Clausewitz Talks Business : An Executive's Guide to Thinking Like a Strategist book cover
1st Edition

Clausewitz Talks Business
An Executive's Guide to Thinking Like a Strategist

ISBN 9780429255946
Published May 8, 2014 by Productivity Press
264 Pages

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Book Description

Clausewitz Talks Business: An Executive's Guide to Thinking Like a Strategist distills the wisdom of Carl von Clausewitz's monumental 1832 classic On War—considered by many eminent scholars as the most distinguished Western work on war ever written. This book transposes Clausewitz's most enduring concepts on leadership and strategy to help today's executives and managers think like strategists.

Tapping into the universal lessons of strategy, the book uncovers potential solutions to some of the most obstinate competitive problems. It supplies readers with an understanding that integrates historical references with modern business practice. Commentary is inserted at key points in Clausewitz's original text to interpret and transpose his core ideas and to demonstrate how they apply in today's increasingly competitive environment.

Maintaining a focus on modern leadership and strategic planning, the book explains how the human element influences the outcome of a competitive confrontation. It provides tips on the physical and psychological dimensions of conflict, which include Clausewitz's discussions about dealing with the inevitable forces of friction, chance, and luck that operate in the "fog of war."

In this book you will find timeless principles that will help you think more strategically. In particular, Clausewitz's lessons can be indispensable in the everyday management of your people and resources, especially when applied in competitive environments.

By focusing on Clausewitz's writings on human behavior, leadership, and organizational culture, you will gain a better understanding of how you currently face up to competitive struggles, and in turn, will enhance your ability to apply appropriate strategies to outmaneuver the competitive obstacles on the horizon.

Table of Contents

What Is Conflict?
Conflict as an Act of Force
The Maximum Use of Force
The Aim Is to Weaken the Rival
The Human Will: Not a Wholly Unknown Factor
Conflict Consists of Several Successive Acts
Strategic Aim Is a Calculation of Probabilities
Actions Cannot Be Interrupted
Defense as a Stronger Form of Fighting
Factors That Can Suspend Action
Chance Makes Conflict a Gamble
Chance Best Suits Human Nature
Conflict Is Based on Strategic Direction—Never as an Isolated Incident
Conflict Is the Continuation of Policy by Other Means
All Conflicts Can Be Considered Acts of Strategic Direction

Purpose and Means in Competitive Conflict
Reducing the Opponent’s Effectiveness
Make the Conflict More Costly for the Opponent
Wearing Down the Opponent
The Human Dimension: Personality and Personal Relationships
Employing Forces
Reducing the Opponent’s Capabilities
The Interaction of Physical and Morale Factors

On Genius
Information Is the Realm of Uncertainty
Intelligence Alone Is Not Courage
Presence of Mind: The Capacity to Deal with the Unexpected
The Longing for Honor and Renown
Strength of Mind
Strength of Character
Conflict and the Physical Nature of the Field
Intellectual Standards

Strategy (Part 1)
Physical Effort: One of the Great Sources of Friction
Intelligence: A Serious Source of Friction in Conflict
Friction Distinguishes Real Conflict from Conflict on Paper
Action in Conflict Is Like Movement in a Resistant Element
Moral Values Cannot Be Ignored in Conflict
Principal Problems in Formulating a Theory of the Conduct of a Conflict
     First Characteristic: Moral Forces and Effect 
     Second Characteristic: Positive Reaction
     Third Characteristic: Uncertainty of Information
A Positive Doctrine Is Unattainable
Alternatives That Make a Theory Possible: The Difficulties Vary in Magnitude
Theory Should Be Study, Not Doctrine
The Nature of Ends and Means, and Means and Ends in Tactics
Ends and Means in Strategy

Strategy (Part 2)
Art of Conflict or Science of Conflict?
Conflict Is an Act of Human Intercourse
Method and Routine

Engagements and Their Consequences
Elements of Strategy
     Moral Factors 
     Superiority of Numbers 
     Concentration of Forces in Space 
     The Strategic Reserve 
     Economy of Force
The Suspension of Action in Conflict
Tension and Rest: The Dynamic Law in Conflict 

The Engagement in General
The Engagement in General—Continued
The Significance of the Engagement
Duration of the Engagement
Decision of the Engagement
Mutual Agreement to Fight
The Engagement: It Is Decision
The Effects of Victory
The Use of the Engagement
Strategic Means of Exploiting Victory
Retreat after a Lost Engagement

Attack and Defense
The Concept of Defense
Advantages of Defense
The Relationship between Attack and Defense in Tactics
The Relationship between Attack and Defense in Strategy
The Character of Strategic Defense
Interaction between Attack and Defense
Types of Resistance
The Attacker
The Defensive Battle

Defense of an Area of Operations
Phased Resistance
Where a Decision Is Not the Objective

The Nature of Strategic Attack
The Object of Strategic Attack
The Diminishing Force of the Attack
The Culminating Point of the Attack
Neutralization of the Opponent’s Forces
The Offensive Battle
Attack on Defensive Positions
Attack on an Area of Conflict: Seeking a Decision
The Culminating Point of Victory

Absolute Conflict and Real Conflict
Interdependence of the Elements of Conflict
Scale of the Objective and of the Effort to Be Made
Definition of the Objective Continued: Limited Aims
Conflict Is an Instrument of Policy
The Limited Aim: Offensive War
The Limited Aim: Defensive Conflict
The Plan of a Conflict Designed to Lead to the Total Neutralization of the Opponent


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Norton Paley has brought his world-class experience and unique approach to business strategy to some of the global community’s most respected organizations. Having launched his career with publishers McGraw–Hill and John Wiley & Sons, Paley founded Alexander-Norton Inc., bringing successful business techniques to clients around the globe, including the international training organization Strategic Management Group, where he served as senior consultant.

Throughout his career Paley has trained business managers and their staffs in the areas of planning and strategy development, raising the bar for achievement, and forging new approaches to problem solving and competitive edge. His clients include:

  • American Express
  • IBM
  • Detroit Edison
  • Chrysler (Parts Division)
  • McDonnell-Douglas
  • Dow Chemical (Worldwide)
  • W. R. Grace
  • Cargill (Worldwide)
  • Chevron Chemical
  • Ralston-Purina
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • USG
  • Celanese
  • Hoechst
  • Mississippi Power
  • Numerous midsized and small firms

Paley has lectured in the Republic of China and Mexico and he has presented training seminars throughout the Pacific Rim and Europe for Dow Chemical and Cargill.

As a seminar leader at the American Management Association, he conducted competitive strategy, marketing management, and strategic planning programs for over 20 years. Published books include:

  • The Marketing Strategy Desktop Guide
  • How to Develop a Strategic Marketing Plan
  • The Manager’s Guide to Competitive Marketing Strategies
  • Marketing for the Nonmarketing Executive: An Integrated Management Resource Guide for the 21st Century
  • Successful Business Planning: Energizing Your Company’s Potential
  • Manage to Win
  • Mastering the Rules of Competitive Strategy: A Resource Guide for Managers
  • Big Ideas for Small Businesses
  • How to Outthink, Outmaneuver, and Outperform Your Competitors: Lessons from the Masters of Strategy

On the cusp of the interactive movement, Paley developed three computer-based, interactive training systems: the Marketing Learning Systems, Segmentation, Targeting & Positioning, and the Marketing Planning System. Paley’s books have been translated into Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, and Turkish.

His byline columns have appeared in The Management Review and Sales & Marketing Management magazines.