The military is good in a crisis, or so accepted wisdom has it. So, if your business is facing a critical period, who better to take lessons from than those who have been on the real front line? It sounds an attractive idea, but does it hold up under scrutiny and can companies apply military lessons on agility?To help answer this question, I interviewed former members of the US, UK, and Israeli military who are now working in the private sector. They ranged from ex-lieutenants to generals, ex-regular army to special forces, current employees of large corporations to entrepreneurs running their own businesses.
Their insights pointed to a structured and surprisingly consistent approach to organizations achieving high levels of agility during periods of volatile change. Their approach – which many have taken into the private sector – centers on extensive preparation, training and practice to achieve what one interviewee called “agility in the moment.”
This paper summarizes the interrelated components that interviewees and research indicate help drive agility in the moment. They reflect interviewees’ experience of when the military performed at its best – which they would be the first to admit is often not the case – and provide a potential source of inspiration for businesses looking to achieve equivalent levels of speed, adaptability, and innovation.