General Charles Krulak is a retired United States Marine Corps officer who served as the 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps from July 1, 1995 to June 30, 1999. General Krulak famously referred to the “Strategic Corporal” and the “Three Block War” as two of the key lessons identified from the deployments in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia.
- The “Strategic Corporal” is the notion that leadership in complex, rapidly evolving mission environments devolves lower and lower down the chain of command to better exploit time-critical information into the decision making process, ultimately landing on the corporal, the lowest ranking non-commissioned officer.
- The thrust of the “Three Block War” concept is that Marines must be trained to simultaneously conduct full scale military action, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian aid within the space of three contiguous city blocks. To accomplish this mission, leadership training at the lowest levels needs to be high.
These concepts are considered vital in understanding the increasing complexity of modern battlefields. I would argue they are also vital in understanding how to build a healthy organization and successful modern business.
Most businesses lack understanding the most power competitive differentiator is organization health. It is the difference between excellence and mediocrity. Organizational health trumps strategy, marketing, and technology in providing an advantage in the marketplace.
What does healthy mean? It’s when politics are minimal, confusion is low and clarity is high. It’s when management, operations and culture are unified. There’s high morale, high productivity and low turnover with key performers. In fact, a healthy organization is one where star performers never want to leave, and it becomes increasingly uncomfortable for people to hide and merely camp out. In a healthy organization, everyone sees themselves as a leader and acknowledges the first person they have to lead is themself.
Healthy organizations operate in complex, rapidly evolving environments and leadership devolves lower and lower down the chain of command. Everyone serves as a “Strategic Corporal” and leadership training at the lowest levels is high.
In a healthy business, there is minimal busyness, i.e. lively but meaningless activity. In a healthy business, people are empowered to make informed decisions and are held accountable for those decisions. A feeling of ownership is present at all levels, from the corner office to the reception desk. A sense of purpose permeates the organizational fabric. Everybody owns the mission.
I would also argue in the healthiest businesses people are doing God’s work. Work that accomplishes good. Work that is very important and necessary. Work that has meaning. Any work that serves others and benefits humankind is God’s work. Some of these businesses are for-profit and have high margins. Others are non-profits. They come in all shapes and sizes and there’s no correlation to profit. However, there is a correlation to how they treat and train people.
The healthiest businesses foster a servant attitude. They promote staying away from stupid and senseless arguments and teach humility when correcting opposition. They are kind to everyone. They are good teachers and very patient. They offer grace because they operate from a place of true wholeness and love. They chose to minister to the core of people rather than being intimidated by the symptoms their sin.
Kudos to the healthy organizations doing God’s work. Here’s to less busyness and more meaningful work. And here are some of my favorite quotes from the late, great Zig Ziglar, who was an advocate for doing God’s work:
“Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be. If we do our best, we are a success.”
“I believe success is achieved by ordinary people with extraordinary determination.”
“Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you.”
“Take one cup of love, two cups of loyalty, three cups of forgiveness, four quarts of faith and one barrel of laughter. Take love and loyalty and mix them thoroughly with faith; blend with tenderness, kindness and understanding. Add friendship and hope. Sprinkle abundantly with laughter. Bake it with sunshine. Wrap it regularly with lots of hugs. Serve generous helpings daily.”
“Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart.”
“If God would have wanted us to live in a permissive society He would have given us ten suggestions and not Ten Commandments.”– Zig Ziglar