Manage Complex Marketing Projects; Warfare Lesson


The fundamental definition of Warfare is to compete and win over enemies with limited resources. Interestingly, it is fundamental to run a marketing function in a corporate company.

My fellow marketing heads will not agree less than this, it is imperative for a marketing function to complete complex projects regularly within non-negotiable deadlines and among the chaos. Many a time we fall prey to the situation and sometimes projects tend to become unmanageable. I was no exception to this.

A couple of years back Raghu Raman an ex-army commander and a corporate leader, in his TEDx talk in Goa, taught about the 7 lessons form the Indian Army that can help a business to succeed in complex projects. When I looked at these lessons from a marketer’s perspective, everything started becoming so clear and manageable. He said there is a simple tool anyone can learn irrespective of a CEO or a Startup Owner or a junior grade staff.

The tool is simple, the Z – KIT BAG that an army carries. This tool has been used worldwide to understand complex problems. This framework can be used even in day to day life like preparing for a presentation to completing a complex project where uncertainties may prevail and on the spot decision making has to take place.

 Here it begins with each alphabet.

1. ‘Z’ stands for Zameeni Nishan (Environmental scan) means the lay of the land. Before you land a mission, you need to know what kinds of the perimeter you are going to enter. So also a marketer needs to know the entry barriers, the level of rivalry there out there and the market.

2. The ‘K’ stands for Khabar (Intelligence). When you are launching a campaign, you need to know information and information is all about your competitor. Unless you are aware of your counterparts you will be blindsided by the competition in the market.

3. The next alphabet ‘I’ stands for Irada (Strategic Intent). Irada has to be spelt out in crystal clarity so that the last person in your department should understand it without any ambiguity. A typical ‘irada’ would be how the platoon would capture this hilltop no later than 0600 hours in the morning. In case the commander breaks down, they should be able to assume orders in the absence of orders. In fact this happens with me once when I was not available to guide my team for a certain project but since the briefing and intent were clear to them they were able to successfully complete the task. Everyone involved in the team should be able to handle any kinds of emergencies.

4. ‘T’ stands for Tareeka (methodology). The methodology of execution should be clear to each and everyone involved in the project. An army mission comprises of several elements that get deployed for success. A combination of artillery, airpower, small fire attack, commando attack and many other things get planned before the real attack. Everything is well designed and executed with precision by everyone to get success. Similarly, a marketing head also needs to be sure of their methods to achieve success and harmonize them well within the team.

5 ‘B’ stands for Bandobust (Resources) which means logistical arrangement. Armies cannot fight and win wars without robust logistics that take care of their ammunition, ration, replacements, medical support and coordination with every other support teams. Similarly, a marketing head must ensure that their logistics are put in place correctly.

6. ‘A’ stands for ‘Administration.’  Without able administration, it is not possible for armies or a marketing department to succeed. Ensuring that resources are properly utilized, and soldiers or marketing team are given all support to focus on what they are supposed to do ‘achieve their objectives’ is the critical objective of efficient administration.

7. ‘G’ stands for ‘Ghadi Milao’ means ‘match the time.’ This is what in army terms is the last part of the action. Ensuring that everyone is clear about the time they have to start their operation and achieve their objective. Keeping synchronized and having a clear understanding of timelines is essential for marketing project success as it is for the army. Eg. If we say to deliver a job ASAP, it can be 4 hr for someone or it can be 4 days for someone. So every team members need to have a clear understanding of time.

With such a simple rule of Z-KITBAG, marketing heads can check if any of their action is not adequate for the mission success, they can rework and get on the mission back again to achieve success; the army way.

Thanks to Raghu Raman for teaching us these 7 life-changing lessons from the Army!

About Shailendra Tiwari

Shailendra is a Mechanical Engineer and Master’s in Business Administration specializing in Marketing & Finance. During his Master’s he has undergone various training programs designed by Neil Rackham, professors of Harvard Business School and Insead. Being an avid marketer, he headed marketing functions at various corporate companies like Hyundai, Hyva, Palfinger, Mtandt to name few. He has been accoladed with “Out of Box Thinker” in the year 2016 for his innovative contribution in B2B marketing.