[May 22, 2020] There are times in our lives when we are trying something new and innovative that the old methods simply don’t work. In the military, when we are on the attack, one method of flushing out the enemy to force him into unexpected actions is reconnaissance by fire. Such a risky technique is what we’ve all done at one time or another to reach an objective we desire.
During late World War II, the Allies were on the offensive in the European theater when they discovered their attacks were too slow or ineffective. At the rate of advance, the war would drag on too long. A new tactic was developed. U.S. armored columns would advance at speed, shooting their cannon and machine guns alternatively to fire into any suspected enemy positions. This suppressed German defensive positions, which were identified when they returned fire. This attack method allowed fast movements while keeping the German forces off balance.
During the Battle of Ia Drang of the Vietnam War (see my article on it here), the Battalion Commander Hal Moore noticed his men had a large amount of ammunition. He ordered his men to fire at anything suspicious at an agreed synchronized time. A large amount of fire at that time led a group of undetected infiltrating enemy soldiers to believe they were discovered and to charge the Americans, leading to the enemy’s destruction.1
Leaders can use this method of solving problems. When leaders are presented with new tasks or missions to complete, and there are no established rules or tactics to get it done, reconnaissance by fire might work. I don’t mean for you to shoot your business competitor, of course. But a metaphorical reconnaissance by fire may be the right solution.
In business, family life, travel, or solving a big problem, we could use what resources we have to move to solve the problem quickly. Not unlike state and federal government responses to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, money was used to purchase vast quantities of ventilators, personal protective equipment, and sanitation chemicals. There was little proof all these worked, but it was something that could be done that had some application in the past. Waiting until everything was understood about the virus would be too late, and people would have died unnecessarily.
Using a reconnaissance by fire overcomes obstacles by the sheer weight of the effort. Leaders who have little experience or who are out of approved tactics can use this until more effective measures are found.