CLP Beacon - Business Issues and Solutions

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What the Heck is a Business Battle Rhythm?

As a reader of Sun Tzu and the Art of War, I have been applying the rules of warfare to business and marketing for more than 30 years (hard to believe it is that long but I started as a child prodigy!!). In warfare, there is a concept called Battle Rhythm and usually that goes hand in hand with knowledge management. A battle rhythm is the heart of military operational management. Effective management means efficiently processing inputs and intent to enable the Commander to make decisive decisions. Knowledge management is less about technology than it is about identifying the right information, putting that information in context of the end game, and then collaborating and sharing information with the right people.

Developing and maintaining a business battle rhythm takes the military concept into the business world and enables an organization – company, division, department, or group – to ingest data, turn that data into knowledge, and use that knowledge to collectively or individually make decisions and put the resources in play to implement those decisions. Business battle rhythms are important because the pace of business today is extremely fast. With the Internet and communications technologies available to most companies, even the smallest competitor can outflank a larger competitor to gain an advantage in the market.

The following attributes are needed in a business battle rhythm:
  • Speed and sense of urgency because everything today operates at Internet speed. (Remember the concept of fast, fluid and flexible.)
  • Accountability and responsibility such that a person is accountable for a result and a team is in place to support the one accountable for the final result.
  • Engagement to ensure that there is collaboration and interplay among the executives relative to the metrics that drive success and to ensure that there is alignment of all internal resources for the common purpose of winning the battle or the war against the company’s common enemy.
  • Competitiveness which focuses resources of the company on a common goal of winning against the outside enemy while putting aside internal differences and petty turf wars.
  • Diversity of thought to get different views on a problem. With diversity of thought data can be viewed from different perspectives and the context of the data will lead to different knowledge based on the perspective, background and history of the different participants in the decision process.
A battle rhythm uses information and decision processes to make business decisions. One way to look at business battle rhythm is through the scheduling of meetings. Each meeting should have a clear purpose, specific outcomes, and specific attendees. In the most simplistic form, let’s assume that a business builds products and services to meet the needs of customers, manages the materials, capital and human resources to build the product and then sells and supports the products/services to customers directly or through distribution.

A battle rhythm can therefore be developed around this business and its basic processes. In large companies meetings are a necessary evil but you want to be focused on the clarity of the objectives of the meeting, the issues to be discussed and the appropriate people in the room to make the right decisions.  Here’s an example of a business battle rhythm that we used on a tech company.  

  1. Executive staff meetings. Executive staff meetings are used to review items of import to each of the team and in addition to use the time to build trust and relationships. I believe that executive staff meetings should occur early on Monday morning so the week can be started with all executives understanding the issues, problems and priorities for the week. Unlike other meetings with a more fixed agenda, executive staff meetings should a) review the past week and highlight issues that need to be handled in the coming week, b) ensure that each of the executives at the meeting raises issues or problems that are important to the group, and c) prioritize the items that need to be handled in the coming weeks and make assignments of the executives to handle each of those items.
  2. Operational reviews. Companies can set an operational weekly (or bi-weekly) meeting to review metrics, the balanced scorecard, status of strategies, products, financials, human management factors and related items. The reviews can be conducted on Weds morning after part of the week has gone by and this timing enables the team to correct actions by the end of the week.
  3. Deep dives. Based on results which have not met expectations or projects that are behind schedule, there might be a need for these intensive reviews where contingency plans or options to get the metric or project back on track are discussed and assignments for corrective action made.
  4. Product reviews. Product review meetings ensure that major projects and strategic initiatives are on track. Milestones are reviewed and corrective action for milestones not on track is put into place.
  5. Sales reviews. Sales are the lifeblood of any company. In these reviews, the entire sales funnel is reviewed with particular attention to moving sales to the next stage in the company’s sales process. Resources are assigned as appropriate to support the sales managers.
The following calendar is representative of a week of operational reviews.

A battle rhythm for other meetings such as skip level meetings, strategic off sites, and competitive reviews, among others can and should be developed. Miscellaneous reviews might be required for different organizational elements and even at different times during the year. Standing meetings are scheduled. Additional ad-hoc meetings can be scheduled for specific reasons.

The business battle rhythm is not merely a schedule but a plan, in the case above, for a weekly routine to manage the business. Each meeting has a specific agenda, with a purpose, materials to be provided ahead of time to the participants, a goal, a list of attendees, a place to memorialize the results of the meeting and a listing of the follow-up action items. Organizations within the company can more easily coordinate their activities if they know each other’s battle rhythm.

Every organization from the largest business to the small business should use a well written and developed battle rhythm. While the battle rhythm above is written for a weekly version, the best organizations use a monthly and annual battle rhythm as well.

What are your thought about this concept? Does it make sense or is it too bureaucratic? Feel free to call me to discuss how C-Level Partners can help your company set your battle rhythm.  And please like and share this with others as you see fit.  ou can contact me at

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