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On the Frontline: 4 Management Tips from the Military

2008_0318_cheney_troops TAKEAWAY TUESDAY Take it away! This is the tenth in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association. On the Frontline: 4 Management Tips from the Military “I learned everything I needed to know in the military.” This might well be the mantra of successful entrepreneur and proud Texan David M. Smith. “The Army provided me with more fun and interesting experiences and principles than college,” he says. The founder and owner of two petrochemical companies, Smith argues that most students in MBA programs nationwide will never have “that military experience.” So he condensed what he has learned into 10 essential principles that he believes are applicable to both military and business endeavors. I would like to highlight four of those principles here that I think speak to some of the management challenges associations encounter:
  • Take the offensive to win. Defense alone never wins. There have been numerous efforts in history to construct some form of “impregnable” defense that will withstand all invaders; ultimately, none were successful. Whether in war, sports, or the business world, victory depends upon taking some kind of offensive initiative.
  • A good general always has enough troops. Whether you’re a general, lieutenant, private or middle manager – make sure you're marshalling your resources wisely. For the layperson, that might translate to never making a purchase you can’t afford.
  • Have a primary and a secondary objective. In a military unit or in a business team, you should have one clearly defined primary objective, understood by all persons in the unit. If a secondary objective is absolutely essential, it is better to have one preplanned, and not created during the heat of combat.
  • “Clean the lint off the helix.” This quote refers to the screen on clothes dryers that catches lint and frequently needs to be cleared. Cutting corners, like overlooking the helix, can ruin an officer’s uniform – an important part of the military and business community. Little details are often very important; when overlooked they may have large consequences.
Whether you agree or disagree with Smith’s stance that military service trumps education, he offers some valid tactics for us all to consider as we work to lead innovative and forward-thinking organizations. Ready or not, in today’s competitive environment, associations are often on the frontlines representing their members and/or maintaining their territory. What’s your battle plan?
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