Business maneuver: exploiting speed and surprise as key elements

Richard J. Pech (Director of the Postgraduate Research at La Trobe University’s Graduate School of Management in Melbourne, Australia. He can be reached at or Phone +61 (0) 3 9479 3119.)
Bret W. Slade (Senior lecturer at La Trobe University’s Graduate School of Management in Melbourne, Australia. He can be reached at or Phone +61 (0) 3 9479 3116.)

Handbook of Business Strategy

ISSN: 1077-5730

Publication date: 1 December 2005


The following chapter describes a paradigm shift in military thinking and its practical application for business strategists. It describes the concept of maneuver theory. Originally designed as a war‐fighting doctrine based on the principles of speed, surprise, and economy of effort; the authors argue that maneuver theory has the inherent capability to provide the same successes for business strategists as it has for military strategists. Discusses similarities between military and business campaigns and then describes the difference between maneuver warfare versus conventional warfare. The techniques and lessons from the maneuver paradigm are then translated into the business context using a number of examples. Argues that the ongoing contests of wills, deployment of resources, and competitive behaviors seen on the business landscape are comparable with military campaigns. Argues that the application of maneuver techniques and principles will produce swift, economical, innovative, strategic, and sustainable business victories in an environment that is increasingly turbulent and unpredictable. Provides step‐by‐step guidelines for implementing a competitive philosophy that generates organizational excitement, commitment, energy, and innovation. Maneuver theory has spawned much discussion and debate, it has been misinterpreted, it has been touted as the solution to all military problems, and it has been vilified as a “bag of military Doritos – tasty and fun to munch but not very nutritious” (Bolger, 1993). This chapter describes how to operationalize a war‐fighting philosophy that until now has remained elusive in its application.



Pech, R. and Slade, B. (2005), "Business maneuver: exploiting speed and surprise as key elements", Handbook of Business Strategy, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 35-42.

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