Nick Tasler with a President’s Day post at the Harvard Biz blog.

1. General Washington decided not to impose a battlefield strategy on his field commanders. The general consensus among historians is that Washington was a mediocre military strategist at best. However, a recent study in the Academy of Management Journal cast some doubt on that consensus.

The study found that in large, multifaceted enterprises, the biggest threat to speedy strategic decision making is “strategic imposition” from the mothership. Historians still debate whether Washington favored a “Fabian strategy” of quick attacks and even quicker retreats, or a more traditional strategy of fighting major head-to-head battles. The discrepancy comes largely from the fact that he imposed neither strategy. His young and mostly inexperienced commanders were free to employed either one. At a high level, Washington decided that the Colonies would always have a standing army in the field that was as well-trained as possible under the time and budget constraints, rather than a hodgepodge of untrained militia men roaming the countryside. Beyond that general strategic direction, and some basic tactical goals, Washington let his young leaders make their own strategic decisions in the field—capitalizing on the speed and agility advantage they had over their larger and better-trained competitors.

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