How the Nine Principles of War Relate to Social Business

There are many parallels between corporate strategy and the principles of war. Below are shortened definitions of the US Military’s Nine Principles of War and an interpretation of how they apply to social business.

1. Objective

Direct every military operation toward a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective. The ultimate military purpose of war is the destruction of the enemy's ability to fight and will to fight.

Having specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed objectives for your social business program is critically important. Your competitors are undertaking similar planning and goal setting sessions and your organization should focus on defining clear goals.

2. Offensive

Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative. Offensive action is the most effective and decisive way to attain a clearly defined common objective.

Organizations that are leaders and fast followers are already out of the gates on social - learning and evolving their skills and programs. All organizations need to be taking active steps forward to begin to learn the science of social and develop their voice and position. The time for inaction has passed and firms must have their “Social Moment,” when they realize that social is mainstream and integral to business success, or they will be left behind.

3. Mass

Mass the effects of overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time. Synchronizing all the elements of combat power where they will have decisive effect on an enemy force in a short period of time is to achieve mass.

Harnessing the capabilities of your organization and employees in a concerted direction can have meaningful results. Coupling the conviction to develop the social acumen of your team with the leadership, authenticity and transparency required to be successful in social business will yield measurable results.

4. Economy of Force

Employ all combat power available in the most effective way possible; allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts. Economy of force is the judicious employment and distribution of forces. No part of the force should ever be left without purpose.

Employing your people in accordance with their capabilities is critical. Organizations must assess the aptitude and interest of their personnel in social media, provide quality training and encourage people to engage in their strength areas. For some, that may initially be writing blogs and for others that may be deepening the corporate social network by following and connecting with market influencers.

5. Maneuver

Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power. Maneuver is the movement of forces in relation to the enemy to gain positional advantage.

Your social business program will evolve and social media is fluid. It is important to provide guidance and training to assist employees to have the judgment they need to make decisions in the moment when they are interacting in social channels with individuals on behalf of the organization.

6. Unity of Command

For every objective, seek unity of command and unity of effort. It requires a single commander with the requisite authority to direct all forces in pursuit of a unified purpose.

Appointing an executive level stakeholder to champion social business will establish the needed gravitas to lead the social business program. Decentralized rollout through an executive and advocate program can then be successful in communication and collaboration efforts.

7. Security

Never permit the enemy to acquire unexpected advantage. Knowledge and understanding of enemy strategy, tactics, doctrine, and staff planning improve the detailed planning of adequate security measures.

Safety in social media is important for both employees and the company. Creating and ensuring understanding of the social business policy and guidelines both with new employees and on a regular basis with existing employees can help to avoid unnecessary challenges. In more regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare, a greater degree of governance exists and will be required.

8. Surprise

Strike the enemy at a time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared. Surprise can decisively shift the balance of combat power. By seeking surprise, forces can achieve success well out of proportion to the effort expended

Social media represents an opportunity to interact with your customers on their terms and being invited into a trusted environment provides an opportunity to surprise or delight them. For example, providing unique access to a product or service early can create a feeling of being valued.

9. Simplicity

Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and concise orders to ensure thorough understanding. Simplicity contributes to successful operations. Simple plans and clear, concise orders minimize misunderstanding and confusion.

Do not over engineer the social business approach or solution. We are all beginning the journey and are not arriving at a destination. The social business program must be iterative, adaptive to change and flexible enough to pivot when needed.