The spring and summer of 1940 witnessed the resounding defeats of the French army and British Expeditionary Force at the hands of modernized German troops, designed to take advantage of the latest advances in technology. These included mobile vehicles and tanks used in formation to blast through enemy lines, as well as combined ground and air tactics. The evacuation of the British from Dunkirk and the final defeat of their French allies in June 1940 left only a thin line of English fighter planes between that island nation and total defeat. Meanwhile, leaders of the United States Army, decimated by demobilization after World War I and budget cuts during the Great Depression, knew they were completely unprepared for this new type of mobile warfare called “blitzkrieg,” a German term meaning “lightning war.” Though experts in the U.S. Army had worked from the end of World War I to develop a combination light weapons carrier and command and reconnaissance vehicle, no perfect model had yet been developed by 1940. In June of that same year, the Army compiled a list of requirements for a revolutionary new truck to replace the mule as the Army’s primary method of moving troops and small payloads. “Project Management in History: The First Jeep” tells the story of the American Bantam Car Company, which dared to meet the challenge to build the prototype in the impossible timeframe of 49 days. The “¼ ton truck 4x4 light project,” as the effort was titled by the Army, represents a textbook case of entrepreneurship and project management that holds lessons for today’s business leaders and project managers. Contemporary leaders face a similar environment of rapidly changing technology, volatile economic circumstances and turbulent international relations, forces that assailed the U.S. Army throughout the interwar period.
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Paul Bruno, PMP, PgMP works as a program / project management consultant and as a Senior Consultant and Trainer for the International Institute for Learning. He has 25 years’ experience in information technology and has held numerous volunteer positions, both at the global headquarters and local chapter level, for the Project Managem ent Institute. He holds Master’s Degrees in Business Administration and History, and Bachelor’s Degrees in Computer Software and Management. He hosted the History Czar®, Career Czar® and Bible Czar® Internet radio programs and, with his late wife and Max Freedman, has written numerous historically based screenplays.
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