New Report by Barclays Corporate Banking: Why Businesses Need to Enter the Military Mindset

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New Report by Barclays Corporate Banking: Why Businesses Need to Enter the Military Mindset

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.@Barclays_cship Why Businesses Need to Enter the Military Mindset new report by Barclays Corporate Banking
Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 10:55am

CONTENT: Article

Businesses should adopt the agile, collaborative approach of the military to prevent their leaders making critical decisions based solely on “gut feel”, according to a new report by Barclays Corporate Banking.

Research from the report, entitled ‘Strategic decision-making: What business can learn from the military’, suggests that the majority of companies’ strategic decisions appear to be made on an “emotional” (78%) rather than “logical” basis (22%) – whereas military thinking aims to mitigate emotional bias in high-pressure situations.

There is also a tendency for strategic decision-making in business to be concentrated among individual directors and management, rather than involving the wider staff in the process: just over a fifth of companies consult generally with affected employees, and under 10% consult all staff.

By contrast, commanding officers on the front-line consult with other ranks in order to help avoid dangerous ‘blind spots’, say the report’s authors – who include Stuart Tootal, Head of Global Security at Barclays and a former Colonel in the British Army.

Tootal, who features in a video released to coincide with the report’s publication, says: “One common misconception about the military is that it's overly hierarchical when, in truth, particularly in combat operations, it's very flat, and far more collegiate often than the commercial world.”

Recalling his experiences in Helmand province in Afghanistan in 2006, where he led 1,200 soldiers of the 3 PARA battle group, Tootal adds: “On one occasion, I was giving orders to my command team in the field and a junior member of the planning team called me out, disagreed with one aspect of my orders, made a recommendation. He was absolutely right so we went with the recommendation he made and no one in the senior team missed a heartbeat, because it was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Another of the report’s authors, Peter Brooks, Head of Behavioural Finance at Barclays, says many of the lessons that businesses can learn from the military stem from the fact that its decision-making strategies “are about managing behavioural biases”.

He adds: “The rationality that can be applied to the planning of an operation can quickly start to break down under the stress of being in battle. This has parallels with how your colleagues attempt to execute your strategy, thankfully without the same life and death consequences.”

Empowering the troops

In another example from his military career, Tootal highlights how the military delegates decision-making in the field of battle to “empower” troops so they can effectively respond to rapidly changing events.

“We were sent to conduct peaceful operations. The plan didn't survive the reality of the circumstances on the ground so we quickly found ourselves conducting intense combat operations.

“My sub-units became split up, separated and isolated and so my subordinate commanders had these huge challenges. It was essential that they felt empowered to make high-risk decisions on the battlefield without any direct reference to me, but also remained aligned to the overall main effort and the mission that had been set.”

Tootal – whose battle group experienced what was described as the most intense fighting the British Army had faced since the Korean War – attributes critical importance to the military’s agile approach: “The key benefit was that it removed the randomness and the bias of their decision-making in highly pressurised and uncertain situations.”

About the report: The Barclays/Conlumino research represents the views of 153 managers and 2,055 employees in a nationally representative sample, interviewed between July and August 2016.

Watch the video.

Read the report in full here.