Ex-commando turns military strategy into business logic

Commandos in the military deal with uncertainty on a daily basis, and know instinctively how to avoid internal friction in order to achieve their successful mission as is their world failure can result in death.

In his new book, The Commando Way, former Royal Marine Commando Damian McKinney, also the founder of McKinney Rogers, the award winning international consultancy firm, asks 6 apparently easy questions.

The answers to them reveal the principles behind better business execution, and also the ability of organisations to execute their strategies quickly and effectively.

This is a stark contrast to some others where different parts of the business are pulling in completely different directions.

Royal Marines Commando-turned-successful entrepreneur, Damian McKinney, opens The Commando Way with a piece of bad news and a piece of good news. Let’s start with the bad news, ‘uncertainty is now the norm’. And the good news, ‘businesses have never been so well-equipped to deal with such uncertainty’.

Written in a clear, succinct, matter-of-fact style, The Commando Way, shows companies how to achieve better business execution. Damian (who owns an international business, now based in 9 countries, and counts Walmart, Diageo, Pfeizer, and the National Football League among his clients) explains why his experience as a Commando in the Royal Marines helps him thrive in today’s tough business environment.

Damian McKinney said: “A workforce goes to work. The military goes to war. There are parallels between the two, as well as similarities in the language used… Business people talk the talk of war, but they rarely show signs of understanding its meaning.

“They want to show they’re fighting a constant battle to keep ahead of the opposition, to fend off guerrilla attacks, to seize the high ground from the enemy – the stuff of Hollywood action movies. But they’re fighting the wrong war in the wrong way. Let’s call a truce and take a calmer look at how the insights from the military should be applied in business.”

For example, where are you going? Vision is essential in an enterprise, and this vision must be set within a timeframe. So, JFK aimed ‘to put a man on the moon and return him to earth by the end of the decade’. When Apollo exploded on the launch pad in 1967, the astronauts in training decided to go ahead with the project – despite the death of Gus Grissom, a close colleague.

Leaders must be relentless, always keeping their vision clearly in mind, and communicating it across their workforce.

Occasionally a company must do sacrifices to keep aligned with its vision – Steve Jobs axed Apple’s printer division which brought in $2 billion revenue as it didn’t fit the core strategy. Such sacrifices will pay off in the long-run.

How to you know you’re winning? ‘Monitor, monitor, monitor again.’ One of the examples Damian provides in this chapter is East African Breweries (EABL) who found itself controlling 90% of the market in Kenya when SAB withdrew from this territory.

EABL had two key aims: fulfill efficiently such unexpected demand, and cope with the country’s uncertain political climate. Among others, the company introduced ‘operational rehearsal’ scenarios where the board and employees would enact their response to potential crises. A typical feature of army training, ‘operational rehearsals’ boost the business’s confidence and sharpen its strategic vision.

So, if a business has got clear values, knows how to achieve them, clearly communicates the strategy to its employees, and is able to stir all people involved – from the boardroom to the postroom – towards this goal, they will be a winner in today’s business warfare. This might sound easy to achieve, but if one pauses and thinks it is far from obvious.

After all commandos are trained to think not just to act. The Commando Way shows how to implement the company’s objectives not by strength but by guile.

What business leaders say about the book:

“What Damian has achieved in such a short time with his business is extraordinary… He will always find a way to do what others tell him ‘can’t be done’. That Makes Damian’s thoughts worth listening to, his words worth reading.”

From the Foreword by Neville Isdell, former Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola

“McKinney is insightful, focused on execution and anchored in reality. This book clearly lays out what companies need to do in order to deliver extraordinary top line growth”

Andy Fennel, Chief Marketing Officer, Diageo

“The Commando Way should be added to the shelf of any CEO who believes in empowering teams and leaders. McKinney’s approach, based on his military experience, results in vision, alignment, transparency and better business execution”

David Haines, CEO, Grohe AG

Available on Amazon, from WH Smith and elsewhere in UK and USA.