D-Day Provides Lessons For MBAs


Normandy, the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany’s occupation of Europe, also can be seen as a case study in business organization, says Ellen Regan, a Darden MBA student who participated in the program. Regan says she didn’t understand the scale and level of coordination necessary for the attack to be successful until she traveled to the region.

darden d-day 2She says students and instructors frequently discussed the competing personalities and goals of leaders on both sides, which helped her draw connections to situations she expects to encounter in her career involving setting and communicating goals.

“In the military, the fighting soldiers are your line functions, but behind them are communications people, medics, supply chain,” Utt says. “How do you tie it all together? How do you get everybody rowing in the same direction?”

He emphasized the importance of shared objectives, creating visions, missions, values, and mottos that can help promote those objectives.


“I got a couple notes from students after the trip saying they had thought the Normandy trip would be cool, but that they didn’t see how it would help their educations,” Utt says. “But then on the trip they learned a lot, and it was of great benefit to them.”

To Utt, case studies are an ideal way to learn, and the Normandy trip is a perfect example. Instead of an hour and a half in class, students spent six days learning about one of the pivotal events of the 20th century — and drawing parallels with their own lives.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for students, and I hope they’re getting as much out of it as the faculty do,” he says. “I hope they can see what they can get out of it.”

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