Posts Tagged ‘brilliant maneuvers’

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

What risks (or opportunities) are staring you right in the face? Are you doing anything about them, or are you just hoping that they will go away (in the case of risks and threats) or that they will miraculously come to pass (in the case of opportunities)?

Just off the top of my head, I can think of some major events and changes in conditions that could be risks or opportunities, depending on your perspective, needs, objectives, and readiness to defend them or exploit them:

  • An incipient refugee crisis in Canada: Think I’m being alarmist? Hundreds are crossing the border now and it’s winter. What might happen when the weather changes, literally and figuratively? I’m sure many in Europe didn’t anticipate how things could turn so quickly in the last two years. Forewarned is forearmed, but only if you think things through and have contingency plans do deal with the possibilities.
  • Global upswing in populist demagoguery and politics: This can lead to reactionary policies, official identity politics, closed borders, intrusive searches and surveillance, economic protectionism, et j’en passe
  • “America First”: This goes beyond Donald Trump as president. He isn’t the cause of the wave of nativism, protectionism, and bellicosity in the U.S., but he sure is riding it!

No matter what your role or mission, whether you’re a company, a government organization, a health care provider, educator, or non-profit, these events may affect you, your objectives, your profit, your revenues, even your viability and existence. You must assess these types of changes seriously and determine the nature of the risk and whether it’s a threat or an opportunity.

I’ve started working and putting out a new type of situational awareness and briefing document. I’m calling them Strategic Readiness Bulletins. I’ll be putting them out on an as needed basis to highlight events and changes in the global environment that can impact businesses and organizations in all sectors.

However, nothing beats actually thinking for yourself and putting brainpower into seeing how such changes can be absorbed or exploited, avoided or mitigated.

Oh, and I can help you with this process, any time, any place, quickly and efficiently. But you must contact me first…

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

Back in January I listed the actions and milestones for improving readiness over the course of the year. Here is what I highlighted for Q1:

  • January: Review the previous year’s results and compare them to what had been anticipated and planned. Prepare for the annual strategy and forecasting retreat.
  • February-March: Conduct the annual strategy and forecasting retreat. The aim is to confirm the current year’s plans, develop guidance for planning the next year (starting in 9-10 months’ time), and develop outline forecasts and plans for the following one or two years after next.

Well, we’re over half way through Q1. Have you been progressing in conducting these reviews, forecasts and plans? Have you planned your annual strategy and forecasting retreat? Do you know who will be involved? Do you have an overarching goal and intent for this year and next?

Despite what many people say and believe, this doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. You need up-to-date financials and data and one day to conduct the retreat. If you’re disciplined about it, you will end the day with a unified understanding of your situation, the overarching vision (which is nothing more than your strategic goal), the organization’s mission, and the main and supporting thrusts and priorities to achieve this strategy, including positioning and differentiation and enabling capabilities.

I can help you with all of this. Call me for a Strategic Readiness Briefing now and we can discuss how to proceed quickly and efficiently.

Remember Richard’s Business Readiness Process in 2017!

  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.

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?

Feel free to contact me at any time to discuss your objectives and needs.

And remember… STAND TO!!!

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.

 

I learned a valuable tactical lesson as a young infantry officer in the Canadian Army. We were on exercise in northern Norway, training to defend against a Soviet invasion (or incursion) as part of Nato’s deterrent stance.

My platoon was in a company that had to adopt a defensive posture against the forces simulating the enemy. As we rode into our positions in the company commander’s jeep, he told us that a quick and dirty technique to reconnoiter a defensive position was to drive into the area on the route we believe the enemy will take. That way, we get a view of the terrain from the enemy’s perspective and can incorporate that into our own positioning and planning.

It was a valuable lesson which I used throughout my military career, whether on the offensive, the defensive, or in peacekeeping and internal security. Always look at your situation from your enemy’s point of view. What is his objective? What is he trying to achieve? How is he likely to move and manoeuvre? What are his concerns and weaknesses? What are his strengths? You can apply this not only to an enemy, but also to a potential ally or any of the numerous stakeholders and bystanders on the modern battlefield.

When you think of it, though, this wisdom is just as applicable in business and management in general. I’ve been working as a volunteer with a non-profit to organize an upcoming event. I’ve been applying a similar logic to the people we want to attract to our event, as well as the potential exhibitors we want involved. What is their likely goal? What are their interests, concerns, values, and fears? What will make them comfortable in committing to participating or attending?

A colleague and friend of mine has had a long career in marketing, promotion, selling and business development. He says the key word in marketing and selling is “other.” What does the other person want? What are his goals and interests?

If we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and look at the situation or the transaction from their point of view, we can gain a lot of understanding (and even empathy) and that will help us formulate better plans, strategies, and communications to reach them–and achieve our ends!

Remember Richard’s Business Readiness Process in 2017!

  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.

Call me for a Business Readiness Briefing in 2017!

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?

Feel free to contact me at any time to discuss your objectives and needs.

And remember… STAND TO!!!

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.

I had started graduate studies in military history and was participating in a seminar on First World War strategy. The professor was an expert on French-British relations during that war. We were discussing the effectiveness of the French Army’s commanders, generals like Nivelle, who planned and commanded a major offensive in 1917. Like most other offensives at that point of the war, it failed, with massive French casualties. This failure was one of the causes of a near revolt in the ranks and a refusal of a large number of French generals to continue prosecuting the war in what they felt was an ineffective manner. The professor, like many historians before him, said that Nivelle was like many of his colleagues. He had no respect for the life of his soldiers and was willing to squander resources on futile and brutal frontal attacks. Now, I wasn’t an expert on the particular battle under discussion, but I did point out that it is easy to question decisions and leadership from the sidelines. In football that’s called Monday morning quarterbacking, right?

One thing that was drilled into us during our professional military training was that how plans would actually perform in battle was pure conjecture. If there is one thing that we learned from military history, it was that the best laid plans could go awry at the worst possible time, sometimes for the most inane or innocuous reasons. In war as in so many other highly risky endeavors, we seldom achieve our ends with perfect precision, and there are many random and non-random factors that can throw us off our game.

The French experience in the Great War colored the after war lessons learned and planning for the next war during the 1930s. Just like the British and Commonwealth forces, the Americans, Russians, and Germans, the French drew many valuable lessons about tactics, technology, strategy, planning, and logistics during the war. Just like the others, they also experimented a lot, until they found methods and formulas that got results. But the lesson the French seemed to learn above all others was “never again.” After all, the Great War was called the “War to End All Wars.” For four long years, most of northern France—the country’s industrial heart—was amputated and under harsh German occupation. The French high command was determined that they would never again fight a war on French soil, and allow its occupation by a foreign power. The crucial lesson of the Great War was therefore the absolute necessity to fight the war outside France, and the best place to do that was in the Low Countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, and tiny Luxembourg. Mostly flat and open, the terrain to the north of France would allow the wide, sweeping maneuvering, and mechanized battles that had not transpired in the First World War in France between late 1914 and mid-1918, between the initial German Schlieffen plan, a wide flanking maneuver meant to encircle the main French forces between the eastern border with Germany and Paris. That it had failed was testimony to French resolve in 1914 and the “heroes of the Marne.” By mid-1918, everyone was exhausted, materially and psychologically, except the Americans, Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders. British and Commonwealth forces were using tanks and other mechanized forces in greater numbers, and a war of position and attrition suddenly turned mobile again.

It was this traumatic experience that underlay France’s resolve to defend itself by forcing a future fight with Germany as far north as possible, even into Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg. So when the country invested in the massive and technologically wondrous Maginot Line, the idea wasn’t to cower passively behind it to absorb the Germany assault. It was rather an attempt to pin down German forces on the French-German border, while maneuvering further north with the bulk of the French Army’s elite mechanized divisions. The German army’s assault in May 1940 was a masterful combination of maneuver and subterfuge. The Germans knew they couldn’t possibly get through the Maginot Line. They also knew that simply replaying the Schlieffen Plan from 1914, which had already failed once, wouldn’t work.

They war gamed their options and came up with a novel solution. Send a significant armored force into the Netherlands and Belgium to create the impression that they were replaying the Schlieffen Plan, while sending token forces against the Maginot Line. The bulk of the German Army’s elite Panzer divisions meanwhile threaded their way through the Ardennes Forest in southwestern Belgium. The French High Command had estimated that such a maneuver was possible, but highly unlikely. French air force reconnaissance reported on the movements, but the French high command continued to evaluate the Ardennes thrust as a fake and the thrust through the Low Countries as the real deal. They quickly learned that it was the exact opposite. The Germans played on the French unwillingness to fight on French soil. They drew them north by playing to French expectations about the Germans’ intentions. Nazi Germany was a monstrous regime, but there is no denying that the Germany campaign to conquer the Low Countries and France in 1940 is one of the most creative and daring military maneuvers in history.

So, who learned the most from the experiences of the Great War? Can either side, France and its allies, or Germany, be said to have prepared exclusively for the last war? The situation is complex to the point that facile comparisons and pithy bromides can’t fully encapsulate the real lessons for both sides. Germany and France learned and adapted subsequent to the Great War, but they learned different things, in a different way. The difference wasn’t so much in tactics, operational art, and logistics, although these were factors. The real insight is that France and Germany had different mindsets when it came to readiness. The French were ready for a set-piece battle, orchestrated at the highest levels, and with little opportunity to reorganize on the fly when faced with a radically different battlefield situation than had been anticipated. There was little robustness or flexibility to adapt in a timely manner to German moves. When they realized what had happened and what was continuing to happen, the French high command and government became totally demoralized. Could they have continued fighting? Possibly. But they lost in their minds more than on the battlefields of northern France and the Low Countries. They were materially ready, but not psychologically or morally ready.

Conversely, the Germans had so much to lose going into the campaign that they had no choice but to be bold and take massive risks. That the risks paid off is a testament to the flexibility, resolve, and initiative of German leaders and commanders at all levels. The French military was larger, better equipped, had more and better tanks, guns, and aircraft. What the Germans lacked in materiel, they more than made up for in superior training, initiative, and resolve. They weren’t as ready as France materially, but psychologically, they were more than ready. That is what differentiated the two countries’ armed forces and, more importantly, high commands.

risk-vs-reward

Step 7: Perform Risk Management and Contingency Plannin

Why analyze and manage risk? 

  • It exists whether we recognize it or not.
  • We are better to identify risks consciously and determine how best to accept and/or manage them.
  • That way, we can decide how much risk we wish to take on and the nature of these risks.
  • We should only take on risks willingly in exchange for potential rewards: risk ≈ reward.

What is risk?

  • Risk is the potential for loss due to uncertainty. All risks are quantifiable as the product of probability of occurrence and potential harmful consequences (R=PxC). There are generic risks, such as natural or manmade disasters, and there are inherent risks, which are specific to each course of action. Both types must be identified, evaluated, and actively managed.
  • There are two focal points of risk management: prevention and mitigation.

Risk Prevention

Prevention seeks to reduce the probability of harmful events before they occur. Accepting risks without concomitant rewards is reckless and irresponsible. Such risks can actually be considered as hazards and should be eliminated through careful planning.

Risk Mitigation

  • The second focus of risk management is mitigation, which comes into play if prevention fails and a harmful event actually occurs. Mitigation entails responding in a timely and effective manner to the event so as to minimize its evolution and impact, taking action to contain its harmful side-effects, and implementing recovery and continuity measures.

Contingency Planning

  • One part of risk mitigation involves contingency planning, so as to deal with harmful events and threats. However, contingency planning can also be used to prepare for exploitation of opportunities arising from chance or the effectiveness of our own plans and actions. In sum, contingency planning is about readiness for both positive and negative outcomes.

total-risk-strategy

Recap of 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.

 

picture-of-competitive-battlespace  

Step 6: War game your options against your opponents’

 

The first 5 steps of the Business Readiness Process have given us a comprehensive picture and assessment of the Competitive Battle Space. Now it’s time to compare options and select the best one.

 

Competitors and stakeholders have goals and interests that are in conflict or disagreement with our own, so we have to understand and evaluate their intentions before deciding on a definite way ahead. The most effective way to develop insight into enemy and competitor intentions is to develop courses of action from their standpoint.

 

You may believe your plans are brilliant, but nothing beats seeing how your competitors could act and react given your intentions. Short of actual action, war gaming and other forms of simulation are the best means of testing your plans and predicting how they will fare in the real world before trying to implement them.

 

friendly-and-competitor-options

 

comparing-options

 

 

Recap of 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.

 

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.

 

© 2016 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

Last week I introduced the concept of self-similarity and showed its relevance for power law distributions. In this post I discuss the applicability of self-similarity in S-curves.

To recap briefly, self-similarity implies that a structure looks essentially the same at all levels of “magnification” or scale. You can zoom in on any part of a “power curve,” and it will look like… a power curve, with basically the same appearance as at the higher scale.

The same phenomenon can be seen in s-curves, with the difference that the scale invariance is less apparent, at least initially. The following diagram shows how each phase on an s-curve can be broken out into smaller, constituent s-curves at the next lower level. By extension, each of these subordinate s-curves can be parsed in the same, self-similar way. The structure is recursive and nested. If you want to grow, develop, or improve in any way, you must see it as a succession of s-curves at all levels of scale.

self-similarity-s-curve

This is why I’ve titled this post “Growth is a stairway, not a high jump!”. You make progress in increments, climbing from one step to the next in a succession of achievable bounds. This breaks progress and improvement into (to paraphrase Neil Armstrong) a series of “one small step” moves so you can make “one giant leap” for your bigger purpose… or goals.

This is more manageable from a psychological standpoint as well as logistically. It also makes risk more manageable. As I illustrate in the following diagram, there are risks at each transition to a succeeding s-curve. Risk can arise from making a jump–even a small one–to a higher level of performance and engagement. It can also arise from a drop in performance at this critical juncture. We can seldom know and do everything that is needed at the new level. We need to learn–which is why progress is depicted as an s-curve in the first place. We start out with low performance at the new level and a high potential for mistakes. If we’re focused on learning from our mistakes and on improvement, we get progressively better until we hit the rapid growth stage, and continue up the “learning” curve from there on in. When we hit the inevitable plateau, we must jump–or drop–to the next curve.

risk-at-thresholds

The final point is that performance or growth can bog down or slip at any point, for any number of reasons. We can stop or slip back down the curve we’re already on. I call this regression. Even more consequential is when we drop back to a previous curve. I call this retrogression, and I’ve illustrated it in detail in the following diagram. It shows how you can fall from any performance level to any other, usually through neglect, over-confidence, smugness, or simply through inattention to changing conditions in the environment. For instance, new technology, new competitors, changing demographics, all these can make our current success or standing shaky or even irrelevant.

retrogression-s-curve

I don’t say this to be overly pessimistic, but rather realistic. Stasis is death. Movement is crucial. Business, life, performance, everything, they are what is called a “red queen” race. You have to work just to stay in place and work even harder to make progress, grow, develop, get better.

We’ll address these issues and many more in my coming posts under the topic of “Ideas,” so stay tuned to this space.

My name is Richard Martin and, as indicated by the title of this blog, 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.

© 2016 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.