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Putin OutManeuvers the West in Syria

Yesterday, March 14, 2016, Vladimir Putin announced that the Russian forces had accomplished their mission in Syria and would be pulling out.  This sudden move surprised analysts, who were equally surprised when Putin moved in.  As we’ve noted, surprise and stealth are two important factors for maneuver strategy.  Putin is constantly moving in a number of arenas (Syria, Ukraine are two examples) and keeping his opponents guessing.  Beyond surprise, we can see that Putin used preemption in Syria, taking a valuable, unoccupied position before others did or would.  Putin preempted any other major power from entering the war.  The valuable, unoccupied position that he took is to demonstrate that Russia wants to be a player in the Middle East, and is willing to fill the vacuum left by Europe and the recent reticence of the Obama administration to participate in the Middle East.

His entry was speedy and surprising, just like his announced exit.  He won kudos from other Middle Eastern governments for standing up to terrorists (even if he supported Assad).  He and Russia will gain greater credibility in the Middle East, retain a naval base in Syria and perhaps add an airbase, making Russia a player in the Middle East again.

Politico has a nice story today, suggesting that Putin “stole a march” on the west.

The concept of maneuver works in the political sphere, as well as in military campaigns.  Increasingly we’ll see maneuver strategy enter the business world to compete with attrition.

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Jeffrey PhillipsPutin OutManeuvers the West in Syria

OutManeuver discussion on School for Startups

We had a great conversation with Jim Beach, who leads the School for Startups radio show, about OutManeuver.  You can hear the first segment of the interview, with Jeffrey, here.

Due to some technical challenges on our end, Alex will be conducting a second, separate discussion with Jim in a week.  Stay tuned for more discussion with Jim at School for Startups.

In our discussion with Jim we highlighted how companies of any size can use maneuver strategy to win at less cost.

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Jeffrey PhillipsOutManeuver discussion on School for Startups

Military strategy informs business strategy

There’s an excellent article that was recently published by the Columbia business school that at first blush may seem more a military history than a modern strategic primer.  Willie Pietersen wrote the article, entitled Von Clausewitz on War: Six lessons for the modern strategist.  Von Clausewitz wrote “On War” in the 1820s, which became, and still remains, one of the classic books on military strategy.

Pietersen notes that business strategy has inherited a lot of its thinking from military strategy.  Further, he interprets Von Clausewitz’s theories in light of modern business realities.  This is important because Von Clausewitz was writing in response to Napoleon, who was a master of maneuver.  Pietersen’s conclusions are timely, and they are in line with much of what we’ve written about in OutManeuver.  I encourage you to read his article, then read our book to understand how to implement maneuver as a component of business strategy.

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Jeffrey PhillipsMilitary strategy informs business strategy

OutManeuver Book Marketing

I’m pleased to say that we are kicking off the marketing of our new book OutManeuver.  A number of early readers have the book and the feedback so far has been amazing.  Working with Tess Woods and Steve Becker, we are conducting a marketing and PR blitz to increase awareness about the book and the need for more maneuver strategy in all businesses today.

Here’s the first press release:  Outmaneuver – Final Press Release

We are looking forward to talking with you about the book, and more importantly seeing our readers implement maneuver strategies to win with far less cost.

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Jeffrey PhillipsOutManeuver Book Marketing

Why preemption is the gold standard of maneuver

If we create a simplistic dichotomy between attrition and maneuver, we can say that attrition is a direct attack on an existing incumbent competitor, while maneuver always sees to win at the least cost while avoiding a direct attack.  Attrition by its very nature is expensive, difficult work, because the incumbent competitor anticipates a direct attack and fortifies itself for such an attack.

Maneuver relies on three strategies to avoid a costly, direct attack.  These include preemption, dislocation and disruption.  Over the course of the next three posts we’ll highlight one of these strategies and describe it in more detail.  Today’s focus is on PREEMPTION, or what we call the “gold standard” of maneuver.

Preemption

First, let’s define our terms, to define what preemption is and why it matters.  We define preemption as

moving to a valuable, unoccupied space before competitors in such a way as to win a new opportunity, segment or market, and in doing so build defenses to thwart fast followers from entering the space.

There are a couple of key points here.  First, preemption is moving into a valuable and unoccupied space.  This means identifying positions, channels, business models, service offerings or other empty but valuable spaces that competitors are overlooking or ignoring, or where these spaces are about to emerge.  For preemption to work, the space must be unoccupied (no existing incumbent) which does not necessarily mean that there aren’t service options.  Southwest demonstrated that there were fliers that he major airlines missed or overlooked, for example.  Second, it’s only interesting if the space, channel or so on is valuable – can generate interesting revenues and profits.  A space may be unoccupied because it does not offer value to the winner.

Differences between preemption and ‘first mover’

In a sense one could say that preemption is simply first mover advantage, taking the opportunity to move into a new space before others do.  That is simply looking at half of the equation.  Moving early is valuable, but only if you can create barriers to entry that stymie fast followers.  Preemption is valuable because you can take a valuable position, but more importantly hold the position until you decide to move again.  First movers are often the first losers, because lower cost fast followers enter the space on their heels once the market or customer base is validated.  The first mover bears the cost of developing a market or space but rarely reaps the returns.  A preempter is a first mover, but with the savvy to create barriers to entry for the fast followers who would seek to capitalize on an overlooked or emerging market.

Preemption relies on position

Preemption is based on identifying a valuable, unoccupied space – that is a market, a channel, an industry, a segment, a position that no one else occupies, but when the space is occupied its value becomes apparent.  Other maneuver strategies can be implemented using a variety of tactics, but preemption can only be implemented by the concept of a valuable, unoccupied position.  At it is this idea of a valuable, unoccupied position that allows a maneuver strategist to “win on the cheap”.  Attacking an incumbent competitor who expects the attack is probably the most costly way to compete, while simply moving in and taking an unoccupied position that allows you to generate revenue with little or no competition is inexpensive.

Is preemption possible in a highly competitive industry?

The final question we’ll address today is one that executives and managers are bound to ask:  is preemption a viable strategy in my industry?  We believe that preemption opportunities exist in every industry, in every geography.  Apple preempted Sony and other music labels with iTunes.  Southwest Airlines preempted Delta and American Airlines in the low cost airfare market segment.  Preemption is always possible, but it may require you to expand your definition of your industry or identify emerging segment or industry needs.

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Jeffrey PhillipsWhy preemption is the gold standard of maneuver

How Donald Trump is using maneuver tactics to lead the nomination race

If you’ve followed the Republican race at all, you know by now that Donald Trump is leading in the polls in an unconventional, surprising campaign.  He has few definitive positions and has been moving quickly from topic to topic.  He has demonstrated a deft ability to attack his opponents in what should be their strengths (Jeb Bush is attacked for his thoughtfulness, now known as “low energy” for example).  He clearly has identified concerns in a significant portion of the voting public that conventional candidates aren’t aware of or aren’t willing to address, like immigration.

All of these factors are evidence of Maneuver

Trump is demonstrating a number of the strategies and tactics of Maneuver strategy.  Traditional campaigns are all structured the same way, have relatively similar messages and tactics.  Trump’s campaign has shocked the traditional campaign consultants and the media.  His surprising, unconventional approach has left them flummoxed.

Surprise and unconventional tactics are two hallmarks of maneuver.  Remember, we’ve said that maneuver relies on speed, agility, stealth, insight and innovation to win at the least possible cost.  Trump has spent less than most major candidates, and has won far more than any other per dollar spent.  He is winning the most at the least possible cost.

What’s more, we can see him using speed (getting ahead of issues and starting dialogs that other candidates are forced to address), agility (moving from idea to idea, never getting pinned down or held accountable for his own shifting positions), insight (he clearly identified immigration as the hot topic that many people were worried about, long before other candidates were willing to claim immigration as their own focus).

What Trump is doing is obvious to anyone who studies maneuver, and it’s strange to watch experienced politicians constantly fall into his maneuver traps.  When Jeb Bush calls Trump a “jerk”, it’s exactly what Trump wants him to do.  When campaign executives feel forced to ramp up spending to match Trump’s airtime that Trump is getting for free on cable news, it’s exactly what Trump wants them to do.  He is preempting the political field on key issues and constantly disrupting his competitors’ plans.

You don’t have to like Donald Trump, his plans or his campaigns to admire his use of maneuver tactics.

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Jeffrey PhillipsHow Donald Trump is using maneuver tactics to lead the nomination race