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9 Principles Of Business Strategy From The Army Field Manual of Military Operations

        posted by , January 27, 2013

Business isn't war. It's far a more civilized activity that creates value instead of destroying.

John Singer Sargent WWI

Business and war do have one significant thing in common: they are both intensely competitive. No matter what your business, there is a battle-ready competitor out there who's ready to take your customers.

Business has always looked to military thought for strategy and tactics.

The following 9 principles of strategy are taken from the United States Army Field Manual of Military Operations. They are largely based on the ideas of renown military theorist Carl von Clausewitz.

1. Objectives

Every operation must have a clearly defined and actionable objective (goal).

Even minor initiatives and quick-wins must have objectives.

Business Example: Management By Objectives

Management by Objectives (MBO) is a business methodology that was popularized by management consultant Peter Drucker in the mid-1950s.

Objectives are set by management based on strategy. Each employee has a meeting with his/her manager to set individual objectives for a time period (usually a quarter). At the end of the time period the employee's performance is evaluated based on the objectives.


2. Offensive

Never forget that no military leader has ever become great without audacity.
~ Karl Von Clausewitz
The offensive (attack) is considered the primary means of achieving victory.

Like war, business can't be won on defense alone. The successful business takes the initiative to achieve objectives with the aggressive use of its resources.


3. Mass

Concentrate your resources at the right time and place for maximum effect.

The mass principle suggests that businesses should focus resources — to hit the market with the right product at the right time.

Business Example: Apple

Between 2002 and 2012 Apple's gross revenue rose from $5.74 billion to $155.97 billion based largely on the success of three products: iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Many of Apple's competitors developed thousands of products over the same 10 year span but experienced flat sales.

Apple's success is often attributed to their strategy of betting big on 3 products that hit the market at the right time.


4. Economy of Force

Every unnecessary expenditure of time, every unnecessary detour, is a waste of power, and therefore contrary to the principles of strategy.
~ Carl von Clausewitz

Resources should deployed for maximum effect. No resource should be left without a purpose. The resources used to achieve secondary objectives should be minimized. The allocation of resources should be continually measured and optimized.


5. Maneuver

Defeat an adversary by moving quickly and intelligently. Incapacitate their decision-making capabilities by surprising them with your movements.


6. Unity of Command

Responsibilities must be clear.

Every objective must be the responsibility of exactly one commander.


7. Security

Protect your resources. Never permit your competitor to achieve a surprise advantage.


8. Surprise

Strike at a time, place and manner that is likely to surprise the competition.


9. Simplicity of Order

Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war.
~ Karl von Clausewitz
Make your orders simple, concise, clear and uncomplicated. Complex instructions are likely to be misunderstood, mismanaged or botched.


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