Military Strategies Adapated For Business
In the simplest terms, a strategy consists of a plan to achieve an objective. Military strategists apply their experience and education to creating plans designed to achieve specific outcomes on the battlefield. Business leaders like you do the same in the business arena. The difference between the two types of strategies lies in their nature: One is focused on a life-and-death struggle against an adversary's combatants, the other on a market-share battle against a competitor.
Purposes and Policies
Simply making a commitment to doing well offers no sense that your business knows what "well" means or understands what can hold it back from accomplishing that goal. Without a plan for its future and policies to carry the plan forward, your company can't move decisively to capitalize on its strengths, minimize its weaknesses and prevail in a competitive environment. Company mission statements and vision objectives outline simplistic types of plans that don't consider outside forces. They provide the equivalent of New Year's resolutions -- generalized objectives that your strategic plan must make actionable. Viewed from the standpoint of adapting military strategy, your business needs a plan grounded in the specifics of its capabilities, intentions and needs -- its "battle forces." That plan must take into consideration the abilities of your sales force, the limits of your production equipment, the speed of your delivery network and other properties that affect the outcomes of your actions.
Competitive Assessment and Countering
Businesses use military terminology to describe their approach to countering other enterprises in their market segment. They talk about winning a cutthroat competition and vanquishing opponents and use other warlike words and analogies to inspire their personnel to sales victories and market-share domination. Just as military leaders do in battle, your business must understand its competitive scenario and what your opponent intends to do, chart out its advantages and those of its opponents, keep faith in the importance of winning the battle and stay allied with strategic partners.
Influences From the Environment
Military strategies always consider the impact of environmental factors. For a business, these are forces that originate outside your company's own strengths and weaknesses and shape how your competitive struggle plays out. They constitute the equivalent of difficult terrain over which an armed force must maneuver. Small companies may lack the ability to "flatten the land" to the extent that larger companies can alter the business landscape to suit their objectives. Supplier competition, technological developments, material scarcity and other environmental influences affect your struggle to dominate the market and must get some attention when you're crafting strategic plans. Neither you nor your competition can control these conditions, but how you react to them and attempt to override them can determine whether you fail or succeed.
Learning From History
History can show you what may happen or trap you in the past. On the one hand, if you ignore history's clues and lessons, you can find yourself repeating them rather than learning from them. On the other hand, if you assume history predicts the future rather than suggests how it may play out, it can stop you from innovating and moving forward. Military strategists look at the past to see the possible outcomes of future actions, but they never lose sight of the possibilities of change. Likewise, your business, your competition and your environment all can evolve, and strategies based solely on past results can fail when they miss the influence of new developments.
Your plan needs a clear understanding of the forces that surround you, counter your movements and potentially thwart your achievements. To advance that strategy, formulate and execute campaigns and operations that require an up-to-date understanding of market forces. The size of your company shapes the ways you formulate strategies, just as a unit commander formulates plans differently than a general marshals an army. In a small business, the distance between decision makers and decision outcomes shortens. Small-business leaders involve themselves directly in implementing plans as well as creating them, building the future as well as envisioning it.
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