I have written about the military 11 times on this blog, with these two posts the most popular (here and here). I find the military to be an excellent source of management techniques and lessons. Today I read a terrific post (terrific being my highest level of praise) from the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles. The post is titled "Soldiers of Fortune-How the Israeli Army became the most prolific innovation engine on earth". Setting aside the hype, this article is worth about three blog posts. You definitely need to read the full article if you have even a passing interest in management. Very valuable also if you are in a resource constrained environment.
The management lessons to be learned from the Israeli Army are:
- Flat organizations work best when you are resourced constrained
- Put the most talented person in charge of a mission, not the most senior person
- Foster open communications that ignore organizational rank
The economic development lessons to be learned are:
- Universal military conscription fosters a country-wide set of values
- Everyone serving in the military creates more cohesiveness because people are exposed to all social classes and are forced to work together
- Mandatory military service creates more mature, experienced and serious students when they later enter university
The human resource lesson to be learned is that participation in elite units, such as military intelligence, is a very good indicator of future performance. Elite organizations, whether it be MIT, the Seals or JP Morgan, all screen for certain qualities that will also benefit your organization. Pick people from elite organizations.
Another interesting thing about the article is we could have changed Israel for Singapore and the story would have been identical. The only difference is that in Singapore they encourage the most talented people to stay in the military for 20 years and then to retire into senior positions in the leading quasi-government companies. Singapore is also more hierarchical. Nearly the same model for another successful small country.
So if you are running something small with limited resources--such as a startup--there are many good ideas here from the Israeli Army. Next post we will talk about innovation and the Israeli Army.