Corps Business
The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines
David Freedman

1. Aim for the 70% solution. [p8]
It's better to decide quickly on an imperfect plan than to roll out a perfect plan when it's too late.

"Everyone is always looking for perfect truth. Even if you find it, the other guy is up to something. So by the time you execute it, your truth isn't perfect anymore."

When time is of the essence, Marines act as soon as they have a plan with a good chance of working. Indecisiveness is worse than making a mediocre decision. A mediocre decision swiftly rendered and executed at least stands a chance.

"If your decision-making loop is more streamlined than your enemy's, then you set the pace and course of the battle."

2. Find the essence. [p10]
When it comes time to act, even the most complex situations and missions must be perceived in simple terms.

One of the Marines' greatest tools is simplicity: taking complex, ambiguous situations and boiling them down to their essence.

Create orders that are easily grasped and actionable.

3. Build a capability-based organizational mission. [p22]
Focusing on developing organizational talents creates opportunities; focusing on particular products and services invites obsolescence.

4. Orient toward speed and complexity. [p23]
The ability to react quickly and effectively in chaotic environments usually trumps other competencies.

5. Organize according to the rule of three. [p36]
In times of stress, most people can efficiently handle exactly three goals, tasks, or alternatives.

6. Build authority on demand into the hierarchy. [p43]
Retain a strong management pyramid, but encourage people even at the lowest levels to make whatever decisions are necessary to accomplish the mission when management guidance isn't at hand.

7. Focus on the small team. [p47]
Most of the organization's critical tasks are accomplished by the lowest-level managers and their subordinates, so anything done to make them more efective will have a large payoff.

8. Task-organize. [p53]
The size and make-up of groups within the organization should be changed according to the needs of each specific mission.

9. Hire through the trial by fire. [p62]
Challenging a prospective employee makes it easier to determine the fit, and initiates a bond between the hiree and the organization.

10. Employ extreme training. [p69]
Situations faced on the job shouldn't seem more daunting than those faced in training.

11. Breed decision-making by analogy. [p75]
Managers can't be briefed on every possible situation, but they can be trained to recognize similarities between novel and familiar situations.

12. Cross-train. [p88]
Running through different jobs creates versatile managers who understand all aspects of the organization, even if at a cost in efficiency.

13. Manage by end state and intent. [p98]
Tell people what needs to be accomplished and why, and leave details to them.

14. Distribute competence. [p105]
Obsessively and ceaselessly educate and train people at all levels of the organization.

15. Reward failure. [p109]
Someone who never fails probably isn't pushing the envelope.

16. Make personnel functions stepping-stones for stars. [p116]
The development of the most promising managers should include taking responsibility for hiring, training, promoting, and transferring people.

17. Glorify the lower levels of the organization. [p121]
The higher the manager, the harder he or she should work at making it clear that the rank and file are the heroes.

18. Demand to be questioned. [p133]
Subordinates should feel free to openly disagree with their manager, up until it comes time to carry out a final and legitimate decision.

19. Instill values that support the mission. [p140]
The ability to get the job done can be a function of shared character.

20. Cultivate opposing traits. [p155]
Success often requires combining seemingly contradictory approaches.

21. Establish a core identity. [p158]
Everyone in the organization should feel they're performing an aspect of the same job.

22. Match strength to weakness. [p172]
Find ways to tilt the playing field to the competition's disadvantage.

23. Surprise and disorient the opposition. [p173]
A confused and off-balance competitor can be routed with fewer resources.

24. Make tempo a weapon. [p183]
Controlling the pace of competition can exhaust and demoralize the competition.

25. Keep plans simple and flexible. [p185]
It's better to have a few options that can be easily adapted to changing situations than to try to make specific plans for every contingency.

26. Make organizational doctrine a living thing. [p191]
It's good to standarize practices, as long as one of them is to continually refine and occasionally change the practices.

27. Experiment obsessively. [p193]
Even the most successful organization will eventually stop winning if it doesn't explore radically new approaches.

28. Build new tactics around new technology. [p195]
Fully leveraging technology requires new styles of competing.

29. Don't depend on technology. [p198]
Train to be effective regardless of which technologies are available.

30. Get an outside perspective. [p199]
Insights into organizational improvement can often come from people in seemingly unrelated fields.


Operating "far from the flagpole" [px]

the "three-block war" - Marines may confront the entire gamut of tactical challenges within the narrow confines of three contiguous city blocks [px]

Leadership is:

This is not a gentlemanly century; this is a century whose primary business is war. [Albert Einstein, pxvii]

The Marine Corps is one of the most open-minded, innovative, knowledge-oriented, and in some ways free-wheeling organizations in the world. [pxviii]

The U.S. Marines: when it absolutely, positively has to be destroyed overnight. [pxx]

Hope is not a course of action. [p1]

The Marines tend to inversely correlate the number of people on a task, and the likelihood of the task's successful completion. [p6]

Marines don't like to plan too far ahead of time, or in the absence of clear orders. "Plan early, plan twice." [p7]

We do windows. [p19]

The nineteen-year-old Marine is now an instrument of national policy ... the pointy tip of the spear [p33]

We train for certainty and educate for uncertainty. [p78]

Never underestimate the power of a group of people who believe nothing can keep them from success and who are willing to do anything to acheive it. [p139]

I'll tell you everything you need to know about tactics - hit the other guy as hard as you can when he's not looking. [p167]

The status quo is going to lose. [Colonel Robert E. Lee, p189]