Posts Tagged ‘Exploiting Change’

Rolling Barrage

by Richard Martin

Last week we looked at the “future paradox.” The further into the future one looks, the greater the uncertainty. Parallel with this, the lead time for complex initiatives and plans and the lag time between intentions and realization can sometimes be years. We must therefore commit now for things in the future even while not having a full appreciation of the conditions that will prevail when our plans come to fruition.

I’ve developed the following yearly planning framework as a cyclical process to offset future uncertainty and rapid change with regular performance assessments and updating of forecasts, assumptions, and decisions.

This leads to a rolling 3-year forecasting and planning cycle. Think of it as a rolling barrage that overcomes the future paradox. The cycle can shorter or longer depending on your environmental and organizational realities. (I assume that fiscal year = calendar year.)

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.

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.

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.

October: Senior leadership reviews year-to-date and issues guidance and direction to end of current year. Can hold a visioning and scenario-based planning retreat to identify potential opportunities and threats in next 3-5 years and to feed planning and preparation for next year’s forecasting and strategy cycle.

October-November: Organizational elements conduct detailed implementation planning and organizing to be ready to implement projects and initiatives in next year.

December: Overall review of cyclical process with recommendations to amend for improved efficiency and effectiveness in next year.

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!

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.

change-takes-time

Now that a new year has dawned, we need to delve deeper into the temporal aspects of readiness so we can increase it in a timely and effective manner.

I call this the “future paradox.” As shown in the lead-in diagram above, the time lag between decisions and effects can short, medium or long. Depending on our periodization, this could be anything from minutes to years. Because of this, we must make decisions now to be ready in the future, but these commitments will restrict our future freedom of action.

While we can’t afford to be stuck in the present, the further out we look and plan, the greater our uncertainty. So, it is crucial that we achieve balance in both areas.

future-paradox-1 future-paradox-2

The military approach to this problem is to consider change and planning over three time horizons: the current operation, the next operation, and the future operations.

We will explore the business applications and implications of this framework next week. For now, suffice it to say that each of these time horizons corresponds to a level of planning and decision-making. Current operations are about short-term decisions and effects; these are mostly at the tactical level. Next operations involve medium-term decisions and effects; these are mostly at the “operational” level of management and leadership. Future operations look at long-term possibilities and scenarios, and what would be required to deal with them. This is mostly a strategic level of management and leadership.

In the meantime, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is short-term for you and your business?
  2. What is medium-term for your plans and organization?
  3. What is long-term for your business?

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!

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.

post-action-leadership

Step 12 of the Business Readiness Process: Assess Performance

Last week, I discussed the importance of exercising leadership before, during, and after an event or plan. Over the years, I’ve found that the most overlooked part of leadership is that which must occur after a plan has been implemented and is sufficiently advanced that there is an opportunity for learning.

aar-ll

Too many leaders miss a golden opportunity to learn from the grass-roots, explain their decisions, and improve by increasing future readiness. This is when leadership is often hardest, because everyone just wants to get back to business as usual. It takes extra effort and motivation to make a difference between a small improvement and big improvement in future performance.

The key to post-action leadership is After-Action Review (AAR). Ongoing feedback and leadership during execution are needed to ensure performance meets expectations and corrections are made. But there is usually also a need to modify training, structures, procedures and systems to get better in the future.

However, these changes must be institutionalized and systematized to be considered full Lessons Learned (LL). These combined AAR-LL processes have been developed by military forces to generate continuous organizational learning and performance improvement.

This ends my series on the Business Readiness Process. Next week I’ll start writing about other aspects of readiness, strategy, and leadership to complement what I’ve covered so far.

Stay tuned!

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.

Building a Robust Organization

We now turn to step 9 of the Business Readiness Process: Building Organizational Robustness. Everything we’ve learned up to now lays a strong foundation of vigilance and preparedness. The third pillar of readiness, robustness, is all about people using their initiative individually and collectively, as well as collaborating to achieve organizational objectives. It consists of five main principles.

Staff versus line

Military commanders have a general staff to help them plan and control operations. The commander is the boss, but must focus on guiding and deciding at critical points of the readiness process, while spending more effort exercising his or her personal leadership at the front. Business leaders can achieve the same impact by setting up their own “general staff” to provide them with advice and help in estimation and planning, thus freeing them for more direct leadership of their respective teams.

Practice makes perfect

A frequent mistake in military and business circles is to assume that everyone already knows how to do what needs doing. The solution is to practice complex and risky maneuvers and tasks before launch. This brings difficulties, problems, and misunderstandings to the fore, when there’s still to time to correct them. Practicing before execution also generates confidence and mutual trust before going into action.

The big show

Like any force preparing for battle, no business can achieve anything substantial without building up resources and reserves: financial capital; physical plant and infrastructure; transportation and logistics; and robust and resilient supply and distribution networks. Even more crucial is human capital: the right people, with the right capabilities, at the right time, and the right place.

Backups for the backups

Redundancy in capabilities, roles, and functions is essential. What if you lose a third of your organization? Can you continue with the mission? Obviously, you must adjust, and this is where detailed planning and direction pay off. You have assigned backup functions and tasks, and everyone has a good idea of the overall picture and intentions. They can reallocate resources and capabilities on the fly to pick up the slack and adjust to changing circumstances.

Bouncing back

Resilience is the ability to absorb a shock and bounce back to continue the fight (or selling, or operating, or manufacturing). It depends on morale, which as any military leader will readily tell you, is the will and foresight to persevere in the face of resistance, opposition, and hardship.

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.

 

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.

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.