Booz Allen Hamilton

Wargaming for Leaders

December 02, 2008

Wargaming for Leaders book cover artMcLean, VA — The greatest war heroes in history triumphed by anticipating their enemies’ moves. That’s why wargaming, a strategy used for centuries in the military, has now become essential for business and government leaders to survive and thrive in today’s era of heightened competition and unforeseeable crises.

In Wargaming for Leaders: Strategic Decision Making from the Battlefield to the Boardroom (McGraw-Hill, December 12, 2008; $27.95; 262 pages), Mark Herman, world-renowned wargame designer for Booz Allen Hamilton, with coauthors Mark Frost and Robert Kurz, explores the strategies learned from wargames designed and staged for the U.S. Army, global corporations, and nonprofit groups, revealing how these exercises led to significant decisions and effective competitive advantage.

The authors tell how they used wargaming to help companies like Caterpillar and ConAgra face competitive threats, and how they have been using the same approach to fight post-9/11 terrorism, HIV/AIDS in India, pandemic flu, and Alzheimer’s, and in over two decades of work with the U.S. military battling foes like Iraq.

Wargaming gives “players” an opportunity to look into an imagined future, learn from what they see in that risk-free environment, make sense of their competitors’ options, and apply those findings to confront problems in the real world in which they live before it is too late.

Wargaming for Leaders includes scores of stories of how wargaming was used successfully by:

Business

  • Caterpillar, which predicted three years in advance that Roger Penske’s truck engine operations would win 20 percent market share within four years.
  • Biogen, which tested pricing and marketing strategies against the competition.
  • Swissair, which attuned its managers to the increasingly competitive landscape caused by the emergence of airline alliances.
  • Florida Power and Light Company, which determined how much deregulation might leave them vulnerable to a competing utility.

Military

  • The U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, whose recommendations on the threat of terrorism led to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense, which in 1990 wanted to know why Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and what he would do next.
  • General (Ret.) Anthony Zinni, former Commander of U.S. Central Command, who wanted to examine the problems the U.S. would face in Iraq after Operation Iraqi Freedom brought down Saddam Hussein in April 2003.

Global Crises

  • The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which wanted to determine how to balance the increased need for port security with the need to maintain an open and efficient flow of goods through U.S. supply chains.
  • The Council for Excellence in Government, which just after 9/11 sought to test U.S. preparedness for and response to an act of bioterrorism.

This book is for anyone interested in testing assumptions, mitigating risk, and revealing the unintended consequences of decisions yet to be made.