Business and War: Battlefield Leadership

Much has been written over the years about business. Much has also been written over the years about war. There are many parallels between the two. The more business people from the shipping dock to the executive suite view business as war, the more the spoils of war: success.The TroopsArmies since ancient times have not been known for selecting the best and the brightest. At times, the bulk of armies were criminals, debtors and drunks. How did these cast-offs of society become armies able to conquer huge areas of the world and win massive battles? Training and discipline. Businesses today are so enamored with the best and the brightest that they seem to forget about the importance of training and discipline. Forget this bunk about baby boomers, gen-X and gen-Y. For a competitive edge, a business would be well served to get good (not great) people and invest in extensive training and that disciplines such as good management, quality and process control.The Officers in the FieldBattles and wars have been won as much by the officers who are with the troops – such as lieutenants, captains and majors – as by the generals back in their tents and command posts. The officers in the field have the pulse of the people who serve under them. They see the enemy in action. They also see where the orders from above become a day to day reality – including all the things that can and do go wrong. For any military force, the field officers are a competitive advantage. For business too, lower and mid-level supervisors and managers can be a competitive advantage in the same ways as they serve between the troops and the executives. Unfortunately, most businesses have gutted these resources. On a percentage basis, the field and mid-level managers have been reduced more than the workers or the executives in many industries and corporations. As such, these businesses are less attuned to their workers, competition and have few vehicles for relaying the commands (and visions) from the executives above.

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GeneralsGenerals in history have been killed by the enemy. They have been gravely wounded by their adversaries too. Generals have been fired by their superiors – both military and civilian for a variety of reasons. Why are the generals killed? They are up front with their troops. They are gravely wounded. And why are generals relieved of command or fired? For not meeting their objectives. Often this comes down to not meeting AN objective. Generals are expected to not only provide visions, missions and values – they are expected to lead their troops. And they are expected to WIN battles and wars. Those who do not effectively lead their troops and who do not win battles are replaced by others. The same should take place on a day-to-day basis in business. The executives who demonstrate they cannot effectively lead their people, who cannot meet their objectives, who cannot win new business over the competitors should be relieved so others can step in and drive success.Technology vs. PeopleThe rock. The axe. The arrow. The spear. The crossbow. The gun. The machine gun. The bomber aircraft. The rocket. The missile. The nuclear bomb. Technology has changed warfare of the ages. But there is one constant – people. In spite of all the innovations and technology, wars cannot be fought without people. That even applies to the most extreme and obscene form of warfare – nuclear war. Men and women must be recruited, uniformed, trained, trained more, armed, led and put in place with a mission and specific orders to each perform their own small task within the vast machinery of war. Businesses today are enamored with technology – both as products and as tools. And yet the basic elements of business have not changed. Even on the internet. A business is only as good as their people – even in the most technical sectors. In fact, as technology expands into the products and tools of all forms of business, people become even more important. They must be trained, led, motivated and rewarded – constantly for businesses to grow and be more competitive.

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Strategy vs. TacticsIn war, civilians and military leaders develop winning strategies. The winning strategies are translated into tactics. The tactics are executed at the operating level on the ground, in the air and at sea. The tactics are used to win battles and ultimately wars by the troops and their officers as they face the enemy day in and day out. Strategy is important in winning wars. So are tactics. And so is execution. All three are required to be victorious in battle and in war. So why do business spend so much time developing strategies and then spend little effort on developing tactics. Then they wonder why something always falls short in the execution. In business, as in war, all three are important. Businesses must learn to balance resource and focus to insure that strategies play out in the day-to-day tactics and that the tactics are then executed with precision.Battles and wars have gone on since the beginning of time. So has business and commerce. While warriors have learned to be more effective at their art, businesses have often grown stale due to technology, egos and the latest fads in management. If business people became more like warriors, workers would be better led, leaders would be more accountable and ultimately businesses would be more successful against their competitors.