2014 marks the centenary of the start of the First World War. It perhaps felt a little incongruous for some to be analysing Anglo-German battle strategies in Berlin, however the cordial tone was set by an interesting opening speech from the leader of the British Embassy. He talked at length on the valuable trading relationship between our two countries today - did you know that Britain is Germany's largest trading partner?
A few weeks ago, I attended the Corporate Research Forum's annual HR conference in Germany's fabulous capital. The conference, which was chaired by Dame Tessa Jowell MP, took place over 48 hours and provided 320 senior HR delegates the opportunity to network and participate in a series of ‘From Battlefields to Boardrooms’ presentations, examining lessons from war fare for implementing strategies and leading complex change programmes.
After the opening drinks, Deloitte hosted a private dinner for a select number of senior HR leaders. The dinner focussed on the changing workforce dynamic, the changing purpose of HR and the changing capability requirement within HR. My provocation that HR was known for developing too much process and should re-skill for a future where value and impact will be driven by enabling line managers and leaders to be successful provided much debate, and delegates left pondering the notion of driving high business performance through increased HR agility, flexibility and coordination to drive empowerment from leaders to employees.
The following day we listened to Stephen Bungay from Ashridge share his research on lessons for organisations from the way in which the British and German armies prepared for and reacted to the events of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. His key point was that the German commanders provided a clear and unifying sense of direction for their troops that empowered leaders to take frontline decisions in the heat of battle. In contrast, the British Army stuck to tried and tested command and control and a rigid battle plan with leaders detached from the action on the ground.
The rest of the conference focused on strategy implementation, and speakers encouraged participants to reflect on and discuss why so few great strategies ever actually get implemented. The conclusion being that culture and behaviour get in the way, which is something we at Deloitte have also been discussing for some time. Who remembers the strap line "Culture eats strategy for breakfast"? 
In summary, the conference provided everyone a rare chance to find some space to reflect on the importance of leadership and management and to make some valuable connections with peers.
Will is a Partner within the Consulting practice at Deloitte. He is the UK Head of Technology, Media and Communications within the Human Capital Consulting team.