Posts Tagged ‘business battles’

It is with great pleasure that I announce a publishing deal for my first book. It is tentatively titled Brilliant Manoeuvres: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles. It is scheduled to be published in the early fall of 2012 by Global Professional Publishing in England, although it will be available worldwide.

As you can see from the title, my aim is to show how the principles and practices of military strategy, tactics, planning, and leadership can be applied in any organizational setting, especially to achieve outstanding success in business.

It has not been easy securing this publishing deal, but it has been an education on the changes afoot in the book industry and how various publishing houses and retailers are dealing with the transformation. In a nutshell, publishers and brick-and-mortar book retailers are reeling from the impact of online bookstores such as Amazon and low-cost department stores like Wal-Mart.

The problem is this. Someone goes to a bookstore to browse. They see a title they like, so they look it up on Amazon, see it’s available at about 40% of the in-store price, then order it on their smart phone so they can get it delivered the next day. If they have a Kindle, they can even get it downloaded immediately at an even lower price. As we can see, bookstores have become the showroom for online retailers. They bear the costs of distribution and display, while the online sellers get the sales, with much lower costs, which they then pass on to consumers. It’s a sweet deal for the Amazons of the world, but the physical retailers are, like Charlie Brown at Halloween, stuck with the rock in their candy bag.

Borders, one of the leading book retailers in the U.S., went bankrupt last year, and Barnes and Noble, the largest bookseller in the world, has been trying to sell itself to a foreign buyer. Canadian bookstore chain Chapters-Indigo is changing into a ‘lifestyle’ retailer, selling scented candles, throw pillows, and picture frames, with books increasingly sent to the back of the store. In the meantime, the terms publishers are getting from retailers are growing progressively worse, to the point where they are assuming most of the distribution risk.

Commercial publishing is vital in an open society, as it allows people to express themselves and reach a much wider audience than would be normally be available to someone of little renown. Even with blogs and Twitter, there will still always be a place for a well-written and well-argued book, whether it is presented in a physical format or not.

Publishers must find a way to stay relevant while being profitable for everyone involved. There is no doubt that people will continue reading, but as we saw with Apple’s recent introduction of textbooks for iPad, technology and media will continue to evolve, sometimes at a breakneck pace. Electronic devices and online connectivity will make at least some books into interactive platforms for authors and readers to exchange and connect, in a way that traditional paper books can’t.

By the same token, the book still must be written and read. The discipline of writing a book and getting it published are essential to weeding out the wheat from the chaff. And there is plenty of chaff on the Internet. Anybody and everybody can propound whatever they want through blogs and social media. There is a wealth of valuable and well thought out information and knowledge online, but it is inundated by self-aggrandizing and navel-gazing inanity.

The need to be profitable will continue to guide the ultimate decision on whether to publish a work. Commercial publishers are still the only entities that can ensure a level of editorial integrity and quality. The real question is what format the work will take. Will it be in physical format, or purely electronic? Will it be a one-way exposition by the author, or an interactive conversation between author(s), reader(s), and observer(s)? It needn’t be always the case, but the book can become a miniature forum for people to exchange ideas, information, knowledge and wisdom. Within that framework, the physical book may only be part of a wider network of knowledge and learning, an artifact, calling card, or memento, the front end of a community of practice or the tip of the iceberg for a person to engage in the acquisition and refinement of knowledge and skills.

But to do all of this, the publishers need authors and their works. Without them, there is no publishing industry. On the other hand, authors need publishers to provide editorial support and expertise, commercial reach, promotional advice, and, increasingly, technical know-how to transform the book from a one-dimensional reading experience into a multi-dimensional learning and interaction experience.

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

I’m just starting the last chapter of my book manuscript (Brilliant Manoeuvres: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles). It’s the chapter on leadership, which will tie everything together. I will be structuring it according to the list of 10 leadership principles that I learned as a young officer and that served me well throughout my military career.

These were the official Canadian military leadership principles for about 50 years, until the academics mucked them up in the early 2000s and made them too long and mushy and overly psychological.

1. Achieve professional competence.
2. Appreciate your own strengths and limitations and pursue self-improvement.
3. Seek and accept responsibility.
4. Lead by example.
5. Make sure that your followers know your meaning and intent, then lead them to the accomplishment of the mission.
6. Know your soldiers and promote their welfare.
7. Develop the leadership potential of your followers.
8. Make sound and timely decisions.
9. Train your soldiers as a team and employ them up to their capabilities.
10. Keep your followers informed of the mission, the changing situation and the overall picture.

The new principles are as follows:

1. Achieve professional competence and pursue self-improvement.
2. Clarify objectives and intent.
3. Solve problems; make timely decisions.
4. Direct; motivate by persuasion and example and by sharing risks and hardships.
5. Train individuals and teams under demanding and realistic conditions.
6. Build teamwork and cohesion.
7. Keep subordinates informed; explain events and decisions.
8. Mentor, educate, and develop subordinates.
9. Treat subordinates fairly; respond to their concerns; represent their interests.
10. Maintain situational awareness; seek information; keep current.
11. Learn from experience and those who have experience.
12. Exemplify and reinforce the military ethos; maintain order and discipline; uphold professional norms.

My gripe is that it looks like they tried to cram too much into the list. They also lost the simplicity and directness of the more traditional ones. Contrast the first part of 12 in the new list with the original “Lead by example.” Much crisper and easier to retain. Also, what happened to the simple “Know your subordinates”?

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