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Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines Paperback – April 24, 2001

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Several business bestsellers in recent years have been books about warfare strategy and tactics. Sun Tsu's Art of War and Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings are titles widely recommended for insight and inspiration preparatory to corporate battle. In Corps Business, author David Freedman examines the organization and culture of the United States Marine Corps and sees "the best management training program in America."

For this book Freedman, a senior editor at Forbes ASAP and author of Brainmakers, trained with the Corps and interviewed scores of marines of every rank to discover 31 management principles "built around simple truths about human nature and the uncertainties of dynamic environments.... The Marines are used to facing entrenched enemies, short time-frames, chaotic conflicts, and unfavorable terrain --all of which have come to be hallmarks of the New Economy." Some of the ideas that Freedman encountered include Principle No. 1: "Aim for the 70-percent solution. It's better to decide quickly on an imperfect plan than to roll out a perfect plan when it's too late"; Principle No. 13: "Manage by end state and intent. Tell people what needs to be accomplished and why, and leave the details to them"; and Principle No. 21: "Establish a core identity. Everyone in the organization should feel they're performing an aspect of the same job." It's hard to argue with two centuries of battlefield success, and the wisdom and time-tested management philosophy dissected here should be a valuable prescriptive for any organization hell-bent on winning. --Scott Harrison --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"An excellent book...David Freedman's analysis of the management principles of the U.S. Marine Corps offers a compelling guide...Reading it reminded me how much I have relied upon what I learned in the Marine Corps to build FedEx."-- Frederick W. Smith, founder and chairman, Federal Express"This outstanding work reveals the leadership secrets that make the Marine Corps the world's most motivated and successful organization. The lessons are universally applicable."-- Robert A. Lutz, CEO, Exide Corp., and former president, Chrysler Corp."Mr. Freedman accurately captures the essence of Marine Corps leadership and thoroughly describes our unique approach to leadership training. Clearly, there is common ground between Marine leadership and business management." -- General Charles C. Krulak, 31st Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps"Don't let the title fool you -- the book doesn't suggest telling sales reps to drop and give you twenty. ... Freedman takes the basic operating principles of the Marines and translates them into building blocks for management success."-- Andy Cohen, "Sales & Marketing Management"Freedman has hit upon a novel approach to management guidance. By examining the techniques of one of the most tightly run organizations on the planet, he is able to highlight universal truths about leadership while at the same time offering some unique tips about motivating underlings and boosting morale."-- David Lazarus, the "San Francisco Chronicle"How can you make your office more flexible, more adaptable to new situations and quicker to react with a higher level of performance? Think and act like the Marines, for one thing."-- "St. Louis Post-Dispatch"For the current business world ...the Marines do indeed have a better idea."-- The "Wall Street Journal
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; Reprint edition (April 24, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066619793
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066619798
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David H. Freedman is a contributing editor for Inc. Magazine, and has written on science, business and technology for The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Science, Wired, and many other publications. His newest book, Wrong, about why experts keep failing us, just came out in June, 2010. He last book (co-authored), was A Perfect Mess, about the useful role of disorder in daily life, business and science. He is also the author of books about the U.S. Marines, computer crime, and artificial intelligence. Freedman's blog Making Sense of Medicine takes a close, critical look at medical findings making current headlines with an eye to separating out the frequent hype. He lives near Boston.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Corps Business
The 30 management principles of the US Marine Corps
David H. Freedman
Freedman firmly believes Marine methodology creates a strong and effective organization. For those who read this book, you will probably agree. As you might expect from a book that parallels the military and business management, there are many references to training, discipline, order, and sacrifice.
However, a vast majority of the book gives a perspective of the US Marine Corps which is radically different than most people would expect.
Provided that Freedman is correct in his analysis, the US Marine Corps is an extremely focused group which is both fast, versatile, and effective in complex situations.
1) Marines aim for the 70% solution because in the battlefield, speed and boldness is more important than perfection. Put another way, indecisiveness is a fatal flaw. It is better to make small, frequent, and rapid decisions.
2) Marines find the essence of any mission. It should be made very clear. In the process, all the assumptions, boundaries (what shall we NOT do) should be questioned and explored. Dissension is invited prior to the final decision.
3) Marines are a capability based organization. They are defined by what they are able to do, and how they do it.
4) Marines push decision making to very low levels in the organization. Bureaucracy does not work in the battlefield. To quote. "The best soldiers are ones who follow orders from above, but do not depend on them."
5) The Marines are very competitive. Marines hire through trial by fire. Boot camp is a form of Darwinian natural selection. The best and fittest survive. Even after boot camp, many officers leave the Corps because they cannot be promoted, because they are not the best.
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Format: Hardcover
If you're like most people when you hear military and leadership in the same sentence, you conjure up an image of a ramrod-straight, gray-haired senior officer, the very epitome of command-and-control. Or perhaps a drill instructor wearing a smokey-bear hat with his nose just millimeters away from the nose of a fear-stricken recruit.
Based on the reports of David Freedman in Corps Business, perhaps we civilians need to re-think our images. From beginning -- an introduction by former Marine Corps commandant Charles Krulak -- to end, this book tells the story of an organization which could surely set an example for most American business. Says Krulak, "The hallmark of this fertile environment for personal and professional development is pervasive, clearly defined, and universally respected standards of conduct. These standards stress personal accountability, and our faithful adherence to them has distinguished the Corps for more than two centuries. Their influence is escapable and shapes our every action."
Here is how this unfolds through the course of the book: Marine units have always gotten and will continue to get wide-ranging assignments. They will be asked to perform critical missions in complex and confusing circumstances. But whatever the mission, the Marine Corps' values as reflected in their standards of conduct will remain constant. Mistakes will be made along the way in dealing with situations involving tension and hostility, but if you fail to meet the standards of conduct you can expect serious consequences.
Over the course of two hundred pages, Freedman offers a host of stories and points out incidents which illustrate key lessons.
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Format: Hardcover
Until now, I've had only one book to recommend on change management, the excellent, Managing at the Speed of Change by Conner. With Corps Business, a wonderfully practical book, I have two recommendations. As a human resources professional working in the education industry, I was especially struck by the practicality of how the Marines plan, manage and lead change (especially when you have to change course, turn on a dime, and move in a new direction), develop decision making ability in Marines by making every decision making experience a learning experience, and by the leaders' commitment to leading, not managing. If only I could clone Colonel Davis! I have given copies of this book to people who direct business components -- from IT to R&D to Sales. It's a quick read, but the principles linger; I've found myself thinking of ways to apply the principles outlined in this book. It's also a chastening read for any manager whose staff is choking on management and starving for leadership. Well done!
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Format: Hardcover
As a civilian, and not a former marine, I would like to say a few words of praise for this exceptionally wise and well-done book. First off, I would respectfully suggest that readers (whether marines past or present-or not) who are seeking a book whose sole focus is the marine corps will obviously find fault with Freedman's effort. There's a simple reason why: this book seeks to find managerial lessons from the Marine Corps. It's not an exhaustive history or study of these soldiers. Big difference. Second, I particularly enjoyed this book because it so successfully meets its core objective. In fact, I would venture to guess that a true marine would admire how well the book adheres to the principles it outlines (primary among them being "Establish a core identity.") The 30 managerial principles are sharply drawn and eminently useful. The book is lively and instructive. I enjoyed learning about the Marine Corps from a veteran journalist who knows how to distill a complex story into useful managerial reading, and recommend this title to others who are looking for insight from surprising sources.
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