What the “Charge of the Light Brigade” Can Teach Us About Structural Capital by Tony Rose

What the “Charge of the Light Brigade” Can Teach Us About Structural Capital by Tony Rose

In 1854 during the Crimean war, a British commander intended to send a light cavalry brigade to prevent Russians from removing guns from defeated Turkish positions. Called the “Light-Brigade,” this cavalry was well-prepared and suited to complete this task successfully. It should have been easy.

Unfortunately, a miscommunication in the chain of command resulted in the light cavalry being sent on a different mission – a frontal assault against an artillery battery well-stocked with defensive fire. The Light Brigade lacked manpower and artillery power for this mission, and they failed.

The Light Brigade was forced to retreat with high casualties and no gains. To this day, no one knows exactly how the miscommunication happened, but one way or another, “The Charge of the Light Brigade” resulted in about 118 deaths, 127 wounded, 60 prisoners, and only 195 – less than half – left with horses.

I think about this sometimes in relation to structural capital. Structural capital is the glue that holds your company together. Think of structural capitals as the mechanism by which your company delivers your intellectual capital, your product, or your service. It includes systems, processes, and modes of communication, such as employee handbooks, lead-generating systems, invoicing processes, customer-retention structures, and all other structures for sharing knowledge and communicating.

(Since I love talking about values, I can’t help but mention that the tone and impact your structural capital has on your customer is shaped by the values your organization has. I walked into a CVS in Las Vegas and not one, but two clerks approached and asked if they could help me find anything. It’s clear that particular CVS cares about its customers, and that value is baked into the structural capital that dictates how their clerks work and sell products to customers.)

The best structural capital is one that accommodates being blown off course and guides us back to the outcome. Too often, a business is blow off course, and rather than finding a new path to the outcome, it fights its way back to the course. This is why outcome planning is important. If any old place will do, a sailing ship never knows how to adjust.

The truth is, your business will always suffer setbacks, miscommunications, and confusions. Rarely will the course you set end up being the course you are on. Allow for this. Make a regular practice of looking at your surroundings and creating a new course based on where you are today and where you plan to get to, rather than where you thought you were supposed to be. One feature to look for in building structural capital is that often the off-course wind will push you to a different place if you identify it. Be open to seeing other options as well as the place you intended to be. Take a minute and evaluate if that new outcome might have even more impact that your original intent.