OutManeuver: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: March 28th, 2016 by bobmorris


OutManeuver: OutThink—Don’t OutSpend
Jeffrey Phillips and Alex Verjovsky
Xlibris (January 2016)

How leveraging maneuver strategies and tactics can establi

As Jeffrey Phillips and Alex Verjovsky observe, “When speed and agility are important, maneuver is far more attractive than attrition, especially because maneuver wins at a much lower cost. Yet maneuvering requires more strategy and insight than attrition and often demands a different business model. Maneuver values insight, intelligence, decisiveness, speed, agility, and innovation — factors that may not be present in a company focused on attrition. And given the emerging competitive factors and increasing pace of change, the enablers we listed for maneuver will help companies compete in the new globalized marketplace, far more than size and cost will.”

When discussing the importance of adaptation and natural selection, Charles Darwin is reputed to have suggested “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” What we have in this volume are Phillips and Verjovsky’s thoughts about why maneuver is so valuable to both organizations and individuals. Also, how it works, highlighting three maneuver strategies: preemption, dislocation, and disruption. “We’ll demonstrate how any company of any size can implement any of or all these strategies at any planning level within the company. We’ll present a methodology to help you identify your opponent’s critical weaknesses, which can be easily attacked through maneuver tactics.  We’ll review business models, cultural and hierarchical changes needed to implement maneuver strategy and describe the kind of insight and intelligence necessary to act on maneuver opportunities. Finally, we’ll present key enablers for maneuver and compare [actually contrast] their importance in an attrition and a maneuver strategy. The outcome will show what’s needed to win in an emerging global market.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Phillips and Verjovsky’s coverage in the first five chapters:

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Phillips and Verjovsky’s coverage in the first five chapters:

o Why Attrition Gives Way got Maneuver (Pages xiv-xvii)
o Capital, Capabilities, Requirements, and Vulnerabilities (13-32)
o Campaigns versus Battles (35-42)
o Distinction Between Preemption and “First Mover” Advantage (49-54)
o Two Case Studies (56-68)
o Preemption Criteria (69-70)
o Preemption Methodology (74-78)
o Reconnaissance (84-88)
o Corporate Reconnaissance (89-94)
o Corporate Intelligence (95-99)
o Why Reconnaissance and Intelligence Is [sic] Vital for Maneuver Strategy (99-104)
o What Do Firms Need to Succeed? (108-110)
o Insourcing or Outsourcing Intelligence (112-114)
o Capabilities, Requirements, and Vulnerabilities (117-119)
o Clauswitz’s Maneuver Methodology: Four Factors for Consideration (121-123)
o Identifying Weaknesses (131-133)
o Prioritizing Vulnerabilities to Attack (134-138)
o Kenneth Adgie’s Five Maneuver Tactics (140-143)
o Psychological Tactics (150-154)
o Methodology Essentials (156-157)

Authors who attempt to correlate the workplace with the battlefield usually find themselves on the proverbial slippery slope. Obviously, terms such as “life” and “death” have significantly different meanings within each domain. However, there are valuable business lessons to be learned from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Machiavelli’s The Prince, and Carl von Clauswitz’s On War. I am also in substantial debt to other works recommended by Peter Drucker such as Be, Know, Do: Leadership the Army Way: Adapted from the Official Army Leadership Manual. My point is that, at least to some extent, there are valuable business lessons to be learned from a wide range of sources.  Phillips and Verjovsky cite several throughout their narrative when explaining how speed, stealth, movement, insight, and innovation can help almost any organization to succeed with initiatives that preempt, dislocate, and disrupt the given opponent. I immediately think of these military examples:

o The 300 Spartans led by Leonides against the Persians at Thermopylae (480 BC)
o The Union defense of Little Round Top against Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg led by Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1863)
o The British attack on Akaba led by T.E. Lawrence across the desert (1917)

There are countless other examples that also demonstrate how competitive advantage can be achieved with initiatives driven by preemption, dislocation, and disruption. Business leaders must thoroughly understand the seven major phases of the Maneuver Methodology, keeping in mind two valuable insights: Thomas Edison’s assertion, “Vision without execution is hallucination,” and Peter Drucker’s caveat, “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

One final point. Yes, as Jeffrey Phillips and Alex Verjovsky correctly note, traditional business models are based on traditional military models. If you follow global developments, you already know that those traditional military models are much less effective, nor are variations of them in the business world and this helps to explain the demise of so many companies that were ranked for decades among the Fortune 50. I highly recommend OutManeuver as an operations manual when formulating a business model to compete and succeed in a global marketplace that seems to become more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous each day.

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Although author bios and four appendices are provided, there is no index. That is inexcusable. I hope that if and when there is a second edition, one will be provided.

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