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Book review: Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines

It was a nice sunny day today and I finished ‘Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines’ on the beach. The marines have to deal with life and death decisions in highly unpredictable and fast pacing situations. To cope with this they created their own, special kind of management philosophy, which is something completely different from the Army, the Airforce and the Navy. The book describes 30 specific Marines management principles. To my astonishment these also resemble some lean, agile and even PRINCE2 principles. Decide for yourself…

Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines

Principle 1. Aim for the 70-percent solution
It’s better to decide and act fast then to create a perfect plan that’s too late.

Principle 4. Orient to speed and complexity
The combat environment changes quickly and chaotically. The ability to react quickly is the most important competence.

Principle 6. Build authority-on-demand into the hierarchy
This means that marines have the authority to make their own decisions when management guidance isn’t at hand. In the field teams are very self-organizing and self-supporting.

Principle 7. Focus on the small team
The Marines are very aware that the real stuff is done by the combat teams. The Marines do anything possible to empower these teams.

Principle 12. Cross train
Versatile managers are created by running through different jobs. That’s more important than the loss of efficiency.

Principle 13. Manage by state and intent
Don’t tell people what to do. Tell them what you want and why.

Principle 15. Reward failure
People whom don’t make failures don’t take risks and accomplish nothing.

Principle 17. Glorify the lower levels of the organization
The real heroes are the marines that make it happen, not the management.

Principle 18. Demand to be questioned
No one knows ‘all’. It’s healthy to criticize and discuss other points of view.

Principle 25. Keep plans simple and flexible.
It’s better to have a few simple options that can be adapted to changing situations then to try to make specific plans for every contingency.

Most of the principles I didn’t mention above are about leadership, which also is extremely important in any management position, but aren’t part of the Scrum or PRINCE2 methods. So I skipped that for now. Anyhow, I think almost all 30 management principles are also applicable to a business context. All in all, a great book and a recommended read!

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  1. deltalounge » Scrum – additional resources linked to this post on 2011/11/28

    […] online library of one of my colleagues gives some other great hints. You might also like to read his selection of 10 from ‘Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines’. Categories: […]

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