Posts Tagged ‘change’

It’s that time again, when all the predictions and forecasts of gloom and doom—or better times ahead—come at us. In the interest of jumping on that gravy train, I make only one prediction for 2017:

There will be predictions, and most of them will be wrong.

A few will be somewhat right, usually something self-evident and not particularly informative: “The stock market will fluctuate.” Well, thanks for that…

Some will be a bit off the mark, but most will be completely wrong; a few will be wildly off the mark. This will lead many media commentators to lament in June that such and such never could have been predicted.

There are fields where there are reasonably accurate predictions, but they tend to be in the sciences. This is because predictions in physics, chemistry, meteorology, etc. are based on empirically-based, quantitative models, and they are put through a process of peer review to ascertain their effectiveness.

The question, then, is what predictions outside of pure sciences can be trusted. Not many, but there are still some precious metals in the pile of slag. You must make your own assessments as these forecasts come out and judge how much credence to lend them. Here are my six simple rules for evaluating the credibility of predictions and the prognosticators making them.

Rule 1—Consider the source (Expertise Rule). Do they have genuine expertise in the subject matter? Are they disinterested parties or participants in the predicted process? In other words, do they have a stake in the outcome? Psychology and common sense dictate that interested parties are seldom as objective as they claim.

Rule 2—Identify the theory or model underlying the prediction (Model Rule). Do they generate predictions based on an explicit explanatory model? Or, do they just seem to wing it, based on intuition and past results?

Rule 3—Determine how the model was developed and tested (Cherry-Picking Rule). Was the explanatory model created through purely statistical legerdemain? In other words, did they analyze a bucket load of data and then look for patterns, or did they instead develop a theoretical model and then see how the data conformed to their predictions. The first approach is called cherry picking; it’s like shooting at the wall and then drawing a target around the closest bunch of bullet-holes. The second approach is the only truly valid one.

Rule 4—Look at the data (Secret Knowledge Rule). Do they provide their inputs and data, or otherwise reveal what and how empirical information was used in formulating their predictions? If they don’t, then how can their models be validated and tested?

Rule 5—Consider the timeframe (Horizon Rule). Some predictions turn out reasonably accurate as to amplitude or outcome. They just never specify WHEN they will come to fruition. I predict that the Dow will hit 25,000… eventually. Makes a big difference.

Rule 6—Compare past predictions to actual results (Performance Rule). This one is self-evident, but the usual case is that past predictions are quickly forgotten in the rush to generate and consume new ones.

You’ll notice that none of these rules gives you an exact answer. That’s because there rarely IS an exact answer, except in tightly constrained situations. Business, finance, economics, politics, sports, and military strategy are all highly complex and somewhat chaotic. Beware the prognosticators who claim inerrant accuracy and foresight.

We may not know precisely what will happen in the future, but we can be better prepared.

That’s why we all need the readiness principles and prudential approaches that I write, educate, and consult on.

Here are some of my other thoughts on these matters:

What Goes Up: The S-Curve and its Many Applications

Trend or Bandwagon?

Beware the Prognosticators

Let’s Have Some Perspective

Stop Predicting, Start Experimenting

Surprised by the Normal

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 if you would like a 90-minute Business Readiness Briefing in early 2017!

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 wish to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May we all live in interesting times, and find opportunities to grow and thrive.
It’s always good to take stock when readying for the future. In the interests of sharing some of my recent observations, I provide this list of my “lessons learned” from 2016. Not all directly related to business, but still enlightening I should think.
  1. We need demanding goals. In late 2015 the Trudeau government committed to admitting 25,000 Syrian refugees quickly. Initially, it was by the 31st of December 2015, then by the middle of February 2016 (or something to that effect). The initial timeline was missed, but it appears the second one was mostly met. There were plenty of nay-sayers, but ultimately, the goal was achieved. Had Trudeau set the goal at 5,000 refugees, we probably would have struggled to meet that. He had the guts to set a high goal, which put everyone into overdrive. Kudos!
  2. It ain’t over… till it’s over. Yogi Berra’s favourite saying about baseball games was very true this year, especially in the political arena. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was declared dead and buried several times since mid-2015, but he always seemed to rebound. Whether you like him or not, he stayed until the end and proved a lot of people wrong.
  3. Homo homini lupus. That’s a Roman saying: “Man is a wolf to man.” As we saw in Syria, Turkey (Kurdish terrorism), Northern Iraq, France (Islamic terror), Europe (with the migrant crisis), and other hotspots around the world, there is no lack of barbarity these days. I like to think of myself as a political and strategic realist. People are capable of great feats of generosity and hope (see point 1), but atavistic tendencies can also surge in a heartbeat.
  4. Geography still exists. Geopolitics and geostrategic interests are the main drivers of international conflicts and tensions. European countries are dependent on Russia’s oil and gas. Consequently, they don’t want to upset Russia too much. Russia wants to control the Crimea because that’s its only guaranteed access to the Black Sea. By extension, Russia and Turkey are in a rapprochement because the only access to the Mediterranean is through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. I could go on; these are only two examples in one region of how geography continues to dominate international politics, economics and strategy.
  5. Leadership matters. Who’s in charge and how they’re leading and managing the situation make a major difference in performance and events. It’s evident in politics, but we can also see it play out in business. For instance, Microsoft is becoming a leader again after floundering for over a decade. That is largely attributable to the outstanding leadership of the new CEO Satya Nadella.
  6. Elegant scientific theories still need evidence. Without much notice, two of the most cherished theories in physics appear to be on their respective deathbeds. Many physicists have staked their careers on finding dark matter and proving supersymmetry. The first supposedly makes up about five sixths of all the matter in the universe, but efforts to observe it are leading nowhere. The second is needed to make the sub-atomic world comprehensible and is one of the key explanations of dark matter, but the Large Hadron Collider in Europe has eliminated all but the most unlikely candidate models. Things are going to change in a major way in the coming years and decades in physics, possibly as fundamentally as the relativity and quantum revolutions (which gave us microelectronics, nanotech, and nuclear energy, among many other things).
  7. The universe is mind-bendingly big …and inhospitable to life as we know it. We learned a few months ago that there is an earth-like planet in orbit around the nearest star to our solar system. But unlike in science fiction, it would take well over 100,000 years using current understanding (and likely future technology) to reach it. Heck, it took 9.5 years for the New Horizons spacecraft to reach Pluto, and it is the fastest spaceship ever launched. Suspended animation anyone? There is still no sign of life on Mars. Getting there would probably kill any life form, just because of solar radiation. Maybe we should cherish our presence here on earth a bit more…
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 if you would like a 90-minute Business Readiness Briefing in early 2017!

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.

“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”  Sun Tzu

Step 5: Do a detailed situational estimate

Rational, deliberate decision making and planning nearly always trump intuition, instinct, and automated response patterns. Too often, leaders and managers default to habit and existing reactions when they should be analyzing the situation in detail to determine new threats and opportunities.

When I consult with executives and entrepreneurs, I frequently hear, “But that’s the only way to do it!” Even worse, I often encounter claims that “we’ve always done it that way,” or “that’s not the way we do it here.” The problem is that the habitual pattern works, until it doesn’t. Also, in business you should be looking for the unusual and the novel, not what everyone else “knows” or does.

Whenever I come up against such resistance, I always frame the situation as indicated in the following diagram. To the exclamation that there is only one possible way, I ask what the aim is. Sometimes it’s the actual mission we’ve identified in the mission analysis process. But sometimes it’s something more mundane or inconsequential. Regardless, we need to know what our purpose is and why we are aiming for it.

situational-estimate

Then follows the enumeration and consideration of all the various factors impinging on the decision. I give a full list in Brilliant Manoeuvres (pp. 170-1), but in sum, we must look at competitive, natural, human, temporal, and technological/technical considerations. Moreover, if we’ve maintained situational awareness and conducted a proper reconnaissance, most of that information will now be highly relevant.

From this analysis, we must, I repeat, must, develop several possible courses of action. Simply put, there is always more than one option for how to proceed, and refusal to consider a range of possibilities is irresponsible. So, at this point, the process requires the generation of at least three different options. We then compare them, using the factors and other decision criteria. The optimal course of action, i.e., the best one given the situation and our goals, then becomes the basis for detailed plan development and execution. A big advantage is also that, having considered various scenarios and options, we have also made a start on developing sequel and contingency plans.

However, it’s important to note that part of the comparison of options and decision process are contingent upon their performance against potential scenarios and competitor/opposing courses of action. This is where the “war game” comes into play, but that is actually step 6 in the Business Readiness Process, which I’ll consider in the next newsletter.

Business Readiness Process (BRP)

  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.

 

Step 4: Conduct Reconnaissance

This diagram depicts the elements of military reconnaissance and, by analogy, those of business reconnaissance. The most important thing to understand is that reconnaissance must be mission driven.

The aim of reconnaissance is to generate mission and goal focused intelligence. In other words, you don’t just go off willy nilly trying to figure out what is happening and what the conditions you’re likely to face are.

You must start with you mission, which tells you the effect you want to create. You then develop a general idea of the courses of action you have open, as well as likely responses by your competitors, opponents, clients, suppliers, distributors, and other potential influencing actors. This gives you the proper framework for assessing the environment and finding competitive gaps that can be exploited for success. You can also potentially shape your competitive battle space when you know what it consists of.

The second diagram (below) shows how this relates to our eventual planning and decision-making. We’re not just out there looking around. We’re trying to seize opportunities, notice things others haven’t noticed, and, what’s often forgotten or avoided, protecting ourselves from the downside.

 

Business Readiness Process (BRP)
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.

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

Monday Stand To! by Richard Martin
Expert in Readiness and Exploiting Change

I once worked with a client on developing a new strategy and change plan to implement it. It was a wonderful plan. The only problem was that my client didn’t tell anyone on his team what he had in mind and why he was doing it. As a result, there was much more negative emotional reaction to forthcoming changes than necessary. Since then, I always remind my clients that they have an obligation to tell their team the basics of what is going on, to avoid needless worry and rumour mongering.

It is said that “nature abhors a vacuum.” In organizations this often translates to rumours. In the absence of validated, useful information about future intentions and operations, people will often rely on rumours and dubious information. Some people will actually craft stories and information in order to validate their fears or concerns. This tendency must be countered aggressively in order to ensure that the right information is getting to the right people about the right things at the right time.
Military leaders are taught to activate their troops with correct information on a regular basis by issuing Warning Orders. These aren’t a warning to stop rumour mongering, but rather a warning that there is a new mission on the horizon requiring preparation and planning.
We’re now at Step 3 of the Business Readiness Process (BRP) I’ve created based on military readiness procedures:
Step 3: Activate Organization or Team
You’ve maintained situational awareness and validated or confirmed your mission and goals (BRP Step 1).
You’ve done your preliminary assessment of readiness/preparation tasks and the time required to do so and confirmed that you can meet your priorities within the time available (BRP Step 2).
Now you must activate your team so it can prepare mentally, physically and materially for the upcoming mission or operation. At the very least this must include:
  • Quick update of the changing situation, including relevant new trends, threats, and opportunities
  • Description/confirmation of new/existing mission
  • Expected time and/or date of new mission start (can also be expressed as “no change before” a certain date and/or time)
  • Date and/or time that new plan will be ready and presented
  • Specific preparations that can be undertaken in anticipation of this new mission
  • What will likely remain unchanged and what will likely change
Business Readiness Process (BRP)
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.

© 2016 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.
Monday Stand To! by Richard Martin
Expert in Readiness and Exploiting Change
We’ve all heard that refrain before. And it makes absolutely NO SENSE! If you find you have no time to plan, then you have to MAKE IT.
I’ve been discussing the steps of the Business Readiness Process I’ve devised, based on military readiness for operations and battle.
We’re at Step 2 of the BRP…

Preliminary Assessment of Time and Tasks

You must identify and assess the tasks and time required to complete them before you are ready to launch execution of your mission.
  • Start at the end: When must you kick off the execution of your mission, strategy, operation?
  • What tasks must be accomplished before you can successfully launch? List EVERYTHING you can think of. You can ask for advice from your team and colleagues. You can also create and refer to a standardized list.
  • How long does each preparation task take?
  • What tasks can be delegated and executed concurrently while you do your reconnaissance, estimate, and planning?
  • What is the sequence of events, including parallel tasks and activities?
At the very least, you should include items 3 to 10 of the BRP.
Business Readiness Process (BRP)
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.

© 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.