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.


  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