Things are not going well for the U.S. military in Iraq. Graphic images depicting the torture of prisoners and an inability to subdue terrorist networks in that country have raised troubling questions about the effectiveness of U.S. armed forces. So why would business author and retired U.S. Army

lieutenant-colonel Mark Bender pen a book titled Operation Excellence: Succeeding in Business and Life the U.S. Military Way? Can the U.S. military really have anything to teach business people?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes. Operation Excellence weighs in on some important career and management issues often overlooked by more conventional business writers.

One of the strongest messages that comes through in Operation Excellence is the need for sacrifice in the pursuit of a business objective. Bender says it’s impossible to succeed in the most important areas of your life without giving up some of the things you love. Decide what your priorities are, focus your energies on those priorities, and stick to your guns.

Still, Bender is not a stiff-necked authoritarian from the John Wayne school of interpersonal relations. For example, drawing on his experience as an army coach, he advocates creating an organizational culture that celebrates every win, no matter how small.

Not only is it fun to be part of an organization like that, it helps people bond and become better friends. Simple advice, but how many of us do this?

On the subject of delegation Bender has this to say: Delegate a task to a subordinate if he or she can accomplish that task to 75 per cent of your personal best.

Successful problem-solving may well have been your ticket to the executive suite. But Bender points out that, while problem-solving is addictive for many of us, the role of a senior business manager, like that of a four-star general, is first and foremost vision and leadership.

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