Basic Business Cents
Our editor enjoys a play-on-words. The title of this column, Basic Business Cents, was her creation. I proposed Basic Business and she added Cents as a double intendre. Another play-on-words appears in the title of a book by David H. Freedman, Corps Business, The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines. It should come as no surprise that these principles have relevance to business.
One of these principles is to organize according to the rules of three. It says in times of stress, people can efficiently handle exactly three key responsibilities. To follow that thinking, the principles that apply to business can be organized into three groups, Focus on the Essence, Organize Around Tasks, and Challenge Your Thinking. We should be able to remember these three guiding groups rather than thirty principles.
Focus on the essence means to break down complex situations into simple terms. In this way, employees will be able to act quickly to respond to changing situations. It is better to have a few options that can be easily adapted to changing situations than to try to make specific plans for every contingency. It is also better to decide quickly on an imperfect solution than to wait for a perfect plan that may be too late. The ability to react quickly and effectively in chaotic environments usually trumps other competencies.
Organize around tasks reminds us to determine the size and make-up of groups within the organization depending on the needs of each specific situation. The lowest levels of personnel accomplish most of the organization’s critical tasks, so anything to help them become more effective will pay dividends. What is also required is flexibility, the ability and willingness to reinvent the groups as situations change. Cross training will enhance the ability to be flexible and adjust to new tasks. Focusing on developing organizational talents creates opportunities while focusing on products and services invites obsolescence. Distribute competence; educate and train people at all levels so that they will not face situations on the job more daunting than they faced in training. When they are aligned with the vision, mission, and objectives of the organization, let them make decisions in real time without your micro-management.
Constantly challenge your thinking. Demand to be questioned by your employees. They should feel free to openly disagree until it is time to carry out the final decision. It is wise to get as many opinions as possible and often insights for improvement can come from people in seemingly unrelated fields. Another good way to challenge our thinking is to experiment obsessively. Even the most successful organizations will eventually stop winning if it doesn’t explore radically new approaches and technology.
So you thought running your business had nothing to do with running a military force like the U.S. Marines? Think again. Even the word strategy originated with the military and has a military meaning:
• a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim
• the art of planning and directing overall military operations and movements in a war or battle.
We can learn from many sources and continued learning is essential to our growth and success. Oorah!