How Business Wages War


Mark Herman has one of the more interesting jobs in the consulting world. The vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton designs and moderates wargames for business executives.

His new book, Wargaming for Leaders: Strategic Decision Making from the Battlefield to the Boardroom, digs into what wargames are and what they can do to help business leaders make the right decisions.

Read the book and you'll get an interesting history lesson, not just in military strategy, but in how it helps businesses understanding current events and how those events impact their industries.

I interviewed Herman last week for our upcoming Expert Voices column. (I'll publish the whole interview in a few weeks.) Despite the emphasis on top business executives, Herman had some interesting takes on how CIOs fit in:

In today's world, you can't do anything meaningful for a business without having the CIO present. I haven't seen or heard of anyone wanting to exclude the CIO from it.

At the very least, the CIO needs to hear the thinking behind emerging requirements they'd have to fulfill or think about. They need to be there to hear the conversation even if they're not part of what the problem is.

He also talked about what CIOs can bring to the wargaming table, and how it can get them more respect at the executive table:

In wargames, anyone who can take a complex set of circumstances and boil it down into something useful are the people who are successful and get a seat at the C-suite table. The guy who talks technical is going to have a harder time, unless the people around the table are also particularly technically savvy. But most people are not.

Yes, we've heard some of those arguments before--IT plays a crucial role in corporate operations, so CIOs need to be involved, and IT pros can't talk techie if they want to get respect from business partners.

But Herman's thoughts come in a completely different context. Wargames are an intense, thought-provoking, non-technological way of identifying and solving problems. And they give CIOs and their teams the opportunity to step outside their usual roles and flex their management muscle to help their companies get ahead.

I don't know too many people who have gone through these wargaming exercises. So tell me, IT pros, have you? If so, tell me what you got out of them, and what you and your IT colleagues were able to contribute.