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Certain to Win [Sun Tzu's prognosis for generals who follow his advice] develops the strategy of the late US Air Force Colonel John R. Boyd for the world of business. The success of Robert Coram's monumental biography, Boyd, the Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, rekindled interest in this obscure pilot and documented his influence on military matters ranging from hi Certain to Win [Sun Tzu's prognosis for generals who follow his advice] develops the strategy of the late US Air Force Colonel John R. Boyd for the world of business. The success of Robert Coram's monumental biography, Boyd, the Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, rekindled interest in this obscure pilot and documented his influence on military matters ranging from his early work on fighter tactics to the USMC's maneuver warfare doctrine to the planning for Operation Desert Storm. Unfortunately Boyd's written legacy, consisting of a single paper and a four-set cycle of briefings, addresses strategy only in war. Boyd and Business Boyd did study business. He read everything he could find on the Toyota Production System and came to consider it as an implementation of ideas similar to his own. He took business into account when he formulated the final version of his OODA loop and in his last major briefing, Conceptual Spiral, on science and technology. He read and commented on early versions of this manuscript, but he never wrote on how business could operate more profitably by using his ideas. Other writers and business strategists have taken up the challenge, introducing Boyd's concepts and suggesting applications to business. Keith Hammonds, in the magazine Fast Company, George Stalk and Tom Hout in Competing Against Time, and Tom Peters most recently in Re-imagine! have described the OODA loop and its effects on competitors. They made significant contributions. Successful businesses, though, don t concentrate on affecting competitors but on enticing customers. You could apply Boyd all you wanted to competitors, but unless this somehow caused customers to buy your products and services, you ve wasted time and money. If this were all there were to Boyd, he would rate at most a sidebar in business strategy. Business is not War Part of the problem has been Boyd's focus on war, where affecting competitors is the whole idea. Armed conflict was Boyd's life for nearly 50 years, first as a fighter pilot, then as a tactician and an instructor of fighter pilots, and after his retirement, as a military philosopher. Coram describes (and I know from personal experience) how his quest consumed Boyd virtually every waking hour. It was not a monastic existence, though, since John was above everything else a competitor and loved to argue over beer and cigars far into the night. During most of the 1970s and 80s he worked at the Pentagon, where he could share ideas and debate with other strategists and practitioners of the art of war. The result was the remarkable synthesis we know as Patterns of Conflict. Discussions about generals and campaigns, however, did not give Boyd much insight into competition in other areas, like business Now you might expect, at first glance, that business is so much like war that lifting concepts from one and applying them to the other would be straightforward. But think about that for a minute. Even in its simplest description, business doesn't really look much like war. For one thing, there are always three sides to business competition: you, customers, and competitors. Often it is vastly more complex, with a multitude of competitors who are customers of each other as well. In business, unlike war, it may even be desirable to be conquered by a competitor in a lucrative merger or acquisition. Finally, and most important, it is rarely possible to defeat the other player in the triangle, that is, to compel an unwilling customer to buy. Attempts to pressure customers into paying too much or into buying more than they need often open a window for competitors (as the US airline industry is belatedly discovering.) Generally all we can do is attract offer products and services to potential customers, whose decisions determine who wins and who loses. What this means is that the strategies and tactics of war, Boyd's included, are destructive in nature and so never apply to business. Expressions like Attack enemy weaknesses have no meaning, except as metaphors and analogies. Across different domains, such literary devices are as likely to be misleading as helpful. Boyd's Strategy Still Applies Business is not war, but it is a form of conflict, a situation where one group can win only if another group loses. If you dig beneath Boyd's war-centered tactics you find a general strategy for ensuring that in most any type of conflict your group will be the one that wins. Although Boyd made a number of new and fundamental contributions, his is an ancient school, extending back in written form 2,500 years. It is built around two primary themes: A focus on time (not speed) and specifically, using dislocations in time to shape the competitive situation. These effects, by the way, are quite different in business than they are in war. A culture with attributes that enable even impel organizations to exploit time for competitive advantage. Within Boyd's culture, members will seek out or invent specific practices that will work for it. Why You Should Read this Book This book will give you a firm foundation in Boyd's strategy, starting with its military roots, but it is not a how-to manual. There could never be such a manual for strategy since all sides could use it and so would derive no strategic benefit. Anything you can write a how-to manual for is tactics or even technique. Strategy begins where these leave off. You should read this book if you ve found other books on business strategy lacking something. You should read it if you appreciate that Sun Tzu seems to be revealing fundamental truths, but it's not clear what they have to do with business. You should read it if you intend to run your own show without the decision making by committee, shunning of responsibility, and breakdown of ethics and trust that you see around you every day.


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Certain to Win [Sun Tzu's prognosis for generals who follow his advice] develops the strategy of the late US Air Force Colonel John R. Boyd for the world of business. The success of Robert Coram's monumental biography, Boyd, the Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, rekindled interest in this obscure pilot and documented his influence on military matters ranging from hi Certain to Win [Sun Tzu's prognosis for generals who follow his advice] develops the strategy of the late US Air Force Colonel John R. Boyd for the world of business. The success of Robert Coram's monumental biography, Boyd, the Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, rekindled interest in this obscure pilot and documented his influence on military matters ranging from his early work on fighter tactics to the USMC's maneuver warfare doctrine to the planning for Operation Desert Storm. Unfortunately Boyd's written legacy, consisting of a single paper and a four-set cycle of briefings, addresses strategy only in war. Boyd and Business Boyd did study business. He read everything he could find on the Toyota Production System and came to consider it as an implementation of ideas similar to his own. He took business into account when he formulated the final version of his OODA loop and in his last major briefing, Conceptual Spiral, on science and technology. He read and commented on early versions of this manuscript, but he never wrote on how business could operate more profitably by using his ideas. Other writers and business strategists have taken up the challenge, introducing Boyd's concepts and suggesting applications to business. Keith Hammonds, in the magazine Fast Company, George Stalk and Tom Hout in Competing Against Time, and Tom Peters most recently in Re-imagine! have described the OODA loop and its effects on competitors. They made significant contributions. Successful businesses, though, don t concentrate on affecting competitors but on enticing customers. You could apply Boyd all you wanted to competitors, but unless this somehow caused customers to buy your products and services, you ve wasted time and money. If this were all there were to Boyd, he would rate at most a sidebar in business strategy. Business is not War Part of the problem has been Boyd's focus on war, where affecting competitors is the whole idea. Armed conflict was Boyd's life for nearly 50 years, first as a fighter pilot, then as a tactician and an instructor of fighter pilots, and after his retirement, as a military philosopher. Coram describes (and I know from personal experience) how his quest consumed Boyd virtually every waking hour. It was not a monastic existence, though, since John was above everything else a competitor and loved to argue over beer and cigars far into the night. During most of the 1970s and 80s he worked at the Pentagon, where he could share ideas and debate with other strategists and practitioners of the art of war. The result was the remarkable synthesis we know as Patterns of Conflict. Discussions about generals and campaigns, however, did not give Boyd much insight into competition in other areas, like business Now you might expect, at first glance, that business is so much like war that lifting concepts from one and applying them to the other would be straightforward. But think about that for a minute. Even in its simplest description, business doesn't really look much like war. For one thing, there are always three sides to business competition: you, customers, and competitors. Often it is vastly more complex, with a multitude of competitors who are customers of each other as well. In business, unlike war, it may even be desirable to be conquered by a competitor in a lucrative merger or acquisition. Finally, and most important, it is rarely possible to defeat the other player in the triangle, that is, to compel an unwilling customer to buy. Attempts to pressure customers into paying too much or into buying more than they need often open a window for competitors (as the US airline industry is belatedly discovering.) Generally all we can do is attract offer products and services to potential customers, whose decisions determine who wins and who loses. What this means is that the strategies and tactics of war, Boyd's included, are destructive in nature and so never apply to business. Expressions like Attack enemy weaknesses have no meaning, except as metaphors and analogies. Across different domains, such literary devices are as likely to be misleading as helpful. Boyd's Strategy Still Applies Business is not war, but it is a form of conflict, a situation where one group can win only if another group loses. If you dig beneath Boyd's war-centered tactics you find a general strategy for ensuring that in most any type of conflict your group will be the one that wins. Although Boyd made a number of new and fundamental contributions, his is an ancient school, extending back in written form 2,500 years. It is built around two primary themes: A focus on time (not speed) and specifically, using dislocations in time to shape the competitive situation. These effects, by the way, are quite different in business than they are in war. A culture with attributes that enable even impel organizations to exploit time for competitive advantage. Within Boyd's culture, members will seek out or invent specific practices that will work for it. Why You Should Read this Book This book will give you a firm foundation in Boyd's strategy, starting with its military roots, but it is not a how-to manual. There could never be such a manual for strategy since all sides could use it and so would derive no strategic benefit. Anything you can write a how-to manual for is tactics or even technique. Strategy begins where these leave off. You should read this book if you ve found other books on business strategy lacking something. You should read it if you appreciate that Sun Tzu seems to be revealing fundamental truths, but it's not clear what they have to do with business. You should read it if you intend to run your own show without the decision making by committee, shunning of responsibility, and breakdown of ethics and trust that you see around you every day.

30 review for Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard Wu

    Books like this are written so rigorously that any review of them which does not attempt a summary of their ideas seems to indicate a lack of understanding on the reader’s part. I suppose this is the type of prose you’d expect out of a Math Ph.D. who lectures at military academies. Because I don’t want to come across as a complete airhead, I’ll bite the summary muffin. Fighter pilot John Boyd came up with a revolutionary theory of warfare, the OODA loop, which was (in some sense) to Sun Tzu what Books like this are written so rigorously that any review of them which does not attempt a summary of their ideas seems to indicate a lack of understanding on the reader’s part. I suppose this is the type of prose you’d expect out of a Math Ph.D. who lectures at military academies. Because I don’t want to come across as a complete airhead, I’ll bite the summary muffin. Fighter pilot John Boyd came up with a revolutionary theory of warfare, the OODA loop, which was (in some sense) to Sun Tzu what Einstein was to Newton. Observe your environment, Orient yourself with analysis and contextualization, Decide on a plan or course of action, Act on the decision; this is the fundamental cycle of warfare and, under the game of war (which is decidedly not like chess), the side with faster OODA has a significant strategic edge that can render traditionally legible differentiation metrics (larger infantry, greater firepower) practically irrelevant. The question then becomes: How does one accelerate OODA loops? By building organizational competence, for which Boyd uses the German Blitzkrieg as prototype. There are four components: Einheit, Fingerspitzengefühl, Auftragstaktik, and Schwerpunkt. Now I could simply quote Richards’ definitions on page 61, but this, again, would hint at indigestion, so I’ll give it my own try. Einheit is mutual trust, which is built by, among other things, going through experiences together (like frat house hazing) and being on the same ideological page, agreeing with the project or campaign vision; as one, as many. Fingerspitzengefühl is basically what psychologists call tacit knowledge, which is a sort of non-codified expertise developed through sustained experience; a violinist can teach you the principles of bridge movement, but she will never be able to transmit her “fingertip feeling,” can never instruct her student into producing her particular timbre. Auftragstaktik, the concept of the mission, is best defined in terms of its negation: micromanagement. An effective leader sets directives of whose subroutines he trusts his assigned subordinates to manage; he does not waste his (and their) time trying to manage the subroutines himself. Steve Jobs (Aaron Sorkin): “Musicians play their instruments. I play the orchestra.” Schwerpunkt is the center of gravity, which you can change with by shifting your weight around. Sting like a butterfly, float like a bee! Adaptation is the name of the game, not running sunk costs into the ground. Better organizational competence means faster OODA loops, faster OODA enables blitzkrieg, “lightning war,” which disorients opponents by messing their models up. You become an unmappable territory—and then you win. Sounds nice. But the other half of the theory is to assume your opponents are just as smart as you, so having a fast OODA loop is no good in itself; it must be faster relative to your opponent’s; the greater the speed difference, the more compounded your strategic edge. Why should you care about any of this? Well, consider this. The world is a confusing place—more confusing than ever. The winners aren’t so much those who understand it better, but those who are in control of creating the confusion—the so-to-speak fog of war—and thus understand the extent of which it is theirs. Exempli gratia: This short piece of fiction, written by one of Putin’s personal advisors (and which everyone should read), is basically an analog for contemporary Russian political philosophy. By understanding the mechanics of confusion, you can better Orient yourself to the psychic barrage of societal forces constantly eroding our sense of agency. What follows from this I’ll leave you to develop. An unexpected learning, perhaps the most practical for me personally, regarded the extensibility of metaphors; Richards specifically points out, for example, the futility of transposing the Toyota Production System onto non-manufacturing industries, the myriad ways war—and war strategy—isn’t remotely like chess (popular comparison though it is), the differences between competition in business and competition in warfare and the subsequent (non)applicability of OODA loops in each scenario. As a poet I enjoy comparing everything to everything else, so it’s good for me to collect boxes inside of which to think. Favorite Quotes “Another reason economies are impossible to model involves the messy presence of human beings. Financially massive organizations warp the environment they inhabit much like the way gravitationally massive bodies warp space-time in physics: Normal rules do not apply to them.” [p.45] “[W]inning requires more than the promise of survival. It must offer an idea of such power and appeal that people will, at times, neglect their other responsibilities and work nights and weekends and extend trips to make it happen.” [p.75] “Strategy, then, includes selecting the view of the future we want, creating devices to harmonize all the plans and actions designed to achieve that future, and on relatively rare occasions, shifting to an alternate future.” [p.83] “For many years, Germany has built Fingerspitzengefühl through an extensive apprenticeship program that involves practically everybody from baker to banker. On the blue collar side, the program culminates in the creation of a final sample product, a true ‘masterpiece.’” [p.112] On Auftragstaktik: “[Robert] Noyce wanted [his employees] to keep internalizing the company’s goals and to provide their own motivations, just as they had during the start-up phase. If they did that, they would have the capacity to make their own decisions.” [p.119] (cf. my other book review) “If you achieved a 97% chance of winning a fight, which would be spectacular against people who train just as hard as you do, your odds of surviving 25 fights is less than 50%. Musashi won 60 duels, so clearly he was not thinking of taking that kind of risk. He wanted no risk at all.” [p.154] “Studies of innovation reveal that practically everything new consists of bits and pieces of other concepts, often from fields that appeared to be unrelated, that somebody had the genius to reassemble to form something new and exciting.” [p.159] “The most accurate indicator that you are starting to do maneuver conflict is that long established tradeoffs get broken. For example, in the TPS, it was the tradeoff between quality and cost (older systems could improve quality only by more inspections or more expensive components, both of which increased costs). In maneuver warfare, it was primarily the trade between control from the top and initiative from the bottom (in earlier forms of warfare, more control meant less initiative).” [p.169] --- Minus the star because, all in all, it wasn’t that engaging.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    I've been a devotee of Boyd and the OODA Loop as a key strategic concept for a while, the basic premise that by executing "asymmetric fast transients", a fighter can create a fog of ambiguity and fear, blind and disorient their enemy, and ultimately disorient, disable, and kill their foe, even if they are notably weaker and smaller on paper. The broadest principle, that we are in a struggle to survive, and the ability to adapt without losing your essence is the only permanent strategy, made imme I've been a devotee of Boyd and the OODA Loop as a key strategic concept for a while, the basic premise that by executing "asymmetric fast transients", a fighter can create a fog of ambiguity and fear, blind and disorient their enemy, and ultimately disorient, disable, and kill their foe, even if they are notably weaker and smaller on paper. The broadest principle, that we are in a struggle to survive, and the ability to adapt without losing your essence is the only permanent strategy, made immediate and intuitive sense. What did not make sense was the application to civilian life, at least until such time as someone hands me command of a Marine Expeditionary Unit. Dr. Richards makes a brave attempt to translate Boyd's briefings into the language of management consulting. As such this is "applied" book, next to the Osinga's book of intellectual theory and Coram's biography (with the caveat that I haven't yet read Hammond's The Mind of War.) The first, and fundamental step is to think about and apply the Four German Words. 1. Einheit: Mutual trust, unity, and cohesion 2. Fingerspitzengefuhl: Intuitive feel, especially for complex and potentially chaotic situations 3. Auftragstaktik: Mission, generally considered as a contract between superior and subordinate 4. Schwerpunkt: Any concept that provides focus and direction to the operation By doing so, you create an organization that is resilient and flexible, that is capable of spotting and exploiting opportunities at all level and following through on good ideas without unnecessary friction. The two hardest parts are Einheit, mutual trust, because so much managerial bullshit actually destroys it--I think conventional wisdom is that demoralized drones are easier to manage, even if they produce worse results. Schwerpunkt, the concept that energizes and drives the organization, is also somewhat opaque in application. Richards corrects this in the second to last chapter, where he introduce cheng, the obvious approach (quality, value, performance) with ch'i, the quality of delight or wonder that separates a mundane business from the best performing ones. That is not to say that is a perfect book. It is somewhat repetitive, and maneuver warfare concepts are ultimately military in origin. Is disorienting the enemy and dazzling customers truly the same thing? Some of the hardest questions go unanswered, like crafting a schwerpunkt from imperfect information about a field, or how to pick which 25%-40% of your managerial staff to cut in this process of becoming Boydian. Richards is also hung up on Toyota as the ideal manufacturing system and Southwest as the ideal airline (caveat: I greatly prefer to fly Southwest whenever I have a choice). But I think Richards is right in saying that the first law of competition is that you cannot be measurably smarter or harder-working than the people you're going up against, and that the only way to be certain to win is to be more agile, to find asymmetric advantages wherever you can.

  3. 5 out of 5

    William Bahr

    Oodles on OODA! In this fascinating book, Chet Richards offers his interpretation of military strategist John Boyd’s lessons from war, business, and everyday life. Richard introduces Boyd’s philosophy of conflict, for which he uses the term “maneuver conflict.” Boyd’s primary device for accomplishing this is a strategy of “time-based competition.” His advice for any competitive activity is to keep one’s orientation well matched to the real world during times of ambiguity, confusion, and rapid chan Oodles on OODA! In this fascinating book, Chet Richards offers his interpretation of military strategist John Boyd’s lessons from war, business, and everyday life. Richard introduces Boyd’s philosophy of conflict, for which he uses the term “maneuver conflict.” Boyd’s primary device for accomplishing this is a strategy of “time-based competition.” His advice for any competitive activity is to keep one’s orientation well matched to the real world during times of ambiguity, confusion, and rapid change, when the natural tendency is to become disoriented. The key is to take advantage of “asymmetric fast transients,” changes which are hopefully lesser for you than for your competition, hence (my term) leverage. Though Richards often intermixes them, I’ve divided his comments into the following three topic areas. WAR In this area, Richards introduces Boyd’s famous OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. Boyd’s strategy provides ways to keep one’s own orientation intact, while taking active measures to destroy that of the opponent. Doing this within standard military doctrine is called “maintaining the initiative." Richards believes that the Army considers initiative practically an object of worship. By trying to maintain the initiative, one seeks to impose menacing dilemmas in which events happen unexpectedly and faster than the enemy can keep up with them. The author posits that intentionally doing this is tantamount to having a strategy. However, slightly problematic for me is that the author insists that a strategy is not a plan, but something more complicated and valuable. Whether or not the author succeeds in convincing you of this, I guess is up to you. However, 4WIW, here is John Boyd’s definition of strategy: “Strategy is a mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests.” Blitzkrieg One of the areas that most fascinated Boyd was Germany’s Blitzkrieg. Here the German strategy was not so much to cope with chaos, but to cause and then exploit it, and it is this cascading of panic and chaos that accounts for Germany's “string of luck.” “The German organizational climate encouraged people to act, and to take the initiative, even during the terror and chaos of war. Within this climate, the principles of mutual trust and intuitive competence make much of implicit communication, as opposed to detailed, written instructions.” LIFE Muhammad Ali, the great Olympic and professional boxer, described his strategy, which the author believes similar to Boyd’s, as “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” meaning be unpredictable to confound your opponent before striking him. BUSINESS Observe reality; do not kill truth messengers. Since what you’re looking for is mismatches (my terms, leverage and/or arbitrage), a general rule is that bad news is the only kind that will do you any good. To thrive in any form of maneuver conflict, seek out and find data that don’t fit with your current worldview and do it while there is still time. Otherwise the world will change—or more likely your opponent will change it for you—and you will find yourself disoriented and in the position of playing catch-up. You will have lost the initiative, which is dangerous in any conflict. Strategy isn’t beating the competition, it’s serving the customer’s real needs. “Encourage initiative at all levels—in particular, an execute-and-communicate (‘shoot and scoot’) mindset rather than one of ask-and-wait.” “Prepare a culture that is certain to win.” What makes it and what kills it, e.g., micromanagement. Note: Richards spends most of his business commentary referring to the Toyota Production System (TPS), which has an emphasis on reducing the time between order and delivery. It will be up to the reader to decide how valuable the major emphasis on just one company is. GENERAL Shape the ‘battlefield rather than beat the competition.” Improve capacity for independent action, to survive on own terms, generally at the expense of the competitors. Above all, stay flexible! The company that best delivers value wins. “People climb out of warm, safe foxholes, after all, to face bullets because they won’t abandon their comrades. It would be hard to imagine a more powerful social force, and equally hard to understand how companies which do not cultivate it can hope to compete. In the end, character counts, as John Bogle, founder and recently retired chairman of the Vanguard Group entitled a compilation of memos he had written to employees over the years. Trust, as Bogle notes, has to start at the top of the organization. Then at every level, leaders must make it clear that mutual trust is the cardinal corporate virtue. They do this by their actions: honor their own commitments and remove those who do not, no matter how good their numbers.” BOTTOM-LINE For your own organization and life, CHARACTER COUNTS! To win against adversaries, quickly and continuously present them with dilemmas that short-circuit their reasoning and render them unable to act effectively. Bottom, bottom-line about the book: As a fellow author, I highly recommended this book for any student of strategy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kars

    A clear translation of Boyd's ideas to the world of business. I appreciate the author's insistence on the importance of practice and fostering culture. As a "reluctant entrepreneur" I am attracted to running a business in a Boyd-like fashion because it calls for a hands-on, creative approach. A clear translation of Boyd's ideas to the world of business. I appreciate the author's insistence on the importance of practice and fostering culture. As a "reluctant entrepreneur" I am attracted to running a business in a Boyd-like fashion because it calls for a hands-on, creative approach.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cedric Chin

    I had high hopes for this book, after reading up on Boyd and the original sources for his ideas. Sadly, Richard’s book is useful only as an introduction to the core principles of Boyd’s work — at least, the bits that may be applied to other fields. The chapters 1 through 3 are acceptable. But 4 to 7 are a bit of a joke. Each should only be skimmed for the primary ideas (chapter 7 in particular is a list of follow-up books to read, the most important of which is probably Competing Against Time, w I had high hopes for this book, after reading up on Boyd and the original sources for his ideas. Sadly, Richard’s book is useful only as an introduction to the core principles of Boyd’s work — at least, the bits that may be applied to other fields. The chapters 1 through 3 are acceptable. But 4 to 7 are a bit of a joke. Each should only be skimmed for the primary ideas (chapter 7 in particular is a list of follow-up books to read, the most important of which is probably Competing Against Time, which happens to be Tim Cook’s favourite book). Give this a skim, but don’t expect too much.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Ski Kinsey

    How do you review a whole book in a few words? Allow me one approach. To highlight a nugget that changed my vantage point. Via a personal story (or two)... by highlighting just one of the chapters. Each chapter is worthy, it just happens that this chapter immediately triggered a "reset" in thoughts about lay offs after breakfast one morning... Chapter III Certain to Win by Chet Richards Colonel John Boyd is reported to have extracted four significant factors from his study of the Blitzkrieg, and cal How do you review a whole book in a few words? Allow me one approach. To highlight a nugget that changed my vantage point. Via a personal story (or two)... by highlighting just one of the chapters. Each chapter is worthy, it just happens that this chapter immediately triggered a "reset" in thoughts about lay offs after breakfast one morning... Chapter III Certain to Win by Chet Richards Colonel John Boyd is reported to have extracted four significant factors from his study of the Blitzkrieg, and called it creating "an organizational climate for operational success:" 1. Einheit: Mutual trust, unity, and cohesion 2. Fingerspitzengefuhl: Intuitive feel, especially for complex and potentially chaotic situations 3. Auftragstaktik: Mission, generally considered as a contract between superior and subordinate 4. Schwerpunkt: Any concept that provides focus and direction to the operation Those that have studied the Toyota Production System (TPS also known as Lean Manufacturing) in any depth have reported the cultural aspect of Lean that is extremely difficult to duplicate. Especially in the West where we have more concern about the next quarter's numbers than building victory upon victory towards a long term vision of success. One of the reasons I have been so interested to see what Bob Nardelli is going to do at Chrysler LLC (now a privately held firm). But I digress... Chet Richards states that it is "no accident" that mutual trust heads this list. It is also the biggest reason that I and most other Constraints Management gurus are so opposed to lay offs. For me, two reasons are core: first, lay offs send the wrong message. They say, "You are not worthy." At breakfast last week, the conversation at the next table was about the slow down in the local economy. One gentleman commented that he was gearing up for the "I can do my job and Fred's job, whereas Fred can only do his job." How sad. Competition not against other companies in the marketplace, but for one another's job! The concept of trust within the firm goes right out the window! Second, lay offs costs thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars in waste. Anti-Lean to the max! As I have mentioned before, Jesse Jackson is right when he says that America cannot afford to throw people away! Several times in Certain to Win, Richards explains a concept that I had not given enough thought: there are people in your organization that do not belong. Even if your payroll is four people! Before studying this book at length, I would have made this statement to all the employees of any company that I might purchase or lead as interim CEO: "There will be no layoffs. Period." Today, I would state it differently. "There will be no layoffs. However, there are people on the payroll that do not belong here. During the next 30 days, I will identify who you are and out place you, or, your attitude will make a sharp 180 degree turn and you will become a positive force to advance the mission of this company." In order to create an agile force in the marketplace, trust is required. FYI: Our collective trust has been broken by Wall Street. Wanted: Leaders to restore that trust.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jake Losh

    This was kind of a lame book. I'd estimate only about 25% of it represents useful or original ideas with another 50% shamelessly cribbed wholesale from The Art of WarThe Art of War and Toyota Production System: Beyond large-scale production and the remainder made up of repetition and cruft (as many other reviewers note). I'm re-inspired to read about the Toyota Production system and to re-read The Art of War, but I mostly want the hours I spent reading this back. It would be 10x more valuable if This was kind of a lame book. I'd estimate only about 25% of it represents useful or original ideas with another 50% shamelessly cribbed wholesale from The Art of WarThe Art of War and Toyota Production System: Beyond large-scale production and the remainder made up of repetition and cruft (as many other reviewers note). I'm re-inspired to read about the Toyota Production system and to re-read The Art of War, but I mostly want the hours I spent reading this back. It would be 10x more valuable if it were 10x shorter. The "Applied to Business" part seems poorly bolted on to a book that feels like it wants to be primarily about military strategy. I understand that the examples are meant to be general and I can easily see the analogies, but the token attempts to cater to a business-minded audience that are included just sucked. Just plain sucked. We need more specific case studies demonstrating the general principles in action. The examples that we do get are also just odd: Written in 2004, we're told IBM is doing a stellar job... OK, sure, whatever you say. Basically, I assumed the book was written in the '90s given some of the things Richards was saying. I'm also going to call bullshit on the cherry-picked examples. This method has a 100% success rate? Everyone who's ever attempted to implement it did so without any hiccups or problems and they're all doing awesome now? Mmkay. All-in-all, given the author's credentials, I expected more. Lastly, I could have done without the peppering of Orientalism. For a book written in the 00's it needed to not.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    Pretty good!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michal

    This is a book about concepts by John Boyd, a US Air Force colonel. More of a thinker than a doer, he fought in the Korean War without firing a single shot. That said, he laid out much of the foundation to the modern US air force theory and practice, having inspired the F-16 programme and developed Energy-Manoeuvrability theory which became critical for the design of modern aircraft. Personally, Boyd was known as "The Mad Major" for the intensity of his passions, as "Genghis John" for his confro This is a book about concepts by John Boyd, a US Air Force colonel. More of a thinker than a doer, he fought in the Korean War without firing a single shot. That said, he laid out much of the foundation to the modern US air force theory and practice, having inspired the F-16 programme and developed Energy-Manoeuvrability theory which became critical for the design of modern aircraft. Personally, Boyd was known as "The Mad Major" for the intensity of his passions, as "Genghis John" for his confrontational style of interpersonal discussion, and as the "Ghetto Colonel" for his spartan lifestyle. So even though we are not talking about an Alexander-the-Great-level figure, it seems like a good idea to listen to what he has to say. The main notion of the book is that the reality is chaotic, complex and unpredictable, therefore it’s impossible to come up with a plan for the future. Instead, strategy is a way to respond quickly to a changing situation, bearing in mind the ultimate objectives that have to be achieved. The book contains three main frameworks to illustrate how it’s done. The first is the example of Blitzkrieg, where agile German forces quickly defeated numerically superior French at the start of World War II. Chet Richards (the author) lays out the following characteristics of Blitzkrieg: * Einheit: Mutual trust, unity, cohesion * Fingerspitzengefühl: Intuitive feel, especially for complex and potentially chaotic situations * Auftragstaktik: Mission, generally considered as a contract between superior and subordinate; you can challenge the contract, but once you agree to it, you should stick to it * Schwerpunkt: Any concept that provides focus and direction to the operation These allowed the Nazi forces to quickly and effectively respond to unfamiliar and chaotic situations. In other words, they meant that the Germans employed quick and well-coordinated “OODA loops” - and these OODA loops are the cornerstone of the book and of Boyd’s military strategy. They are: * Observation: the collection of data by means of the senses * Orientation: the analysis and synthesis of data to form one's current mental perspective * Decision: the determination of a course of action based on one's current mental perspective * Action: the physical playing-out of decisions Recipe for success is following each step in order and doing it more quickly than the opponent. The last framework in the book is borrowed from the old Sun Tzu and mandates the use of cheng as well as chi, where: * Cheng - orthodox, expected, measurable * Chi - surprising, irregular, sometimes even magical Both are mutually generative and reinforcing. One can't exist without the other - if you only fight with chi, then it becomes cheng. If you only cheng, you’re predictable by definition. Thus, one should engage with the cheng, win with the chi. It’s like ying-yang - there should be an element of one in the other. This is all great food for thought. Having played Call of Duty and Counter Strike, I hereby confirm that combat is chaotic. Business can be chaotic too, and there are plenty of examples of agile companies beating sleepy incumbents. What the book lacks in is actually bringing the concepts to live. Chet Richards, the author, was a close colleague of Boyd and lectured at military universities, but his record as a business person is thin. The examples that he keeps labouring - Toyota Production System and Southwest Airlines - are basic, monotonous and not even very relevant to the concepts he’s describing. He sounds quite naive about business in general and doesn’t do a great job at translating learnings from the military to business. Is the book worth reading? If you’re into strategy, you should take a look. It casts a different perspective on the much-covered concept of agility and even Lean Methodology. The only issue is that you will have to do the homework yourself if you want to translate the frameworks to real-life business situations. Or you can just follow Richards’ “practical advice” at the end of the book - “If you’re not former military, join the Marine Corps”.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mario Sailer

    This book was very disappointing for me. My hope was to get more insight into John Boyds OODA Loop. What I got was a superficial explanation of maneuver warfare and some references to Sun Tzu (The art of War) and Miyamoto Musashi (The book of five Rings) intermingled with the Toyota Production System (TPS). The book started quite interesting with "Auftragstaktik" or, in english, maneuver warfare. Since I am German with some knowledge about it, I found the new perspective with the explanation of This book was very disappointing for me. My hope was to get more insight into John Boyds OODA Loop. What I got was a superficial explanation of maneuver warfare and some references to Sun Tzu (The art of War) and Miyamoto Musashi (The book of five Rings) intermingled with the Toyota Production System (TPS). The book started quite interesting with "Auftragstaktik" or, in english, maneuver warfare. Since I am German with some knowledge about it, I found the new perspective with the explanation of "Einheit", "Schwerpunkt" and "Fingerspitzengefühl" (unity, emphasis and intuition/flair - as I would translate these terms) very intriguing. Still a bit superficial, but with the hope there is more do come later on. This was chapters I - III. With chapter IV things started to become a bit weird in my eyes. Chet Richards seemed to squeeze business issues into the OODA Loop that are (in my opinion) not suitable at all for it. He missed most of the points (all that did not fit into the OODA Loop) of "Auftragstaktik". Even the TPS is associated with th OODA Loop - a very strange thought in my eyes. The well known Kano Model (without mentioning it by name) for product development had to serve as an example for maneuver warfare in business as well. At the end, there was almost no value delivered by the book for me. You can spend your time on better books with more depth.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ted Smith

    Richards is, as far as I can discern, the only Boyd acolyte who extended Boyd directly to competition beyond warfare. This is an excellent summary of Boyd, and at times, Boyd's editing shines through in beautiful clarity. Maneuver conflict theory is the apex of strategic thought as far as I've found. This book applies maneuver conflict to business. It primarily cites Toyota (the Production System), but also Dell, Southwest Airlines, and some other companies as examples of applications of maneuver Richards is, as far as I can discern, the only Boyd acolyte who extended Boyd directly to competition beyond warfare. This is an excellent summary of Boyd, and at times, Boyd's editing shines through in beautiful clarity. Maneuver conflict theory is the apex of strategic thought as far as I've found. This book applies maneuver conflict to business. It primarily cites Toyota (the Production System), but also Dell, Southwest Airlines, and some other companies as examples of applications of maneuver-esque theory. This is a short book because Richards can explain Boyd and maneuver warfare easily. It's an easily understood concept. The hard part is practicing, making this book like The Book Of Five Rings in its ratio of instruction, to instruction to practice. And, you must practice. The art of creating market conditions where you are certain to win is not trivial. It demands, like all arts, deep practice, and the creation of fingertip-feel. But Richards will help you get there. This is a great entry into the Boyd canon, and a must read for anyone who wants to understand not just business, but strategy.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kim Pallister

    The Good: Gets across the idea of ‘tight ooda loops’, and the success factors behind the blitzkrieg, and the power of fast movement & decision making. The Bad: Once he gets past these ideas, the latter half of the book falls apart in an attempt to shoehorn in references to many barely related books. Would have been better if he’d just finished earlier. Also, he seems to adulate Boyd to the point where he’s not critical of his ideas, taking them as gospel. He plays loose with data/facts in relati The Good: Gets across the idea of ‘tight ooda loops’, and the success factors behind the blitzkrieg, and the power of fast movement & decision making. The Bad: Once he gets past these ideas, the latter half of the book falls apart in an attempt to shoehorn in references to many barely related books. Would have been better if he’d just finished earlier. Also, he seems to adulate Boyd to the point where he’s not critical of his ideas, taking them as gospel. He plays loose with data/facts in relation to this (An example: he cites a handful of military conflicts in which strategy allowed a smaller force to win, thus concluding that strategy & speed are more important than, say, size of forces or technological superiority. However, he doesn’t say whether, for example, there were 900 other conflicts in the same time period in which brute force won. So a reader not carefully sniffing at his argument may miss this). Anyhow, my nitpicks aside, it was an OK read, but not top of my list of biz/strategy books.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Zen and other oriental philosophies talk at great lengths about intuitive knowledge, but they also stress that it comes through years of experience and self discipline. Boyd applies lessons of military strategy and classic texts, such as Sun Tzu’s Art of War, to business in a compelling and implementable way. For example he describes Ch’i and Cheng as the art of misdirection, particularly apropos in today’s environment of disinformation. Cheng is “the standard” approach, whereas Ch’i is the purs Zen and other oriental philosophies talk at great lengths about intuitive knowledge, but they also stress that it comes through years of experience and self discipline. Boyd applies lessons of military strategy and classic texts, such as Sun Tzu’s Art of War, to business in a compelling and implementable way. For example he describes Ch’i and Cheng as the art of misdirection, particularly apropos in today’s environment of disinformation. Cheng is “the standard” approach, whereas Ch’i is the pursuit of the wow, the surprise, the magic. Boyd says you need to do both. Strategy is keeping the competition off balance while also leading both you and the customer into new ways of conceiving the product or service. The way to find the way is applying principles of maneuver warfare: what wins is aggressive reconnaissance. You need to be out ahead, scouting the strategy, and then capitalizing on asymmetries. Mutual trust throughout the ranks and especially among leadership is key. You want to project to others that you know what they are capable of and trust them to do it if they say they’re going to do it. They need to trust you not to order them to do something they can’t do or endanger them for anything other than a critically strategic reason.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Doug McColgin

    I've enjoyed reading anything Boyd related I can get my hands on. As a business professional, this was easily the most directly impacting work I've read. What I find very interesting about this book is that I'm not sure how I would've received the information within had it been my first exposure to OODA loops and asymmetric strategies. I'd strongly recommend this book, but read it in conjunction with other analyses of John Boyd's briefings. This doesn't do the underlying theories justice in itse I've enjoyed reading anything Boyd related I can get my hands on. As a business professional, this was easily the most directly impacting work I've read. What I find very interesting about this book is that I'm not sure how I would've received the information within had it been my first exposure to OODA loops and asymmetric strategies. I'd strongly recommend this book, but read it in conjunction with other analyses of John Boyd's briefings. This doesn't do the underlying theories justice in itself, but does provide a capstone layer of practical action that is wildly useful and insightful for the professional reader.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    3.5 rounded up. There were several pages that I dog-eared that I felt had really solid, actionable advice that I hadn’t heard elsewhere (or that I hadn’t heard phrased in a way that connected as well). I also have already referenced this book at work and have started trying to make actionable steps to improve my team environment based on the principles of maneuver strategy. All that said, the writing style overall didn’t connect with me (business books rarely do) and it felt very repetitive in c 3.5 rounded up. There were several pages that I dog-eared that I felt had really solid, actionable advice that I hadn’t heard elsewhere (or that I hadn’t heard phrased in a way that connected as well). I also have already referenced this book at work and have started trying to make actionable steps to improve my team environment based on the principles of maneuver strategy. All that said, the writing style overall didn’t connect with me (business books rarely do) and it felt very repetitive in certain sections. If I read the phrase “increasing OODA loop speed” one more time....

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gleb Posobin

    Concise, easy and fun to read, much better than any summary of Boyd's ideas you will find on the web. The advice in the book seems useful and explanations from both warfare and business perspectives help understand the core ideas better. And it has a great list of references: this is not the book I would have expected to cite "A New Kind Of Science" (which came out only 2 years before this book by the way!). Concise, easy and fun to read, much better than any summary of Boyd's ideas you will find on the web. The advice in the book seems useful and explanations from both warfare and business perspectives help understand the core ideas better. And it has a great list of references: this is not the book I would have expected to cite "A New Kind Of Science" (which came out only 2 years before this book by the way!).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Wish I'd read this when I was first introduced to OODA. Read it and learn why empowering boots-on-ground actors beats top down decision making, and how you can harness that advantage in a business context by emulating the principles of Blitzkreig tactics. And once you've read it, share those principles with everyone you work with. Wish I'd read this when I was first introduced to OODA. Read it and learn why empowering boots-on-ground actors beats top down decision making, and how you can harness that advantage in a business context by emulating the principles of Blitzkreig tactics. And once you've read it, share those principles with everyone you work with.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Finlay

    The core tactical idea of a tight operating loop (quickly reorienting to new information, quicker than your opponent), plus clear objectives, can be applied in so many contexts. This book is an overview and introduction, not a how-to, so don't expect specific advice. The core tactical idea of a tight operating loop (quickly reorienting to new information, quicker than your opponent), plus clear objectives, can be applied in so many contexts. This book is an overview and introduction, not a how-to, so don't expect specific advice.

  19. 5 out of 5

    K

    Excellent addition to Boyd's work and has long been on my To Read list. I was hoping for more examples, and more tactics, even though Chet himself talks about how blindly applying tactics is not the way to go. Will add notes later. Excellent addition to Boyd's work and has long been on my To Read list. I was hoping for more examples, and more tactics, even though Chet himself talks about how blindly applying tactics is not the way to go. Will add notes later.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jordi Costa

    Good overview of some of John Boyd's main contributions to the science of strategy. The author also does well to combine these learnings with similar approaches from others such as Sun Tzu and Von Clausewitz. Some of the learnings seem more applicable to military strategy than business though and the book would have been better with more detailed business case studies. Good overview of some of John Boyd's main contributions to the science of strategy. The author also does well to combine these learnings with similar approaches from others such as Sun Tzu and Von Clausewitz. Some of the learnings seem more applicable to military strategy than business though and the book would have been better with more detailed business case studies.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Helfren Filex

    Certain to win is a book of how to master a war. Master agility and you can outpace your strongest competitor if they are not agile enough. Muster chaos and take advantage of the unpredictable situation by staying one step of your foe. Really war-like book in business as well as gaming.

  22. 4 out of 5

    William Sadler

    OODA is for more than fighter pilots! Excellent and accessible treatment of the OODA loop to modern business. How to stay agile and forge your own way in the market.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Deep

    Boyd is a first rate mind. This book has no fluff. Highly recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kamil

    I've read Boyd before and some Ribbonfarm stuff, so these weren't new ideas to me. But they're more digestible here. I've read Boyd before and some Ribbonfarm stuff, so these weren't new ideas to me. But they're more digestible here.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jekabs Saulitis

    I did not like it because the ideas did not seem like you could use in life. More like random events that got lucky.

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Ezyk

    A good description of OODA loop–Primarily It's military application But also Indicated some business applications. A good description of OODA loop–Primarily It's military application But also Indicated some business applications.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Chaney

    Put this one down at a little less than half way. I just couldn't get into it... It didn't seem to flow very well for me and was repetitive Put this one down at a little less than half way. I just couldn't get into it... It didn't seem to flow very well for me and was repetitive

  28. 5 out of 5

    Max Moore

    Even though this book has been published many years ago, it is still the most comprehensive introduction to the OODA Loop, despite several annoyances and shortcomings. The bad : - The author is a friend and a fan of the late John Boyd. So much so, he adulates Boyd. He is often sycophantic. - Too many repetitions. The same examples, over and over. The same ideas restated, from one chapter to the other. The book could have been a lot shorter if better organized. Concision would have been welcomed. - Even though this book has been published many years ago, it is still the most comprehensive introduction to the OODA Loop, despite several annoyances and shortcomings. The bad : - The author is a friend and a fan of the late John Boyd. So much so, he adulates Boyd. He is often sycophantic. - Too many repetitions. The same examples, over and over. The same ideas restated, from one chapter to the other. The book could have been a lot shorter if better organized. Concision would have been welcomed. - The ebook (Kobo epub) is not well formatted. The images are too small and chart is missing. Fortunately, one can find them on the author's webpage. The good: - Because Chet Richards had a unique access to Boyd, he describes his ideas with a lot more accuracy than other authors. - While a bit disconnected with the latest business trends, notably how Silicon Valley operates, there are several good insights on how to transpose the OODA Loop to business. While I wish someone would write a better book about the OODA Loop and extract of it more practical advise, this is a reference to be kept in any well furnished library.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Kerns

    Based on the strategies of John Boyd but written by a business expert this book helps leaders develop techniques for developing and executing successful strategies. If John Boyd had not spent his career refining his thesis in the Air Force and had been in business instead, his name would be as prevalent as Steven Covey. Boyd's OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop is similar to the Deming Cycle so well known in the Quality Management and business world. Boyd's thesis is that the one who most q Based on the strategies of John Boyd but written by a business expert this book helps leaders develop techniques for developing and executing successful strategies. If John Boyd had not spent his career refining his thesis in the Air Force and had been in business instead, his name would be as prevalent as Steven Covey. Boyd's OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop is similar to the Deming Cycle so well known in the Quality Management and business world. Boyd's thesis is that the one who most quickly achieves OOD and initiates the Act wins. This was critical in his career as a fighter pilot. This book explores case studies from the WWII German Blitzkrieg to the modern Toyota Manufacturing System built on Kanban. This is the most practical and is therefore my favorite (to date) business book I've read. Since discovering this book I have given away multiple copies to friends when they were promoted to leadership positions.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zachary

    Was repetitive after reading Boyd (Coram) and Pentagon Wars. Came away more interested in reading the source material than the summaries in this book. However, I did dog-ear many pages for tidbits of interesting stuff. Chapter VI on Cheng/Chi in business felt fresh/relevant: "Ask anyone who bought a Honda, Toyota back then ... They came expecting great gas mileage, which they did, but, "Surprise!" The things rans like a Swiss watch, fit together like a rolls royce, and seemed to last forever. In Was repetitive after reading Boyd (Coram) and Pentagon Wars. Came away more interested in reading the source material than the summaries in this book. However, I did dog-ear many pages for tidbits of interesting stuff. Chapter VI on Cheng/Chi in business felt fresh/relevant: "Ask anyone who bought a Honda, Toyota back then ... They came expecting great gas mileage, which they did, but, "Surprise!" The things rans like a Swiss watch, fit together like a rolls royce, and seemed to last forever. In the language of strategy, the Japanese engaged with the expected (cheng) - gas mileage - but won the unexpected (ch'i): fit and finish, driveability, longevity." Also, Chapter IV on strategy really nicely differentiated strategy, goals, and plans.

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