Product lifecycles


It's clearly visible how one product succeeded the other - LP/EP/8-Track to Cassette to CD to download.
The new product/technology was usually already introduced when the old product/technology had its peak of success. The whole industry is in shambles because it didn't get the transition right - ONCE! A lag of only about five years became a disaster, no matter how often the same sector got it right before.

The music industry provided us with a great example for the pressure to innovate and to adapt in a technology-driven sector of a market economy.

Compare this to the pace of innovation and change in military institutions. Some defence ministries have programs running for up to 25 years.
Military institutions are barely capable of a good pace in wartime. To not get it right from the beginning costs a lot of blood and may even lead into a terminal disaster as with the French army in May 1940.

No matter how well the French army fought for centuries; it's still being ridiculed by certain nation bashers three generations later whose country never had to fight against a peer power without having more powerful allies. The reason: They were at the end of the old product life cycle and had barely introduced the new product at a time when the competition had that one already in full swing.

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Imagine how much too slow and too conservative military institutions are in peacetime, when there's little pressure to innovate.

Sweat in training saves blood in war - this saying should be extended in regard to innovation. Buying new, expensive and tools of war after a development phase of up to a quarter century falls very short of the right rate of innovation.

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The general mindset has to change in my opinion. Soldiers up to field grades who complain about one army structure chasing another and nothing comes to rest, no time for stable work and planning security ... these soldiers should be re-educated or kicked out of the military because of their inadequacy. The taxpayers deserve better soldiers for their taxes.

A rule of thumb in the economy says that business strategies should be revised or replaced every three to five years, and organizations should have on average a 10% change (destruction and creation of units) to keep them fit.

This rate of change isn't impossible in an army as well - as soon as you've brought the leadership up to speed. Whole divisions were raised during WW2 in a few months, battled for months, were filled up with recruits and rebuilt for a few weeks with a new structure and again sent into combat.

It's all about pressure:
Corporations in a competitive market and armies at war feel a lot of pressure to improve and adapt.
Corporations in non-competitive markets and military institutions at war don't feel that pressure and are doomed to get into trouble when a new, fit challenger arrives.

The good news is that good leadership can speed up an institution on its own even if no great pressure is being felt. That's one of the indicators for great leadership in peacetime; to push hard for improvement, innovation and readiness.

The last real push forward in the German army (in regard to actual defence) was during the mid- to late-90's. It was a combination of regaining WW2 capabilities, catching up with the 80's and partially flawed/costly innovations. More about that later.

Sven Ortmann

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