Blog post

The Art of War: Communication and IT

By Jack Santos | June 04, 2012 | 2 Comments

One of my colleagues (Michael Disabato) is fond of the quote by Helmut Von Moltke that “no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.”  That is certainly our experience with IT and business planning.   So it’s a delight to read Helio Fred Garcia’s “The Power of Communication” and his take on business planning and military planning.  Garcia is executive director of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership. Besides teaching at NYU, Garcia is a frequent lecturer at the US Marine Command and Staff College, and the Marine Officer Training School.  It’s from those experiences that he writes about the Marine bible: “Warfighting:  US Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication No.1” – yet he writes about it in context of day to day business communications.  It’s amazing how the war fighting principles translate into everyday communication principles.

He doesn’t stop there – takes those same communication do/don’ts and relates them to the basis for much of modern war strategy: Carl von Clausewitz’s “On War”.  The parallels make fascinating reading, and belong on the bookshelf next to Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”.

Garcia makes it real by taking just about every major communications flub over the past decade and examining them in the context of the principles he espouses.  He dissects the events we have all lived through, and makes the lessons real and memorable.

In our Gartner for Technical Professionals professional effectiveness research, we believe that everyone in the organization owns a piece of communication, especially in IT.  Mike Rollings has written about it in “Mastering Influence and Communication”.  I wrote about it in “Storytelling: Tips for IT Practitioners to Persuade and Influence”.  It also came out so clearly in our most recent field research study, by Elden Nelson  on Marketing IT in the Organization.  Communicating effectively is not just for leaders, CEOs, CIOs, VPs, or even managers.  Garcia’s simple nuggets from “Warfighting”, translated for communication, makes that premise even more obvious.  Although targeted toward corporate leadership, public relations, and crisis management – there are lessons for anyone that wants to figure out how to communicate effectively – engage an audience, deliver a message, take the initiative.  The same kind of lessons we try to show participants in our “Gearhead’s Guide” workshops at our Catalyst Conference.  This year it’s entitled “Career Survival Skills for Gearheads.”

I am reading Fred’s stories and suggestions and, in my mind,  reframing them in such a way that they speak to the IT practitioner, and help every IT professional with their struggles with organizational relevance and communication.  Communicating effectively is not just for leaders, but can be a way to develop strong organizational leaders faster – not to mention help get the job DONE.  More to come…

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  • David G. Jones says:

    “It’s amazing how the war fighting principles translate into everyday communication principles.”

    Yes, that really would be amazing.

    Carl von Clausewitz is about war. Sun Tzu (actually it’s more appropriately called Ping-fa) is a concise, comprehensive methodology for management without conflict. It does +not+ belong on the shelf next to Clausewitz. And it certainly should not be used for justification for conflict in the workplace.


  • Jack Santos says:

    David – certainly didnt mean to imply that Garcia’s interpretation of Clausewitz (or more accurately, the Marine manual) justified conflict in the workplace – quite the opposite. His end message is closer to the principles espoused in “The Art of War”, and it is Garcia’s book that I suggested be on the bookshelf. Thanks for the feedback, and letting me clarify that. Jack