practices reveals how and why the organizations who are willing to implement
this innovative team structure can increase their level of proficiency, capable
to perform with high waves of transforming behaviors during lean times and
truly soar when opportunities arise. Great teams do more than improve an
organization's performance; they continually raise the bar to redefine how
“peak performance” is defined.
This first practice
defines and decodes one of the Marine Corps ways of cracking the code to
transform individuals into teams of highly skilled and motivated performers.
Organizations that follow this practice posses the opportunity to develop their
associates into people that are always ready, willing and able to respond to
any business challenge in any business or non-business scenario without pause.
These are the associates who deliver exceptional and consistent performance
regularly without fail. They do not know any other way but to win! Unpacking
the first practice in business warfighting comes down to defining the “what” of
a team and the “how” of their actions; team building maneuvers: a concept developed
to help teams become significantly more critical, as high-value assets, to the
success of the organization.
Defining Team Building
organization's concept for winning under a circumstance or condition requires a
warfighting doctrine based on strategic, rapid and agile opportunistic
maneuvering. To fully understand what we mean by team building maneuvers,
one must first fully appreciate the means to clarify the term in subsets. The
traditional understanding begins with the first subset and context of team:
it is important to understand that not everyone who works together or in close
proximity is a member of a team. This concept is a misnomer for most people. A
clear explanation of a team is a group of individuals who are interdependent with
respect to intelligence, information, transferable skill sets, resources, and
tools, and who seek to combine their efforts to achieve a shared-vision towards
a common goal. If there is ever any doubt or if existing teams do not function
as defined by this explanation, consistently, and without fail, it must be
considered a “group of people” working together and nothing more. It is not a
team. That being said, in some cases, there is nothing wrong with groups over
teams if the structure fits a given scenario for the organization it is a part.
subset offers a contextual view for building: the
act, business or practice of developing a structure that may apply to either a
finished or an unfinished product. When used in the perspective of people, the act
generally suggests or implies the literal meaning of a useful purpose. This
subset offers a commonly understood subjective cultural or emotional
association to the initial subset.
and final subset, maneuvers, offers a philosophy that seeks to shatter an
opposing forces' cohesion through a series of rapid, “violent” and unexpected
actions or behaviors to create a turbulent and rapidly deteriorating situation
with which they cannot cope. The need for violence is not so much a source of physical
attrition, but a single source for moral dislocation. Toward this end,
concentrated force must be directed against critical vulnerabilities, striking
quickly and boldly where, when, and how it will cause the greatest damage to an
opposing force's ability to fight and win. Let it be clear, an opposing force
is defined as anything that offers a barrier, gap or divide to individuals who
are seeking to combine their efforts to achieve a shared-vision towards a
common goal or mission – ANYTHING!
relational; that is, people maneuver in space to gain a positional advantage.
However, in order to maximize the usefulness of a maneuver, we must consider
time – that is, time stipulates operational tempo to gain a temporal (sequential)
advantage over an opposing force. It is through maneuvers that an inferior
force can achieve decisive superiority at the necessary time and place of their
definitions of each subset, we see that the aim in team building maneuvers is
to place a group of individuals within a single cohesive unit pointing towards
a common goal and purpose to render a competitive or opposing force incapable
of resisting by shattering his moral and physical cohesion – his ability to be
an effective, coordinated whole – eliminating his intent to win, while making
him irrelevant due to a paralysis within his ability to use his efforts to
achieve his desired effects successfully. WOW; a mouthful when you think about
it, but regardless of the explanation's length, it offers a serious explanation
when in the context of teams and their ability to win in any scenario.
aptitude for true team building and the maneuvers they require is how a leader
is able to lead the team into building on a continuous basis. Team building
maneuvers are used to lead a group into higher levels of team spirit,
cooperation and interpersonal communication. Building teams is the process of
developing on the team-dynamics and interpersonal relationship of the people
that come together, to make-up the unit, and to eliminate a threat of any type
to its sponsoring organizational structure and strategy-forward. With team
building maneuvers, team spirit either grows or it dies based on the dynamics
of the unit.
team building maneuvers is the need for coordinated speed to seize the
initiative, dictate the terms of any competitive nature and keep a competitive
force off balance, thereby increasing his friction. Through the use of greater
tempo and velocity, team building maneuvers seek to establish a level of
effectiveness that an opposing force cannot maintain, so that with each action
or behavior, his own reactions are increasingly non-effective until eventually
he is overcome by events and despair.
building maneuvers mean that a team must be ruthlessly opportunistic, actively
seeking out signs of weakness, against which it will direct all available
competitive power. And, when the decisive opportunity becomes apparent, the
team must exploit it fully and aggressively, committing every ounce of
aggression it can muster even if to push its limits to exhaustion. This is how
to appreciate the first practice of business warfighting for great teams – understand
the unit, realize the team. It all begins in the recruiting process regardless
of an individual's skill sets and talents.
individual persona does not or will not fit into the structure and
strategy-forward – regardless of skill and talent – the individual must receive
a pass for the team. The team is the most important asset to any organization –
people. When organizations place individuals, skills and talents above the
purpose of the team's nature (reason for being), bad things will follow. This
is a simple human resource rule that in some cases, organizations lower their
standards. Standards are never compromised for the sake of the team.
TBM Strategy: Successes and Failures
– The Five Elements
carry with them a significant strategy to win. The first practice in business
warfighting has its strategy laced throughout like blood running through the
veins of a living breathing organism. As with any strategy, the need to develop
and construct it must be robust under the fog of war or the uncertainty of
business competition. Strategy is defined as “achieving a desired outcome
through the deployment of resources in the presence of uncertainty and hostile
intent.” An outstanding explanation, specifically from the position of the U.S.
Marine Corps, is explored in The Marine
Corps Way, a publication that studies the strategy of Marine Corps maneuver
Clemons, Professor of Operations and Information Management and of Management
at The Wharton School, and co-author of The
Marine Corps Way: Using Maneuver Warfare to Lead a Winning Organization, speaks
of strategy to further define it as “the ‘fog of war' as in the ‘fog of
business' (the heat of the moment) requiring a tactical movement stimulated by execution
with fluidity in the presence of uncertainty and friction.
Dr. Clemons goes
on to include a very important aspect of the Marine Corps – one of the greatest
operational teams on the planet – and speaks about how critical a team's effectiveness
is built on leadership, trust, integrity, initiative and unselfishness. As
stated earlier in the article, groups must transform into teams, teams must
transition from great to extraordinary and the culture that they are a part
must have shared values and understanding.
with Dr. Clemons, organizations can move with speed and maintain tempo with
decentralized decision-making; it must be understood by all stakeholders that
“in the environment, integrity is neither a luxury nor a cost of doing
business, but a source of sustainable competitive advantage.” As with any case
study, taking the lessons learned to instruct others with their initiatives
means that the source is proven. There is no question, with regard to the U.S.
Marine Corps, that their strategies are proven.
considering success and failure in team building maneuvers, the same
requirements are prevalent. The underlining strategy that lies within the first
practice of business warfighting is explained by The Five Elements. Similar to
the Marine Corps' maneuver warfare, the ‘elements' achieves a desired outcome
through the deployment of resources in the presence of uncertainty and hostile
intent. As with the business of the organization, “the heat of the moment,”
requires a series of tactical movements stimulated by execution with fluidity
in the presence of uncertainty and friction.
Building Maneuvers (TBM) is the collaboration platform at the core of Bison's
application lifecycle management solution to effectively build, manage and
sustain winning organizational and team behaviors. The platform is the next
generation team building initiative that helps organizations and leaders manage
their team development process. It inspires facilitative collaboration so that
teams are freed up from mundane tasks to focus on successes and failures and
with that, the inherent practices are critical. Team Building
Maneuvers (TBM) is all about success and failure and The Five Elements offer
the greatest strategy for realizing both.
The Five Elements are taken from Sun
Tzu's The Art of War. A document written by arguably the greatest military
strategist, Sun Tzu's writings are known as the oldest military treatise in the
world some 2500 years ago. A Chinese warrior and philosopher, Sun Tzu became a
grand master of strategy and captured the essence of his philosophies The Art
of War. A staple of military education, his stratagem offers significance to those
seeking to understand strategy in business, law and in life for its inherent wisdom.
At the heart of Sun Tzu's philosophies are useful strategies to all who wish to
gain advantage over their opposition. The Five Elements offer themselves as the
prevailing strategy in the first practice of business warfighting and Team
Building Maneuvers (TBM).
The Five Elements, as explained by
Sun Tzu from the perspective of success and failure, offer further team
consideration and analysis. They are listed as:
– Moral Unity.
– Weather Condition.
– Geographical Condition.
– Leadership Quality.
– Discipline and Organization Structure.
These five are a must know for all military
commanders under his command. This philosophy offers a collective view of team
building maneuvers; “victory to those who understand with no victory for those individuals
who do not.” These Five Elements will determine success or failure when
conducting war against an opposing force for teams. Here's an explanation of
Sun Tzu's statement through comparison using an analytical lens. The Five
Elements reveals the factors of success and failure of all team battles,
namely: Moral Unity, Weather Condition,
Geographical Condition, Leadership Quality, Discipline and Organization
Unity determines the cohesiveness between the ruler and his subjects,
the leader and his followers, the general and his soldiers. Ultimately, to
achieve full support by fellowman, putting aside life and death matters and
share the view of the rulers, is the goal of Moral Unity. Only when a view or
decision is fully supported, can orders be carried out smoothly by the team.
Weather Condition such as summer/winter and
drought/flood will have significant affects on how plans are executed. When
weather is an element that no one has any control, the best strategy takes full
advantage of the conditions when able. Going against the force of nature may
prove rewarding when one overcomes, but it usually spells destruction. Weather
offers a strategic element of consideration when making decisions to
Geographical Condition here refers to distance of near/far,
terrain/mountainous/flat regarding the battle space, wide/narrow the battle
field and whether the location chosen to engage the battle favors
attack/defense. This will limit the size, type and performance of the troop.
The same for business – this will also determine the team's reaction to the mission
and the amount of resources – people, process and management of initiative that
will be required to win.
Leadership Quality (my favorite) concerns the
general/commander's leading capability. There are five qualities of a good
leader: “wisdom, trustworthiness, benevolence and deportment, courage (both
physical and emotional) and sternness (temperament).” These five qualities will
affect the leading capability of a commander, his culture and climate for
organizational behavior effectiveness within the environment and the efficacy
and value of his command when carried out by the people (team) under his
Organization Structure is the activity, exercise, or regimen that develops or improves skills
within the organization. It is also the rigors of training within a set or
system of rules and regulations. It offers the effect of experience, adversity,
etc that brings a state of order, obedience and control. Discipline within an
organization determines the level of effectiveness for regulating within a
system of order. It is also the system of open communication and the vehicles
used to do so – how each level within the organization manages and leads the
people and process, including logistics. It requires a fair, consistent and
clear communication to everyone. Communication is the greatest resource in all
of life, not only in organizations, but in all we set out to accomplish.
Effective communication is leadership's greatest tool to win its people,
systems, processes and management of functions.
As The Five
Elements are inter-related, no leader can either ignore or fail to understand
the constructive/destructive nature of each element. Victory will overcome
“failure” and “success” will fall upon those who analyze and clearly understand
The Five Elements. These ‘elements' offer the foundational strategies in the
first practice of Team Building Maneuvers (TBM). Much goes on between the lines
in The Five Elements and that gives the practice of “Understand the Unit, Realize the Team,” its power.
by asking who offers fairest reward and punishment, whose troop, team or
organization is best trained and led, whose equipment and resources are more
efficient and plentiful, who can deliver and communicate order/leadership
smoothly, effectively and thoroughly, who has better geographical/weather
advantages (culture and organizational climate), who has more resourceful
leaders and followers – teams, whether the appointed leader/leadership is
wiser, more strategic in their thinking, tactical in their approach to engage
and has virtue… the winner is clear, defined and understood.
the subtlety of Business Warfighting for GREAT Teams and its philosophies in an
understandable form is where unpacking the twelve practices comes in to add
value. Business Warfighting for GREAT Teams uses thousands of years of
practical experience with philosophies from the United States Marine Corps and
Sun Tzu collectively to clarify the twelve practices. Sun Tzu said: “The Art of
War is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a
road to safety or to ruin. Therefore, it is a subject that must be thoroughly
studied.” As with the Art of War, teams will become great using business
warfighting as one of its thoroughly studied faculties work.
To close the
lessons in this practice, we'd like to share author Robert L. Cantrell's illustration
from his book, “Understanding Sun Tzu's The Art of War:” Picture the rapids of
a great river. See its waters rush over and around giant boulders. Close your
eyes and listen to its roar. Then feel its relentless power when it crashes
over a precipice. Now picture that you remove a cup of water anywhere along
this river and sense how that water loses its power and starts to dry up in the
sun. Then empty the cup back into the river, and know that as a part of the
whole river, that water wears rocks into sand and does not dry up. So a soldier
and philosopher observing a river from its banks in this fashion might hypothesize
that a great army kept whole can conquer nations and still stay whole, but an
army divided or too small will face peril and death. Any review he
might make of successful military campaigns in the past and in his present
would confirm his hypothesis. Like a river on its journey to the sea, he
could therefore conclude that the way of fighting involves fighting as a
unified whole, an entire army acting as one, with one objective in mind, and
with its own preservation as an army also kept in mind.
Warfighting suggest the same view from the river banks. For more information on
this practice, email us for a copy of our white paper titled; “Team Building Maneuvers and the Team's
Leadership: Conquering the Challenge of ‘Change' through Team Building
Maneuvers.” See you in the next practice.