Military-Style Management

We’ve all seen the restaurant managers yelling at staff outside. Maybe that’s why the food’s so good.

Each morning around 10 am, a formation of staff in uniform stands in an identical spot as the day prior with half-asleep eyes and sullen faces. They work at some restaurant in Dongcheng Walking Street and this is their regular morning call to action, except that the spirit isn’t exactly stirred for most of them.

The supervisor—dressed in a black and white suit—variates between high and low volumes, keeping keen eyes on every figure present. The audience hangs their heads powerlessly and stares at the leader with dull expressions. After a 15-minute-long lecture, the command roars about the last order and the followers suddenly wake up and howl whatever slogan they need to recite in order to end the tiresome morning routine.

This kind of military-style management is not exclusive to restaurants. In fact, many businesses—from food delivery to large manufacturing companies—more or less apply the concept.

In a female-dominated nail salon, ladies are required to practice a dance in the morning assembly, which changes according to the latest k-pop trend. In a hospitality establishment, employees are demanded to read the core values of the company in a thunderous voice and with lightning speed before breaking out into a full-scale military-like parade.

With over one million employees that must face strict and harsh regulations and a persuasive company culture, the result is that one million individuals work and fight as one for the maximum outcome.

Chinese are already used to it. During our entire education career, and especially when advancing from primary school to middle school, from middle school to high school and from high school to university, a new semester starts with one-month-long military training.

Each time we are trained to follow the same orders: left / right / back / front turn, three different ways of marching, how to sit and stand up and standing still for 20 minutes under a scorching sun. If we’re lucky, we might be able to learn some military martial arts, which always turn out to be the least boring hours.

Learning military songs is one inevitable course, as well. I Am a Soldier, Union is Strength, Return from The Shooting Range are a few must-sung tunes during any march. Every Chinese person is able to murmur at least a handful of famous ones they learn during training, which prove to be useful throughout their career.

Military management is highly valued and popular in the Chinese community. Famed companies such as Huawei and the world’s leading electronics manufacturer Foxconn have been examples for the ideology. With over one million employees that must face strict and harsh regulations and a persuasive company culture, the result is that one million individuals work and fight as one for the maximum outcome.

For more than a decade, disciplines from United State’s West Point Military Academy have been featured, magnified and modified for business management in China. Numerous books following the Chinese version of No Excuses Leadership, published in 2004, flooded the market and sold millions of copies. People admire the Army’s most fundamental leadership principles and hope to put them to the core of an organization to achieve more results, better.

Well-developed theories and useful tactics are extracted from literature to apply in business strategy. From the first war manual, The Art of War to one of the four great classical novels The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, modern Chinese worship military heroes throughout history. The successful strategy of “rural areas encircle the cities,” created by Chairman Mao in the 1940s when fighting with the dominant Kuomintang, is still widely exploited in business culture today.

Due to its effectiveness in execution, military management becomes one of the most powerful ways to run a business. The sense of belonging and the combatant spirit of every individual forms a great sentiment of a collective, which could become unbeatable.

From an individualistic point of view, isn’t it great to have your goal decided and the only thing you need to do is work to complete it? After all, we’ve been brainwashed since we were little that we should sacrifice our benefit in order to achieve the greatest benefit of the collective. In a country that values collectivism so much, it’s only natural to employ military disciplines in management.