Ukrainians serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine gain a lot of valuable experience and can have a significant impact on the country’s businesses after the victory.
This was the topic of the discussion organized by between Volodymyr Dehtiarov, junior sergeant at the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces and co-founder of the Newsfront agency, and Viesturs Liegis, Managing Partner of Amrop Ukraine and Member of the Global Board Consulting Practice Group.
What businesses can learn from the military and how veterans can help them
What the Ukrainian army and modern business management have in common
Both discussion participants believe that one big advantage the Ukrainian army has as compared to its Russian adversary is more freedom in making decisions.
Viesturs Liegis underscores that the invaders make an impression of an old-style army with a very hierarchical vertical structure. All the decisions in it are made somewhere very high. Meanwhile, Ukrainian commanders on the ground have more authority. Their objectives are clear, and they make decisions based on the situation around them.
Volodymyr Dehtyarov echoes this observation, saying that the Ukrainian military tries to move from post-Soviet practices towards the philosophy used in the U.S. Army and NATO in general.
"They have a specific term, Mission Command, which means that you are supposed to know the intent of your higher commanding officers, but you are free in choosing ways and means to execute it because you are closer to the ground," Volodymyr explains.
This military command philosophy is very much in line with modern business management, as organizations are becoming more horizontally oriented.
"The leadership style is not directive, and people are free to choose the ways to fulfill their tasks. When comparing the style in the army with the style in a business and the ways of management in the army with the ways of management in business, there are lots and lots of parallels.
However, Dehtiarov notes that the army, as opposed to businesses, faces much more uncertainty, because it always lacks resources and information but still needs to make decisions.
"So the army has come up with a very specific way of planning operations, which is called troop leading procedures and military decision-making process, or combat estimate. It includes seven or eight steps where you analyze and follow some very specific rules where you look at the terrain and not just look at it, but analyze it through a specific framework," Volodymyr Dehtyarov says.
What businesses can learn from the army
According to Dehtyarov, there is very little place for intuitive management in the army, and it needs a lot of planning. In business, decisions are often made based on intuition, hints, or your previous experience. However, businesses can adopt leadership as a way of motivating people used in the army.
"In the army, unlike in business, you don't have that many ways of motivating people. You are limited in terms of promotion. You are limited in terms of financial compensation. You don't often choose your team but rather work with whoever you are assigned. You don't choose your mission. You work with whatever mission you are assigned," Volodymyr explains.
The cost of wrong decisions is very high in the army, which means that you need to build trust with your team.
"When you are stripped of all material means of motivation, all that you have is yourself. And so the ability to create links within the team and become a father figure for it is very important. That's very interesting because in business, you often don't need to build this very deep emotional connection," Volodymyr notes.
Speaking about the reintegration of war veterans into Ukrainian society, the managing partner of Amrop Ukraine mentioned studies that showed that the need for emotional contact and advanced emotional intelligence are important competencies.
"The veterans who are returning from the battlefield have acquired this. So this is quite an important thing that can be used in civilian life and in business," he argued.
Dehtiarov remarked that not everybody serving in the Army necessarily took part in combat.
"There are lots of support functions in every unit. You have all the same functions or features that you have in a business company. You have logistics, all the support services, personnel, finance, and communication. And there are people required to do all that stuff and manipulate a complex army logistics system," Volodymyr explained.
He added that decisions are made very quickly in the army, and projects must also be implemented as quickly as possible.
"So, you are able to come up with MVPs (minimum viable products) and then quickly identify if something is working or not," Dehtyarov emphasized.
What differs from business, according to him, is that orders are not supposed to be discussed in the army, but in business, you are often expected to ask follow-up questions and probably question your tasks.
"In the wargaming process, you have a team, usually your intelligence officer, who questions your ideas and plays the role of the enemy. This function in the army is outsourced to one specific person or a unit. However, in business, you might want this function to be spread out to your team," Volodymyr says.
How veterans can help businesses
Viesturs Liegis speaks about the experience of working with war veterans in the United States. The first soft skill mentioned in the context of dealing with American veterans is their integrity. Other skills that can be valuable for business are decisiveness and orientation toward the result, as well as leadership skills.
When it comes to hard skills, the managing partner of Amrop Ukraine underscores the technological nature of the ongoing war.
"There are lots of people who are very deep in technology, in security, or in cyber security. And logistics is everything; this competence is now extremely important in civilian life," Viesturs added.
He believes that military leaders will be more assertive in business, and their ability to come up with quick, non-standard solutions will be extremely helpful in business.
"Being able to come up with something new, something non-standard, in a critical situation is quite an advantage," Viesturs Liegis noted.