Wednesday, August 16, 2006

You thought your last product launch was complicated ...

A US operation netted Mexico's most powerful drug cartel leader about 15 miles off the Baja coast today. He was a particular favorite of the US in the mid to late 90's when there were rumors he put a blanket bounty out for the death of US law enforcement officers.

I question the strategy behind our US drug policy, but that said, this operation was flawlessly executed. I don't have hard facts on success rates, but I estimate that maybe 1 in 20 operations are successful, let alone netting a target this high profile. The news report doesn't fully capture the coordination, planning, execution and luck that all had to fall in place to drive a win.

Planning & Coordination

  • The right intelligence sources had to be identified
  • The intelligence sources had to be able to collect the information ... probably a mix of human intelligence, signals intelligence and other things
  • The intelligence had to be analyzed and disseminated to the right operators
  • The inter-agency planners had to come up with a plan to execute & get multiple agencies to agree

Dumb Luck

  • The bad guys had to be outside of Mexican territorial seas (12 miles) for the US to be able to act under international law. It's likely the US couldn't have coordinated with Mexican officials quickly enough if he had stayed within Mexican waters


  • There had to be a US asset, in this case the Coast Guard Cutter Monsoon (picture below), within striking distance
  • The Coast Guard had to find these guys ... made significantly easier with technology, but its a big Ocean
  • The boarding teams had to be on their game to successfully bring them in
  • Prosecution ... we will see how this goes

Many military officers making the transition to a civilian business career are put on the hot seat about how their experiences apply to the business world. This operation would be a textbook answer to that question; the ability to drive complicated plans from development to completion, with all the facets that entails. There have been enough botched product launches, failed integrations and ineffective re-orgs to know this skill should be in high demand.

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