Archive for the ‘Readiness & Strategy’ Category

By Richard Martin

Business leaders must constantly decide on how much time to devote to future planning versus present action. The needs of day-to-day management and decision-making tend to swamp us as leaders and managers. We get caught up in immediate, tactical issues, and lose sight of the bigger picture, where we are ultimately headed, and what we will do once they we there.

Should we focus on immediate goals and problems, or should we live more in the future, even to the point of only considering our long-term vision and development of our organizations? At extremes, we could devote all our time and resources to the present or, conversely, we could be pure “visionaries.” In fact, wisdom lies somewhere in between, neither being purely myopic nor purely far-sighted. But how should we make this decision, and how do we determine when and how much they need to shift our attention from the near to the medium to the long term?

The key lies in what I call the “future paradox.” Some decisions and actions will have immediate or short-term results. Others will take longer to come to fruition, even to the extent of taking years before they are fully actualized and the results are in. This can generate a significant lag between decision, action, and results, between cause and effect. The problem comes from this lag.

We can’t afford to be stuck in the present, but the further out we look, the less the definition and clarity, the greater the uncertainty. Present commitments and decisions are essential to build future readiness and achieving distant objectives, but these may severely constrain our future freedom of action.

 

This is the future paradox: We must decide and act now to generate short-, medium-, and long-term effects, but we can only do this with increasingly fuzzy knowledge and information. In other words, change takes time, but conditions can and do change between our decision point and the time that our actions start taking effect.

We have a current reality and we articulate a vision of where we want to be in the future. This vision is nothing but the overarching objective of our undertaking. To speak in military terms, it can be to win a war or achieve an peaceful outcome in our nation’s interests. But it can also be to capture a road crossing and then be ready to face a counter-attack. In business, it can be a strategic goal, for instance to launch a major international expansion, or it can be much more mundane and tactical, for instance to win a contract with a new client. It is the future vision that drives most of our decisions. The gap between the objective and the current reality is the fuel for planning and decision-making. It frames our actions in the short, medium, and long terms. Over time, we should approach—and eventually arrive—at our ultimate destination, our vision, or overarching objective.

Some things we can do relatively easily and quickly. These decisions lead to short-term plans and actions. Others take more preparation and lead time. These are our medium-term plans and actions. Finally, some things we must start right away, with a view to gaining results only in the longer-term future. For instance, we can be facing a decision on whether to invest in a new factory. We must secure the capital and start the building or acquisition process now, but it can take months or years before the new facility comes on line. This requires a long-term plan and actions.

To make matters even more complex, though, the definition of short, medium, and long terms depends on the scope of responsibilities and roles. For a large company, the long-term can be, in some cases, decades. For a sales person or a production team, it can be tomorrow or next week. It is the scope of activities and effects that determines the extent of the time horizons under consideration.

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

by Richard Martin

Strategy is the set of actions undertaken by any entity that is striving to survive and thrive in the face of change, uncertainty, risk, and opposition.

There are two basic strategic postures: defence and offence. Defence consists in temporarily conceding the initiative to an opponent to buy time and reconstitute one’s forces.

Offence consists in seizing and maintaining the initiative to achieve one’s ends through:

  • confrontation (i.e., direct action against antagonists to resolve a conflict or otherwise achieve one’s objectives);
  • competition (indirect action against antagonists by letting a third party decide in a competitive arena); or
  • cooperation (combining forces with other actors to achieve mutually compatible or synergistic interests and effects).

These four basic options–conceding, confronting, competing, and cooperating–constitute the building blocks of any strategy.

This is important, because it entails that there are always options when confronted by opposition, resistance, or obstacles of any kind. We can build a strategy that leverages our strengths while mitigating our vulnerabilities and that is not limited to confrontation or aggressive posturing.

So, before embarking on a strategic decision, you should always consider the four options with their potential benefits and costs, as well as their possible and probably consequences.

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

by Richard Martin

That’s the title of a song popularized and sung by Nat King Cole. Here in Canada, and especially in Quebec, things tend to get lazier, hazier, and yes, even a bit crazier, in the summer. I think it has to do with our (he says clearing his throat)–shall we say–interesting climate? Canadians spend most of the year fighting against the weather, so when it gets nice for about 2 months in the summer, we tend to let things ride a bit more. Unfortunately, a lot of people kick back so much that they put everything on hold. “Too many key people are on vacation.” “We’ll get to this after the summer.” “Nobody’s thinking about this right now, so don’t be a party-pooper.”

Well, life goes on. We can’t just pretend that business and life stop because it’s summer. In most areas of the world, summer is actually when things get done and life gets more hectic. Back in January I kicked off the new year with a list of the steps for ensuring the continuous and continuing focus throughout the year on building organizational and strategic readiness (See this link.). Not just once or twice, but actually incorporating a readiness mindset into all your processes and systems on a regular basis.

Here’s what I suggested for the 2nd quarter:

April-May: Issue guidance for next fiscal year so that the entire organization can identify their planning focus and prepare to hit the ground running when the next year starts. These plans should be briefed up the “chain of command” so they are fully aligned with the strategic and operational guidance and direction.

June: Review performance of first half and adjust plans and focus to end of current year. Submit initial budget forecasts, especially for funding of special projects, new product development, marketing initiatives, etc.

And for the 3rd quarter:

July-August: Senior leadership reviews long-term plans and projects under the 2-3 year forecasting framework. Budgets and plans at all levels are reviewed and adjusted in accordance with strategic forecasts and intent for next fiscal year (starting in 4-5 months).

September: Senior leadership confirms overall budgets and plans for next fiscal year and issues updated guidance and direction to organization. Subordinate elements of the organization adjust their plans and forecasts to align with this guidance.

Well? How are you doing so far? It’s not too late to get caught up on the 2nd quarter tasks. As for July and August, these are the perfect months to look ahead and gain a sense of where you will head at the start of the next year.

Seems a bit premature? Actually, it’s when people are focused on other things, on their vacations, and the fine weather, that you should be thinking ahead. You probably have a bit more time to reflect and plan, and to prepare for the post-Labour Day rush (see September above).

By Richard Martin

This is a well-known phenomenon in the study of critical thinking and rationality. Confirmation bias results when we look at a situation or conditions around us with a view to confirming existing views or beliefs instead of trying to determine what is actually the situation. We look for evidence confirming our pre-existing beliefs, rather than evidence that might undermine them.

To a certain extent, we can never come at a situation with a fully neutral attitude. There is always some predisposition or prior belief colouring our interpretation of evidence and context. We can even say that “facts” depend in large measure on the perspective and attitude we bring to our view of the world.

Understanding and accepting confirmation bias are critical to generating and maintaining an open mind in the face of change and uncertainty. This underlies the theory and practice of readiness. The great majority of crises and setbacks, opportunities and threats, breakthroughs and hindrances, are self-evident when viewed through the rearview mirror. The trick is not to predict, though, for that is impossible; it is to anticipate possibilities and question current assumptions.

There are assumptions and necessities that underlie the coming to fruition of any scenario or plan. We must identify the weaknesses and strengths of these and question our assumptions. By confronting the full range of possibilities, we can be better prepared–more ready–to achieve our goals and overcome setbacks, obstacles, and opposition.

The most effective questions in this respect are: “What would make this scenario/plan come true? What would make it not come true?” Skepticism does not stem from pessimism; but rather from a spirit of inquiry and realism.

New Testimonial

“Richard has been instrumental in getting me to draw on my hard-won experience and ideas to turn them into marketable intellectual property and products. His disciplined, systematic approach has already led to several significant accomplishments for me. Whether you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, or working to get to the next level, Richard can boost your productivity and organizational effectiveness. Be forewarned, though. There is no magic formula, just systematic thinking, disciplined execution, and… Richard Martin.”

Caroline Salette, Owner and President, RE/MAX Royal Jordan Inc. and Salette Group Inc.

Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:

  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?

Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?

Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!

And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.

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

That’s a quote attributed to Admiral David Farragut of the Union Navy during a battle in the U.S. Civil War. It’s a great quote for anyone who believes you always have to drive at full speed to get to where you want to go. The problem is that it’s only good in special circumstances, usually when you’re backed into a corner and have no other alternative.

I was reminded of this just this past week as I discussed the matter of deliberate planning and consideration of options with a client. She’s a very successful businesswoman who has mostly functioned on the basis of the “damn the torpedoes” approach to decision-making. It’s worked for her on many an occasion, but it’s also gotten her into serious jams that could have easily been avoided with a little rational consideration of her options at important decision points.

She’s one of those entrepreneurs who has always followed her gut and believes she has the gumption to achieve anything she sets her sights on. While this is no doubt true, there is also a cost to her decisions about which goals and courses of action to pursue. She might have a great vision for her business, but it might simply not be the best time to proceed. That’s where strategic patience and self-control come into play. She has to consider the key factors impinging on her decisions and her plans to implement them. Does she have a good chance of success? Are the right conditions there to support her undertaking? Is she paying the right price or is she barreling ahead, “damn the torpedoes” style? And the price isn’t always financial. It can be in time, effort, emotional engagement, physical presence, or any of a number of other commitments she will have to make to make her dreams come to fruition.

A key lesson I learned as an army officer was to try as much as possible to slow down my decision-making in order to consider the full ramifications of the situation and assess the critical factors affecting my decisions and the range of actions at that point. This is called the estimate process. Naturally, you sometimes have to make a quick decision under fire. But this doesn’t mean you act on instinct alone. Intuition can only be an adjunct to a rational decision process, what the army calls a combat estimate. On many occasions, though, no one is shooting at you (yet), so you must take the time to sit down and work out all the factors and options, both for you and the enemy, and then develop a well-thought-out plan. This is known as a deliberate estimate of the situation.

Interestingly, the greater the import of the decision, the more we all tend to rely on our instincts, when it’s exactly the opposite that should be the case. My client, successful as she is, has realized that she must put more effort and self-control into her critical decision-making and planning. She’ll only come out stronger, and so will you if you do the same thing.

New Testimonial

“Richard has been instrumental in getting me to draw on my hard-won experience and ideas to turn them into marketable intellectual property and products. His disciplined, systematic approach has already led to several significant accomplishments for me. Whether you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, or working to get to the next level, Richard can boost your productivity and organizational effectiveness. Be forewarned, though. There is no magic formula, just systematic thinking, disciplined execution, and… Richard Martin.”

Caroline Salette, Owner and President, RE/MAX Royal Jordan Inc. and Salette Group Inc.

Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:

  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?

Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?

Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!

And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.

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

OK, this week I’m going to go out on a limb and be deliberately provocative: I’m going to talk about politics, but as it pertains to strategy, manoeuvre, and readiness.

The more I observe Trump’s behaviour, the more I discern a certain method in his apparently mad approach to politics and communication. Let’s leave aside his policies and decisions, whatever you or I may think of them, and focus purely on the form of his communications and manoeuvres.

I think Trump is demonstrating masterfully the strategy of misdirection. This is purportedly how magicians entrance the audience so they focus on something innocuous while they perform their slight of hand, thus creating convincing and mystifying illusions.

Misdirection is also a fundamental tenet of military strategy and tactics, the aim being to get the enemy to concentrate or watch in a certain area or direction while friendly forces manoeuvre to bring their strength to bear against the opponent’s key weakness or vulnerability.

Consider the following. Trump regularly sows confusion and sends the media and his political opposition onto wild goose chases. Trump may have personality problems, but I can’t believe he’s so maladjusted as to be stupid. In fact, I think his Machiavellian instincts are a result of his intelligence. His tweets are illustrative of how he attempts to manipulate issues by sowing false scents, confusion, and bloviation.

One of the deception tactics used in the Second World War in North Africa, by both sides, was to mimic columns of armoured vehicles by sending trucks to drive around and kick up dust clouds that could be seen rising beyond the horizon. My gut tells me this is what Trump is doing most of the time. What his ultimate aim is, I’m unable to fully discern at the moment, but it may not be completely in line with his public statements. Or not. That’s why his strategy may be having an effect.

It would be wise therefore, for allies and opponents to take his strategies and tactics seriously, if not for their content, at least for their form. They may be hiding something solid or truly substantive behind a facade of obfuscation and subterfuge.

Military tacticians are taught to beware of the easy path over the battlefield. If you’re advancing too easily and quickly, it might be because the enemy is luring you into an ambush.

New Testimonial

“Richard has been instrumental in getting me to draw on my hard-won experience and ideas to turn them into marketable intellectual property and products. His disciplined, systematic approach has already led to several significant accomplishments for me. Whether you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, or working to get to the next level, Richard can boost your productivity and organizational effectiveness. Be forewarned, though. There is no magic formula, just systematic thinking, disciplined execution, and… Richard Martin.”

Caroline Salette, Owner and President, RE/MAX Royal Jordan Inc. and Salette Group Inc.

Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:

  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?

Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?

Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!

And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.

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

 

Leaders and managers must learn how to harness their teams for effective and efficient performance. In fact, we can only accomplish great things by mobilizing people, teams and organizations to create value and change. I’ve identified seven key principles of mobilization for teams and organizations. I call it the M7M model:

Morale

  • Morale is the willingness to persevere and fight until the goal is achieved. It’s not to be confused with the mood in your organization, although that is an important indicator.
  • It depends intimately on the intrinsic motivation of the entire team. Why are you doing what you’ve undertaken? Why is it important to you, to others? Do you believe in your goal and value its realization?
  • How is your morale, and the morale of your team or organization?

Mission

  • Do you have one?
  • Is it clear, concise and well-articulated?
  • Does it communicate your purpose, your raison d’être?
  • Does everyone on the team know it? Can they communicate it verbatim, or at least paraphrase it?
  • Do they believe in it? Are they inspired by it?

Markets

  • Do you focus on the needs and wants of your clientele or constituency, or on your own?
  • Are these needs, wants and goals well defined, understood, and part of the DNA of your company, division, or association?
  • Do your people know about them and act on them consistently and coherently?

Marks

  • Have you marked your organization’s targets clearly and concisely?
  • Have they been communicated throughout the membership?
  • Are they concrete or vague and imprecise?
  • Do you have control mechanisms in place and do you apply them?
  • Have they been articulated and adapted at all levels of the organization and to short, medium and long time horizons?

Mass

  • Do you have a realistic appraisal and understanding of your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, its centre of gravity, and its major vulnerabilities?
  • Do you consistently work to eliminate or mitigate non-productive or counter-productive activities, processes, and attitudes?
  • Do you focus your efforts relentlessly on your centre of gravity and your major goals and priorities?

Manoeuvres

  • Do you mobilize and mass your forces at the right time and right place to maximize their impact?
  • Are your plans fully developed and communicated with clarity and precision?
  • Have you identified who is responsible, for what, with what resources and authorizations?
  • Are your people and leaders accountable for results, behaviour, and morale?
  • Do your people and teams have the competencies to achieve their missions and goals? If not, have you built their acquisition and development into your plans and scheme of manoeuvre?

Messages

  • What messages are you conveying internally and externally?
  • Do they support your goals and mission and manoeuvres or are they in opposition to these?

New Testimonial

“Richard has been instrumental in getting me to draw on my hard-won experience and ideas to turn them into marketable intellectual property and products. His disciplined, systematic approach has already led to several significant accomplishments for me. Whether you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, or working to get to the next level, Richard can boost your productivity and organizational effectiveness. Be forewarned, though. There is no magic formula, just systematic thinking, disciplined execution, and… Richard Martin.”

Caroline Salette, Owner and President, RE/MAX Royal Jordan Inc. and Salette Group Inc. 

Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:

  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?

Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?

Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!

And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.

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.