on July 8, 2005
I'm a former Marine who studied FMFM-1 "Warfighting" back in the early 1990's during my service in the Infantry. It is one of the best books out there on strategy and is directly applicable to the business world.
One thing I'd like to point out is this book (like most non-confidential documents published by the US Govt) is freely available on the Internet. Search under FMFM-1 (the first edition) or MCDP-1 (the 1997 re-write) on Google for the PDFs. This printed version does have a small introduction by F. Lee Bailey and a few other famous people who are also Marines.
Also, unlike a previous reviewer, don't discount the philosophy of Sun Tzu. "Warfighting" is a derivative of Clausewitz and Tzu. By reading these older philosophies you will become a better strategic thinker -- in all ways of life, not just war or business.
on August 21, 2000
A veritable classic book about discipline, teamwork and leadership. Clear, concise and to the point, the book boldly explains the code of conduct and moral quality of a Marine. Whether you are in the military, a business person, project manager or a mother of three, this book will help you achieve your goals without toiling more than necessary. No recipes, just attitude. The message delivered, if taken as a how-to-book, empowers the reader to plan, fearlessly expect the unexpected and, finally, "get things done". It views man (here meaning the "human being") as the most valuable element and views "mistakes or imperfections" as virtues when properly harnessed. It is a book of strategy and one that will point out the value of each and every one of us. Not a book to be read once, but to be cherished and re-read many times and to be passed on to generations to come.
on November 19, 2006
Warfighting was written for the Marine unfamiliar with maneuver warfare to pick up, flip through, memorize the axioms, and apply in battle. As such, like most other field manuals issued to soldiers, it is a distillation of a large swath of ideas from Sun Tzu to Liddell-Hart. That said, it packs a good punch for such a small work. If, however, you're looking for a more detailed illustration of the principles outlined here, you might take a look at B.H. Liddell-Hart's "Strategy" as well as Thomas Cleary's translation of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War."
Additionally, those westerners who enjoy axioms focusing on the flux of life, war, or what have you might also like to take a look at Heraclitus' "Fragments." The basic tenets of Taoism that permeate Sun Tzu (and, by proxy, "Warfighting") can be equally well found in Heraclitus. His primary "thesis" if you will, "nothing is stationary, life is flux," is the axiom upon which maneuver warfare strategy is founded.
on December 11, 2003
This is not a how to manual; it isn't even a doctrine guideline. Instead it is a philosophy book. This book lays out simple, fundamental and critical facts about any conflict situation. The value of flexibility, of planning, of taking advantage of opportunities and maintaining the initiative are layout in a quick and easy read.
These truths are valid for the warfighting philosophy of the Marine Corp just as they are for meetings, debates, or presentations or critical reviews. The value of acting on a good plan quickly instead of waiting for the perfect plan later rang especially true. How many times are businesses caught flatfooted by competitors not because they didn't see the trend coming but because they were frozen by indecision?
I highly recommend this book to anybody who is curious about attack, defense, feint, and parry in any situation. The best defense is said to be a good offense, but perhaps the best offense is simply understanding and acting according to the simple principles in Warfighting.
I read extensively, or excessively, depending on who you talk to. Dozens of (mostly dense, mostly nonfiction) books a year, with extra read-y years clearing a hundred.
Very simply, Warfighting may be the best (nonfiction) book I've ever read. It is more concise, to the point, correct, profound, unconventional, easy to read, and concept-dense than anything else on my bookshelf. Wow. For a moderately fast reader, the 100 pages of the book should take about 20 minutes to read. Large type, short sentences, clear meanings. But it is incredibly well thought through.
If you are overeducated in the ways of the Academy/Cathedral, and you want to learn additional ways to think, the military strategists/military historians are the best anti-academic thinkers around. But this book just blew me away. I thought I had learned to simplify, and say clearly (in in person presentations, not on the blog -- the blog is for complex thinking that I need to share with someone). I am thoroughly impressed.
on November 18, 2001
While speaking from a military perspective, this book is essentially a manual for victory in campaigns of all kinds, whether military, commercial, or political. The core philosophy of "ruthless opportunism" is supported through a diligent exposition of the nature, theory, training, and conduct of war. Gray's approach is unremittingly demanding in every dimension of human capacity, and nothing less could be the price of triumph.
on December 31, 2014
This version written by General A. M. Gray with Captain Schmidt is the best version of the Warfighting series of books. Subsequent versions are not as good. They took the original and tweaked it. Why I don't know. The original was the best. It is brilliantly written.
on October 10, 2014
Excellent read! Military or not, this is a book that everyone should read. I started this book during my flight to Hawaii and was able to finish it the next day. Everyone I tell about Warfighting wants me to loan it to them but they will have to wait until I'm finished with my second time reading it.
on January 9, 2013
"Warfighting" is not about tactics, so anyone looking for private sector applications at that level ("personal defense"??) better keep on looking.
For the uninitiated, "War" has three levels - the Strategic, the Operational, and the Tactical. Tactics win engagements or battles, not wars. Operations win campaigns. Strategy wins wars.
This book deals most effectively with the top two levels of war, because that's where Marine Corps generals fight. Division and Brigade commanders wage campaigns. "Field grade" officers (regimental and battalion commanders) fight battles.
If you are responsible for leading a large organization in pursuit of a common vision, you can use this book - whether military, public sector, non-profit or business. Sure, there's some amount of Marine Corps "Oooh-Rahh" in it, but that's just the way Marines are. If you let the way it's written obscure what it says, then you'll get nothing out of it. I don't think Al Gray had any concerns about that - he wrote this for Marines, and Marines understand it.
As has already been said however, the current edition of this publication (now called MCDP-1) is freely available from the Marine Corps website.
THIS particular edition (purportedly written by the 29th Commandant himself) is no longer available free, though. In my opinion, the original is better.
on June 2, 2005
I don't know how many books there are on strategy, but there must be thousands. There are books that will tell you the latest fad in business strategy and strategic planning. There are textbooks on strategy written for students in graduate management programs.
There are innumerable memoirs, and books purporting to connect military strategy to business strategy. There are books about strategy that are actually historical studies of one kind or another. There are great philosophical tomes like Von Clausewitz's masterpiece On War. But there are very few books that are short, well written, and filled with enough wisdom that you keep going back to them. Two of those books are Sun Tzu's classic The Art of War and Warfighting: The U. S. Marine Corps Book of Strategy.
Both are very short. Both are packed with wisdom that you can apply in a variety of situations. Of the two, though, I'd pick Warfighting as the book you "must have" if you're going to make sense of strategy.
Warfighting is the contents of FMF-1, the manual of U. S. Marine Corps doctrine which is distributed to all Marine officers. Rumor has it that it was personally penned by General Al Gray, the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps and a significant figure in Marine Corps history.
Unlike most commandants since the early 20th Century, Gray enlisted in the Marines and rose to the rank of Sergeant before being commissioned in 1952. He was commandant from 1987 to 1991. The first thing he changed was how the commandant dressed.
Most commandants, before and since, wore the Marine dress uniform as their working attire. Gray wore utilities, the working attire of the vast majority of Marines. He drank from a canteen cup emblazoned with four stars.
He not only changed the way the commandant looked, he changed what was expected of Marines. He started by creating a required reading list for both commissioned and non-commissioned officers, the only such list in any of the services.
He made changes in Marine leadership training, increasing the emphasis on training in how to think, not what to do. And he created the doctrine of the Marines that you will read in this book. Whether he actually put down the words or not, this is his book and it's excellent.
Warfighting is extremely well written and develops in a logical progression, yet it's still a book that you can dip into for a nugget of wisdom here and there. You can also read it through in a single sitting.
Warfighting is a book that's easy to adapt, whether you're studying ancient military campaigns in a class in history or thinking about business strategy. It's also a book written by a modern Westerner and, therefore it has a more straightforward and less elliptical style than the Sun Tzu classic.
Both books are good. I have both. I use them with clients. I find that my clients spend time puzzling over Sun Tzu, trying to tease meaning from the translation of a text written in a different language, hundreds of years ago. When they read Warfighting, they spend their time adapting what they've read to their business situations.
The best recommendation I can give you on this book is to tell you that I usually have several copies around. I keep them to give to clients and friends because what they read in Warfighting helps them do a better job of creating strategies for their businesses.