This is the first principle in my series discussing the applicability of the principles of war for success in business and life.

Selection and maintenance of the aim is the number one principle. In the US military it is simply known as the principle of Objective. To achieve anything of consequence, you must know what it is you wish to achieve and then persist in achieving it against obstacles, uncertainty, risk, friction, resistance, and opposition.

Selection implies that there must be a deliberate process of analysis and evaluation of options prior to deciding on an overarching objective. Maintenance implies the fact that nothing ever works the way you plan it or wish. You have to be willing to stay in the fight until you achieve your aim.

The application to military strategy is obvious. Whether at the strategic, operational, or tactical levels, you must have a single overriding objective that is communicated to everyone concerned and that drives all of the planning and action. The Western Allies during the Second World War identified the complete defeat and unconditional surrender of the Axis countries as the overarching objective of military action. That aim drove everything else, without ambiguity, and sustained them during the darkest days of the war, from 1940 to 1942.

In business, every company must have an overarching vision of what it is trying to achieve, or where it sees itself in one, three, or five years. I’m not talking about the typically vapid vision statements such as “We are a visionary company striving to achieve excellence.” I’m talking about a vision such as “We are striving to be the number one company in the field of X. Our revenues will grow to Y by the year 201X and we will be known for the outstanding quality of our products and our service.” We can see that the first vision is not really an objective, as there is nothing concrete to sink your teeth into. The second one, while only an abstract example, already shows that you need to be specific and measurable in setting the overall goals of the business. It is only with such specificity that everyone in the company can be mobilized to work in achieving the vision through the power of their collective and individual initiative and motivation.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

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