Commandos, Infantrymen & Policemen

Business by on November 6, 2006 at 9:11 am

Beth Kirsch wrote a great post at Revenews, highlighting several different roles within a startup: Commandos, Infantrymen & Policemen. It is actually based on an earlier post by Riya’s CEO, Munjal Shah. I appreciate the analogy because of my military background, but it also is fairly true. Read the full post for the full description, but here is the quick summary of the three roles:

  • Commandos: ‘Secure the beachhead’ - flexible individual contributors that just get things done. Their results are rarely pretty - they just make things happen
  • Infantrymen: Bring a more systematized approach. They build processes, systems and help cement the key components of the business. They typically require a team to get what they need done.
  • Policemen: The ensure order in a large organization. They make sure people are playing their roles and squeeze efficiency out of the system.

Many of the great startup CEOs play all three roles at the right times. The one thing I’d add to Beth’s post is that for a startup to grow, the management team must be able to at least fill the first 2 roles. The transition from Commando to Infantryman is fluid, and both roles are typically required alongside each other for some time. Startups invariably languish without executives that can roll up their sleeves and dive deep while simultaneously building a team to tackle more complex problems.


A few people I know in the Air Force use a similar analogy: Marines, Army & Wackenhut.� Wackenhut is a security company (contractor) that provides fence line security at many military bases.� I’m not sure why, but I found this hilarious.


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