Lessons from Counterinsurgency #4: Final Thoughts

(Part 1, 2, and 3 of the Lessons from Counterinsurgency Series)

Final Thoughts from Gen. Petraeus

Finally, we always must strive to learn and adapt. The situation in Afghanistan has changed significantly in the past several years and it continues to evolve. This makes it incumbent on us to assess the situation continually and to adjust our plans, operations, and tactics as required. We should share good ideas and best practices, but we also should never forget that what works in an area today may not work there tomorrow, and that what works in one area may not work in another.

Honestly, this needs very little elaboration.

The American military is a huge organization.  It is not known for its friendliness to change.  If anything, the military tends to be conservative, holding onto its hallowed traditions.

Nonetheless, in a counterinsurgency, the doctrine is to continually assess the situation, learn, and adjust plans.

No matter how large a Big Brokerage may be, learning to adapt will be a key factor in whether they emerge victorious or fall by the wayside over the next few years.  CEO’s and other senior leaders must not only be prepared for rapid change but insist on organizational nimbleness across the board.  Bureaucratic barriers must be brought down; resistant personnel moved out; cumbersome processes reexamined to see if they are really necessary.

Senior leaders must also question some of their most hallowed, deeply held beliefs about how the industry works.  “Getting back to basics” may be fatal if the lessons from the last war you fought are completely inappropriate for the current counterinsurgency action.  Is having the greatest number of yard signs really the most important competitive advantage?  Really?  Don’t take the answer for granted: investigate it, and you may be surprised.

Finally, in the new business environment, I don’t believe that any answer remains the answer for long.  As Gen. Petraeus points out, what works in one area may not work in another; what works today may not work tomorrow.  Organizations must be remade, reforged, and retrained to deal with the fluid, ever-changing environment they face today.  Why?

Because the insurgents are constantly changing, constantly adapting, and constantly investigating how they can stay one step ahead of you.


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Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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