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Strategic Thinking Skills

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“Pure intellectual stimulation that can be popped into
the [audio or video player] anytime.”
—Harvard Magazine

Strategic Thinking Skills

“Passionate, erudite, living legend lecturers. Academia’s
best lecturers are being captured on tape.”
—The Los Angeles Times
“A serious force in American education.”
—The Wall Street Journal

Thinking Skills
Course Guidebook
Professor Stanley K. Ridgley
Drexel University

Professor Stanley K. Ridgley is Assistant Professor in the
Department of Management at Drexel University’s LeBow
College of Business. He holds an M.B.A. in International
Business from Temple University and a Ph.D. in International
Relations from Duke University. Once a military intelligence
officer in West Berlin, Dr. Ridgley is now an expert in business
presentation techniques. He has lectured to audiences
around the world and has served as the presentation
coach for winning teams in national and international
business competitions.

Cover Image: © iStockphoto/Thinkstock.
Course No. 5913 © 2012 The Teaching Company.



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Thinking Skills

Corporate Headquarters
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Chantilly, Virginia 20151-2299
Phone: 1-800-832-2412
Fax: 703-378-3819

Copyright © The Teaching Company, 2012

Printed in the United States of America
This book is in copyright. All rights reserved.
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above,
no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in
or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted,
in any form, or by any means
(electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise),
without the prior written permission of
The Teaching Company.

Stanley K. Ridgley, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Management
Drexel University


rofessor Stanley K. Ridgley is A; ssistant
Professor in the Department of Management
at Drexel University’s LeBow College of
Business. He earned a B.A. in Journalism from
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an
M.A. in Political Science from Duke University, an M.B.A. in International
Business from Temple University, and a Ph.D. in International Relations
from Duke University. He has also studied at Lomonosov Moscow State
University and the Institut de Gestion Sociale in Paris. Prior to joining
the faculty at Drexel, Professor Ridgley was an Assistant Professor of
International Business and Strategic Management at the Fox School of
Business at Temple University.
Professor Ridgley teaches courses on global business policies, international
business fundamentals, competitive intelligence, strategic management
and entrepreneurship, and advanced strategic business presentations.
He has lectured and presented widely to university students and business
professionals in the United States, Russia, India, France, Colombia, and
Singapore. While teaching at Temple University, he received the Musser
Award for Excellence in Leadership.
As a presentation coach for teams of business students, Professor Ridgley
coached the winning team for Target Corporation’s annual Business Case
Competition at Temple University in 2010 and 2009 and coached an
Indian M.B.A. team’s winning presentation in the All India Management
Association’s 2009 National Competition for Young Managers. He also
is the voice and face of Pearson Education’s online Business Presentation
Instruction Module.


A former military intelligence officer for the U.S. Army, Professor Ridgley
served five years in West Berlin and near the Czech-German border. He
received the George S. Patton Award for Leadership from the 7th Army NCO
Academy in West Germany. ■


Table of Contents

Professor Biography ............................................................................i
Course Scope .....................................................................................1
The World of Strategic Thinking .........................................................4
The Origins and Relevance of Ancient Strategy ............................... 11
The Dawn of Modern Strategic Thinking ..........................................20
Modern Principles of Strategic Conflict.............................................29
Geography—Know Your Terrain .......................................................37
Grand Strategists and Strategic Intent .............................................45
The Core and the Rise of Strategic Planning ...................................54
Which Business Strategy? Fundamental Choices............................62
Your Competitive Advantage—Find the Blue Ocean ........................70
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats ..............................78

Table of Contents

Avoid the Pathologies of Execution ..................................................85
Tactics of Combat as Problem-Solving Tools ...................................92
Shock of the New—Inflection Points ..............................................101
Surprise! Perils and Power of Strategic Deception.........................109
The Sources and Uses of Reliable Intelligence .............................. 117
Move and Countermove—The Theory of Games...........................124
The Evolution of Cooperation .........................................................131
When Strategy Breaks Down .........................................................138
Leverage Cognitive Psychology for Better Strategy .......................146
Strategic Intuition and Creative Insight ...........................................155
From Systemic Problems to Systemic Solutions ............................161
Seize the Future with Scenario Analysis ........................................167
The Correlation of Forces, Luck, and Culture.................................175

Table of Contents

Strategic Thinking as a Way of Life ...............................................182
Timeline ..........................................................................................190
Biographical Notes .........................................................................197
Bibliography ....................................................................................203



Strategic Thinking Skills


trategic thinking is about unraveling the mysteries of the chaotic world
around us and harnessing powerful forces to our own ends. It means
utilizing tools of analysis and tactics to take decisive and prudent
action that gives us the best possible chance of achieving our objectives—
whether those objectives are personal or professional.
In this course, we learn what the finest strategic minds of history can teach us
and how their insights can transform us into decisive, capable strategic thinkers.
We learn how to overcome both internal and external obstacles that block the
way to achieving our goals. Strategic thinking sharpens your awareness of the
world around you so that previously inexplicable events become intelligible.
You begin to connect the dots in many areas and at different levels. Causes and
effects, sometimes far removed from each other, take on clarity as we begin to
understand the funnel of causality. Seemingly isolated events are connected to
each other in patterns that we can readily recognize.
The framework for strategic thinking is a series of powerful analytical tools
that enables us to make sense of a complex world and can transform the
way we think, behave, and interact with others. These are the same tools
that inform both corporate strategy staffs and military intelligence units in
accomplishing scenario development, strategic choice, and tactical execution.
We begin with lectures on the origins of strategy to discover how the concept
of strategic thinking emerged in theorizing about ancient warfare and
how principles of strategic action began to crystallize in the minds of the
great theorist/practitioners. Strategy has its ancient origins in the military,
both in Greece and China, so we start there, with the theorist-practitioners
Thucydides and Sun Tzu and the ancient battles of Delium and Cannae.

Military strategic thought flourished during the Enlightenment, culminating
in the Napoleonic era of advanced strategic and tactical developments.
Modern efforts to name and systematize principles of military strategy really

began with Napoleon. We consider Napoleon’s own ideas and actions, as
well as the contrasting lessons drawn from Napoleon by the two leading
theorists of 19th-century strategy, Jomini and Clausewitz.
Entering the modern era, we examine how strategic dynamism began
to suffuse and revolutionize the thinking in other realms of endeavor and
slowly evolved into an indispensable tool in the worlds of the military,
business, politics, sports, and even entertainment. The military principles of
combat can be understood as principles of competition, offering us a variety
of tactical options for use in our own strategic endeavors.
In our middle lectures, we turn to the various tools and intellectual
perspectives offered by modern strategic thought. Here, it is important to
grasp the difference between strategy and the tools of strategy. Strategy is
not a ready-made plan we can pull from a shelf, nor is it a tool we can take
from a toolbox.
Regardless of the area of endeavor, the key to any successful strategy is
an overall sense of mission, what business strategists Hamel and Prahalad
called “strategic intent.” Far from an empty exercise, crafting a clear and
meaningful mission statement shapes the entire strategic planning process.
That process as explicated here consists of mission, objective, situation
analysis, strategy formulation, strategy implementation, and control. This
simple planning process serves as the structure for our thinking and is a
constant loop that leads us back to situation analysis. We constantly evaluate
the external and internal environments and modify our strategy according to
arising needs.


We learn the fundamental competitive choices available to us, their
advantages and disadvantages, and how to position ourselves for the most
successful strategic outcomes. We also learn the sources of competitive
advantage and one superb technique—the blue ocean strategy—whereby we
may achieve it and sustain it.
Where many strategies fall short is in the implementation, the crisp and
correct execution of tactics. We review tactics and principles—including the
frontal assault, the flank attack, the indirect approach, and rear area battle—

that empower us on the field of conflict of our choice, and we explore the
special power of surprise and its force-multiplier effect. We also learn of the
incredible utility of the intelligence cycle and scenario planning as engines
of predictive capability, predictive of both the specific likely actions of
competitors and the likely course of macro-factors that can affect our plans.
Key to the success or failure of much strategic action, regardless of the venue,
is the mindset of the strategist. Lectures on cognitive psychology, strategic
intuition, game theory, systemic problems, and perspectives on “luck”
demonstrate that our own self-perception and the perception of the world
around us can have a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of our strategy.
Likewise, one of our lectures encompasses the well-known obstacles to
great strategy and relates how these obstacles can often be circumvented if
acknowledged and properly considered.
The course concludes with a final lecture that sketches the lives of four
strategic thinkers, vignettes of powerful and focused idea entrepreneurs
who harnessed the power of strategic imagination for their own ventures
and achieved tremendous success. In this final lecture, we recapitulate the
principles of strategic thinking and illustrate the potential rewards awaiting
those who cultivate strategic thinking skills as a way of life, those who do
not fear the future but harness its potential for their own benefit.
At the end of our course, you may find that your perspective on the world
has undergone profound transformation as you begin to see patterns and
routines, to identify categories, and to sense the broader macro-shifts in
a particular correlation of forces that affect you in unique ways. You gain
clarity and you may see the fog of uncertainty begin to clear, replaced by
a certitude of purpose and direction as you begin to master the concept of
strategic choice—the selection of the correct tools to apply to your unique
situation. By adopting various combinations of techniques and tools of
analysis, and by seizing a substantial role in developing your circumstances,
you improve your chances of achieving your objectives. And this is the great
gift of strategic thinking: clarity and efficacy of action in a forever changing
and chaotic world. ■


The World of Strategic Thinking
Lecture 1


ow can you learn to plan more effectively, outsmart your
competitors, and avoid unpleasant surprises? The answer is strategy.
This course arms you with the essential tools that allow you to think
strategically in business and in life. In these lectures, you’ll learn a broad
array of skills and techniques for problem solving, critical decision making,
competitive intelligence, and long-term planning. As we’ll see, strategic
thinking is a way of peering into the future with confidence that our actions
today will yield the best possible outcome tomorrow.
A Quarterback’s Strategic Thinking

 Consider the crucial 10 to 15 seconds in a football game between the
call of a play in the offensive huddle and the snap of the ball.

Lecture 1: The World of Strategic Thinking

 The offense has made a plan to achieve the intermediate objective of
moving the ball to make a first down. This plan takes into account the
situation on the field, that is, the distance required to make the first
down, the number of downs remaining, and the distance needed to
score. The defense looks at the same situation on the field and calls a
play to resist the offense.

 What happens next is where truly powerful strategy emerges. In that
narrow window of time between the break of the huddle and the snap
of the ball, the quarterback collects and processes information on his
opponent and may change the play as a reaction to the other team’s
anticipated course of action.

 This ability to change the play—or the plan—is what distinguishes
genuine strategy: the dynamic of action and reaction that yields
optimum results.


© iStockphoto/Thinkstock.

Powerful strategy emerges in the game of football, with both offense and
defense adjusting their lines of attack almost instantaneously based on the
actions of their opponents.

A Cultivated Skill
 We aren’t born with a fully developed ability to think strategically. It
is a skill that must be cultivated and practiced. In fact, most people are
stuck in the mode of cognitive confinement, or static thinking; they
consciously reject thinking about tomorrow.

 Albert Einstein once observed that insanity is the propensity to do the
same thing over and over again, expecting different results each time.
This is the antithesis of strategic thinking, and it occurs in the workplace
more often than we’d like to admit.

 Many of our co-workers or employees don’t engage in a methodical
process of questioning, evaluating assumptions, gathering information,
analyzing and planning, and then taking action. Many people simply
function in routines they don’t question.

 We all think about the future, of course, but there is a difference between
strategic thinking and daydreaming about what might be. Strategic

thinking is about setting goals and developing long-range plans to reach
those goals, plans based on careful analysis of internal and external
environments and on the actions of others.

 Strategic thinking involves thinking logically and deeply about the
future. It means embracing the idea that where we want to be five years
from now should inform what we do today.
Key Terms, Definitions, and Concepts
 The term “strategic intent” refers to the “big ideas” that strategy aims
to advance. It is this intent that compels us to think about the future: the
home you’d like to buy, the career you’d like to have.

 The term “strategy” itself refers to more than just a plan. It is a way of

Lecture 1: The World of Strategic Thinking

perceiving and considering the future with our aims and goals in mind.
It is also a way of dealing with a constantly changing environment, both
responding to that environment to achieve our goals and attempting,
where possible, to change that environment to our benefit.



The ancient military strategist Sun Tzu offers us one of the most
well-known examples of strategic theory in his opus The Art of War.
Sun Tzu’s brilliance lies in his recognition of the fluid nature of
reality and the fact that any practitioner of strategy must constantly
adapt to it.


In the Western world, the concept of strategy flowered in the 19th
century with the work of the French general Antoine de Jomini,
most notably his Summary of the Art of War. Jomini’s contribution
to strategic thinking lies in his identification of interior lines of
communication and his notion of concentration of force.


Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian military officer, disagreed with
Jomini in important respects. He viewed uncertainty, chance, and
probability as three-fourths of conflict—what he called “friction”—
and to overcome this friction, he offered the notion of coup d’oeil,
a French expression for a stroke of intuition and genius. This is the
concept of the rapid and accurate decision making.


One of the most influential strategists of the 20th century was
Sir Basil Liddell Hart, whose contribution was the “indirect
approach”—a form of misdirection. Hart’s idea was that we should
never expend our energies with frontal assaults on an entrenched
enemy; instead, we should seek interesting alternative routes to
achieve our objectives.

Strategy versus Tactics
 We sometimes hear the word “strategy” used in conjunction with
“tactics,” but there’s a difference between the two. We tend to think of
strategy as part of some higher realm of planning, while tactics are the
execution of strategy.

 If your strategy is to become a doctor or lawyer, the courses you take
are part of that strategy, but the ways you choose to study and prepare
would be tactics.

 Clausewitz distinguished between strategy and tactics by focusing on
levels of conflict. In his words, “Just as tactics is the employment of
military forces in battle, so strategy is the employment of battles … to
achieve the object of war.”

 Strategy encompasses well-executed tactics and cannot be divorced
from tactics. Many a great strategic plan can falter because of a failure
to recognize this crucial point.

 Strategic thinking does not end with the crafting and execution of
a strategy. Strategic thinking means constant interaction with the
environment during the execution of the strategy. Successful strategy is
dynamic, adaptive, and opportunistic, and it depends on the swift, bold,
and decisive execution of tactics.
Strategic Theory and Thinking
 The realm of business has proven to be a fertile area for the development
of strategic theory. Harvard business professor Michael Porter elevated
strategic thinking to a new level of respect in the nation’s business


schools, beginning with his pathbreaking work in the 1980s on
competitive advantage, competition, and strategic thinking.

 For Porter, “strategy means choosing a different set of activities to
deliver a unique mix of value,” in other words, doing things differently.
This definition bridges the gap between the military and business and
between ancient and modern ideas.

 “Choosing a different set of activities” enabled the ancient general
Hannibal to defeat the far more numerous Romans at the Battle of
Cannae in 216 B.C. and allowed Apple to play a significant role in the
personal computer revolution of the 1980s.

 Strategic thinking is goal-directed, structured, and focused on the future
in a precise way. It is analytical and ambitious. It concerns power and
trends, as well as uncertainty and the resolution or accommodation of
that uncertainty.

 Strategic thinking is also instrumental; we use strategic thinking as

Lecture 1: The World of Strategic Thinking

an instrument to achieve our goals. It becomes a resource, much like
money, or time, or labor. Note, too, that it is useful across a range of
activities, from the grand and sweeping to the at-home and everyday.
The Importance of Intelligence
 Intelligence and analysis play a significant role in critical thinking,
providing the raw material to build a sound strategic structure. Not only
do we want to find out what the other side is doing, but we want to
mislead our opponents about our intentions, as the U.S. military did
with its feigned invasion of Kuwait from the sea during the first Gulf
War in 1991.

 In competitive situations, the “surprise attack” smacks of the not-sogenteel aspects of conflict, but in sports, business, and politics, we can
admire a well-crafted surprise. Again, in football, surprise and deception
are integral parts of the game and are crucial to gaining competitive
advantage. The “draw play,” for example, attempts to draw defenders
into the wrong parts of the field.

 Surprise and stratagem serve us as useful tools to advance our strategic
goals. Deception can turn a bad situation into a good one, and it can turn
a good situation into victory. The five basic types of surprises at our
disposal are those of intention, time, place, strength, and style.

 In a full sense, strategy equips us with tools that help us meet the future
with confidence. Tools of analysis can aid our understanding of the
powerful forces that shape that future. As we’ll see in a future lecture,
the SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)
is an analytical tool that helps us look at all aspects of a situation to
ensure that our strategic intent matches our resources and capabilities.
A Robust Definition
 Strategy is a method or plan that we craft to bring about a desired
future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem. It’s a
plan that assesses, acquires, and allocates necessary resources to the
most effective and efficient use. And it’s a plan that anticipates and
incorporates competitor responses.

 Peter Drucker, the great 20th-century management thinker, observed that
there are two types of thinking: thinking about objects and thinking about
people. Static thinking involves planning around objects and is quite
easy; the variables are few and relatively unchanging. Strategic thinking,
however, is much more difficult, because it involves anticipating the
actions and reactions of competitors and preparing accordingly.

 Thinking strategically helps us to make sense out of chaos and enables
us to use the forces around us to our advantage, rather than allow those
forces to pummel us. We learn to quarterback our own lives, both by
planning ahead and by adapting our plan in the moments of decision
that matter most.

 Strategic thinking skills are most critical in the moments when an
outcome is uncertain and additional strategic action is needed. This is
the quarterback in the seconds before the snap, the courtroom attorney
in a last-minute maneuver, the closing minutes on a stock-exchange
trading floor, or the perfect teaching moment with a child.

 In this course, we will cultivate the benefits of strategic thinking,
enabling us to enjoy increased productivity and work satisfaction,
greater predictability, less stress, greater efficiency, and a better chance
of victory.

Suggested Reading
Dixit and Nalebuff, Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in
Business, Politics, and Everyday Life.
Harvard Business School Press, Thinking Strategically.
Porter, “What Is Strategy?”
Rice, Three Moves Ahead.
Sloan, Learning to Think Strategically.

Questions to Consider

Lecture 1: The World of Strategic Thinking

1. Strategy is one of the most used—and abused—terms in the lexicon of
modern business. This is largely because genuine strategy is so difficult
to craft, risky to accept, and challenging to implement; as a result,
poseurs, such as off-the-shelf “efficiency tools,” masquerade as strategy.
What are some of the programs and processes you know of that position
themselves as “strategy” and how do they differ from genuine strategy?

2. Use the game of football as a learning tool. Watch a football game with
an eye toward observing specific players on the field; watch their actions
and where they look before each play. Do they attempt to deceive their
opponents? Watch the quarterback and consider his actions after he
breaks the huddle. What does he do? What are his thoughts? How does
he react to what he sees?

3. Ensure that you understand the difference between strategy and a mere
off-the-shelf efficiency tool or efficiency process. What is the difference
and why do you think that efficiency tools so successfully masquerade
as strategy?


The Origins and Relevance of Ancient Strategy
Lecture 2


hilosophers and generals study the great thinkers of the past, and we
would do well to emulate them if we wish to deepen our understanding
of strategic thinking in the 21st century. The broader our context, the
more elaborate our backdrop, the more useful the tools of strategy become.
In this lecture, we’ll learn strategic lessons from six of the best military
commanders and thinkers in history; as we do, try to come up with ways that
these lessons can be relevant in your own life and work.
 Thucydides was a 5th-century-B.C. aristocrat who served as a general
in the Peloponnesian War, the great conflict between the Greek citystates of Athens and Sparta. Thucydides carried the rank of strategos,
or general, and his History of the Peloponnesian War covers the conflict
down to the year 411 B.C.

 Nearly 2500 years after it was written, this ancient treatise serves as the
starting point for the field of international relations, the foundation for
a school of thought called political realism, and our earliest account of
strategic thinking in action.

 The work of Thucydides conveys skepticism about such concepts as
justice. For example, in the famous Melian dialogue, the Athenians
assert their superior armed might as the only arbiter required to exact
cooperation from the inhabitants of the island of Melos. The passage
sweeps away notions of fairness, justice, reason, and even intervention
by the gods.

 The Melian dialogue presents us with an archetype for power politics
or realpolitik. Think of a situation in which power remains paramount
in your professional life. Is there a market or competitive field where
overwhelming force or vicious competition is not only the most


effective strategy but also the only logical one? How can you leverage
your organization’s advantages to score an overwhelming victory?
 Despite the fact that the generals of Athens were called strategos, they
didn’t use a great deal of actual strategy in the Peloponnesian War. To see
strategy at work in this war, we must look at an apparently insignificant
battle that featured none of the leading generals from either side.

 On the surface, the Battle of Delium, fought in 424 B.C., looks like just
another ancient bloodletting. But at Delium, an obscure Theban general
named Pagondas exhibited a radically new mode of combat.

Lecture 2: The Origins and Relevance of Ancient Strategy

 At the start of the battle, the Athenians marched out to the valley near
Delium with about 20,000 troops, but they turned back after their
supporting troops failed to appear. Rather than allow the Athenians
to flee, Pagondas urged the Thebans to pursue and close with them.
With this move, he developed the principles of forward defense and
preemption—striking an enemy that poses a long-term threat rather than
an immediate threat.

 At a crucial moment in the battle, Pagondas ordered fresh companies
of Theban cavalry, held in reserve, to attack the Athenians in concert
with the infantry. This was the first recorded use of deliberate reserves
joining an attack. In response, the Athenians panicked; their ranks
shattered; and they fled.

 Among the innovations Pagondas introduced in this battle was his own
monitoring of the situation from a distance—rather than positioning
himself at the forefront of the fighting—and the modification of
troop formation.

 The Battle of Delium counts as the birthplace of a science of Western
tactics and gives us our second strategic lesson: Surprise innovations
can often turn the tide of an evenly matched struggle. In your life, are
you stuck fighting a battle with traditional tactics? If so, can you think
of any innovations that will allow you to catch your opponent off guard?

Sun Tzu
 China offers us one of the most well-known examples of strategic
theory, The Art of War, popularly attributed to Sun Tzu, a general who
flourished in the 5th century B.C. This work was perhaps expanded
by others in subsequent centuries, and it greatly influenced military
thinking in Asia and, later, the West.

 Sun Tzu’s brilliance lay in his recognition of the fluid nature of reality
and the fact that any practitioner of strategy must constantly adapt to
that reality. Sun Tzu’s principles can be applied to the battlefield, public
administration and planning, and diplomacy and international negotiation.

 Key to Sun Tzu’s thinking is his realization that all plans are temporary.
He knew that a plan can become obsolete as soon as it’s crafted. For
him, the decision to position one’s forces in competition depends on two
major factors: (1) objective conditions in the physical environment and
(2) the subjective beliefs of competitors in that environment.

 In this, Sun Tzu originates a view shared by elite strategic theorists
down to the present: that the most brilliant plans are those that spring
into being in the dynamic of action and response. Sun Tzu believed that
strategy requires rapid responses to changing conditions based on sound
judgment and principles.

 How can you apply Sun Tzu’s lessons in your life? Consider situations
in which you rely on outdated plans; then think like Sun Tzu: Figure
out how and why your plans went awry and how that understanding can
help you correct course.
Hannibal Barca
 Hannibal was a Carthaginian general who plagued the Roman Republic
from the 3rd century into the 2nd century B.C. Outnumbered in the
enemy’s homeland, he fought the Romans to a great victory in 216
B.C. at the Battle of Cannae, thanks to his revolutionary manipulation
of forces.


© Photos.com/Thinkstock.

Lecture 2: The Origins and Relevance of Ancient Strategy

At the Battle of Cannae in 216 B.C., the Carthaginian general Hannibal
outmaneuvered and outsmarted the Romans with a battle plan that turned their
own tactics against them.

 In Hannibal’s time, standard tactics dictated that formations of soldiers
would line up abreast of each other in a phalanx, march forward, collide,
and do battle. Numerical superiority was thought to be the key to victory.
Armed with fewer resources than his Roman enemies, however, Hannibal
configured his forces differently and achieved a stunning success.

 At Cannae, the Romans marched forward in a narrow and deep phalanx
that matched the front of Hannibal’s smaller force. This narrow front
greatly negated the Roman numerical advantage.

 Roman training dictated that soldiers pursue a fleeing opponent. Thus,
when Hannibal’s leading troops appeared to break and withdraw, the
Romans pressed forward, leaving their flanks to Hannibal’s infantry.

 The Romans were also taken unawares by a change in cavalry tactics. Once
Hannibal’s cavalry had driven off the Roman cavalry, his horsemen did not
pursue the Romans. Instead, they fell upon the rear of the masses of Roman


infantry, which became even more tightly packed. The envelopment of the
Romans was complete, and their destruction, inevitable.

 Hannibal achieved this great victory not with superior numbers but
superior strategy and extraordinary tactical execution. And that’s his
lesson to us: When faced with superior competitors, use your knowledge
of their habits and weaknesses to outsmart them. How can you invert
commonplace thinking and outmaneuver your competitors when they’re
falsely feeling confident?
 Vegetius was a Roman administrator who lived in the late 4th century
A.D., during a period of Roman decline. At the request of Emperor
Valentinian, Vegetius prepared a treatise called Epitoma rei militaris,
or A Summary of Military Matters, which became the most popular
military handbook for more than 1000 years after its publication.

 The Summary contains a list of seemingly pedestrian topics—the
selection of recruits, their training, and so on. The link to high-concept
strategy here is that strategy encompasses three elements: intentions,
capabilities, and resources. Vegetius’s work addresses how the military
may develop its capabilities to achieve the aims of strategy.

 Throughout his work, Vegetius hammers home the need for thorough
training, strong discipline, hard work, and sound planning. These
elements of preparation form the heart of strategic capability.

 Key among his directives was an emphasis on the need for, and uses
of, strategic reserves. As an exercise, write out all the areas where you
feel your company has uncommonly strong reserves. Where can you
hold off deploying all your resources to lure your competitors into a
false sense of confidence? How can you spring these resources on the
competitor suddenly and with overwhelming effect?
 In his famous work The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli, one of the most
important political theorists in history, advocated a coldly reasoned

line of behavior to maintain a monarch in power: a ruthless pursuit of
self-interest. In the lesser-known Art of War, Machiavelli extended this
amoral reasoning to the battlefield.

 Machiavelli offers us two key concepts: virtu and fortuna, representing

Lecture 2: The Origins and Relevance of Ancient Strategy

the internal and external elements of strategic thinking.

The concept of virtu for Machiavelli incorporates numerous
qualities: flexibility, foresight, individuality, ability, energy, political
acumen, prowess, and vital force. It is a skill that one can develop
and sharpen.


Conventional thinkers of the time treated Fortuna as a mostly benign
goddess. In contrast, Machiavelli conceived fortune as a malevolent
and uncompromising source of human misery and disaster. Thus,
he counseled generals to “beat and maul” fortune into submission.
Today, we would call his advice a bias toward action.


Virtu provides the ability to respond to fortune at any time and in
any way necessary. This joining of the actor with the environment is
an early formulation of the concept of emergent strategy. Given that
we cannot predict what Fortuna will hand to us, we must develop
the internal qualities and capabilities that enable us to meet those
uncertainties in the best manner possible.

 As a final challenge for this lecture, ask yourself whether you have
developed the flexibility, foresight, and energy to outwit unpredictable
fortune. Think back to an unexpected situation that overwhelmed you in
the past. Have you learned from it, and if not, how can you?
The Lessons of the Past

 Ancient strategists provide us with modes of thinking and practical
guidance that we can use in the present.

 First, any area, no matter how dominated by thoughtless effort, can be
transformed by the application of tactics. Try to use special forces at
special times and in special ways.

 Second, understand that plans must change. Learn to recognize the fluid
nature of reality and be aware that any strategy must constantly adapt to
that reality. The most brilliant plans are those that spring into being in
the action-response dynamic of the moment.

 Third, preparation is the heart of strategic capability. Whether you’re
running a household or a billion-dollar business, training, discipline,
hard work, and sound planning are the foundations of strategic reserves,
which are necessary for many kinds of maneuvers. If you have no
reserves, you have no strategy.

 Fourth, know your opponents. You can gain astonishing leverage
if you know the preparations and capabilities of your opponents. A
combination of surprise and superb tactical execution can allow you to
defeat an opponent with twice your strength.

 Fifth, be bold; seize your fortune. The greatest challenge in strategic
thinking is getting started.

Names to Know
Hannibal (247 B.C.–183–181 B.C.): Son of a famous general and sworn
to eternal hostility against Rome from a young age, Hannibal Barca’s name
will always be associated with one of the greatest victories in all of history:
his defeat of the Romans at Cannae.
Machiavelli, Niccolò (1469–1527): A humanely educated man who is most
remembered for his tract on political power, Machiavelli also offered his
take on conflict in his treatise The Art of War. Literally a Renaissance man,
Machiavelli collaborated on military projects with both Leonardo da Vinci
and Michelangelo.
Pagondas (fl. 5th century B.C.): This obscure Theban general is credited
with inventing the science of battlefield tactics, demonstrating a radical new
approach to warfare of the time by his innovations at the Battle of Delium
(424 B.C.) during the Peloponnesian War.


Sun Tzu (fl. 5th century B.C.): One of a handful of almost universally known
strategists, the impact of Sun Tzu on strategy and the way we think about
strategy has suffused thinking not only in present-day military circles but in
business and political realms, as well. Descriptions of warfare in The Art of
War, traditionally credited to Sun Tzu, suggest that the work was composed
early in the Warring States period (475–221 B.C.). Famous generals who
utilized Sun Tzu’s principles were Chinese communist Mao Zedong,
Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap, and American generals Norman
Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell in the First Gulf War of 1991.

Lecture 2: The Origins and Relevance of Ancient Strategy

Thucydides (460 B.C. or earlier–after 404 B.C.): This ancient Greek
historian is the founding father of the modern political science school of
realism, which sees the international system as resulting from configurations
of state power. Carrying the rank of strategos in the Athenian military, he
both fought in the Peloponnesian War and wrote about it.
Vegetius (fl. 4th century A.D.): The avatar of adequate training and
preparation of military forces, Vegetius preached the necessity of proper
development of superior military capability prior to battle. He wrote his
treatise Epitoma rei militaris at the request of Emperor Valentinian, divining
how the “ancient Romans” organized and utilized their legions so that
Rome’s military prowess might be resuscitated.

Suggested Reading
Hanson, Ripples of Battle.
Jay, Management and Machiavelli.
Koliopoulos and Platias, Thucydides on Strategy.
Machiavelli, The Art of War.
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War.


Questions to Consider
1. In your own personal or professional life, what is a situation where
power remains paramount? Thinking about your own situation, what
advice might you give the Athenians or the Melians?

2. Think of a way that you or your associates are stuck using traditional
tactics. Recalling how General Pagondas outmaneuvered the Athenians,
try to think of a completely new way to behave that might catch a
competitor or opponent you face off guard.

3. Considering the action-response dynamic that infuses Sun Tzu’s
writings, resolve to replace at least one way that you are merely working
through an established list or procedure with a more deeply considered
response to the circumstances you actually face.

4. Survey competitors or potential competitors in your environment. Do
they have quirks or weaknesses that you know about? How might you,
like Hannibal, exploit such knowledge to outmaneuver them when
they’re falsely feeling most confident?

5. Write out all areas where you, your workplace, or another organization
you care about has uncommonly strong reserves. Where can you hold
off deploying all those resources? How might you spring those resources
on a competitor suddenly and with overwhelming effect?

6. Consider your own approach to good and bad fortune. Think back to
an unexpected situation that overwhelmed you in the past. What have
you learned from it? What personal traits could you cultivate in order to
handle similar situations more effectively in the future?


The Dawn of Modern Strategic Thinking
Lecture 3


he study of early-modern military strategy enables us to discover
deep lessons of how strategy emerges, how it comes to terms with
the environment, and how it can help us achieve our goals. Napoleon
himself urged careful study of the great military strategists as the surest way
to become a great captain. Thus, in this lecture, we examine the contributions
of Napoleon, Clausewitz, Jomini, and the geopoliticians.

Lecture 3: The Dawn of Modern Strategic Thinking

The Enlightenment and Strategic Thinking
 Beginning in the 17th century, the Enlightenment mobilized the power
of reason to reform society and advance knowledge across numerous
fields—science, politics, medicine, education, and war. Inevitably,
the Enlightenment emphasis on reason and its exploration of the
fundamentals of social life would prompt new thinking about war.

The 18th-century works of the French general Maurice de Saxe and
Frederick the Great began to outline the battle principles that would
lay the groundwork for Napoleon. Saxe revived and extended the
Roman insights transmitted by Vegetius. Frederick the Great’s most
important achievement came in the ability to drill large numbers of
troops effectively.


The ascension of Napoleon marks the dawn of the modern era of strategic
thinking. All of the elements for a military strategic revolution were
present: new thinking, new technologies, and increasing populations.

 Studying Napoleon enables us to discover deep lessons in how strategy
has developed from its ancient forms, how it has come to terms with an
environment that changes constantly, and how it can confer competitive
advantage in the goals we pursue. Napoleon himself urged careful study
of generals from the past.


The Napoleonic era stretched roughly from 1790 to 1815. Napoleon
declared himself emperor in 1804, and he became, for a time, the master
of continental Europe, achieving
military victories over a series of
exemplifies strategic thinking in that
he demonstrates the power of ideas
over material resources.


Napoleon’s insights into strategic
thinking and other topics are distilled
in a volume called The Military
Maxims of Napoleon. These serve
even today as a practical guide
to how a great strategic mind
and weaves their solution into a
coherent whole.


Napoleon recognized that some
people view strategy as a checklist
of techniques. The unspoken In Napoleon, the elements
for a revolution in military
assumption here is that if you learn strategy came together
the techniques, then you, too, can be in a “perfect storm.”
a great general. This is possibly the
greatest danger for us as strategic thinkers today: to think of strategy
as a formula. On this point, Napoleon said, “Unhappy the general who
comes on the field of battle with a system.”


He also understood the paradox that the best strategy can be overturned
by its very implementation. He said, “In war, theory is all right so far
as general principles are concerned; but in reducing general principles
to practice there will always be danger.” The key, instead, is to retain
flexibility and cultivate the skill of responding to an opponent’s actions.


© Photos.com/Thinkstock.


Lecture 3: The Dawn of Modern Strategic Thinking

The Strategies of Central Position and Indirect Approach
 Napoleon used the strategies of central position and indirect approach
throughout his campaigns in the early 19th century. Which strategy he
chose depended on such factors as terrain, weather, troop numbers, and
overall capabilities as he judged them.

When Napoleon was outnumbered, he would use the central position
strategy, maneuvering his army to a position between the coalition
armies facing him and driving a wedge between them. He would then
seek battle with one army while leaving a masking force to hold the
second in place.


This maneuver was the expression of Napoleon’s almost maniacal
devotion to the principle of concentration in time and space. The idea
here is that when you attack, you mount a preponderance of force at the
point of attack, even if you are outnumbered overall.


When Napoleon had strength comparable to his opponents and room to
maneuver, he would use the strategy of indirect approach. This involved
positioning a small force to the front of the enemy to feign a major attack.
Simultaneously, the main force would march to the enemy’s flanks or
rear, placing Napoleon’s troops on the enemy’s lines of communication
and supply and forcing the enemy to fight at a disadvantage or withdraw.

Antoine Jomini
 Napoleon is tightly bound up with the names of the two most influential
military theorists of the 19th century, Antoine Jomini and Carl von
Clausewitz. Both offered powerful interpretations of the Napoleonic
Wars, and they influence the making and implementation of strategy
even today.


Jomini was a Swiss citizen and an officer in Napoleon’s Grand Armée.
He rose to prominence by his writing on military matters, and his Art
of War is the work often credited with being the first to define strategy,
tactics, and logistics as three distinct realms. Of these, defining the
overall principles of strategy was his primary concern.



According to Jomini, the fundamental principle of strategy was
concentration, specifically, concentration of forces at the decisive point on
the battlefield. This concentration consisted of four interrelated elements.

The first element involves bringing the majority of forces to
bear on the decisive areas of a theater of war and the enemy’s
communications, without compromising your own. In modern-day
business, this might equate to bringing resources to bear on a single
critical part of the competitive market.


The second element is maneuvering to engage major forces against
only parts of the enemy’s forces.


The third element is using tactical maneuvers to bring major forces
to bear on the decisive area of the battlefield that it is important
to overwhelm.


Finally, the fourth element is to ensure that these forces at the
decisive location are put into action quickly. In other words, it isn’t
enough to concentrate your resources at a critical place and time;
your organizational control must be such that you can deploy those
resources to achieve your goal.

In addition to the principle of concentration, Jomini brought geometric
precision to strategy and tactics, developing 12 geometric orders of
battle, or specific geometric formations to engage an enemy.

Carl von Clausewitz
 Clausewitz was a Prussian officer whose posthumously published On
War remains an influential treatise on strategy. He positioned war in a
larger context, demonstrating the connections between the military and
political spheres.

Clausewitz viewed conflict as a function of three variables: violence,
chance, and political aims. It was the job of the strategist to balance
these three to achieve victory.



Of the three, the variable with the most relevance for us as strategic
thinkers is the element of chance—the interplay of the military
commander’s courage, talent, and skill with the capabilities at his
disposal. In the furor of battle, Clausewitz believed that the commander’s
insight—what he called coup d’oeil (“glance of the eye,” lightning
insight)—in the face of chance was the key to victory.


Military establishments today recognize the importance of intuition in
battle, and the latest research suggests that intuitive decision making can
be taught.

Lecture 3: The Dawn of Modern Strategic Thinking

The Influence of Jomini and Clausewitz
 The impact of Jomini was seen in the latter 19th century, while
Clausewitz achieved greater prominence in the 20th century.

In the American Civil War, Jomini’s influence inspired the tactics
of massed frontal infantry assaults on both sides that led to massive
casualties. But the fault is not Jomini’s; rather, it is the commanders who
thought of strategy in terms of a checklist.


The Civil War also yielded several practitioners who appeared ahead
of their time in their creativity and ability to adapt to fluid and chaotic
situations. They recognized the futility of massed infantry assaults
against an entrenched enemy armed with long-range rifles and
minié balls.



The Southern general Stonewall Jackson believed in maneuver
and surprise as powerful weapons, not just enhancements of the
“real business” of making war. His Shenandoah campaign of 1862
was a brilliant demonstration of the power of feint, deception, and
speed of maneuver as force multipliers.


Nathan Bedford Forrest, another Southern general, summed up his
own strategic theory with the aphorism “Get there first with the
most.” This short phrase encompasses a core of strategic theory
that includes surprise, maneuver, objective, speed, capabilities,
and mass. Forrest’s 1864 victory over a Union force at the Battle

of Brice’s Crossroads exemplified Jominian principles, particularly
that of concentration.

Much later, in the Second World War, General Heinz Guderian
led Hitler’s panzers across Belgium and France following the same
principle as Forrest: applying overwhelming force at a single point
and then pursuing an enemy relentlessly.


World War I was the most horrific cauldron of war and death the world
had known to that point. Military strategists of the time attempted to
concentrate their forces as prescribed by Jomini, but they failed to
recognize that technology had shifted the advantage to the defense.


The horrors of World War I led to a rethinking of strategy. The prominent
military thinker Basil Liddell Hart concluded that the frontal assault
had limited utility; instead, he advocated his own theory of indirect
approach that took into account the new weapons introduced in World
War I, particularly the armored tank.


In the 1930s, other strategic theories emerged as responses to changing
political and technological conditions. One of the most notorious of
these was the field of geopolitics and its insight known as geographical
determinism: Geography determines the destinies of states and the fate
of men.

One of the most famous dictums of geopolitics was formulated
by Sir Halford Mackinder in 1904, and it is ominous in what it
portends: “Who rules Eastern Europe, commands the Heartland.
Who rules the Heartland, commands the World Island. Who rules
the World Island, commands the World.”


Geopolitics was adopted by Nazi Germany as a pseudoscientific
justification for German expansion, but today, the field has made
a comeback.


Takeaway Points from Early Military Strategists
 The two tools worth remembering from these early military strategists
are the indirect approach and the strategy of the central position. But we
must also learn how and when to use such tools. For instance, the frontal
assault is used far too often.

Strategic thinking requires much more than memorization of principles;
it requires you to develop a keen and agile mind that is capable of
independent and responsive thought.

Names to Know

Lecture 3: The Dawn of Modern Strategic Thinking

Bonaparte, Napoleon (1769–1821): Once master of continental Europe,
Napoleon is best remembered for a departure from his normally crisp
execution of strategy when he failed to mask his flank and rear at the battle
whose name is synonymous with defeat—Waterloo. Yet his legacy also
extends to this day in the realms of the civil law tradition, modern civil
government bureaucracies, and military theory and practice.
Clausewitz, Carl von (1780–1831): The way we think about war and
strategy cannot be divorced from this 19th-century officer and theorist, who
revolutionized strategy in the same way that Adam Smith revolutionized
economics. He fought in the Napoleonic Wars for both the Prussians and the
Russians and participated in the battles of Waterloo and Borodino. He died
in 1831, and it was left to his widow, Marie, to prepare his manuscript On
War for posthumous publication.
Guderian, Heinz (1888–1954): A great theorist and practitioner of the art
of swift tank warfare, Guderian’s elan and mastery of the battlefield were
rivaled only by the great Erwin Rommel.
Jackson, Thomas (Stonewall; 1824–1863): Ahead of his time with regard
to battlefield tactics, General Jackson’s motto during the American Civil War
was to “mystify, mislead, and surprise” the enemy.
Jomini, Antoine (1779–1869): Theorist and general, Jomini authored the
bible of 19th-century military strategy and influenced the world’s militaries

of that era more than any other individual theorist. He is distinguished by his
effort to apply geometrical concepts to the battlefield.
Mackinder, Sir Halford (1861–1947): A geographer by trade, Mackinder is
forever linked to efforts to create a social science of geopolitics by dint of his
famous formula for achieving world domination that appeared in a pivotal
article in 1904.

Suggested Reading
Buskirk, Modern Management and Machiavelli.
Chandler, The Military Maxims of Napoleon.
Clausewitz, On War.
Gray, Modern Strategy.
Jomini, The Art of War.
Liddell Hart, Great Captains Unveiled.
———, Strategy.
Von Ghyczy, Von Oetinger, and Bassbord, Clausewitz on Strategy.

Questions to Consider
1. Napoleon’s maxims yield surprising insights that transcend the
battlefield, and this is doubtless because he was an able administrator
and shrewd politician, as well as a superior battlefield general. His
preparedness maxim bears consideration and suggests strongly to us
that we should assess our strategic position periodically to gauge our
readiness to withstand the most likely challenge. Are you prepared for
the battlefield?

2. Napoleon’s strategy of the central position offers a practical guide to
conflict situations in our daily lives that involve two or more allies
teaming up against us. The fundamental idea is to concentrate our power
in both time and space against only a portion of the opposing strength.

In this way, you can take on opponents who may seem more powerful.
Is there a situation in your personal or professional life that is suited to
Napoleon’s central position strategy?

3. Napoleon’s strategy of indirect approach gives us a method to grapple
with a foe who is our equal. Rather than attack his or her strength, we
approach on an oblique, sometimes feigning a frontal assault with a
“demonstration.” Companies can do this quite well, just as armies do,
approaching opponents from an unlikely direction while leading them
to believe that we’re approaching exactly where they expect. Identify an
oblique approach you might use to challenge one of your competitors.

4. Antoine Jomini attempted to establish “best practices” for the military

Lecture 3: The Dawn of Modern Strategic Thinking

of his time by demystifying the Napoleonic Wars for his readers. Using
best practices is a modern business goal that propels businesses to the
frontiers of efficiency. Doing so is not strategy, but it is absolutely
essential to success. Do you engage in the best practices of your
profession? Are you pursuing best practices in your dealings with
others, in the systems that support your daily life?

5. Clausewitz placed great stock in the notion of the general’s coup
d’oeil, or battlefield intuition. Each of us can develop our judgment and
decision-making abilities, but coup d’oeil means going beyond basic
analysis and listening to our intuition. Has there been a time in your life
when your intuition or a “hunch” provided you with the needed solution
to a problem? If so, analyze where that insight came from and cultivate
the habit of listening to your intuition rather than suppressing it.


Modern Principles of Strategic Conflict
Lecture 4


he hallmark of a sound principle is its successful application, across
time and circumstances. In situations of competition and conflict, the
principles of war that we’ll look at in this lecture offer us guiding ideas
for executing any strategy against a determined opponent. In the effort to
learn how to think strategically, the principles of conflict are a valuable tool.
France, Spring 1940
 In the spring of 1940, the French, safely behind their impregnable
Maginot Line, believed they were ready for a German attack. But the
line left a small portion of the Belgian border unprotected, especially the
area covered by the dense Forest of Ardennes. The French thought the
Ardennes would deter the Germans from attacking in that region.

The Germans, however, had no intention of grinding their army against
the French Maginot Line. Instead, they attacked through the Ardennes
and, in doing so, achieved that rarity in modern warfare: strategic surprise.


The Germans combined two strategic principles: (1) the assembly
of activities in innovative ways and (2) the indirect approach. They
launched what became known as blitzkrieg, or lightning war, combining
the use of tanks, aircraft, and infantry, and they swung around the
French defenses, invading Belgium and, ultimately, cutting the Maginot
Line off from the rest of France.


In delivering the knockout blow to France, the Germans used an
assortment of tactical principles of war to realize their strategic intent:
offensive, mass, maneuver, economy of force, and surprise.


The hallmark of a sound principle is its successful application, across
time and in situations in which the technology, place, and combatants may
change, but the principle holds true. Let’s now turn to a set of principles of


war distilled by the British colonel John Frederick Charles Fuller during
World War I and adopted (in slightly different form) by the U.S. military.

Lecture 4: Modern Principles of Strategic Conflict

Principles of War
 Objective: Direct every military operation toward a clearly
defined, decisive, and attainable objective.

Offensive: Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative.


Mass: Mass the effects of overwhelming combat power at the
decisive place and time.


Economy of force: Employ all combat power available in
the most effective way possible; allocate minimum essential
combat power to secondary efforts.


Maneuver: Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage
through the flexible application of combat power.


Unity of command: For every objective, seek unity of
command and unity of effort.


Security: Never permit the enemy to acquire unexpected


Surprise: Strike the enemy at a time or place or in a manner
for which it is unprepared.


Simplicity: Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and concise
orders to ensure thorough understanding.

 The ultimate military purpose of war is the destruction of the enemy’s
armed forces and will to fight. Of course, the ultimate objectives of
operations other than war are considerably less destructive; nevertheless,
it’s important to have a clear objective or mission.


This objective must be clear to everyone who has anything to do with
the planning and execution of operations. At the personal level, we must
be clear in our ultimate objective; it must inform and guide our use of all
the principles.


Too often, we get bogged down in the minutiae of the task, confusing
tactics with the goal. History is replete with master tacticians who were
unable to connect to the larger strategic picture. Even Robert E. Lee has
been faulted as being a master tactician but a mediocre strategist.


Any operation must have a purpose, and that purpose must be clear from
the beginning. Each operation must contribute to the ultimate strategic
aim. The attainment of intermediate objectives must directly, quickly,
and economically contribute to the operation.


The army uses an analytical framework of mission, enemy, troops,
terrain, and time available (METT-T) to guide it in rapid development
of its operations. Commanders designate physical objectives, such as
an enemy force, dominating terrain, or other vital areas essential to the
mission. These then become the basis for all subordinate plans, and no
action is taken that doesn’t contribute to achieving the main objective.


Likewise, in your own strategic planning, the mission or objective must
dominate and condition your thinking and actions. To adapt the military
framework, think of the “enemy” as a competitor, your “troops” as your
employees or your own energy and resources, and the “terrain” as the
organizational landscape in which you maneuver.

 The second principle of competition tells us that offensive action is the
best way to attain an objective. Such action is effective and decisive.

Offensive action is how we seize and hold the initiative while we
maintain our freedom of action. In war, sports, business, and politics,
this is fundamentally true across all levels of operations. We “play
defense” only as a temporary necessity and only as a respite before we
can seize the initiative and continue our offensive actions.


The reason for this should be clear: The side that retains the initiative
through offensive action forces competitors to react rather than allowing
them to act.

Lecture 4: Modern Principles of Strategic Conflict

 Mass is the synchronization of combat power in concentrated time and
space on the enemy. In everyday terms, the idea is to deliver a massive
blow to your competitor.

Applying this principle is not as easy or as intuitive for some people
as it may seem. Synchronizing the many moving parts of a large
organization is difficult in the best of circumstances. Moreover, in
situations other than war, we may seek less of a massive battle and more
of an accommodation.


Nonetheless, when the decision is made to join the battle, this principle
suggests that we mass our resources for a decisive engagement. We
must also sustain our massed resources and our attack so that the effects
have staying power.

Economy of Force
 Because the mass we have is never unlimited, we also need economy of
force. We must deploy and distribute our resources so that no part is left
without a goal to accomplish.

In military operations, combat power is finite and must be used
judiciously. It is allocated to various tasks in measured degree—limited
attacks, defense, delays, deception, or even withdrawal operations.
All of these must be carefully measured so that we can achieve mass
elsewhere at the decisive point and time on the battlefield.


In business, we must be likewise judicious and not squander our
resources in peripheral ventures.


 The principle of maneuver enables us to go after bigger prizes. In
competition, we want to position ourselves for maximum advantage.
How this advantage is measured varies according to the enterprise. For
instance, you might be maneuvering against other job-seekers, other
mid-level executives, or other candidates in a political race.

Maneuver is the movement of forces in relation to the enemy to gain
positional advantage. Effective maneuvering keeps the enemy off
balance and is used to exploit successes, to preserve our own freedom of
action, and to reduce vulnerability.


Prudent and vigorous maneuvering continually poses new problems for
the enemy. It renders the enemy’s actions ineffective and can eventually
lead to defeat.


At all levels of operations, successful application of maneuver requires
agility of thought, plans, and organization. It’s also necessary for us to
apply the previous principles of mass and economy of force.


Our ability to maneuver is how we can determine where and when to
join the fight, by setting the terms of battle, by declining battle, or by
acting to seize unexpected tactical advantage.


By maneuvering with skill, we can make ourselves unpredictable and,
thereby, raise uncertainty and hesitation in the minds of our competitors.

Unity of Command
 Responsibility is a totem that many people pay homage to but honor
only when absolutely necessary. In fact, diffusion of responsibility
and closed-door decision making seem to be characteristic of modern
corporate America. But in arenas of conflict, responsibility cannot be
abdicated. Unity of command and unity of effort are required if the
objective is to be reached.



In the military, unity of command means that all forces are under one
commander who has the authority to direct them in pursuit of a unified
purpose. Unity of effort, on the other hand, requires coordination and
cooperation among all forces—even though they may not necessarily
be part of the same command structure—toward a commonly
recognized objective.


Unity of command is an ideal that shortens response time and leads to
rapid decision making and execution, but it is not always attainable; this
is why unity of effort becomes paramount.

Lecture 4: Modern Principles of Strategic Conflict

 Security is a precondition for unity of effort. To protect our position
from competitor encroachments, it’s necessary to recognize that we
can’t make plans and execute them without considering our competitors’
actions. We have to protect our own resources, market share, goal line,
operations, and personnel.

The security of our plans and capabilities enhances our freedom of
action by reducing risk. Active security reduces our vulnerability to
hostile acts, influence, or surprise.


If we know and understand our competitors’ strategy, tactics, doctrine,
and staff planning, if we can anticipate their likely courses of action,
then we can take adequate security measures.

 Surprise, if achieved at the strategic level, can bestow such incredible
advantage on one side that it settles any outstanding question. In conflict,
surprise stands as a force multiplier.

It follows that you want to surprise your opponents, and you want to do so
as often as possible to keep them off balance and interfere with their plans.


Surprise can be achieved through speed, effective intelligence,
deception, application of unexpected force, operations security, and
variations in tactics and methods of operation.


 Pulling all these principles together is the principle of simplicity. The
simpler the plan, the better the chances of executing it successfully. This
is especially true in large organizations or with complex projects.

In the corporate world, it is the simple and direct strategy with simple
execution that best marshals the resources and spirit of the firm. Simple
plans and clear, concise orders minimize misunderstanding and confusion.


Simplicity in plans allows better understanding and leadership at all
echelons and permits branches and sequels to be more easily understood
and executed.

Summarizing the Principles
 John Fuller, the British officer who first enunciated these nine principles,
suggested that they can be remembered by grouping them under three
headings: control, pressure, and resistance.

If we remove these principles from the venue of war and consider them
simply as methods for dealing with a pesky adversary or aggressive
competitor, their universal applicability becomes more apparent.


As we’ll see in lectures to come, these principles make a valuable
contribution to the effort to think strategically—to exert a measure of
control over a chaotic and sometimes hostile world.

Suggested Reading
Alger, The Quest for Victory.
Buskirk, Frontal Attack.
Foch, Principles of War.
Ries and Trout, Marketing Warfare.


Questions to Consider
1. Consider how, in 1940, the French erred as a result of military thinking
rooted in World War I. Are your own ideas the product of older
experiences, perhaps no longer relevant to the modern challenges you
face today? Do an “idea inventory” to see if your conception of how the
world works measures up to 21st-century dynamics.

2. Before considering the principles of conflict in this lecture, honestly
assess the principles that guide your thinking now. Are they successful?
Do you find yourself constantly outmaneuvered at work, in sports, in
your personal life?

3. Choose any three principles of conflict and consider whether they
have been used against you recently. You should be able to recognize
maneuvers for what they are and, with a bit of preparation, guard against
them with the principle of security.

4. Choose any three principles of conflict and apply them to a situation
Lecture 4: Modern Principles of Strategic Conflict

you face in your daily life. Consider whether the application of these
principles might improve your chances of success.


Geography—Know Your Terrain
Lecture 5


any of the finest thinkers in history have, at various times,
discovered geography’s enduring impact on the fate of peoples
and nations. If geography is immutable, then can we uncover
modes of behavior that take advantage of geographical verities? In this
lecture, we delve into the influence of micro-geography on our own decision
making to discover how our interactions with our physical space in conflict
situations can aid or detract from our chances of victory.
 Geopolitics is a body of systematized thinking about the effects of
geography on human politics and conflict. Its premise is that the
unchanging characteristics of the physical world in which we live
condition human behavior and interactions. In this view, geography has
a decisive impact on the interests and actions of nations and peoples.

The field is sometimes derided as “geographic determinism,” meaning
that it seeks a single-factor explanation for complex phenomena.
Geopolitics also had an unfortunate association with the Nazi aspirations
of Adolf Hitler. Today, the core idea of geopolitics is that geography is
an important source of political, military, and economic power.


Geopolitical notions have leavened our way of thinking for years, and
some geopolitical truisms have seeped into our discourse. For instance,
the development of the American democracy is sometimes explained as
a result of the two ocean barriers that shielded the young nation from the
depredations of more entrenched European models.


Geopolitics has even given us “laws” or “maxims” that purport to
instruct us on the fundamental effects imposed on humans by geography.
According to the geopolitical theorist Nicholas Spykman, “Geography
is the most fundamental factor in the foreign policy of states because it


is the most permanent. Ministers come and ministers go, even dictators
die, but mountain ranges stand unperturbed.”

Geography not only matters in the grand sweep of politics, but it also
affects us in phenomena closer to home. Further, minor geographical
features that may seem inconsequential in isolation can take on
tremendous importance as events unfold. The sunken road of Ohain, for
example, proved to be disastrous for Napoleon’s cavalry at Waterloo.

Lecture 5: Geography—Know Your Terrain

Inherent Positional Power
 Geography is not important in and of itself. It takes on importance
only as human beings and machines use it to a purpose, and its value is
usually temporary.

In competition, the interaction among opponents and the battlefield
takes on the character of a three-way dialectic. Opponents maneuver
against each other as they interact with the battlefield. Locations on the
battlefield take their significance for the moment with respect to the
deployment of forces. This is the process of maneuver, or positioning.


The geography of every battlefield has inherent positional power,
whether that battlefield is the field at Waterloo or the office conference
room. This inherent positional power arises from the principles of
competition that dictate the terms of engagement on the battlefield.


Of course, the positional power inherent in a battlefield would vary
tremendously based on a different rule structure. Strategy would change,
as well. For example, changing the geographical position of the goal in
a football game would alter both the strategies of the opposing teams
and the positional power on the field.


The football example gives us two notions of power as it springs from
geography: potential positional power and realized positional power.
Potential power springs from the investment in the battlefield of the
technology and tactics available to both sides. Realized power springs
from the actual deployment of forces, their condition, their numerical
strength, and the skill and timing of maneuver.


Positioning in Chess and Other Forms of Battle
 The game of chess teaches us about deployment of resources,
coordination of attack and defense, the necessity of planning and
constant evaluation, and the virtue of foresight. It also teaches us much
about the critical factor of geography.

The chessboard consists of 64 squares in an eight-by-eight arrangement,
alternately colored black and white. Given the rules of chess and the
resources we know will be deployed, the board offers us verities about
the inherent positional power of certain areas of its geography.


From the standpoint of pure potential power, the center four squares are
the most important on the board, and the strategy of a winning game is
based on seizing early control of those four central squares. But during
the course of the game, the value of the squares changes with every
change in the position of the pieces.


Consider what happens when we add the pieces. As we’ve seen, the
three-way interplay of the two combatants and their relationship
to the field of battle is a complex dynamic. Pieces, of course, have a
certain power inherent to their ability to move. The more versatile the
movement of a piece, the more powerful it is.


But a piece’s power can be enhanced or limited by its location on
the board. The pieces on the board in combat derive power from the
configuration of their various locations. Conversely, the locations on the
board fulfill their power potential from the overall configuration of the
combatants. A type of synergy is in effect.


The seating arrangement in a conference room is similar. It takes on
significance from the purported rank of those sitting at the table. Assorted
power configurations arise from different seating configurations. The
shape of the table and the types of chairs also affect the configuration
of power.


In negotiation, the micro-geography and position of the venue can
confer advantage, and we find some competitors attempting to alter

the terms of negotiation through physical alterations. For example, at
P’anmunjŏm, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea,
such gamesmanship is the norm.

A good example of the use of space in battle comes from the sport of
boxing. Boxers in the ring maneuver against each other in space and
time, using a repertoire of feints, punches, jabs, and so on. The space
in the ring is finite and featureless, yet each square foot takes on
significance vis-à-vis the interaction of the combatants.

Lecture 5: Geography—Know Your Terrain

Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield
 The military has developed a systematic and sophisticated method for
learning about and understanding the ground on which it is to fight. Its
tool is called Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB), and it’s a
process easily adaptable to our own challenges.

In military scenarios, we know that the “high ground” confers
advantages in principle. Conversely, we know that “taking the hill” is a
daunting proposition. Rivers, valleys, and mountain ranges offer barriers
to an enemy and to our own advance.


The IPB process systematically assesses the information relevant to
friend and foe on a particular battlefield. An intelligence officer collects
and evaluates this information continuously and communicates it to the
commander, who uses it to support decision making.


IPB can be easily adapted for use in the business world and in personal
decision making. The military’s system formalizes and deepens a
process that almost everyone conducts informally already.


The broad lesson we take from IPB is the importance of geography in
our own competitive situations. What potential sources of power are
locked in the geography of the likely battlefield? How does geography
potentially enhance or degrade strategy? Can you modify your strategy
to take advantage of geography or to prevent it from degrading
your strategy?


Steps in the IPB Process
 First, define the battlefield environment. Identify
characteristics of the battlefield that influence both friendly
and competitor operations. Establish the limits of the
battlefield and identify elements that are unknown but should
be known.

Second, describe the battlefield’s effects on operations. This
step always includes an examination of terrain and weather
but may also include the characteristics of geography
and infrastructure and their effects on friendly and threat
operations, as well as such factors as politics, civilian press,
local population, and demographics.


The third step is to evaluate the competitor. If the competitor
is known, determine how it normally organizes for combat
and conducts operations under similar circumstances. This
information can be drawn from historical databases and
well-developed threat models. With new or less well-known
competitors, intelligence databases and threat courses of
action may have to be developed simultaneously.


Finally, determine the competitor’s possible courses of
action. The main question to be answered here is: Given what
the competitor normally prefers to do and the effects of the
specific environment in which it is operating, what are its
likely objectives and courses of action?

Defense in Depth
 One of the greatest examples of conducting and acting on IPB occurred
during World War II. The major lesson of the example is how to respond
if you know when and where you’ll be attacked. There are several
responses to a scenario like this, but the one chosen in this example was
brilliant. We’ll call it defense in depth.


Lecture 5: Geography—Know Your Terrain


This technique was used by the Russians at the 1943 Battle of Kursk. At
the time, the Russians held territory, centered on the town of Kursk, that
bulged into the German front over an area 120 miles wide and 90 miles
deep. In an attempt to cut off the Russian position, the Germans planned
an attack from the north and south in a pincer movement.


But the Russians knew of the attack well beforehand through their
intelligence network. Over several months, they prepared successive
defense lines, making use of the geography of the area to channel the
German attack in directions to make them vulnerable.


The Russians planned to slow and wear down the Germans by forcing
them to attack through a web of minefields, planned artillery fire zones,
and concealed antitank strong points.


The German attack began to stall almost immediately after it started.
The Russian defense was like a meat-grinder that chewed up the entire
German strategic tank reserve in a week. The Germans never broke
through, and the strategic initiative passed from the Germans to the
Russians for the last time.

The Lessons of Geopolitics
 Clearly, the effects of geography play into the outcome of battles both
great and small. The effects of geography may not be as decisive as
geopoliticians would have us believe, but they may be enough to tip the
scales our way, if we plan judiciously.

Regardless of the stakes, if the battle is worth fighting, then it’s
worth conducting your own IPB to give yourself the greatest chance
for victory.


Geography—your position on the field of battle—should not be left to
chance. Select it beforehand, if possible. Note the inherent strengths of
the various options open to you, evaluate the conditions of the conflict
to come, and manipulate those conditions to your benefit.


Name to Know
Spykman, Nicholas (1893–1943): Spykman is known in some quarters
as the godfather of containment, the strategy that guided the United States
in its rivalry with the Soviets for 40 years after World War II. Attacked as
America’s geopolitician during the war for daring to envision a postwar
world based on raw power considerations, Spykman’s predictions were
substantiated in subsequent years after his early passing.

Suggested Reading
Braden and Shelley, Engaging Geopolitics.
Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard.
Earle, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy.
Hansen, Foundations of Chess Strategy.
Hugo, Les Misérables.
Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations.
Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics.

Questions to Consider
1. We tend to think of “geography” in grandiose terms but sometimes
forget that our own micro-geography can lend us competitive advantage.
Taking in the “lay of the land” has always been an activity of the finest
generals, and developing a practiced eye for the playing field is essential
for successful strategic thought. What are the factors that make for a
geographic advantage in your own interactions? Do you consciously
structure situations to give yourself the geographic advantage?

2. Do your interactions in daily life have rules, either specified or implied?
Unwritten rules or conventions can be as important—even more
important—than those that are specified. Make a list of unwritten rules
in your interactions and identify their sources, whether from tradition or
from power relationships. Compare these rules with what is officially

stated and take note of the gap. Does this gap offer room to maneuver
for advantage?

3. Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield is too important and useful a
concept to be restricted to the venue of combat. If you face challenges
repeatedly on the same ground, in the same place, in the same
metaphorical space, then a thorough preparation of that conflict space
might be worthwhile for you. It’s even more critical when you move
onto uncharted terrain. Develop your own principles for dealing with
opponents on territory of your choosing and evaluate the pros and cons
of that territory.

4. Although we all like to take the initiative, sometimes it’s necessary to

Lecture 5: Geography—Know Your Terrain

play defense, and against a strong opponent, this can be demanding.
When defending against a powerful opponent, remember the Russian
lesson at Kursk: Once a challenger commits, wear him or her down with
constant battle and successive lines of defense on well-prepared terrain.
This is especially effective when you can choose the battlefield. Identify
the resources you could use in a situation in which you were forced to
defend your ground against a strong opponent.


Grand Strategists and Strategic Intent
Lecture 6


trategic intent—what we sometimes call vision, dreams, or big ideas—
is essential to any powerful and effective strategy. For such a strategy
to rise above the level of mere technique, it must have an inspirational
strategic intent at its core, whether to animate an individual, to inspire a
corporation, or to fire the imagination of a nation. In this lecture, we’ll look
at articulations of strategic intent from the realms of legend, sports, politics,
and business.
A Definition of Strategic Intent
 In a classic work from 1989, two influential scholars, Gary Hamel and
C. K. Prahalad, coined and defined the term “strategic intent” in the
Harvard Business Review.

These two thinkers recognized the great flaw in much of our thinking
about strategy up until the 1990s: the pursuit of imitative techniques as
a substitute for strategy.


In contrast to this “strategy of imitation,” strategic intent inspires a
person or a team with an obsession to win. It articulates a long-term
vision or aspiration of the group, reaching beyond current capabilities
and forcing group members to develop resources to accomplish the
goal. The need to be inventive or resourceful is a result of establishing
stretch goals.


Merely tailoring your ambition to current capabilities is a formula
for maintaining the status quo, but establishing stretch goals without
strategic intent is a recipe for failure.

The concept of stretch goals linked to strategic intent is one of the
secrets to the Japanese economic renaissance in the aftermath of
World War II.




It entails envisioning a future that seems nearly impossible, then
striving to acquire the capabilities and resources to make that future
possible. Numerous Japanese companies adopted versions of this
philosophy, including Honda, Matsushita, Sony, and Toyota.

Strategic intent entails identifying an extreme gap between resources
and ambitions and developing a strategy to fulfill those ambitions.

Lecture 6: Grand Strategists and Strategic Intent

Strategic Intent in Myth and in Football
 Expert mythologist Joseph Campbell identified the “hero’s journey” as
the archetypal story that has animated all societies throughout history.
Every man and woman knows this story and is moved by it. It is the
story of Prometheus stealing fire, of Ulysses’s return home after the
Trojan War, and the quest for the Holy Grail.

In this adventure, the hero finds the strength within himself or herself
to conquer all obstacles, no matter how seemingly impossible. If this
sounds grandiose and far removed from your world, it’s not. Your life
is filled with heroes and villains, conflict and conquest, failure and
triumph. In establishing your own strategic intent, it’s useful to keep the
hero’s journey in mind.


Another clear example of strategic intent comes from the world of
sports. Few men embody the idea of strategic intent as much as Vince
Lombardi, the legendary coach of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.
Lombardi’s grasp of strategic intent was sure and unambiguous:
“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”


As we’ve said, every strategy requires a powerful strategic intent
to animate it. Equally, the intent must be translated into achievable
midrange goals. For his players, Lombardi translated the overall goal
of winning into a clear statement of strategic intent: “You never win a
game unless you beat the guy in front of you….”


If we consider a football team as a value chain, with victory dependent
on each player’s individual effort and continuous high performance, it’s
clear how the notion of strategic intent fits into strategic planning.



It’s also clear that mere technique can never successfully substitute for
strategic intent. An offensive lineman is not motivated to perfect his
blocking technique merely to achieve “best practice” in the field. A
quarterback does not give a record-breaking performance in some vague
“search for excellence.”

Competition between Nations and between Good and Evil
 Two more famous examples of strategic intent coupled with appropriate
tactics come from two contrasting arenas—the first is competition
between nations; the second, competition between good and evil.

In the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy was faced with a Soviet threat
that appeared as a powerful and plausible alternative to the democracies
of the West. Kennedy responded to this challenge with boldness, issuing
a brilliant articulation of strategic intent: “We choose to go to the moon
in this decade….” As we know, Kennedy’s goal was achieved less than
10 years later.


Martin Luther King gives us an example of the melding of a powerful
strategic vision with a perfectly executed strategy. He marshaled the
forces of an entire nation with a vision of social justice, and he crafted a
strategy that every single person could execute as a significant player—
the strategy of nonviolent civil disobedience.

The spirit of nonviolence inspired King to move a generation of
men and women in a quest for social justice. In front of 200,000
listeners, King articulated his powerful vision in his famous “I
Have a Dream” speech.


Against King stood a phalanx of opposition animated by its own
strategic intent. Alabama Governor George Wallace had articulated
that intent in his inaugural address: “Segregation now, segregation
tomorrow, segregation forever.”


But King rode a groundswell of slowly increasing popular
support as the evils of segregation were revealed. His movement’s
successful tactics resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, among

other successes. Against a corrupt and racist system equipped with
every advantage, King brought nothing more than his strategic
intent and a powerful strategy.

Lecture 6: Grand Strategists and Strategic Intent


Let’s consider another example from international politics. For 40 years
after the end of World War II, the United States was enmeshed in the
Cold War, an ideological struggle between democracy and communism.
Our nation pursued a single coherent foreign policy for all of those
years, inspired by a core strategic intent.

That policy had as its touchstone a strategic intent inspired by
American diplomat George Kennan. In 1946, Kennan sent
his famous classified telegram, presenting the idea that Soviet
leadership was impervious to reason but highly sensitive to the
logic of force.


The reasonable extension of this assumption was that the United
States ought to meet Soviet power with American power and to
“contain” Soviet expansionist schemes. The strategic intent of
containment became the foundation of American foreign policy for
the next 40 years.


As we know, the United States eventually triumphed; Eastern
Europe was liberated from communist oppression in 1989, followed
by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Strategic Intent in Business
 India’s largest multinational conglomerate, Tata Group, led by the
visionary businessman Ratan Tata, offers us another example of the
power of strategic intent.


In 2003, Tata established a clear strategic intent for his automotive
company. He envisioned the People’s Car, a four-passenger vehicle
meeting minimum safety and emission standards that would cost about
$2000. Although his engineers balked, Tata insisted on both the price
and a brutal timetable for production.


The result was the unveiling of the Tata Nano in early 2010, a tiny,
inexpensive, four-passenger automobile designed and built in India.


The innovative cost-cutting measures used in production of the Nano
have since revolutionized the way automobiles are made and sold—
in price, size, distribution, and technology. The development of the
Nano may have created an entirely new management revolution akin
to the Japanese kanban system, just-in-time processes, and kaizen
(continuous improvement).

Absent or Misguided Strategic Intent
 Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) is an example of a company that
refused to make the hard choices necessary for coherent strategy and
found itself paralyzed, unable to even articulate a strategic intent.

In 1992, faced with the necessity of charting its strategic direction
in a chaotic electronics industry, the company issued this statement:
“DEC is committed to providing high-quality products and services
and being a leader in data processing.”


The vague language and lack of focus in this statement is an
indicator of faltering leadership. It was surely not designed to rally
the troops at a time of company crisis. Six years later, DEC was
swallowed by Compaq.


Levi Strauss, the maker of blue jeans, serves as an example of misguided
strategic intent. Under CEO Bob Haas, who assumed leadership in 1984,
the company adopted a strategic vision that looked inward, ignored
the customers, and seemed to have nothing to do with selling jeans.
As a result, its market share plummeted from 48 percent to 17 percent
between 1990 and 2000.


Another example on a far greater scale than a single company comes
from imperial Japan in the 1930s. At the time, the prime minister of
Japan envisioned an Asian economic alliance, free of the Western
powers, to be called the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.



It was purported to be a new international order that sought a
euphemistic “co-prosperity” for countries throughout Asia. Of
course, it was really a front for Japanese imperialist ambitions
and led to the establishment of puppet regimes in every place the
Japanese were ascendant.


As we know now, Japan overreached. It did not have the capabilities
to match its ambitions. Although its strategy worked for a time, in
the long run, it was not tenable.

Lecture 6: Grand Strategists and Strategic Intent




Lincoln grappled with the greatest
trial of any president in American
history: He was forced to wage
war against his countrymen. But he
did not do so simply and reactively
or as a mere technical process.
Instead, he waged war with the
strategic intent of maintaining the
Union as a free country.

© iStockphoto/Thinkstock.

Abraham Lincoln
 As a final example of a powerful
and successful statement of
strategic intent, let’s turn to one of
America’s most revered leaders,
Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln faced the possibility of
the dissolution of the country
by bloody civil war; he met the
challenge with a strategy aimed at
preserving the Union.

Lincoln’s articulation of strategic
intent was made in the Gettysburg
Address, a eulogy for those who had died in battle in the Civil War:
“we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—
that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that
government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish
from the earth.”

Charting a Bold Course
 From foreign policy, to social policy, to business, sports, and even myth,
strategic intent provides a powerful impetus to drive cogent strategy and
motivate people to implement the strategy.

Strategy without strategic vision is merely soulless technique, a great
flurry of activity. There is nothing courageous about making a bold
pronouncement in vague language. Lack of strategic intent means a loss
of focus and the routinization of process.


We’ve seen that articulating a strategic intent requires boldness,
grounded in a strategic and accurate assessment of reality. It means
charting a course and closing off some options because you have elected
consciously to pursue one goal with single-minded fervor.

Names to Know
Hamel, Gary (1954– ): Fortune magazine has called Hamel “the world’s
leading expert on business strategy,” and Forbes has ranked Hamel as one
of the world’s top 10 most influential theorists on business, competition,
management, and strategy.
Kennan, George (1904–2005): Few people can claim to have set the foreign
policy course for an entire nation for 40 years, but as a young embassy
official in the Soviet Union in the 1940s, Kennan did exactly that when he
crafted what would become the U.S. policy of containment with regard to
the Soviets.
Kennedy, John F. (1917–1963): Few presidents can claim the kind of
strategic vision that Kennedy possessed, founding the Peace Corps, laying
the groundwork for the U.S. Special Forces, and charting a course for
eventually reaching the moon.
King, Martin Luther, Jr. (1929–1968): America’s great civil rights leader
carried a passion for justice along with a strategic vision and the proper
tactics to see that vision through to completion.


Lombardi, Vince (1913–1970): One of the great motivators and leaders that
sports has ever produced, Lombardi’s teams won the first two Super Bowls,
and his aphorisms on leadership have since entered the lexicon as classics.
Prahalad, C. K. (1941–2010): Prahalad teamed with Gary Hamel in
one of the great scholarly collaborations in business history, developing
pathbreaking theoretical and practical notions that guide multinational
corporate thinking today. Prahalad is most remembered for his last
works, focused on market solutions to alleviate poverty at the “bottom of
the pyramid.”

Suggested Reading
Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Hamel and Prahalad, “Strategic Intent.”
———, Strategic Intent.

Lecture 6: Grand Strategists and Strategic Intent

Questions to Consider
1. Strategic intent is a powerful core for any strategy. We can sometimes
lose sight of this core, wrapped in the minutiae of the day and focused
on task accomplishment. In the process, our strategy can lose its focus.
Select a major goal in your professional life right now and assess
whether your strategy is guided by a strong, focused core of strategic
intent. Can you narrate this intent in one or two short sentences?

2. Strategic intent means identifying an extreme gap between resources
and ambitions and developing a strategy to fulfill those ambitions. Are
your own goals ambitious, or have you intentionally set goals that are
easily met? If it’s the latter, set a major goal today that seems out of
reach and then realistically assess what resources must be acquired and
what capabilities developed to achieve that goal.

3. We sometimes shortchange ourselves by not thinking grandly enough.
John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were grand thinkers and
visionaries who were able to articulate strategic intent to achieve almost

impossible goals. Do you have grand goals, or have you unintentionally
limited yourself by closing off certain options before they are even
considered? Spend a few minutes each day thinking “grandly” about
ideas that most people would reject, telling themselves, “You can’t
do that.”


The Core and the Rise of Strategic Planning
Lecture 7

Lecture 7: The Core and the Rise of Strategic Planning

very firm must have a core mission—a reason for its existence, a
mission for which it alone is suited. From the concise articulation
of that mission, strategy emerges in a process, either aimless or
thoughtful. In this lecture, we trace the history of strategic planning and look
at some of the problems that plagued its early development. We then learn a
six-step strategic planning process that serves as a useful framework for any
strategy development.
A Founding Myth
 The founding myth of the French Foreign Legion is drawn from the
story of the brave Legionnaires who fought at Camerone in Mexico in
1863 and the respect accorded them by their opponents, the Mexican
nationalists. The values and mission of the Legion spring from this
beginning and are reflected in its motto and its code of honor.


Every organization should have a founding myth that exemplifies its
code or mission, one that is substantial and inspiring and captures the
spirit of the organization. Think of Apple Computer’s founding myth of
two young men in a California garage starting the computer revolution
in 1975.

The Mission Statement
 The founding myth should inform the organizational mission statement,
which anchors strategy and serves as the basis for strategic intent. This
statement should be bold, lofty, and inspiring, like that of the Coca Cola
Company: “To refresh the world; to inspire moments of optimism and
happiness; to create value and make a difference.”


But mission statements—and the strategies they engender—can often be
mundane, uninspiring, or routine. Henry Mintzberg, one of the great
strategist academics of the past 20 years, has a special place in his heart
for the elegant, different, and exciting strategy. He says: “The most

© Stocktrek Images/Thinkstock.

After World War II, military methods of strategic planning were applied to
business on the assumption that valuable lessons might be learned from the
titanic logistical operations involved in defeating Germany and Japan.

interesting and most successful companies are not boring. They have
novel, creative, inspiring, sometimes even playful strategies.”

Equal Exchange, a small coffee company based in Massachusetts,
has the mission statement: “Fairness to farmers. A closer connection
between people and the farmers we all rely on.” From this statement,
the company has laid out a series of achievable objectives, a superb
example of defining a mission that supports strategic planning.

The History of Strategic Planning
 Strategic planning began in the military. Marshaling resources, training
and arming soldiers, planning maneuver on the battlefield—all these
activities require forethought and planning.


Lecture 7: The Core and the Rise of Strategic Planning


Prior to the Napoleonic era, planning was the province of the general or
the monarch, with advice from his trusted confidantes. The development
of military staff planning began with the Prussian general staff in 1807.


The idea of formal planning made its way slowly into the business
world after World War I. The Harvard policy model, developed in the
1920s, was more of a general call to action than an actual methodology,
but it charted a direction in th