organizational Behavior courses are common offerings in higher education and most are, well, academic (and I’ve taught more than my share).
The literature is thin, however, on Followership perhaps because hierarchy is not popular. But this book will show that subordinates on the organizational chart can be leaders in their positions, and in “managing the manager.” This is the most logical path to recognition, independence and promotion.
In order to accomplish organizational goals, real leaders teach their teams to both lead and to follow. This book may well be the first to combine the actual practice of how:
1) Managers lead their teams, and
2) Teams can manage their managers
This real-world guide teaches the manager how to make decisions that get the most from his direct reports and his support system. This is — The Practice of Leadership.
This book also explains how team members can make recommendations to work most effectively with their managers and other parts of the organization. This is — The Practice of Followership.
The Memo recognizes that the work of the manager is to make decisions. And the research, options and recommendations are best done by the manager’s team. The team recommends and then the boss decides.
The one word that describes this Completed Staff Work is “anticipation.”
The Memo will teach the manager and his team how to get it.
From the back cover:
Much is known about how the Atom bomb helped the United States achieve the final victory in World War II.
However, little is known about a weapon perhaps even more powerful: a Memo. Classified “Restricted” by the U.S. War Department, the Memo contained a management doctrine under the subject of “Completed Staff Work.”
This memo turned military command structure on its head and re-focused on the power of staff instead of their commanders.
Simply put, instead of relying on Generals and senior leaders to think up solutions and then order Staff Officers to implement, Staff Officers would be charged with presenting fully developed solutions on which command could sign-off.
Now unclassified, this Memo holds valuable lessons that will help any employee advance in his or her career. Unlike books on leadership, The Memo emphasizes followership and shows aspiring employees how to advance by employing the power of teamwork to make their leaders successful.
Publication: 27 August 2017, Post Hill Press, distributed by Simon and Schuster.
Advanced Praise for The Memo,
“The business world is recognizing more and more the importance of effective teams in getting projects done and keeping all organizations nimble and innovative. Which makes this book—based on a once-secret military memo written decades ago—so timely, and, indeed, urgent.”—Steve Forbes, Editor-in-Chief, Forbes.
“Want to know how to manage a large organization in a way that frees you to actually LEAD and empowers your people to develop into leaders who will become far more than you pay them? Jack Yoest has captured this simple, but seemingly elusive concept by borrowing the memo that won WW II. Your assignment is probably not THAT big, but if it won a world war, it is definitely worth your time!” –Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, presidential candidate.
“An excellent primer for new managers, The Memo is also a great review for the experienced executive to revisit and improve his or her own leadership approach, and to identify opportunities to enhance organizational effectiveness.
The Memo brings together, in an interesting way, the author’s personal experience, with historical highlights of management, as developed and utilized by the U.S. military. With pertinent quotes from accomplished military and business leaders, Jack creates an excellent primer about decision-making and organizational effectiveness.
This is an excellent primer on leadership and management to optimize organizational effectiveness. I am recommending The Memo to my son as the first book he should read as he takes on the challenges of his first managerial position.” Lawrence J. Blanford, Retired President and CEO of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.
The Memo tells a new story of how to train leaders using Completed Staff Work. Based on a World War II military management doctrine, Professor Yoest brings to life the art of getting work done in an organization. He helps leaders to manage followers and followers to ‘lead’ their managers. Every team will benefit from reading and applying the time-tested lessons. Make sure your team gets The Memo. Morton Blackwell, President, The Leadership Institute.
“If you’re a leader; a military general, a business executive, a football coach, or a new US president and were allowed one book to read, The Memo by John Yoest would be the one I recommend. The clarity of this superb book and the brilliance of the original WW2 document, Completed Staff Work, is the roadmap to success in decision-making. The staff prepares the decisions; the decision maker makes the decisions. Sounds simple. The Memo makes it so.” —Ed Rollins, Former Reagan White House political advisor, Reagan Bush Campaign Manager, 1984, Hall of Fame Political Consultant
“I wish Jack had written this years ago. This is a must-read for leaders of organizations and companies as well as smart employees who want to succeed. Time is the one thing we can’t create more of, but this book helps us become more efficient and more effective—both as managers and as staffers.”—Susan B. Hirschmann, CEO, Williams & Jensen, one of Washington, D.C.’s oldest independent lobbying firms.
“Whether you’re a newbie or an old pro, be a better, wiser, more professional, and successful manager by learning from the geniuses who managed our victory in WWII using many Biblical principles. My friend Jack Yoest’s book will empower you.”—Richard Viguerie, direct mail entrepreneur, chairman of ConservativeHQ.com.
“A business grows when its leaders, managers, deputies, and employees succeed together. A great leader leads AND needs a great staff. And a great staff follows AND empowers a great leader. All leaders, managers, and staffers should read this book. Jack Yoest teaches us all how to succeed – together – by being a successful team through the principles of an old military document.” David Nammo, CEO, Christian Legal Society
Jack Yoest has the knack of simplifying leadership advice that others make unnecessarily complex. That’s why every business owner and startup entrepreneur should read this book. If you are looking for a crash course in how to lead and empower a team to deliver their all and make your business the success you dream it will be, get this book — today! – Anita Campbell, Founder, and CEO, Small Business Trends.
Powerful. Timely. A must read. Leadership, teamwork & the strategy that helped win a war. What else could you want? Jack Yoest uncovers a strategy that is needed, more than ever, by today’s leaders. Jack Yoest knows leadership! I would follow Jack Yoest into battle any day. Sam Caucci, Founder & CEO, 1HUDDLE
“If you are interested in being better as a leader or follower, then this is a must-read. The Memo will occupy a special spot on your bookshelf between Message to Garcia and One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey. It defeats the confusion and fears that consume people when they set out to lead people and manage projects. This was an extremely satisfying read because it breaks the mold of the stuffy academic language and tone usually found in such works. This book will surely point you in the right direction on how to win your own leadership/management battles.”—James M. Kimbrough IV, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army
Chair, Military Science Department, Professor of Military Science, The College of William and Mary & Christopher Newport University
Clinical Assistant Professor of Management,
The Busch School of Business and Economics
The Catholic University of America