All is fair in trade and war

  • Business
  • Sunday, 19 Jan 2003


WAR tactics are currently being deciphered and used in business by those who want to stay ahead of their competitors.  

One such person who has taken a deep interest in translating military tactics for business is former army chief Tan Sri Md Hashim Hussein.  

The general who retired last month said four elements – uncertainty, fear, exhaustion and danger – prevalent in a war situation were also anticipated in the business environment. 

“Just like a commander has to make decisions on uncertain, incomplete information or intelligence, the businessman is also posed with a similar challenge,” said Md Hashim who believes that the 10 principles of war could be applied to make business a success. 

“As the businessman makes his decision based on his experience in the competitive world, so does the commander who has to base his decision on his experience and knowledge of the enemy,’’ Md Hashim told about 150 Malaysia Airlines executives at the MAS Academy in Kelana Jaya on Friday. 

He was invited by Malaysia Airlines to share his knowledge at the Executive Development Programme and Corporate War Game Training, which was targeted at airline managers and executives. 

War, the retired general said, was a realm of fear and danger. “Fear cannot be eliminated and can only be controlled by an act of courage. A man of peace is likely to be man of courage and resolution in war.’’ 

He outlined the 10 principles of war as maintenance of staff morale; selection and maintenance of aim; offensive action; surprise; security; concentration of force; economy of effort; flexibility; co-operation; and administration. 

Md Hashim who has been appointed Malaysian High Commissioner to Pakistan said Malaysia Airlines, like the army, must keep the morale and spirit of its staff up so that they can continue to perform their best. 

Md Hashim on how the war environment teaches business strategies

“If the employee’s productivity is high, it will contribute to better profits because they are working harder for the airline. 

“High morale fosters the offensive spirit and the will to win. Inspiration of staff should be from top to bottom. Although the army is not well paid, it substitutes its soldiers with unrecorded leave, overseas trips and accelerated promotion. 

“Similarly, the airlines can offer incentives for better initiatives by its staff.'' 

In the army, he said: “We believe very much in esprit de corps. Our soldiers are not only wage earners but are also proud to be part of the organisation. In the case of MAS, it has won many accolades, in particular as the best for in-flight service and cabin crew repeatedly. 

“This is one area in which the airline can exploit by positioning it in the world market as a friendly and warm airline with happy staff.'' 

The airline, he said, faces competition from others and by applying good principles like those used in a war situation, it could be the best in the world. 

MAS senior manager for management development Haji Zulkifly Baharom who spoke before the general's presentation referred to continuous training as one way to upgrade the company's standards and improving performance. 

“You can take the horse to a river but you cannot force the horse to drink the water. The point is knowledge and skill can be taught to anyone who can read and write. 

“The application of the said knowledge and skill at the workplace depends entirely on the person’s attitude. 

“We have many managers who have studied at the best business schools in the world. But why is it that only a few can really be outstanding and excel in his/her work. The success model is merely based on people who have the right attitude and effective competency behaviour. 

“In the MAS Academy, we have re-engineered and restructured our training programme by changing participants' paradigm of thinking from having a non-management mentality to a management mindset via behaviour competency and motivational training.” 

In a turnaround situation like MAS, he added, the airline wanted to create a drastic change in order to survive. 

As such, he said: “We have developed a high impact motivational outdoor experiential learning involving all levels of staff known as “Corporate Wargame”. 

“There's nothing like experiencing and internalising the meaning of motivation by practising it.''  

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