Business as War

Mark B. Fuller is hardly a military man. He is a former Harvard Business School Professor, contributing editor to Fast Company Magazine and founder and CEO of the Monitor Group, an international strategic consulting firm with over 1500 employees in 27 countries. 

Fast Company magazine featured an article he wrote entitled - Business as War - about the similarities between the boardroom and the battlefield. This article stirred quite a debate about the business and war comparison. It seemed only fitting to include the article here as an introduction to our blog and our mission of  “Developing Entrepreneurial Leaders and Winning the Small Business War.”

As an old Marine, I can tell you no one hates war more than the warrior. I, too, am turned off by these “business warrior” wannabes who are suffering from “Full Metal Jacket Syndrome” – a delusion whereby people think Marine Corps leadership and war is what they see in the movies. 

I believe terminology is critical in making one’s decision in this argument. One of Mr. Webster’s definitions of war is “a struggle or competition between opposing forces.” There can be no argument that businesses struggle with opposing market forces (of which competitors are only one component), social forces, political forces and technical forces that can wreak havoc on their success.

In that context, business can be characterized as war.  However, business is not combat. Combat is “purposeful, violent conflict meant to establish dominance over the opposition.”

Fuller's article almost reads like a commercial for what we help our clients do.

Business As War
By Mark B. Fuller

Business in the New Economy is a civilized version of war. Companies, not countries, are battlefield rivals.

In Clausewitz's terms, the era of "set-piece" competition is over. We have entered the era of total competition. No matter your industry, company, or nationality, there is a battle-ready competitor somewhere who is busy thinking how to beat you. There are no safe havens.

Yet the hard truth, for all the talk of new paradigms, reengineering, and organizational learning, is that most executives in most companies are still equipped to fight the last war. Their strategic assumptions, management structures, information systems, and training programs are geared to a competitive battlefield that no longer exists. The rules of engagement have changed. Strategic mind-sets have not.

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