In with the 'In Crowd'

Ian Whittingham, PMP is a Program Manager in the Business Transformation group of a leading global news and information company. The views expressed here are his own. You may contact the author directly at ian.whittingham@thomsonreuters.com.

On paper, the problem was simply one of military logistics: how to move men and materials from one location to another in the shortest time possible. But in reality, solving the problem required overcoming some formidable physical constraints. First, the volume of soldiers to be moved (just over 386,000). Second, the tight timeframe within which the men were to be moved (less than 10 days). Third, although the most direct route was relatively short (around 30 miles), the only way to reach the target destination was across water. The challenge the military planners faced was: Where to find the right kind of resource to overcome these constraints?

To achieve success, an average of 38,600 soldiers (10 percent of the target) would need to be moved each day. On the first day of Operation Dynamo, just over 7,500 men were transported (less than 2 percent). On the second day, nearly 18,000 soldiers were moved (almost 5 percent). But by the third day, Operation Dynamo had exceeded its daily average threshold, delivering 47,300 men (over 12 percent) to their target destination. What had made such a remarkable step-change in the capability to move these men possible, and in such a short space of time?

The evacuation of nearly 340,000 British, French and Belgian soldiers from Dunkirk in France to England between May 27 and June 4, 1940 is today commemorated as a dismal moment of…

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