9 Principles of Military Strategy

There are 9 principles of Military Strategy which apply to business and personal life as well. I came across this in the book “The Leader’s Bookshelf” which is an awesome book on leadership. The book contains the review of 50 books with leadership lessons summarized from each one. One of the books reviewed was “On War” which consists of nine principles of military. This is also in use currently by the U.S. military. Here they are with my take on each.
Objective: Clarity is the most important step in this principle. Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination. This is also applicable to our personal lives. We should have clear objectives for every area of our lives including business, career, personal, contribution and financial. This is the first step towards any form of success and we can define the objectives we want to achieve.
Offensive: Seize, retain and exploit the initiative. Here as a business you need to continuously innovate and be aggressive. In your personal life it is all about taking action towards your objectives. As Napoleon said “No war was won on the defensive.” Go all out in the pursuit of your goals and keep moving forward with determination every single day.
Mass: This is the ability to concentrate on a single point. The basic application for business is to focus your effort on the few customers who make the most difference. Also in your personal life keep focusing on the few activities that move the needle in your life. Focus on the wildly important and ignore the trivial. Major in the majors and not minors.
Economy of force: Employ all combat power available in the most effective way possible. There is always a limitation of resources in our business. It is imperative we deploy the resources to the most important objectives. In your personal life there will be a multitude of choices. You have to decide what is truly important and conserve your energy. You cannot stretch yourself in all directions. Focus only on the ones that matter to you and conserve your energy. Become a minimalist. Remember King Pyrrhus from whom comes the expression "Pyrrhic victory" signifying a triumph at too much a cost. You want to economize your force so that you never have to face the same situation.
Maneuver: Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power. This is attained by responding to any situation with speed and movement. The most important skill we need in the era of disruption is flexibility. Never get stuck in one line of thinking. Always be ready to change your decisions and be nimble to achieve the most.
Unity of Command: For every objective seek unity of command and unity of effort. Divided leadership almost always fails. Everyone needs to be clear who is in charge and they should also be clear on what their objectives are. Have one leader in charge of the area of focus. 
Security: Never permit the enemy to acquire unexpected advantage. Always guard against surprise attacks. As mentioned by Jim Collins in his book “Great by Choice” ensure your company has adequate financial reserves to cover for any unexpected setbacks. In your personal life you can have 3 months of savings to plan for a rainy day. Always be asking how much time before the risk profile changes.
Surprise: Strike the enemy at a time or place or in a manner for which they are unprepared. This is achieved by taking an action not anticipated by the enemy. In business it may mean launching a product at a time when the market least expects it. In personal life it may mean making your life more adventurous by trying something new which you may not normally do. You can surprise yourself by taking up a new hobby when can also add excitement to your life.
Simplicity: Prepare clear uncomplicated plans and concise orders to ensure thorough understanding. This is the ability to give clear simple orders that everyone can easily understand and follow. Simplify your life by eliminating non essentials and only focusing on the few activities that truly make a difference. Say no to a lot of unimportant things so you can say yes to the best. 
There you have it the 9 principles of military strategy. It is really simple but effective strategies to streamline our lives. Focus on key objectives, eliminate non-essentials, focus on key areas, take actions continuously, stay flexible and be nimble. If we do these fundamentals we will achieve more. If you want to deep dive into these strategies be sure to read “On War” by Carl Von Clausewitz which is a classic distillation of the best military strategies.
The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.


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