Principles of War – Military

In OCS (for Rick) and at West Point (for Mike), we were both tasked with learning bits of “required knowledge.” These were bits of useful or historical information, such as lifesaving steps or MacArthur’s Duty, Honor, Country quote, or mnemonics used commonly in the US Army, such as OCOKA (obstacles, cover & concealment, orientation, key terrain, avenues of approach).

One of the items that we’ve carried with us long past our active duty days and see as relevant across many business situations is the 9 Principles of War. Each of these principles represents one aspect of military decision making. It is important to note that they are not rules; they are more like factors to be considered by military leaders in planning and execution.

We’ll run through these principles one-by-one in the coming days, and we’ll also create and refine a parallel version that puts these into a business context for greater relevance and accessibility.

9 PRINCIPLES of WAR

  1. Mass – Concentrate combat power at the decisive place and time
  2. Objective – Direct every military operation towards a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable goal
  3. Offensive – Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative
  4. Surprise – Strike the enemy at a time, at a place, or in a manner for which he is unprepared
  5. Economy of force – Allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts
  6. Maneuver – Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power
  7. Unity of command – For every objective, ensure unity of effort under one responsible commander
  8. Security – Never permit the enemy to acquire an unexpected advantage
  9. Simplicity – Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and clear, concise orders to ensure thorough understanding

6 Comments

  1. Principles of War: Mass on November 11, 2010 at 11:00 am

    […] admin on November 11, 2010 Our first principle to convert from military to mainstream business usage is Mass. Here’s the original: Mass […]

  2. Understanding Objective on May 28, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    […] wrote a while ago about the nine principles of war. While our book is in progress, and reaching the next phase of development, we wanted to share a […]

  3. […] can improve startup job creation by this series of intertwined levers and dials? This violates the principle of Simplicity, affectionately known around here as the reverse Occam’s Razor — make the smallest possible […]

  4. […] that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m hearkening back to a much earlier post about the 9 principles of war. One of those is Unity of Command. This quote says it […]

  5. […] can improve startup job creation by this series of intertwined levers and dials? This violates the principle of Simplicity, affectionately known around here as the reverse Occam’s Razor — make the smallest possible […]

  6. Quora on May 25, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    In order to prevent conflict and disagreement, what are the best and uniform positions for 2 co-founders?

    There are two possible answers here. The best one is the situation that is extremely unlikely, which is that the two founders trust each other so much and are so personally “invested” in the relationship that they will always defer (certainly in public…

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