Similarities between Business Strategy and Military Strategy
By Michael Marshall, PhD
Amazingly there are numerous similarities between business strategy and military strategy.
By studying both, we can see the similarities of why certain things lead to success while others lead to failure; and why neglecting fundamentals lead to struggles and failure.
In this article we are only briefly mentioning the highlights and some of the key points of this subject.
This information can be an important stimulus for further discussions and business analysis.
Applying the knowledge can assist you to advance on some positive changes that can lead to greater business development.
A common phrase, ‘Military theory is only as good as its execution’.
Business studies indicate that most business strategies that fail is due to lack of full execution and follow through, and Not due to a bad strategy.
Top military leaders continually study strategy, history of strategy, changes and advancements and adapting such to current situations.
This applies to top business leaders, as well.
A lack of such effort strongly indicates poor leadership abilities.
Military strategy includes intuition based on extensive experience. Without experience one cannot have good intuition.
The same applies to business leaders.
Military lacking good intuition, experience and extensive study of strategy often fail and lose.
History is full of actual examples of such.
The same applies business leaders.
Most good military leaders have extensive experience in the field and as a leader.
The same applies to good business leaders.
The military saying of ‘never so few lead by so many’ is similar to the business saying of being ‘Top Heavy’ with too much management.
Military often comment about not attacking head to head with frontal attack because it is often too costly.
This is the same in business with high costs of such a marketing campaign, possible pricing wars driving down profits and possibly stimulating numerous other negative things.
Instead, attack weak areas of competitors and on the sides or flank. This is far more effective with little casualties and less cost, normally.
The same applies to business.
Important to analyze enemies and competition on their strengths, advantages and weaknesses compared to ones own; then develop strategy to win.
It is important to improve ones own weaknesses.
This is similar to the business concept of SWOT analysis; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
The military saying of ‘Do not give up ground earned because it is too costly to get it back’.
This is similar to business with the importance to keep customers and market share and how costly and lengthy time to get back if lost to competition.
Military is always seeking out higher technology to utilize to keep a significant advantage.
The same is true for business in their products, services, technologies, capabilities and operations.
Military stresses the importance of continual training of staff and troops to increase skills. When responding or going into action, all is fast, effective and natural.
Extensive training before engaging is critical.
The same applies to business but business often fails at this due to short sided budget restraints for such. This contributes to many business struggles and failures.
Military believes that deception to enemies and competitors is a key part of strategy and history does support this.
Making the enemy believe one thing causing other areas to be weakened and possibly not defended is a key.
This does apply to business.
Military ‘unity of command’ means good communications, understanding and agreement by all; effective coordinating and all units support each other in the efforts and strategy.
This applies to business.
Military ‘command and control’ means that officers given responsibilities are given the authority to act and make decisions and are supported.
This certainly applies to business but often many businesses fail at this which then contributes to struggles and failures.
Good communications with alliances and coordinating strategies is critical.
You must identify strategic alliances to progress.
Strategic alliances are critical for military.
This applies to business and businesses often fail at this.
Military Intel or intelligence of enemy and situations is the same with business for competitive analysis and market analysis.
Know your competition in detail and out maneuver them.
The importance of achievable goals and objectives with detailed tactics to accomplish them are the same with military and business.
Progress is made with offense and not defense is the same for both business and military.
A leader, who makes no mistakes and takes no risks, probably does not accomplish very much.
It is the same for business leaders.
They need to be willing to face failures on the way to bigger success.
Good leaders are caring, considerate, courteous, and have a good clear vision of the future.
It is important to analyze core competencies, improve them; then utilize to progress and advance.
It is critical to develop competencies to go forward.
Goals and objectives must be clear, simple, communicated, understood by all, put into the strategy and then applied to achieve success.
Being flexible, seeking out and applying ‘outside the box thinking’, are all critical.
It is important to analyze and seek out what competencies that may have been developed but never used; and then utilize fully.
This is often referred to as ‘managing your knowledge’.
This is important to both military and business, obviously.
In striving to be the best you must continually develop competencies.
Multiple little improvements can add up to larger improvements.
Seek out small improvements continually.
Timing has a value and is important for success.
Plans and strategy need to be flexible with contingencies for possible unexpected things.
Always be open to the possibility that you are wrong and be willing to change and adjust as needed.
Be prepared to seize opportunities and be aggressive at it.
Be prepared to be aggressive to support new ideas and new initiatives.
Moving quickly on insights and new ideas will make you unstoppable.
Analyze self over competition and out maneuver them.
There is a need to motivate others for peak performance.
It is important to keep staff morale high at all times.
When analyzing and investigating, are you asking all of the right questions from all of the right individuals?
Keep everything simple and clear but with forward movement and with time lines.
A key to strategy in wining is to continually developing advantages over competition and apply.
Ability to focus on key targets and objectives is important.
Managing perception is critical.
Valuing people’s knowledge and intelligence is critical; seek out to utilize.
History is full of stories about how this leads to success.
Always protect your own knowledge and intelligence.
Team approach is best.
The principle of continual offense is effective.
It produces forward motion, increases confidence, motivates and energizes.
It fatigues competition and de-motivates them.
It establishes a reputation of aggressive progress and an important force to be aware of.
It establishes a reputation that is beneficial.
Seek out ideas and feedback from all staff, employees, potential customers and customers.
With many successful businesses, customer feedback and seeking new ideas from them account for the majority of new products, competencies, technologies and services developed.
Always analyze customer complaints and issues to use for improving.
These things apply to both business and military.
After reading this article, you should understand the similarities with strategy in military and business strategy.
This information shows you how to grow your business more effectively and win more business.