I donít know how many books there are on strategy, but there must be thousands. There are books that will tell you the latest fad in business strategy and strategic planning. There are textbooks on strategy written for students in graduate management programs.
There are innumerable memoirs, and books purporting to connect military strategy to business strategy. There are books about strategy that are actually historical studies of one kind or another. There are great philosophical tomes like Von Clausewitzís masterpiece On War. But there are very few books that are short, well written, and filled with enough wisdom that you keep going back to them. Two of those books are Sun Tzuís classic The Art of War and Warfighting: The U. S. Marine Corps Book of Strategy.
Both are very short. Both are packed with wisdom that you can apply in a variety of situations. Of the two, though, Iíd pick Warfighting as the book you ďmust haveĒ if youíre going to make sense of strategy.
Warfighting is the contents of FMF-1, the manual of U. S. Marine Corps doctrine which is distributed to all Marine officers. Rumor has it that it was personally penned by General Al Gray, the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps and a significant figure in Marine Corps history.
Unlike most commandants since the early 20th Century, Gray enlisted in the Marines and rose to the rank of Sergeant before being commissioned in 1952. He was commandant from 1987 to 1991. The first thing he changed was how the commandant dressed.
Most commandants, before and since, wore the Marine dress uniform as their working attire. Gray wore utilities, the working attire of the vast majority of Marines. He drank from a canteen cup emblazoned with four stars.
He not only changed the way the commandant looked, he changed what was expected of Marines. He started by creating a required reading list for both commissioned and non-commissioned officers, the only such list in any of the services.
He made changes in Marine leadership training, increasing the emphasis on training in how to think, not what to do. And he created the doctrine of the Marines that you will read in this book. Whether he actually put down the words or not, this is his book and itís excellent.
Warfighting is extremely well written and develops in a logical progression, yet itís still a book that you can dip into for a nugget of wisdom here and there. You can also read it through in a single sitting.
Warfighting is a book thatís easy to adapt, whether youíre studying ancient military campaigns in a class in history or thinking about business strategy. Itís also a book written by a modern Westerner and, therefore it has a more straightforward and less elliptical style than the Sun Tzu classic.
Both books are good. I have both. I use them with clients. I find that my clients spend time puzzling over Sun Tzu, trying to tease meaning from the translation of a text written in a different language, hundreds of years ago. When they read Warfighting, they spend their time adapting what theyíve read to their business situations.
The best recommendation I can give you on this book is to tell you that I usually have several copies around. I keep them to give to clients and friends because what they read in Warfighting helps them do a better job of creating strategies for their businesses.
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