Modern project management and the lessons from the study of the transformation of the British Expeditionary Force in the Great War

Bailey, G. 2005. Modern project management and the lessons from the study of the transformation of the British Expeditionary Force in the Great War. Management Decision. 43 (1), pp. 56-71.

TitleModern project management and the lessons from the study of the transformation of the British Expeditionary Force in the Great War
AuthorsBailey, G.
Abstract

Purpose - To apply the theories of project management to the transformation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from the colonial-style army of 1914 into the victorious continental-style armies of 1918.

Design/methodology/approach - The methodological approach examines ten elements in the transformation. They range from the resources required to the necessary governmental changes. Emphasis is given to analysing the application of the new technologies, the political and social changes needed for eventual success, and the learning achieved.

Findings - Transforming the BEF was not to be an easy process. Obviously, the German nation, allies and armies did all they could to thwart this transformation. The "total war" waged is the ultimate form of "competition". Thus, difficult lessons of strategic management, people (both men and women) management, and resources utilisation had to be learned. Through the many innovations, the experience curve was climbed to achieve mastery over the German field army.

Originality/value - To turn the BEF from a force of 120,000 at the battle of Mons to nearly 2 million at the Armistice on the western front was a remarkable achievement. Despite the strains imposed by German military prowess, the many elements were combined successfully. Although applying warfare principles to company management has become popular in the past decade, this paper avoids coming to simplistic conclusions. Rather it presents the transformation as a case study and suggests linkages to modern project management practices though leaving it to the reader to consider how these might be best applied.

KeywordsProject management, war
JournalManagement Decision
Journal citation43 (1), pp. 56-71
ISSN0025-1747
Year2005
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1108/00251740510572489
Publication dates
Published2005

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