The recent decision by President Obama to send 30K troops to Afghanistan got me thinking about similarities between business and war. In both cases, the victor is the one who uses superior strategy against his or her competition.
There are three principles of military strategy you can apply to your work every single day. The first idea from the military is called the Principle of Maneuver. The principle of maneuver says that you should be clear about the goal, but be flexible about the process of achieving it. According to the Menninger Institute, this quality of flexibility is the most important single quality that you will require for success in times of rapid change.
1. Be Open to Continuous Feedback
A key peak performance quality for you is to “accept feedback and self-correct.” Peak performers are those who can take information from their environment and even if the information is contrary to all of their planning, they can accept the information, modify their plans, and continue moving forward. They are always open to new ideas and insights.
2. Learn What You Need to Know
The second military principle you can use is the Principle of Intelligence. This principle of intelligence means simply, “get the facts!”
The most important thing in business decision making is for you to get accurate information. Facts don’t lie. It is important that you get the real facts, not the assumed facts or the apparent facts or the obvious facts, or the hoped for facts, but the real, provable facts.
Perhaps the key job of the executive is decision making. The quality of the decisions that you make will be in direct proportion to the amount of time that you take to gather timely and accurate information. The very best thing that you can do, if you have insufficient information, is to delay making a decision at all.
3. Invest Your Resources Wisely
The third military principle applied to strategic planning is the Principle of Economy of Force. Economy of force means that you expend only the resources necessary to achieve the objective and not more or less. It also means that you commit sufficient resources to achieve the objective once you have decided upon it.
Since your own personal energy is all you really have to invest over the course of your lifetime, the military principle of economy says that you should be very selfish when deciding how you are going to use your self. Keep asking your self, “How important is this?” and more important, “How important is this to me?”
How to put these ideas into action
Here are two ideas that you can apply immediately to be more strategic in your work and personal life.
First, remain flexible when you are working towards your goal. In times of rapid change, all of your best ideas can be contradicted by new information. Be willing to try different things. Be open to new inputs and ideas.
Second, get the facts! The more and better information you can acquire before you make a decision, the better your decision will be. The very best managers spend a good amount of time getting the real, provable facts before they take action.