CLAUSEWITZ in BUSINESS
CEO, General Electric
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CLAUSEWITZ ON STRATEGY:
Think about strategy and sharpen your judgment in an unpredictable environment.
Carl von Clausewitz is widely acknowledged as one of the most important of the major strategic theorists; he's been read by Eisenhower, Patton, Kissinger, Chairman Mao, and many other leaders. In Clausewitz on Strategy, the Boston Consulting Group's Strategy Institute has excerpted the passages most relevant to business strategy from Clausewitz's classic work On War. That famous book is the most general, applicable, and enduring work of strategy in the modern West: a source of insight into the nature of conflict, whether on the battlefield or in the boardroom. Clausewitz speaks the mind of the executive, revealing logic that those interested in strategic thinking and practice will find invaluable. He presents unique ideas, such as the idea that friction—the difference between what happens in plans and what happens in reality—is an intrinsic part of strategy. Clausewitz on Strategy offers Clausewitz's framework for self-education, a way to train the reader's strategic judgment.
"Writers who use war as a metaphor for business have always been less than appealing to me. Maybe it's because, as some folks say, "It's a 'guy' thing," and I'm not a guy. On the other hand, I had trouble putting down Clausewitz on Strategy (Wiley, 2001), a publication of the Boston Consulting Group's Strategy Institute and edited by Tiha von Ghyczy, Bolko von Oetinger, and Christopher Bassford. In their carefully chosen selections from Clausewitz's On War and in their lengthy commentary in the introduction, these present-day strategists present much food for thought."
Marilyn Norris, Strategy &
Leadership, May/June 2001
"Like many who are interested in strategy, I have attempted to read his classic book, On War. I found it to be hard going, and of limited benefit to my interest in business strategy. Clausewitz on Strategy is an extremely well-done book that takes the key points of On War, polishes them until they shine brightly, sets them amid many commentaries that elaborate on the same points, and uses a thoughtful introduction to connect the ideas to business strategy. The book's structure reminded me of a fine necklace, with the major gem stones set amidst complementary smaller gems. For me, this was the perfect approach, and I liked the book very much."
Amazon Reader Review
THE BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP is one of the world's leading management consulting firms. Its clients include many of the world's industry leaders.
TIHA VON GHYCZY is a faculty member at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business.
BOLKO VON OETINGER is a Senior Vice President of The Boston Consulting Group and Director of the firm's Strategy Institute.
CHRISTOPHER BASSFORDis a former US Army artillery officer. Long Professor of Strategy at the National War College in Washington, DC, he now teaches at JSOMA, part of the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg. He is webmaster of The Clausewitz Homepage, and the author of several books, including Clausewitz in English: The Reception of Clausewitz in Britain and America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
IS BUSINESS "WAR"?
Clausewitz is frequently referred to within the context of business strategy. For example, Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, and Lampel, Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour through the Wilds of Strategic Management (New York: The Free Press, 1998) makes intelligent references to Clausewitz in six separate discussions. There are many other examples of business theorists drawing on Clausewitz, some interesting and insightful, others nonsensical. Some other relevant links are listed below. We don't normally comment on the validity of any particular reference, unless we are particularly impressed or provoked.
While many writers say quite bluntly that "business is war," The Clausewitz Homepage takes the position that business is NOT war—not even metaphorically speaking. It's true that politics, business, and war belong to the same broad class of phenomena, and that there are events within business that correspond in significant ways to war. Indeed, wars have actually been waged at times by commercial corporations (think of the Hanseatic League or the East India Company) for essentially commercial objectives. For that matter, there have always been mercenary armies, which are essentially businesses that sell their military capabilities. But these are very specific instances of business and war occupying the same space at the same time. In general, just as war is a particular manifestation or subset of politics, business analogs to war are subsets of a larger phenomenon—thus, business as a whole is properly compared to politics, not war.
On the other hand, we've known some business thinkers who reject the business/war analogy altogether, claiming that business is about the creation of value, whereas war is pure destruction. This idea, too, is, in our view, in error. War—at least, when it is pursued with sense and skill—is about the creation of political value. Thus politics may involve "creative destruction" in much the same manner as business obviously does.
Levinson tells us that business is war and quotes Clausewitz: "Rather than comparing [war] to art we could more accurately compare it to commerce, which is also a conflict of human interests and activities; and it is still closer to politics, which in turn may be considered as a kind of commerce on a larger scale." On War, Book I, Ch. 3." See his book, The Way of Strategy (December 1999). See also http://www.ganesha.org/wos/index.html.
|The US Marine Corps' Warfighting Manual adapted for Managers
Currency's edition of the USMC's highly Clausewitzian manual Warfighting features interviews with famous former Marines including F. Lee Bailey, Ed McMahon, and Donald Regan. They tell how they have used the Marine Corps' battle strategies of strength and straightforwardness as their secret weapons in every confrontation, whether at a corporate, departmental, or personal level.
[See original military version]
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