Guerrilla strategy is very misunderstood, sometimes even by military historians and strategists. In the simplest terms, guerrilla strategy is a combination of small-scale offensive tactics with a defensive strategy at the highest levels. Despite what many people think, guerrilla warfare is a strategy of weakness. I think people focus on the small-scale offensive manoeuvres and fail to see the big picture. So, for instance, when the Taliban adopted a guerrilla strategy in Afghanistan after their downfall, it was because they realized that they couldn’t win by large-scale offensive strategy, nor could they win by small-scale defensive tactics. When you’re very weak, not only can you NOT go on the offensive, but you also can’t even hold ground effectively, or prevent the enemy from holding it. So what do you do? You revert to what are called hit and run tactics. These include raids, ambushes, and a lot of propaganda to brag about the results of your actions out of all proportion to their actual effectiveness.

So how does this get translated to business practice? Here are a few ways, but I invite you to think about the ways you can use guerrilla strategy if you are in a position of weakness against a very strong opponent.

  • Apply subtle offensive tactics: infiltration; encroachment; reversal; undermining; diversion; deception and disruption; attrition through hit-and-run; psychological warfare; divide & attack piecemeal
  • Poison the well: raise doubts about your opponent or competitor
  • Claim you’re on the defensive but actually take small offensive actions
  • Temporary alliances with small competitors or partners
  • Strategic alliances with larger competitors or partners

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

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