As the commercial world struggles to adapt to the effects of the economic crisis and defence faces up to an era of transformation, the only certainty appears to be uncertainty. But a new title by TA officer and business strategist Ivan Yardley suggests that companies could weather such turbulence by adopting the military mindset.
From Battlefield to Boardroom draws on the author’s considerable experience commanding British soldiers and directing his own marketing company to offer insight into how the two sectors can learn from each other.
“Most businesses want an organisation that has greater empowerment and staff who are willing to take risks and make decisions,” Yardley told Soldier. “However, they don’t quite know how to put the leadership in place to create a culture that enables that. They could look to the military, which has achieved that in a robust and sustainable way on operations.”
The book explores how firms could replicate the Army’s front-line success by following the doctrine of mission command. Management based on shared values is presented as a credible alternative to the profit-driven behaviour that usually infiltrates the corporate world, where greed has led to a growing gap between the highest and lowest earners.
“Sound, robust leadership carries people through thick and thin,” explained Yardley, who oversaw the deployment of 485 soldiers on Op Telic and various other missions as CO of 4th Battalion, The Mercian Regiment.
“You need chiefs who are going to act in a way that is good for the whole, not just the individual. It would be very difficult for any officer in the military to reward themselves 27 times more then a person further down in their organisation. If you don’t maintain trust and commitment, people won’t perform.”
Lessons offered to Service personnel from the world of commerce may be of particular interest to those at the helm of Army 2020. “Officers could look at how international companies operate without huge amounts of infrastructure,” the Reservist commented. “I’m not suggesting they adopt a McDonald’sstyle franchise but you could have some things contracted out; capabilities brought in at the last minute and temporary strategic alignments.”
Although not the first title to examine how military tactics can be exploited by the corporate sector and vice versa, this author’s pedigree at the operational end of both worlds should be the envy of other offerings.
Those looking for a self-help manual on how to translate battlefield experiences into a successful second career may wish to look elsewhere. But anyone involved in restructuring or wanting to understand the broader application of military theory to business will gain some useful insights.
“We have a fantastic opportunity for the first time in several hundred years to radically rethink how defence will operate, to be involved in something that’s going to be much more diverse and transformational than it has been in the past,” Yardley added. The author’s hope is that this vision is rewarded with thriving book sales over the coming months.
Article originally published in Soldier Magazine, August 2012 (Interview by Becky Clark)