More and more companies are insisting that their managers and executives get out into the field, face to face with real, live customers, and listen to them when they talk. The best military commanders are always going into the field, up to the front lines, to personally see and experience what their men are facing. By the same token, the best managers regularly go out with their salespeople to meet with customers and find out exactly how customers are reacting and responding to their product and service offerings.
One of the great executives of the 20th century was Alfred P. Sloan, the head of General Motors for many years, and the man most responsible for making it the largest industrial corporation in the world. Alfred P. Sloan used to take one day off each month during which he would put on a sports coat and work in a General Motors dealership as a salesman. He would meet and talk with customers and get their opinions on GM cars and service firsthand.
Many airlines today insist that their executives spend one day each month checking in passengers and baggage down in the terminal so that they have a feeling for how their customers are being treated, and how they are reacting to that treatment.
At Ford Motor Corporation, many executives are required to work on the complaint desk, fielding phone calls from customers, for one day a month. This gives them a chance to ask questions and get timely feedback that is usually unavailable from any other source.
The 1967 war was the third war between Israel and its Arab neighbors since the formation of the State of Israel in 1948. Despite having been defeated in 1948–1949 and again in 1956, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria had continued to steadily build up their military forces for another attack on Israel.
On the morning of June 5, 1967, Israeli planes launched a massive surprise attack on Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian air- fields, destroying 374 enemy aircraft, most still on the ground.
With complete air superiority, Israeli armored columns drove into the Gaza Strip, and spread westward into the Sinai Peninsula in a three-pronged advance toward the Suez Canal. Within three days of fighting, the Egyptian Army was in flight on all fronts. Egypt lost Sinai and the Gaza strip.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces occupied the Old City of Jerusalem and the West Bank on June 7 and Jordan surrendered. Syria surrendered on June 10, having lost the Golan Heights to Israel. The war cost the lives of many thousands of Arab soldiers and civilians, and 679 Israeli soldiers.
This Six-Day War was a brilliant example of the use of speed and surprise against a superior enemy, serving as a “Force Multiplier” for the Israelis, and enabling them to achieve victory against overwhelming odds.
In business, the ability to marshal all of your resources and take rapid action in a way completely unexpected by your com- petition can give you a market advantage. As Von Clausewitz said, “The two factors that produce surprise are secrecy and speed.” You must use these yourself at every opportunity to achieve and maintain meaningful competitive advantage for your business.