Roger Martin wrote an article titled Business Strategy and/or Military Strategy?

« In business strategy… the insipid view dominates that the business equivalent of the battlefield commander sets strategy and then the rank and file execute. The US Army is far, far more sophisticated than that. Battlefield commanders set an intent and an approach to achieving that intent. But they fully expect the officers and soldiers serving under their command to have to make critical decisions on the battlefield as their work proceeds. They aren’t expected to simply execute — because that would be stupid… So, the view of the military is utterly consistent with my unpopular view that referring to what the vast majority of people in any business do as ‘execution’ is both grossly wrong and insulting. »

« …something that von Clausewitz emphasizes: “In war more than in any other subject we must begin by looking at the nature of the whole; for here more than elsewhere the part and the whole must always be thought of together.” Business, which has spent the last half-century creating siloed organizations staffed with narrow specialists, should take von Clausewitz’s admonition more seriously than it currently does. »

« Military strategy has one significant drawback that must be taken into account in its application to business strategy. Military strategy is centrally about only two of the three major pieces of the generic strategy puzzle: company and competitors. It concerns us — our desires, goals, intentions, and capabilities — and the opponent — their desires, goals, intentions, and capabilities. There really isn’t the third piece, customers, in the picture. »

« There is lots of value for business strategy that can be gleaned from military strategy, even if you don’t like the thought of the military or war. I would highly recommend Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and von Clausewitz’s On War to every business strategist who hasn’t already read both. »

« …it will elevate the seriousness of strategy, that it is unconscionable to go into battle without a thoroughly considered strategy. And it is equally unconscionable to fail to equip your colleagues to make critical choices when your strategy encounters uncooperative competition, as it inevitably does. »


Roger Martin is the author of Playing to Win  and When More is Not Better

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