Posts Tagged ‘decision-making’

Everything has advantages and disadvantages, and no amount of hype and fashion-mania can eliminate that basic law of nature.

I’ve been reading (and rereading) books by Vaclav Smil. He’s a professor at University of Manitoba who is a world renowned expert on energy, energy flows, and modern industrial society. He analyzes claims about various industrial processes and energy conversions and uses in terms of their technicalities. More important, though, is that he highlights the advantages and disadvantages of each of these options and practices. There is no “perfect” energy conversion or industrial process. All we have are positive effects and negative effects, cost and benefits, opportunities and risks.

This resembles the way I was trained to develop and assess tactical, operational, and strategic plans and manoeuvres in the Army. You first must know what your realistic options are. Then you develop them sufficiently to identify key advantages and disadvantages, costs and benefits, and opportunities and risks. There is no free lunch, much less a perfect option or plan.

If someone comes along telling you they’ve got the perfect solution or a cost-free alternative, you’re better to treat them as a snake oil salesman, because what they’re selling is akin to a perpetual motion machine.

© 2016 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

I’ve developed the following model to guide leaders in when and how to be decisive, delegative, consultative, or participative.

Decisive-Participative Matrix
I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

The essence of military style command and control is mission based planning and direction. Most people have a vision of military command structures based on caricatures dating back to the First World War. However, even during that war (and preceding ones) military forces were only successful to the extent that units and leaders at all levels were free to interpret plans and orders and exercise their initiative within the superior commander’s intent, rather than following detailed set-piece plans and executing orders to the letter.

If you want to be truly successful in achieving your aims, you have to give your team members the overall intent and scheme of manoeuvre, while letting them figure out the best way(s) to achieve them. This can be summarized as “tell them what to do, not how to do it.” Yes, there are times when you must be highly prescriptive, implement procedures, and set minimum standards. But these only cover the most common and basic needs. Leaders must have the freedom to explore different options with their teams and to reinforce what works while dropping what doesn’t. Not only is this more effective and efficient, it also leaves them with more space to exercise initiative and provides everyone with the intellectual stimulation and intrinsic motivation to succeed.

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

One of the things I learned in the army on peacekeeping operations was that first information is usually (i.e., almost always) wrong, and to avoid overreacting. The worst thing you can do when you’re trying to keep a secure and safe environment for everyone is to believe everything you hear and then react immediately. This is why “ground truth” is so critical to a measured response.

Ground truth is what you learn by actually going out and seeing for yourself, talking to the people involved–on all sides–and then drawing your own conclusions. Just because one side says the other side did or didn’t do something doesn’t automatically mean it’s actually the case. Moreover, acting without optimal information and understanding can lead to unintended consequences. The key word is optimal. Perfect information is impossible, and trying to get it is extremely costly, in time and resources. On the other hand, shooting from the hip can work–sometimes–but there is usually something important you’ll overlook.

Get the ground truth, exercise reasonable skepticism, and try to look beyond the immediate effects of your decisions and actions to estimate intended and unintended consequences.

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Last week Target announced that it was shutting down completely its Canadian operation, all 133 stores, and taking a $5.4 billion writedown. What was originally supposed to be the beginning of a glorious international expansion has turned into a lesson in humility and hubris. There was a lot of talk of how they had poor merchandising, high prices, lack of stock, etc etc. This is all true, but the main cause of this was arrogance. They appeared to think they could launch across Canada en masse without learning about the market(s), building a solid supplier network and logistics, and experimenting to adapt to the Canadian marketplace and competitive dynamic.

A military force that’s fixing to cross a major obstacle into new territory always starts with a bridgehead. The aim is to secure a foothold that can be defended and to build up strength and supplies of fuel and ammunition. Only when you’ve done so successfully do you extend the beachhead by probing and seeking gaps in the enemy defenses. You can then attempt a breakout. We can’t be sure Target would have been ultimately successful, but if they had started with a few stores in various parts of the country, experimented, generated experience and lessons learned, and only then tried to expand in phases, they would probably have done a lot better and would still be expanding instead of retreating humbly back to their home base in the US.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Step 4 in the Battle Readiness procedure we’ve been examining is the estimate and plan.

  • The estimate is a sequential process for assessing the situation and determining key factors, options, and consequences of actions (friendly and enemy). The result of the estimate is a plan.
  • This might seem a bit obvious, but the estimate always starts with a clear understanding and statement of the AIM. You have to know your objective before you can analyze your courses of action and decide on the best one. Omitting the aim is ALWAYS the biggest mistake people make.
  • The key factors to consider in formulating options and plans are:
    • Climate & weather (social, economic, and political environments)
    • Enemy (competitors, big and small, old and new)
    • Terrain (markets)
    • Friendly forces (products and services)
    • Time & space (when, where, how long)
    • Speed & surprise
    • Resources at your disposal (and any gaps)
    • Logistics & support
    • Command, control, communications (who’s in charge, etc.)
  • Generate different courses of action, both for you and for COMPETITORS and other STAKEHOLDERS (whether supportive or hostile). Select the optimal course of action.
  • Your plan should be based on the optimal solution to achieve your aim. Discarded or sub-optimal courses of action (friendly and enemy) may provide input for contingency planning and risk management.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

We’ve been looking at the 6 steps in the simplified “battle procedure” for business. So far we’ve covered steps 1 and 2, respectively: warning and time estimate. This week we cover step 3, reconnaissance.

Reconnaissance is the act of seeking out new information or confirming existing assumptions and knowledge in order to decide on the best course of action for future operations. Reconnaissance is so valuable because it allows us to question the hypotheses that have guided us to that point. For instance, you may consider launching an attack on an enemy position by going through an unfamiliar area. However, you need to send scouts to confirm that the route provides good cover, is passable to your forces, and will give you the element of surprise. The last thing you want is to take a route to your objective and find upon doing so that it is impassable to tanks or you come under enemy ambush.

You can and must apply the same logic to your business strategies and tactical plans. Say you want to launch a product or service in new geographical market. It helps to scout out the terrain ahead of time to determine the following:

  • Are there competitors?
  • What do they offer?
  • What is the nature of buyers, their needs, their wants?
  • Are there government regulations you must be aware of?
  • Do you have the resources to establish a bridgehead in hostile territory?
  • Are there potential allies who can help you succeed in this terrain?
  • What is the weather (i.e. economic and social environment) like?
  • What are the threats and opportunities?

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time! Ask me about my new “Battle Procedure Briefing” for business.

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.