Friday, February 3, 2012

Your business model as counterinsurgency warfare

The U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (with a forward by General David H. Petraeus, Lt. General James F. Amos and Lt. Colonel John A. Nagel) has had a profound impact on combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  The manual is the guiding light as to how the United States military plans to address what is likely to be the dominant form of warfare over the next decade.

The main themes in the manual also provide an interesting and insightful way to view business in the era of mega-corporations and intense global competition.  Consider the following examples - -
  • Secure and Serve the Population - - Counterinsurgency is more about the human terrain and less about the geographical terrain.  People are the center of gravity.  Trust is the most important element.  Business needs to embrace this model - - your success depends on how you lead and manage your human capital.  Communication, training, institutional knowledge development, trust - - all of these elements provide the foundation of your human terrain map.
  • Live With the People - - You don't commute to the fight in Afghanistan.  Bases are in strategic locations and boots are on the ground.  Too often businesses, especially those that compete on a global basis, seem to exist in a layer of the atmosphere above the fray of everyday life.  Your employees and customers live in communities and neighborhoods that you have responsibility for.  Get  people out to embrace the micro-parts of your business - - become an important part of the local community.  Volunteer and help - - put boots on the ground in your local communities.
  • Pursue the Enemy Relentlessly - - Counterinsurgency is getting your teeth in to the enemy and not letting go.  Target the whole network, not just individuals.  The word "Enemy" doesn't apply - - but "getting your teeth in" does.  The term gets at the heart of individual and organization persistence - - the ability to persist long enough to penetrate a complicated world.  The new world of hyper-competition is clearly a world of ruthless relentlessness.   
  • Walk - - Stop by, don't drive by.  Patrol on foot whenever possible and engage the population.  Take off your sunglasses.  Walk with you customers.  See the world through their eyes.  See their problems.  Hear their goals.  Listen and learn.  The walk provides the link between sensing and knowing.  Interact face-to-face - - e-mail doesn't work in a counterinsurgency environment.
  • Be First With the Truth - - Get accurate information to the chain of command.  Preempt rumors.  Acknowledge setbacks and failures.  Social media has changed and will continue to change businesses.  Our networked world has created a new, and to many a frightening world, that is much more transparent and open than 10-years ago.  Social media provides a platform for the flow of both good and bad information at the speed of light.  Managing "truth" will be increasingly important.
  • Live Our Values - - Stay true to the values we hold dear.  This is what distinguishes us from our enemies.  Organizational values are important, but more importantly in the context of counterinsurgency warfare are individual character strengths and virtues.  Individuals and organizations must increasingly define character as something beyond what someone does not do - - to a much more active and thorough definition.  Character defines the individual and thus the organization.

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