Biyernes, Oktubre 21, 2011

Battlefield lessons for business leaders


Business is not war-but if you are operating in a fiercely competitive marketplace then it can feel like it. Many of the methods we use, particularly in sales and marketing,are like military strategies.We use terms;we talk of marketing campaigns, fighting for market share,defending the brand,and so on. Warfare is one of the man's greater endeavours. Enormous resources,efforts and innovation are applied to it. So what are the real lessons that today's business leaders can learn from history of warfare?Here are some that seem particularly relevant. The examples are drawn mostly from British and European history,but there are similar incidents in the history of any nation. But for our first lesson, let's go to Bible.

David Vs. Goliath-1000BC?
Goliath was a giant and the Philistines' champion at man-to-man combat. David was a young shephered boy. Goliath expected to overwhelm his opponent in a sword fight, but David  chose fight on different terms. He defeated Goliath by using an unusual weapon, the sling with pinpoint accuracy.
Lesson: It is no use going up against someone who has an eight-foot spear. You need a different weapon.If you are smaller you have to be agile and different.If your competitor is the giant in the market you need a radical approach so that you can strike rapidly and accurately.

The Battle of Crecy-1346
The English army of about 14,000 men, led by their King, Edward 111, had ravaged northern France. They were finally confronted on August 26th 1346 by an army of some 40,000 Frenchmen, under King Philip V1. Battles then were normally fought by knights on horseback;the French, with such a numerical advantage, felt confident. But the English had a new and superior technology, the longbow. Their archers were trained in rapid fire, and could sustain a rate of over 10 arrows per minute. Each arrow could penetrate armour. It was the first time that such a mass volley of arrows had been used in warfare.The French attacked in waves, and they were cut down relentlessly by the power, speed and range of the English archers.
Lesson: One of the best ways to beat an established competitor is with a new technology. Innovation can overcome a strong opponent. Focus your firepower on the target. Amazon used internet technology to directly address the needs of book buyers and to run rings around the established high street book shops.

The Battle of Trafalgar-1805
Traditionally, naval battles were foughy by lining up two fleets in parallel line so they could get the maximum firepower form their canons. At the battle of Trafalgar, Villeneuve, the French admiral, formed his fleet of 33 ships into a line. But Nelson, the British admiral, did not line up in parallel. He split his 27 ships into squadrons and attaked at right angles to the French line. In the hectic battle that ensued Nelson died but the British were victorious, and established a naval supremacy that lasted over 100 years.
Lesson: If you do not have a superior force or superior technologies then try a different tactic. Surprise your opponent with a fresh approach.Use surprise tactics to disrupt the existing market leaders.

The First World War-194 to 1918
The scale of the slaughter of soldiers in World War 1 was appalling. Over the eight million soldiers died.The main tactic was to repeatedly attack strong defensive positions with waves of men. They were massacred. it was believed that with sufficient artillery bombardment and just weight of numbers a breakthrough could be achieved.But the way to overcome barbed wire defenses and machine gun posts is not with lines of infantrymen.what was needed was the rapid development and effective deployment of the tank.
Lessons: Effort,courage and hardwork are not enough. If you are competing with well-entrenched opponent who has strong defensive position, then you need a new technology or approach to achieve a breakthrough. A long war of attrition debilitates both sides. Retail banking was a stodgy business until internet banking came along to shake it up and take millions of accounts away from the big players.

The Maginot Line-1940
The British and French high commands assumed that the new war with Germany would be similar to the First World War, with huge static armies facing each other. The French built a massive defensive line along the entire border between France and Germany-the Maginot line-consisting of enormous fortifications. But when the Germans attacked in May 1940 they did  some lateral thinking. They used fast moving armoured divisions and paratroops.They swept through Holland and Belgium and around the Maginot line. The British and French were outmanoeuvred, and French fell in five weeks. Remarkably, the British made a similar mistake in the defense of Singapore in 1942. They assumed that the Malay jungle behind the Singapore was impenetrable, and that attack must come from sea.The Japanese swarmed through the jungle and captured the city.
Lesson: Assumptions are dangerous-in particular, assuming that the new contests will be similar to previous ones can lead to disaster.The best way to combat an opponent who has strong defensive position and barriers to entry in  a market is to go around those barriers and find a new way to the market.

The Battle of Britain-1940
After the fall of France, the British retreated across the Channel leaving most of their equipment behind. The German army, having raced across Europe, was rampant while the British army was demoralized and under-equipped. The German planned an aerial assault followed by an invasion, and many thought that Britain would fall as quickly as France, Holland or Poland.But the British  had some things that the others had not-the Channel, the Spitfire radar and winston Churchill.Churchill gave the people a vision, purpose and belief that enabled them to endure the blitz, oppose the might of Germany and eventually triumph.
Lessons:In tough environments, winning CEO are those who have clear vision, can communicate it to their people and motivate them to achieve the goal. This type of visionary leader will achieve great things for their business.

D-Day-June 6th 1944 (The Allied Invasion of Occupied Europe)
The Germans knew that the Allies would launch an invasion force into northern France, and they knew that the invaders would need a deep water port in which to unload all the supplies necessary to support the invasion force. So they guarded the port heavily.But the British developed a remarkable innovation- afloating harbor known as Mulberry.Two Mulberry harbors, each of 600,000 tons of concrete, were floated across the Channel in sections and assembled off the French coast. One was destroyed but the other played an invaluable role -it landed over 2.5 men and 4 million tons of supplies over the next 10 months.
Lessons: If the conventional way of doing thing is very difficult, find an entirely new way. Test it then implement it. Be ready for failure along the way, and prepared to adapt and develop your innovation.

Defeat of Germany-1945
After his great successes in the early part of the war, the German leader was convinced that he was a military genius and the German Wehrmacht (army) could overcome any obstacle.He attacked Russia in the summer of 1941, and he was confident of victory that there were no plans for a winter campaign; no winter coats for the soldiers and no winter oil for the tanks. He ignored the advice of his generals and pushed his forces down towards Stalingrad, and then refused to allow them to withdraw or regroup when the communication lines became overextended. His arrogance and overconfidence built a barrier to criticism, and meant that he never used the full talents of his team. Eventually,Germany was overwhelmed by the weight of Russian, American and British forces.
Lesson: A narcissist CEO will lead the business to disaster.Plan a fallback scenario.Strong vision and belief are essential, but a leader who blocks constructive criticism,ignores the input of his team and fails to build consensus is doomed.To mention them by name may be libellous, but take your pick from the CEOs who have led mighty companies to disaster in recent times.

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