As a nurse in an operating theatre, I find myself continually confronted with a possible conflict between the particularity of each situation and duty that I encounter and also the ways in which these situations should be understood in regard to a universal situation of engagement and duty that can give them meaning. My simultaneous focus on both of these is what I believe defines me as a specific kind of strategic thinker. In this paper I will provide my understanding of this term and then move to discuss my own experience of it and lessons learnt in regard to it. I would follow Waters arguement that strategy is a process that involves the pursuit of’ insightful choices of goals despite resource constraints, political considerations, bureaucratic resistance, the adversary’s opposing efforts, and the intractable uncertainties as to how a chosen strategy may ultimately work out’ (2009 p. 113). Such thinking involves both particulars and universals, however it tends to focus on an overall campaign rather than on particular battles or situations of engagement. (Donelson Moss, 2010).
Throughout my everyday engagements, I see the importance of strategic thinking manifested in the way in which I engage with my work as a nurse in the operating theatre. I find consistently that I am consistently thinking about ways in which individuals around me could be used in more effective ways and ways in which the structures within which I work could be improved. I also often find myself attempting to anticipate the ways in which military operations will affect the ways in which I am working and therefore the ways in which I can be seen to be working. I would argue, that, as a strategic thinker, I am therefore interested in a combination of the particularity of the situation with which I am engaged and the long term context and nexus within which that situation is embedded. This effects both each particular instance of nursing and also ways in which I view my occupation as a whole.
In order to perform my role well, I currently need a combination of information and reliability from others. I need to know that I can communicate will with my colleagues and that I can trust the information that they give, and also that we will be able to relay any important information between us effectively and quickly, should things change on the operating table. I also need to have the confidence in my colleagues in order to know that they themselves are able to perform their own roles well enough to allow me to perform. It is this mediation of myself with others that I would argue allows me to think of myself as a strategic thinker.
The importance of such thinking can be seen throughout the history of US engagement in Vietnam. For example, as Michael Williams notes that one of the prime reasons for the length and demoralising nature of much of the war was that US authorities ‘did not consider how prior U.S. Involvement to support the French colonial administration could easily lend itself to colouring by the Communists as an imperialist war against the Vietnamese people’ (2012, p. 96). As such, they made a strategic error that inflected all the particulars of the conflict.
As a nurse, and therefore someone who sees the lived consequences of such errors up close, it is therefore vitally important for me to see such strategy in action and to know how to mediate the concerns of individuals and campaigns in general. Again, I would argue that an awareness of this is a key reason for me to consider myself as a strategic thinker before anything else.
- Vietnam: An American Ordeal: Sixth Edition. (2010). Edited by George Donalson Moss. Pearson Education Inc.
- Waters, D. E. (2009, September). Understanding Strategic Thinking and Developing Strategic Thinkers. Joint Force Quarterly. 63(4), 113-119.
- Williams, M. J. (2012, December). Political-Military lessons from U.S. Operations in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Prism: A Journal of the Centre for Complex Operations. 3(4), 91-107.