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

Clausewitz Talks Business

An Executive's Guide to Thinking Like a Strategist, 1st Edition

By Norton Paley

Productivity Press

264 pages

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pub: 2014-05-08
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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 It supplies readers with an understanding that integrates historical references with modern business practice.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



About the Author

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.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Quality Control
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Workplace Culture