Posts Tagged ‘business readiness’

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.

by Richard Martin

  1. Velocity: Action is a vector. You can get to your objectives earlier by combining the right direction of movement with fast speed of execution.
  2. Decisiveness: Don’t wait for perfection; move when you can act and generate results that contribute to your aim.
  3. Opportunism: Accelerate execution and results by exploiting favourable events and conditions.
  4. Momentum: Consider changes carefully, as it takes time and energy to change direction and speed.
  5. Preparation, planning, and logistics: Use time judiciously (or make it) to prepare for action; consider all relevant factors, conditions, scenarios, and risks; develop courses of action to achieve your aim and select the optimal one for detailed planning; balance resources and priorities accordingly.
  6. Initiative and creativity: Tell your people what outcomes they are responsible for, and let them find the optimal ways to achieve them; give them the requisite authority and resources in line with their needs and overall priorities; make them accountable for their actions and results.
  7. Security: Protect your flanks and lines of communication through 360-degree situational awareness; validate your assumptions.
  8. Surprise: Don’t advertise your intentions, unless you can be almost certain of the results beforehand.
  9. Depth: Act in waves and phases; don’t put all your eggs into one basket; reinforce success and stop doing what isn’t working; don’t expect success on the first try, but be ready for it nonetheless.
  10. Reserves: Always keep forces and resources in reserve, because you can never foresee everything beforehand.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. Reproduction and forwarding for non-commercial use are permitted.

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

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.

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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.

Strategic Readiness Bulletin Number 1 – 1 March 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.

What Is the Strategic Readiness Issue?

Asylum on Canadian flag.

Asylum on Canadian flag.

Recent events and fears in the United States are apparently pushing many resident aliens and immigrants in that country to reconsider their future there. In recent weeks, we have learned that hundreds of individuals and families, sometimes with very young children, have braved cold weather and harsh conditions to cross the border into Canada. They are arrested and detained, and then presumably further processed by Canadian government agencies after requesting refugee status. As many commentators have already pointed out, if there is a mini-surge of “walk-in” refugee claimants in the winter, what will happen when the weather improves up north (literally), and it gets worse down south (figuratively)?

We can think what we want of this situation, but the important question to ask is: Is this a risk, a threat, an opportunity, or some combination of these? Readers may believe that I’m being alarmist, but this is furthest from the truth. The essence of readiness—whether for defence or for profit—is anticipation. As the old military saying goes, “Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted.” We can extend this by adding anticipation and planning as well. Readiness is a function of awareness, which in turn requires surveying your surroundings and making projections, highlighting potential outcomes and effects, and developing scenarios and contingency plans to react or act in a timely and effective manner.

Who Can Be Affected?

This is nothing but a quick list of businesses, organizations, and agencies that could be affected by a refugee or border crisis of some kind in coming months:

  • Manufacturers and other businesses that depend on imports and exports
  • Transportation and logistics companies
  • Federal, provincial, and local government agencies and departments
  • Ports and border-crossing facilities
  • Towns and villages near border crossings, official and unofficial, including their fire departments, schools, hospitals, and other medical facilities
  • Charitable and/or community organizations such as the Red Cross, the YMCA, local associations, NGOs, etc.

What Are the Risks and/or Opportunities?

Here are two simple scenarios to show how companies and organizations can be affected by a surge in refugee crossings and claimants.

Scenario 1: A small town near the Quebec border with the US is overwhelmed with refugees in the early summer. Available facilities are rapidly claimed by federal and provincial government agencies. There is a need to lodge, feed, and care for a relatively large influx people seeking to enter Canada as refugees. The town’s administration is overwhelmed by the influx and local citizens are increasingly enraged by the “threat to law and order,” people crossing their property, and perhaps even squatting.

Think this is far-fetched? Consider the following headline in a Globe and Mail article of 7 February 2017: “Manitoba town pleads for federal help with refugee influx.”

Scenario 2: A transportation company depends on cross-border shipping and logistics for a bulk of its business. The refugee influx gives rise to political actions by the federal government to control border access better. Even though people are crossing at secondary and tertiary border locations, or even unmanned areas, CBSA steps up searches and security at official crossings. This introduces long lineups and delays at border crossings. American officials do the same in the other direction for no logical reason.

Assessing Your Situation

You can look at any kind of disruptive scenario from two perspectives: defensive (as risk or threat) or offensive (as opportunity).

Defensive Assessment: Risk is the product of probability and consequence/impact. Reducing or eliminating the risk probability falls under the rubric of prevention. Responding to, containing, eliminating and recovering from the risk impact is called mitigation. I’ve illustrated this in the following diagram. As you can see, contingency planning is any preparation and planning you conduct to be ready for a risk should prevention fail. If prevention is your 1st line of defence against a risk scenario, contingency planning is your 2nd line of defence (recovery is the 3rd line).

assessing-risks-and-threats

Offensive Assessment: On the offensive side, it can sometimes be difficult to see what could be an opportunity, but it follows the same basic logic as defensive risk and threat readiness. Opportunities are thus the product of the probability of a positive event occurring and the beneficial consequences. In that case, your first wave of attack is the scouting and reconnaissance you carry out to detect the opportunities. These are then assessed as to their expected value (probability times benefit) and you can create various initiatives to develop them into full-blown offensive thrusts—the 2nd wave of attack—reinforcing successful ones and pulling back from unsuccessful ones—the 3rd wave of attack.

In this Strategic Readiness Bulletin, I wanted to point out the potential risks, threats, and opportunities that loom for companies, organizations, and agencies as they look at the unfolding refugee situation. It’s up to you to take steps to increase your offensive and defensive readiness.

picture1Richard Martin is an expert in identifying, assessing, and preparing for strategic risks, threats, … AND opportunities, so companies and organizations can exploit change, instead of passively reacting or succumbing to it.

Richard.Martin@alcera.ca

www.alcera.ca

www.exploitingchange.com

(514) 453-3993

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.