Innovate Your Business with 5 Spec Ops Tactics


One of Special Operations’ greatest contributions to the War against Terrorism was the perfection of the fast cycling targeting methodology to discover, to locate, and to defeat enemy targets.  In the military, the targeting process are the steps taken to locate, to track, and to attack and destroy critical elements that are vital to the enemy’s strategy.  Initially, the “SOF Targeting Cycle” was a relatively slow-moving process that completed each cycle on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

How to use spec ops tactics to make your business better.

What Business Leaders Can Achieve from the “SOF Targeting Cycle” To Benefit Their Companies

Business and organizational leaders can adopt the “spirit and intent” of Special Operations use of the “SOF Targeting Cycle” that will help them understand markets faster, disseminate critical and useful market intelligence to their entire organization to meet customer needs faster, and help the organization be more nimble in response to market opportunity.

How “SOF Targeting Cycle” Principles Apply to Improving Business

The result of Special Operations innovation and Initiative with “SOF Targeting Cycle” was to create a military force that was nimble, precise, innovation, driven-by-intelligence, and results oriented to take the fight completely to the enemy.   The net result of what Special Operations Forces (SOF) achieved was to make intelligence and analysis teams larger so they could rapidly reduce the time required to attack subsequent targets that the analysis of the initial intelligence revealed.  Over a multi-year, trial-and-error process, Special Operations Forces (SOF) reduced the time between missions from days/weeks to hours.  SOF Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan went from 1-2 missions a week to 1-3 missions a night with the new targeting process.

The Business Lessons of Special Operations “Targeting Cycle”

Lesson 1: How well and how often do you gather, analyze, disseminate, and act on competitive intelligence? 

Military Unit Use:  Military units receive battlefield updates on enemy progress and anticipated plans on a daily basis, at a minimum.  These intelligence reports go to every critical leader in the organization so the entire organization knows, understands, and can act (individually and as a team) to defeat the enemy’s plan and make their plan a success.

Business Team Use: Most businesses and organizations do not have a regular, systemic, and standardized plan to gather, create, analyze, and disseminate intelligence on their markets and competition on a regular basis.  Most organizations need, at a minimum, a weekly or semi-weekly competitive intelligence report so they ensure their organization is focused on defeating the competition and meeting customer needs.

Lesson 2: Are you precisely defining and fixing/tracking your target markets?

Military Unit Use:  One of the first things that Special Operations Forces (SOF) focused on was the precise knowledge of Who and Where his enemy (opportunity) was at all time.    He used drones and other military intelligence assets to help him locate and precisely track enemy targets.

Business Team Use: For a business, knowing precisely where and tracking your target market for your products and services is an absolute necessity to commercial success.  How often are you updating your sales numbers and analyzing trends so you know precisely where you stand?  Hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly?  Tracking at the hourly or daily level is required so you can see any immediate opportunity (or threat) and react to it quickly.

Lesson 3: Do you have a plan/process/solution to exploit your competitor’s weaknesses to achieve your goals? 

Military Unit Use:  Special Operations Forces (SOF) had at his immediate disposal drones, helicopters, jet aircraft, gunships, and skilled Special Operations Forces (SOF) so that he could immediately attack enemy terrorist forces as they appeared.

Business Team Use: Few business teams have immediate plans how to quickly exploit the weakness of a competitor.  Businesses should create Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) how to quickly and to decisively exploit a competitor’s weaknesses.  Your competitor out of product?  A key supplier low on inventory?  Your competitor makes a price cut?  Businesses need to have well-rehearsed and coordinated plans to decisively take advantage of a fluid situation to their advantage.

Lesson 4: How long and frequently do you analyze your performance and the competition’s? 

Military Unit Use:  In a counter-terrorist environment, military units have detailed schematics of terrorist organizations and key enemy figures identified in a prioritized list that is always updated for immediate intelligence gathering and planning.  Military organizations can quickly tell where they stand and what needs to occur next for a military campaign to be successful.  Success is judged how they fare directly vs. the competition.

Business Team Use: Most business teams track their financial progress vs. the prior year and their business plan.  Few businesses track their performance vs. the competition.  Businesses need to track their primary 2-3 competitors so they always know how well they are doing vs. plan, vs. last year, and vs. the competition.  Additionally, closely watching the competition helps immensely in formulating a strategy to defeat the competition.

How to use spec ops tactics to make your business better.

Lesson 5: How well do you communicate new tactics, techniques, and procedures to your team? 

Military Unit Use:  By constant study of enemy tactics as well as intelligence, reporting, military teams create and widely disperse “After Action Reviews” and “Lessons Learned” to all forces so everyone understands how the enemy is fighting, what they will do next, and what steps to take to mitigate the enemy.  This sharing is essential to train and update forces so they remain the best.

Business Team Use: Only a select few business teams consistently and thoroughly communicate competitive intelligence and steps to mitigate competitive threats throughout the entire organization.  Good business team leaders communicate new and the most effective “Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures” to defeat the competition throughout their entire organization.  Competitive threats are adaptive and immediate, business teams that communicate how to defeat the competition makes everyone better.