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Military Strategy and Tactics

Instructor: John Turcic

John’s has a background as a business owner, and a business development, marketing, and consulting professional.

How can military strategy and tactics be applied to the business world? This lesson explains what lessons can be learned from some of history's great military leaders and their campaigns.

Are you a history buff? Even if you're not, you may have heard the phrase, 'Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it.' A related point of view is that if you do study history, you find there are many event outcomes and lessons learned that can be applied to different aspects of our lives. A case can be made for this concept when talking about the worlds of the military and business. Let's take a look at what we mean.

Business and Military Similarities

If you work in a business, or have friends that do, you may have heard someone say that 'business is like war…you have business campaigns, allies and enemies, objectives, strategies, tactics'. We're clearly not talking about the many life and death horrors, and brutality of warfare when discussing the world of business. However, you may have heard the use of war-related metaphors in business, such as the death of a business initiative, the failure of a campaign and the losses incurred, and how the competition (enemy) had a better strategy and employed better tactics. And beyond the use of metaphors, there are indeed many commonalities between business and military philosophies, and the related development of strategies and tactics.

What's The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics?

Before we talk about these military and business commonalities, let's make sure we understand the difference between strategy and tactics. In simple terms, a strategy involves what you are going to do to reach a certain objective or goal. A tactic (or tactics) involves how that strategy is going to be implemented. In other words, a strategy is the overall plan, and tactics are the various steps and approaches used in the plan. As we're about to see, the world of business and the world of the military use similar concepts when developing their strategies and tactics.

The History of Strategy and Tactics

We started off our lesson talking about history, and what we can learn from military history and its possible application to business. One famous military figure who is often quoted in business discussions is Sun Tzu, a Chinese general who lived from 544-496 BC. He is known as the author of The Art of War, a book about Sun Tzu's military strategies and philosophies that over the years have attained widespread acceptance in Eastern and Western Cultures, and eventually found their way into business teachings. Some examples of Sun Tzu's concepts are these quotes:

• 'Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.'

• 'Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.'

• 'The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.'

• 'The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.'

• 'Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.'

• 'An army may be likened to water, for just as flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army avoids strength and strikes weakness.'

• 'The natural formation of the country is the soldier's best ally.'

Relating These Military Concepts to Business

While there are many more military concepts and ideas from Sun Tzu and other well-known and respected military authorities, let's see how the above seven quotes apply to the world of business:

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