Wednesday 5 August 2015 5:40 am

Go commando: Military tactics for businesses

Invest in onboard training and establish a dynamic of trust

While the aggressive nature of business is often wryly compared with armed conflict, commerce might do well to adopt some military practices. According to a working paper by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, chief executives with military experience were found to be 70 per cent less likely to engage in corporate fraud, were more financially cautious, and were better at limiting damage than their civilian counterparts. Here are three orders to follow.


“Business views everyone as temporary, and only worth a certain economic value,” US Marine sergeant Jon Davis told Quora. 
He argues that too many businesses operate a “sink or swim” policy towards new recruits, offering insufficient initial training, which invariably leads to under-performance. Indeed, last year, a report by Oxford Economics revealed that staff turnover costs an organisation £30,614 per employee on average, after factoring in the logistical cost of recruiting, and earnings lost while the new staff member reaches their “optimum productivity level”. 
A structured training programme, on the other hand, may improve both your bottom line and employee retention. According to research by the Aberdeen Group, not only do companies with structured onboarding programmes enjoy a 60 per cent revenue increase year-on-year per full-time employee, but 90 per cent of employees decide whether to stay or leave a business within six months of starting, so training them well at the beginning may breed loyalty.


In Leaders Eat Last, leadership expert and military adviser Simon Sinek promotes the idea of a “circle of safety” – a dynamic of trust and openness which good leaders extend to everyone under their command. “Without the protection of our leaders, everyone outside the inner circle is forced to work alone or in small tribes to protect and advance their own interests,” explains Sinek. “Silos form, politics entrench, mistakes are covered up and unease soon replaces any sense of cooperation and security.” Extend the circle of safety to your own troops, and you might just find they work better under fire.


Chief executive of Bandwidth David Morken told Business Insider that he credits his time in the US Marine Corps for his ability to “operate in the fog and to execute and decisively engage when you don’t have access to a complete data set”. 
Poor communication has been linked to countless corporate failures, being named by the White House commission as a reason behind the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. As companies rely increasingly on big data, they risk basing their strategy on poor metrics, so information sharing is crucial.
The US Department of Defence’s doctrine of “network-centric warfare” might prove a useful model for chief executives. It seeks closer collaboration between workers to optimise the effectiveness of any decisions taken with limited knowledge. The doctrine recommends developing a highly networked force to improve the sharing and quality of information. All this helps to maximise mission effectiveness. 

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