PROCESS IMPROVEMENTS FROM HISTORY
This Issue: Boudica
Boudica (sometimes misspelt Boadicea), although ultimately liquidated by the Roman Empire, was notable for her aggressive counter-measures when faced with a hostile takeover bid. When the Romans staged a hostile takeover of the Celtic Iceni following the death of the latter's leader/manager, wife and business partner Boudica took over the reins of the Iceni. She defied initial Roman offers to buy out the Iceni and attempts to coerce them into affiliating with Roman Empire. The Romans wished to form a new Roman Britain through buy-outs, mergers and hostile takeovers, ousting local labour forces from their positions then hiring them back as contractors.
Boudica opposed these business practices. The Celts had a non-discrimination and empowerment policy that permitted women to become leaders. The Romans lacked these enlightened policies and refused to recognise Boudica as new leader of the Iceni. This led to wildcat strikes and violent protest by the Iceni in support of the new leader. The Romans, in punitive action, sexually harassed Boudica's daughters (potential heirs to the Iceni) and took harsh sanctions against Boudica herself (including physical and verbal bullying that even Roman Empire guidelines frowned upon) while claiming ownership of the Iceni.
Loyal to their home-grown leader and firmly opposed to bullying and sexual harassment of their staff and sanctions against their people, the Iceni backed Boudica to the hilt when she proposed to resist the Roman takeover and stage a counter-takeover against local branches of the Roman empire. Boudica proved to be a highly motivational and charismatic chairperson, fostering a democratic style of management, allowing her business partners their share of the spoils and empowering the individual.
Boudica entered into a mutually beneficial partnership with long-time rivals the Trinovantes. Pooling their resources and expertise, they recruited widely with the promise of cherry-picking (or looting) nearby branches of the Roman empire. In this way they put 3 branches out of business (Camulodonum, Londinium and Verulamium) and defeated 2 travelling Roman deputations. The premises of the 3 branches were wholly destroyed along with all occupants. The most heavily armed deputation was ambushed and destroyed using surprise tactics.
Unfortunately, the Iceni-Trinovantes Celtic partnership failed to adapt their business strategies and were ultimately defeated by the Roman empire. The Celtic partnership put its trust in blue-dip stocks such as woad while the Romans invested heavily in metals and superior armaments which the Celts eschewed as being culturally unacceptable. Despite their inferior protection, the Celts showed fanatical devotion to their leader and ensured that the business of warfare was a family affair with wives, children and supply wagons all mobilised and firmly behind the main fighting force.
With better strategy, she might have pulled off the final battle, but allowed the Roman empire to select a playing field that suited its own tactics while sapping the Celts' dynamism, strength and numbers. In spite of this, Boudica remains an inspiration to companies that foster an "extended family" atmosphere and proof that women can be as ruthless and determined as men.
Next Issue: Process Improvement with Vlad Dracul.