Military leaders get paid to make the hardest, most stressful executive decisions that anyone will ever have to make. Essentially, they have to decide (or not) whether to commit their military personnel to armed conflicts and in the process put their people in harm’s way. The stakes are different in business. Very few, if any, business executives have to make decisions which endanger their staff’s lives. A lot of them, however, could learn from the disciplines used by the military in constructing their strategy.
My father went to the Royal Military College, Duntroon (RMCD) from 1948 to 1951, prior to being shipped off to fight in the Korean War. He recently told me how military strategy was taught. They did it by painstakingly reviewing prior conflicts and understanding what worked and what didn’t. They then thought about the enemy that they would be facing and constructed a flexible plan that minimised their own risks and exploited their enemy’s disadvantages.
At RMCD they taught new officers about military strategy from day one. They refined these lessons down to 10 key principles which are embodied in the acronym – A.C. M.O.S.S. F.A.C.E.
A = AIM. Selection and maintenance of the aim is the No 1 principle. Essentially the military teaches that you should only have one aim, or objective, that everyone understands.
C = CONCENTRATION. Concentrate your efforts and don’t diversify beyond what you can sensibly control.
M = MORALE. A motivated army is a pre-requisite for success.
O = OFFENSIVE ACTION. Always be moving forward.
S = SECURITY. Ensure that your key assets are secured at all times.
S = SURPRISE. Be unpredictable. Zig when you are expected to zag.
F = FLEXIBILITY. Don’t be wedded to a plan that isn’t working. Try something else.
A = ADMINISTRATION. The front line will fail if the supply chain falters.
C = CO-OPERATION. Co-operate with trusted partners who can advance your efforts
E = ECONOMY OF EFFORT. Employ the minimum resources required (people, money, time etc.) to achieve the desired outcome.
While the fighting of wars has changed significantly in the past 60 years, the principles of military strategy haven’t. They are timeless. And so it is with business. That is, you have to have a valuable product or service that customers want to buy and an efficient channel to get it to them. Further, you need to evolve continuously to stay relevant in your market place.
A.C. M.O.S.S. F.A.C.E. has valuable lessons for any business. The principles are simple but are not easy to embed in your business. If you can embed them, however, the gains can be huge. Are you up for the challenge?