by Richard Martin

1. Recognize that there is always friction, uncertainty, ignorance, and opponents’ actions and intentions. Work to reduce them.

2. Formulate assumptions for planning but follow up and validate as information comes in.

3. Formulate scenarios to guide in planning and readiness.

4. Develop options and select the optimal one for implementation, while keeping the others as alternates or contingency plans.

5. Keep things simple.

6. Advance on a wide front and probe for opportunities, gaps, and weaknesses.

7. Explain your overall intent and let your people use their initiative to find ways to achieve it.

8. Keep resources in reserve to absorb failures or exploit opportunities.

My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

by Richard Martin

Copyright: Tomas Griger

After the magnitude 8.3 earthquake in Mexico last week, an acquaintance of mine was fretting about how these natural disasters couldn’t be a simple coincidence.

Of course, that acquaintance was referring to the apparently large number of violent systems in the South Atlantic this hurricane season in combination with an earthquake. I’m not sure what these phenomena have to do with each other. How are weather and geology supposed to be connected? Perhaps in the very long term, on the scale of eons. But over days or hours? Not likely.

Humans have a propensity to see causality and correlations where there is just coincidence. Most things happen for no reason at all. It’s easy to see patterns where there are none, especially in nature. If you see linkages where there are none, you can drive yourself crazy with anxiety and paranoia. Things happen. Sometimes they bunch up in time and place. Other times they are more or less spread out.

The trick to being prepared isn’t so much to predict specific causes or events, it’s to prepare for generic outcomes and effects. If you’re in a hurricane or seismic zone, you can’t predict when or where events will occur, but you know that they will occur with a certain frequency and power. For instance, every decade or two, there is a major hurricane in your zone. Every year there is at least a major tropical storm. Geological risks are much harder to characterize, but if you are in high-risk seismic region, then you have to prepare for the worst case.

Of course, preparedness and resiliency are largely a function of wealth. Storms, earthquakes and other natural events are a lot costlier in wealthy regions, but relatively less destructive of life and limb. In poor regions, the relationship is inverted; there are many more deaths and the destruction, although extensive, costs much less. However, the time to rebuild and recover are a direct function of wealth. The greater the capital resources, the faster and easier it is to absorb the costs of reconstruction and resiliency.

These factors also play into the perceptions of coincidence, causality and correlation. We must keep things in perspective when assessing probabilities and impacts. Human destruction is greater in poor countries and increases toward the past. Material destruction was less in the past and is continually increasing. This isn’t because of some connection between events. Rather, it comes from the increased investments in infrastructure, housing, and transportation networks. What was the damage along the Gulf Coast or in Florida prior to people building houses right on the water?

My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

Strategic Readiness Bulletin Number 2 – 8 September 2017

By Richard Martin, founder and president, Alcera Consulting Inc.

Richard Martin issues Strategic Readiness Bulletins on an as needed basis to clients, key decision-makers, and other influencers, to highlight recent or evolving risks, threats, and opportunities for companies and organizations resulting from chaotic change as well as international and national situations of a political, economic, technological, or social nature.

It was my great pleasure to interview Dr. Sean Maloney on 7 September 2017 on the topic of North Korea and nuclear weapons. We explored a number of issues and questions:

Copyright : Michael Borgers

  • Does North Korea really have nuclear weapons?
  • If so, what kinds and how many?
  • Is the threat credible?
  • What are the means of delivering these weapons?
  • Who is most threatened?
  • How can this threat be countered or deterred?

Sean is an international expert on nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy. As you’ll hear, he doesn’t just parrot what you hear in the media. I’m sure you’ll find it most enlightening, no matter what your interests and point of view.

 

Dr. Sean M. Maloney is a Professor of History at Royal Military College of Canada and served as the Historical Advisor to the Chief of the Land Staff of the Canadian Army during the war in Afghanistan. He previously served as the historian for 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade, the Canadian Army’s primary Cold War NATO commitment after the re-unification of Germany and at the start of Canada’s long involvement in the Balkans. Dr. Maloney has extensive field experience in that region, particularly in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia from 1995 to 2001, where he inadvertently observed the activities of the Al Qaeda organization and its surrogates. His work on the Balkans was interrupted by the 9-11 attacks. From 2001 Dr. Maloney has focused nearly exclusively on the war against the Al Qaeda movement and its allies, particularly on the Afghanistan component of that war. He traveled regularly to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2014 to observe and record coalition operations in that country and was the first Canadian civilian military historian to go into combat since the Second World War. He has authored fifteen books, seven of which deal with the Afghanistan war, as well as the controversial Canada and UN Peacekeeping: Cold War by Other Means, 1946-1970 and Learning to Love the Bomb: Canada’s Cold War Strategy and Nuclear Weapons 1951-1970.

You can find out more about Sean at his website www.seanmmaloney.com.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc.

 

by Richard Martin

Here is an easy to use four-step to help in readiness for anything, any time.

Step 1: Mobilize

  • Confirm situation and mission
  • Do time estimate
  • Activate team and support network
  • Prepare equipment, dress, “ammunition”
  • Inform “troops”

Step 2: Reconnaissance

  • Terrain (market)
  • Objective (client, goal)
  • Enemy (competitors)
  • Weather (context, conditions)

Step 3: Plan

  • Aim, factors, options, decision, plan
  • Tactics: frontal, flanking, bypass manoeuvres
  • Exploit/protect centre of gravity
  • Economize and mass for optimal impact
  • Pit strengths against weaknesses, exploit gaps

Step 4: Deploy

  • Brief team, supporters, colleagues
  • Initial and final rehearsals
  • Update plan, develop contingency plans
  • Final preparation – material and psychological
  • Morale – How is your will to win?

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

 

by Richard Martin

An engineer employed by Google—James Damore—was recently fired for writing and circulating an internal memo criticizing aspects of Google’s diversity policies, specifically corporate goals regarding the ratio of women and men in software work. I won’t go into the details of the arguments for and against, except to illustrate how the selection of the aim has an impact on the scope and validity of the ways and means of achieving it.

My purpose is to look at the structure and logic of the problem to show that the objective conditions and delineates the analysis of the problem, how it is resolved, and what are considered acceptable and unacceptable questions and factors for consideration, planning, and decision-making. This newsletter is longer than usual because I think a failure to understand the logic of arguments and reasoning underlie most social and organizational conflict. This can in turn have a major impact on performance and readiness.

Google’s objective appears to be (approximately) equal numbers of men and women in software development, programming and engineering. It follows that only options which have a realistic chance of achieving that aim should be developed and considered for implementation. Anything that questions that objective should not be considered any further as it may undermine its achievement and take resources from better uses.

Damore’s memo didn’t question gender equality in itself, rather the wisdom of Google’s goal in service of that aim. His questions and skepticism weren’t addressed at the ways and means of achieving the aim, but rather at the goal itself. In other words, Damore’s memo was at a different logical level than the stated Google policy. If you set the goal as a 50/50 split of men and women in engineering and other technical jobs, and that’s non-negotiable, then it follows that you must, of necessity, consider only alternatives that can achieve that. On the other hand, if the goal is gender/sexual equality in general, then aiming for 50/50 split may or may not be a realistic or desirable way of achieving that.

This is where values and underlying beliefs come into play. In terms of beliefs, there are three big assumptions leading to the Google objective of 50/50 split. IF men and women have equal capabilities (in any meaningful and statistically significant sense), and IF there is no coercion (explicit and/or implicit), and IF there is no stereotyping (subtle or not so subtle) in hiring and managerial practices by Google or any other employers, then it follows that aiming for an equal split (or close thereto) between men and women is a desirable and achievable goal.

All three of these IFS are empirical questions that can be answered through rigorous research and analysis. For the record, my personal belief is that any statistically significant capability and performance differences that are demonstrated scientifically between men and women are merely of academic interest IF AND ONLY IF there is no coercion and no stereotyping. With that said, capability, coercion and stereotyping can be slippery concepts. Ideology can influence all three, especially coercion, as it is related to power and hierarchical relationships.

So much for the underlying assumptions and beliefs. What about values? In a culture that values well-defined sex roles, it follows that sexual/gender differences, coercion, and stereotyping won’t even be questioned. They will simply be assumed and justified, usually based on what is viewed as common sense and custom. We on the other hand, live in a society that values sexual and gender equality. Why? Because we have an even higher level value which we call freedom of choice. We believe that anyone should be allowed (and even encouraged) to choose whatever education, job, and career that they want. And what someone wants should be defined by whatever mix of challenge, interest, satisfaction, pleasure, ease, investment, and compensation they find most appealing at any specific time, so long as there is demand for that work, and it doesn’t undermine someone else’s goals through coercion or stereotyping. All this follows necessarily from our western values of individualism and self-actualization.

If we value freedom of choice, then it follows that people should be allowed and encouraged to choose whichever career they deem most acceptable and satisfactory to them. However, this may or may not result in a 50/50 split, either within any specific organization, or society in general. It could be 10/90, 60/40, 49.999/50.001, or another other ratio. And that’s only in one specific work area, in this case software-related jobs.

I have no doubt that Google’s senior managers believe firmly in sexual and gender equality. I would also bet that most, if not all, its leaders and employees hold deeply to the values of non-coercion, non-stereotyping, and freedom, at least as regard career and occupational choice. Google has apparently chosen to pursue a 50/50 split between men and women as the means of achieving the goal of gender equality and diversity. From that perspective, the Damore memo can undermine its implementation and achievement.

On the other hand, Damore raises some interesting questions. Can Google’s stated policies and goals generate coercion and stereotyping of men? Can the 50/50 goal lead to a kind of affirmative action where capable men are being sidelined by less-than-capable women? Could this undermine the company’s long-term viability, sustainability, and culture of performance? By adopting a quantitative goal, is Google trying to solve a social problem that it didn’t create and for which it may not be well adapted?

I don’t have the answers to such questions, and I suspect no one else does either, at least not in the short term. But aren’t they worth asking and examining? By firing Damore, Google has sent a clear message that the decision to pursue literal sexual/gender equality is taken and will not be undermined. Management has taken a stand will not brook internal opposition or questioning. The train has left the station. On the other hand, Damore raises valuable questions from the standpoint of corporate governance and societal change. It’s not Google’s job to solve all of society’s problems, but nor can the issues be ignored by such a big and influential economic player.

My purpose here has been to analyze the logical structure of the problem and the goals these lead to. I chose the Google-Damore case because it allowed me to highlight what I consider to be the most salient aspects of decision-making and management. I’ve shown how goals are conditioned by values, assumptions, and beliefs, and that goals then limit or expand the problem space. We must choose our goals judiciously and calibrate them to our underlying beliefs and values, as this directly influences the scope and validity of our plans and readiness to implement them.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

by Richard Martin
Readiness depends on gaining and refining as exact a picture of reality as possible. Without a realistic picture, we can’t know if our preparation is-literally-realistic. Our plans and readiness measures may be highly detailed and precise, but we may end up being precisely prepared for the wrong things.
Here are some principles to guide in developing and refining a realistic understanding of conditions:
Multiple Viewpoints: This is analogous to the triangulation technique in orienteering or navigation. You take a bearing on 3 or 4 known landmarks and then plot their reciprocal on a map. (Incidentally, this is how GPS works, but with satellites instead of landmarks.) If the multiple perspectives lead to similar results, that is a strong hint that you’re reading of the situation is realistic.
Converging Evidence: Analyze problems and conditions using different methodologies. Continuing with the analogy from navigation and orienteering, triangulation is one methodology to find your location. Analyzing topography and relating it to a position on a map is a second methodology. Calculating one’s position from dead reckoning-i.e., based on previous distances and orientations-is a third locating methodology. If all three methods converge on the same result, then you can be as close to certain as is reasonable about your actual exact location. If the results of the various methods diverge, this is an indication of a fundamental uncertainty in your assessment of actual conditions.
Independent Analysis: Ask different people or teams to analyze the problem or situation. Keep them separate during the analysis then compare their independent results to see what the commonalities and differences are. This gets around group think and uses the competitive spirit inherent in any cooperative or collaborative endeavour.
Dissenting Opinion: Analyzing dissenting opinions is exactly what Google DIDN’T do with the recent firing of a software engineer who openly questioned the company’s so-called “diversity” policies and practices. Whatever you think of the guy’s opinions, it’s rather ironic that an organization that boasts about its openness and innovativeness felt obliged to quell a clear example of reasoned dissent. You don’t necessarily have to agree with the dissent, but it surely deserves at least to be studied to see if it’s substantive before taking such a radical counter-action.
Skepticism: Skepticism is often equated with systematic disbelief and dissent. In actuality, it is an attitude of questioning inquiry beyond dogma, doctrine, and established truths. Just because you’re skeptical doesn’t mean you must reject accepted beliefs. But nor should you accept them blindly without considering the results of multiple viewpoints, convergence of evidence, independent analysis, and dissenting opinions.
Self-Doubt: This is probably the most important one of all. It’s okay to be confident and to believe in yourself, as long as it’s based on something substantive. The following quote by Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman says it all: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself-and you are the easiest person to fool.”
© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be forwarded and reproduced only for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

by Richard Martin

Back in March I put out a Strategic Readiness Bulletin titled “Is Canada Facing an Incipient Refugee Crisis?

The situation has evolved to the point where the Canadian Forces have been tasked to set up a temporary reception centre near the Quebec-US border. Asylum-seekers are being temporarily lodged in Olympic Stadium and the old Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and RCMP have sent reinforcements south of Montreal to help with the overflow of migrants arriving on foot at the border. Most are of Haitian origin, but it seems that other nationalities may also be arriving and that the mix could very well change quickly.

You can surmise from reading my bulletin, referenced above, that this situation was entirely predictable, if not in its specifics, then at least in outline. I don’t think we’re at a crisis point yet, but that could develop rapidly, as we saw when the same thing happened in Europe two summers ago.

A crisis occurs when you lose control of a situation, and you are constantly reacting to conditions rather than shaping them. If at any point border crossings or reception and housing facilities are overwhelmed, then it will be a crisis.

The question at this point is whether plans and actions can be undertaken now to prevent and/or mitigate these possibilities. Organisations must stay ahead of events by envisaging various scenarios and possibilities and implementing plans and measures to cater to them, before they occur.

And this isn’t just a federal or provincial government responsibility. Municipalities, private businesses and non-profits can be affected. Some small municipalities are already being stretched by the demands of reacting to the situation.

If you are running a business, can this affect you? What if you are near a border area, or have clients in the US, or depend on shipments to and from the US? Could you be affected. I talk more about this in the bulletin, so you should definitely check it out.

Also, here are some other articles I’ve written over the years that you may find of interest, especially for interagency cooperation and planning.

Five Myths About Crises: Why we’re surprised by unsurprising things.

Crisis? What Crisis?: The type of crisis we’re facing, and how it is likely to unfold.

Mobilizing for Readiness: What you need to do to mobilize your team or organization.

Proven Techniques for Crisis Leadership: Leading effectively before, during, and after a crisis.

Battle-Proven Principles for Disaster Leadership: The focus of this article was disaster management, but there is a lot of good information, especially for public agencies.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. Reproduction and sharing permitted for non-commercial reasons.