November 2010

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30        


MBM Principal Sources

Blog powered by Typepad

« The Old Institutions Are Broken | Main | Friday Links »

15 July 2010



Thanks for sharing this! My husband is a marine and I can so relate with this principle.


Freedman's book, aside from Thomas Ricks's Making the Corps, is the best outsider's guide to Marine Corps culture that I've read. He does a good job of distilling the mental habits and cultural assumptions of Marines into a list of 30 principles. Although none of these 30 principles are part of formal Marine Corps doctrine, they do a fair job of representing the mental models that Marines share.

A great place to learn more about the culture and mental models of the Marine Corps is by reading "Warfighting," the Marine Corps' core doctrinal text. Less than 100 pages long, and highly readable, "Warfighting" lays out many of the key principles Marines strive to embody. All Marines, from Privates to Generals, are required to read it in training.

One Marine Corps mental model that I repeatedly return to is the idea that war is a time-competitive enterprise. By this, Marines mean first, that war is fundamentally a competition between multiple intelligent actors, and second, that the key terrain on which war is fought is time and tempo. It is from these concepts that the value of the 70% solution derives. In short, Marines believe that success in war depends on making and carrying out decisions at a greater tempo than the opponent. I think there are close ties to mental models like Principled Entrepreneurship and Initiative.

P.S. Don't call a Marine "soldier."

Andy Gillette

Great comment, GRE. Sorry for the "soldier" faux pas!

I should point out the "GRE" has both studied MBM for a year in the Koch Associate Program, and is a Marine.

THe 70% solution is one I often turn to (and struggle with), too.

I wonder what Ben Stafford (and Collins) would say about 30 management principles vs the 3-4 max that Collins suggests....


I don't think these 30 principles that Freedman identifies are analogous to the core values that Collins recommends business identify and adopt.

As Peter said, these principles are not a part of formal doctrine, so it's not as if the Marines are being taught each of these principles and being urged to follow them.

Also, the principles are categorized under some larger umbrella headings. So we might have a value that has something to do with Mission and under that would fall some principles or a value regarding Directing People and under that would fall some more principles.

Finally, the values that Collins urges us towards adopting are something that we fundamentally are. For instance, if an organizations core value is "customer focus" the employees in that organization will *be* customer focused. etc. But that is not analogous to many of these 30 principles. For instance, I can't "be the 70% solution". Or, "get an outside perspective". Yes, organizations should be doing that it but it would be odd if it were one of their three core values. At some point one needs to stop getting that outside perspective and focus on #27, "experiment obsessively". Now that I think could be a core value. An organization could place a very high value on experimenting relentlessly all the time and at anytime, never settling for the status quo etc.


Marines have the good fortune of inheriting a set of core values handed down by several generations, and a mission prescribed by law. The Marine Corps has three core values: Honor, Courage, Commitment. The mission of the Marine Corps is set by the National Security Act of 1947: "Marines are trained, organized and equipped for offensive amphibious employment and as a force in readiness." This mission is frequently explained more simply as "to fight and win our nation's battles."

"Warfighting" is publicly available online here: As the Commandant explains in the foreword, "...this publication describes a philosophy for action that, in war, in crisis, and in peace, dictates our approach to duty."

"Warfighting" contains several guiding principles that Marines consider in approaching their mission. I think that the book serves a role similar to "The Science of Success" at Koch organizations.

The comments to this entry are closed.