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Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman

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The Guns of August

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Author: Barbara Tuchman,
Publisher: Random House
Released: 1962
Type: Print (Paperback)
Pages: 551
ISBN: 034538623X

The Guns of August is a military history book describing the events of the first month of World War I. The focus of the book is to provide the history of World War I from the declaration of war through the start of the French offensive that stopped the German advance through France resulting in a stalemate for the subsequent four years. In addition, the book provides history on the plans, strategies, world events and international sentiments prior to and during the war.

Of interest to the Program or Project Manager, are the various plans put into place and the Managers (Generals) that executed them. There are two major military plans represented in the book–the German "Schlieffen Plan" and the French "Plan 17". Both the plans are covered in detail through their genesis, metamorphosis and execution. Their successes, failures, oversights covered in detail. Both plans were very detailed and had significant mitigation involved. Both missed, though, some key points. Neither plan accounted for egos of the team members (subordinate staff) or that there was need for a defensive strategy. In addition, the Schlieffen Plan did not conceive of insubordination or that variations would be introduced in violation of the core premise of the plan. Plan 17 was had insufficient planning for subcontractor support (allied commitments were not fully in place) and proper communication. The allies had over estimated the Russian forces even though prior conflicts should have shown their poor performance in their infrastructural requirements or logistical needs.

This book is an excellent case study in incomplete planning and the effects of human factors on plans.

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