Lessons from Warfare to Manage Complex Marketing Projects

Shailendra Tiwari, Mtandt Ltd.Shailendra Tiwari, Head Marketing & Strategic Initiative, Mtandt Ltd.
The fundamental definition of warfare is to compete and win over enemies with limited resources. Interestingly, it is fundamental to running a marketing function in a corporate company. My fellow marketing heads will agree that it is imperative for a marketing function to complete complex projects regularly within non-negotiable deadlines and in the midst of chaos. Many a time we fall prey to the situation and sometimes projects tend to become unmanageable. I was no exception to this.

A couple of years ago, Raghu Raman - an ex-army commander and a corporate leader, in his TEDx talk in Goa, talked about the 7 lessons in the Indian Army that can help a business to succeed in complex projects. When I looked at these lessons from a marketer’s perspective, everything became clear and manageable. He said that there is a simple tool which anyone can learn, whether he is a CEO, a start-up owner, or a junior grade staff.

The tool is simple: it’s the Z - KIT BAG that an army man carries. This tool has been used worldwide to understand complex problems, and its framework can be used even in day to day life like preparing a presentation, or completing a complex project where uncertainties may prevail and on the spot decisions have to be made.
  1. ‘Z’ stands for Zameeni Nishan (Environmental Scan) means the lay of the land. Before you land a mission, you need to know what kind of perimeter you are going to enter. A marketer also needs to know the entry barriers, the level of rivalry out there, and the market.
  2. ‘K’ stands for Khabar (Intelligence). When you are launching a campaign, you need to have all the information and the information about your competitor. Unless you are aware of your counterparts you will be blindsided by the competition in the market.
  3. ‘I’ stands for Irada (Strategic Intent). Irada has to be crystal clear so that the last person in your department would understand it without any ambiguity. A typical ‘irada’ in the army would be how the platoon would capture a particular hilltop no later than 0600 hours in the morning. In case the commander breaks down, they should be able to assume orders in the absence of orders. In fact, this happened with me once when I was not available to guide my team for a certain project. But since the briefing and intent were clear to them, they were able to successfully complete the task. Everyone involved in the team should be able to handle any kind of emergency.
  4. ‘T’ stands for Tareeka (Methodology). The methodology of execution should be clear to each and everyone involved in the project. An army mission comprises several elements that get deployed for success. A combination of artillery, airpower, small fire attack, commando attack and many other things get planned before the real attack. Everything is well designed and executed with precision by everyone to achieve success. Similarly, a marketing head also needs to be sure of the methods to achieve success and harmonize them within the team.
  5. ‘B’ stands for Bandobust (Resources) which means logistical arrangement. Armies cannot fight and win wars without robust logistics that takes care of their ammunition, ration, replacements, medical support, and coordination with other support teams. Similarly, a marketing head must ensure that the logistics are put in place correctly.
  6. ‘A’ stands for ‘Administration.’ Without able administration, it is not possible for armies or a marketing department to succeed. Ensuring that resources are properly utilized, soldiers or marketing teams are given all support to focus on what they are supposed to do to ‘achieve their objectives’. This is the critical objective of efficient administration.
  7. ‘G’ stands for ‘Ghadi Milao’ means ‘match the time.’ This is what in army terms is the last part of the action. Ensuring that everyone is clear about the time they have to start their operation and achieve their objective. Being synchronized and having a clear understanding of timelines is essential for a marketing project’s success as it is for the army. For instance, if we say to deliver a job ASAP, it can be 4 hours for someone or 4 days for someone. So, every team member needs to have a clear understanding of time.
With such a simple rule of Z-KITBAG, marketing heads can check if any of their actions is not adequate for the mission’s success, else they can rework and get back on the mission again to achieve success - just like the army way.

Thanks to Raghu Raman for teaching us these 7 life-changing lessons from the Army!

NBM&CW August 2019

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