Posts Tagged ‘high-stakes’

Monday STAND TO!

By Richard Martin, Expert in Business Readiness and Exploiting Change

“Stand to!” is the order given to put troops in a high state of readiness. It comes from the trenches of the First World War, when forces on both sides would stand ready for action at the parapets just before dawn and just after dusk in case of surprise enemy attack. The practice continues to this day, although adapted to the realities of modern warfare and conflict. The order to “stand to!” encapsulates the whole theory and practice of military readiness, which is about awareness, anticipation, and preparation before, during, and after operations, in war and in peace.

It’s time for a change. My book Brilliant Manoeuvres came out in the fall of 2012 and since then I’ve been issuing Brilliant Manoeuvres just about every Monday morning to help, you, my faithful readers manoeuvre successfully to achieve outstanding growth in your business and leadership capacity.

I’ve decided to change my focus to generating and building your business readiness. This is also in line with my latest writing project, tentatively titled, Stand To! Military Readiness Principles to Thrive in Business and Propel Your Growth.

Why is military readiness relevant for business? In my practice as a business consultant, I’ve noticed that many, if not most, executives and entrepreneurs are well prepared to fight the last war, but not well positioned to fight the current one, much less the next one. They frequently have limited situational awareness, poorly adapted decision-making, planning, and communication processes, and are sluggish in leveraging opportunities, responding to threats, and mitigating risks. After all, change is permanent; the real question is whether a business can exploit it and shape it to its advantage, whether it is positioned to seize and maintain the initiative or to reel from successive blows of evolving markets and competition.

From Awareness to Robustness–What Is Business Readiness?

Business readiness is the capacity to exploit change by maximizing opportunities and minimizing risks and threats in order to grow and thrive.

The first level of business readiness is situational awareness, which I define as the ability to discern an organizational shock or environmental change that may lead to crisis, and to take a measured approach to avoiding, leveraging, or resolving it.

The second level of business readiness is preparedness. A well prepared organization is one which has identified a number of risks and threats beforehand and has taken measures to mitigate or even eliminate some of these through active prevention. Many organizations have contingency plans to deal with various disasters, emergencies, and crises due to technological or natural hazards. The quintessential ready organization is the fire department, which has a well-defined set of threats and risks and is structured, trained, and equipped exactly for that purpose. There are others, however, such as airports, hospitals and other health-care facilities, law enforcement agencies, etc. Firms such as builders, manufacturers and mining companies also must have plans and procedures in place to deal with accidents, technological hazards, competition, and socio-political opposition.

The highest level of business readiness is robustness, which I define as the ability to absorb change and shocks by shaping the environment and leveraging the inevitable risks, threats, and uncertainty. Not many organizations operate at this level of readiness. Military forces come to mind as singularly robust and they can be used in a number of areas beyond combat because of their built in resiliency, flexibility, and access to logistical and human resources anywhere, at any time. While they can provide a useful example of what is possible, the reality is that most organizations are currently not very capable in this regard.

What all of these levels have in common is a certain level of resiliency, the ability to bounce back from adversity and shock and to continue functioning adequately. Further to that, however, situational awarenesspreparedness, and robustness are functions of increasing flexibilityredundancy, risk-taking, resourcefulness, and individual/collective initiative. All of these capabilities can be built into an organization and inculcated into its leadership and employees.

I hope you’ll join me as I develop this theme over the coming weeks and months. Feel free to contact me at any time with suggestions, questions, or comments.

And remember… STAND TO!!!

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

We seem to live in an era when words are more like bullets—a way to injure and defeat others, to get one’s own way—than a way to communicate in a genuine manner, seeking understanding, insight, and mutual respect.

As I write this, the Paris climate summit is underway. We have just about all the countries in the world represented and we’re told this is the “last chance” to “save the planet.” Last chance. Really? Save the planet? I would think the planet doesn’t need us to “save” it. But, like the gospel inspired song said of That Lucky Old Sun, the earth will surely go on rolling around heaven all day. We may be in danger of disrupting our habitat or of damaging it beyond repair (that remains to be seen), such that we, as a species might be endangered. However, a cursory review of earth’s evolution over geological eons will show that it’s been through much worse before and life has gone on.

The zeal with which enviro-enthusiasts (or should I say fascists?) are claiming that it’s our last chance to keep the planet’s temperature from rising by more than 2 degrees is more religious than scientific. The same can be said of the attempts to claim a scientific consensus, as if scientists all agree with everything that’s claimed about environmentalists.

There may be a scientific consensus about the law of gravity, or evolution through natural selection, because the empirical evidence is overwhelming in favour of those theories. I doubt there is even close to the same level of agreement within the climatological community, which is really the only one that counts scientifically. And yet we keep hearing that 95 % of scientists, or whatever the figure is, believe that global warming is a reality. That may be the case, but being a scientist doesn’t automatically qualify someone to judge the validity of scientific theories outside their field of expertise. Just talk to medical doctors with different specialties to see how divergent the knowledge, skills, and judgment are on any particular illness or condition to realize how important these specialized competencies are to coming to a proper diagnosis and prognosis, much less the best treatment plan.

I’m not necessarily a skeptic about climate change and human-caused warming. However, there has been too much environmental change over the eons on earth to claim any kind of stasis in the matter. After all, what caused the end of the most recent ice age 10 or 12 thousand years ago? Perhaps the woolly mammoths and giant ground sloths were expelling too much methane as they chewed their cud. And what caused the planet to plunge into a deep freeze 130 thousand years ago when the current ice age started?

On the other hand, I am a skeptic when it comes to claims that “the science is settled.” Moreover, I find the current climate (pun intended) against questioning this so called common sense consensus to be a dangerous trend. It’s also very convenient for those with a statist centralizing agenda who wish to restrain economic growth and capitalism, because they claim they are the cause of global warming, at least indirectly. How convenient that there be a such an apocalyptic menace for our collective well-being. Nothing less than total war is needed to combat impending doom. And in war, all manner of propaganda and control mechanisms are warranted to defeat the common enemy. Many of the poorest countries in the world are already clamoring for a transfer of wealth from the wealthy countries to pay for African wind farms and human scale solar power units. After all, nothing should be excluded in order to “save the planet,” because this is our “last best chance.” Once again, I’m not arguing against such a wealth transfer (although there are good arguments against one). But I don’t think that haranguing people into feeling guilty is the correct way to go about it.

The use of language as a weapon and words as bullets is just as pernicious in other areas. Activists—or should I say bullies—at the University of Ottawa have gotten management to discontinue free yoga lessons for handicapped people on the grounds that yoga is “cultural appropriation.” In other words, they claim that you can’t use any idea or activity that comes from another culture if that culture was at one time subjugated by another. Presumably, the reference is to British imperialism in India. Is it okay to have Indian cuisine, or Chinese food? Can we Zumba, or do the limbo? After all, they come from Latin America and the Caribbean, originally all slave societies.

Just to be egalitarian, I don’t think war mongers come off any better. The Islamist inspired attacks in Paris, the Middle East and anywhere else are horrible and the Jihadist threat must be met militarily and politically with appropriate means and strategy. But I don’t think we’re in a “war on terror” any more than we’re engaged in wars on inequality, cultural appropriation, climate change, or global capitalism.

Language and words should help us understand and think better, not separate us into sloganeering tribes with faith-based creeds and intolerant beliefs. After all, words aren’t bullets.

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.

Since the IS-perpetrated terrorist strikes in Paris there has been surge of “advice” and debate on the best strategy to adopt against the Islamic State in the Middle East. The problem is that most of the discussion confuses tactics with strategy and then presents these as mutual exclusive. Air strikes are not effective. No, air strikes are the way to go. No, we need to put boots on the ground. Actually, no. We need to concentrate on humanitarian action.

In reality, all of those approaches are needed in order to create dilemmas for IS and its operatives. You have to take the fight to the enemy by seizing and maintaining the initiative. Air power must be combined with ground forces in order to achieve maximum synergy and effect on the battlefield. You can knock out a command post, but that only creates a delay and temporary confusion. You can buy a bit of time, but it’s all much more effective when you can hit a command post and use the ensuing confusion to launch a ground assault. Moreover, you have to realize that a command post is a physical entity, but a headquarters with its commander and staff are a team. Command, control and communications (C3) can be degraded, but it is much harder to eliminate them entirely, especially if the enemy has a very decentralized structure with competing factions.

Here is a non-exhaustive listing of other thrusts in the strategy:

  • Economic warfare to disrupt the enemy “home front” such as it is,
  • Financial warfare to disrupt and interrupt the flow of funds, because gold is the sinews of war,
  • Humanitarian aid to support the non-belligerent population and refugees,
  • Psychological warfare against foreign and home-grown terrorist threats,
  • Information warfare to degrade the enemy’s psychological and media warfare capabilities and build up domestic and foreign support to fight IS, and
  • Numerous other aspects of combat, kinetic and non-kinetic.

The basic point here is that you need a strategy that attacks and “pinches off” IS wherever it tries to operate. IS combatants in a theatre of war must be treated as prisoners of war, while those who have perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity must be treated as such. IS and allied terrorists operating in other nations must be treated as criminals.

Another critical point is to realize that there is no such thing as a “war on terrorism.” You can fight an identified enemy, opponent or belligerent group. You can’t fight a tactic, much less a vague concept.

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 three basic tactics are: go head to head (aka frontal attack); flanking manoeuvre; and bypass manoeuvre. However, here are some advanced tactics you can use that are more subtle and can amplify the effectiveness of the basic tactics. You can use these in any combination.

  • Infiltration: Think of the Trojan Horse, or water seeping into a building’s foundations.
  • Encroachment: Every day you move imperceptably closer to your opponent’s position.
  • Reversal: Use your opponent’s strength to overcome them.
  • Undermining: Dig a tunnel under your opponent’s walls and then blow up a mine.
  • Diversion: Get your opponent focused somewhere else so you can strike at his weak spot.
  • Deception: Pretend to do one thing when you’re really intending to do another.
  • Attrition: Wear your opponent down through constant, hit-and-run tactics.
  • Psychological warfare: Wear down your opponent’s resolve and undermine his morale.
  • Divide and conquer: Split your opponent’s forces and defeat them piecemeal.

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.

Too often I find myself trying to take on an obstacle or resistance head on. I could be trying to convince one of my daughters that she should follow my (brilliant) advice. Or I could be in a meeting with a prospect or client. I also know that this is one of the most common occurrences in business and management. Here are some tips to help you manoeuvre around that obstacle.

  1. Is the obstacle real or only a figment of your imagination? I’ve often imagined some future resistance that turned out to be just that, my imagination.
  2. Can you avoid a frontal assault? Say you’re trying to convince someone that they should do something. Why not do so gradually by presenting examples and evidence of its advantages rather than a full on attack?
  3. Do you find yourself trying to argue a point rationally all the time? Instead provide an emotional hook to show the psychological benefits of following your proposed course of action.
  4. Avoid confronting or criticizing people in front of others. People don’t like to lose face, so it’s always better to argue a point or engage in criticism in private.
  5. “Soften” up your target by providing positive feedback and encouragement before bringing up criticism.
  6. Is the obstacle or resistance even worth the fight? A basic military tactic is called “picket and bypass.” This means you go around minor centres of resistance while keeping watch on them to ensure they don’t catch you off guard as you go past them.
  7. Remember the most important principle of military strategy: selection and maintenance of the aim. Keep your ultimate objective and priorities in mind as you implement your plans.
  8. Resistance often crumbles in the face of overwhelming force. If you need to eliminate an obstacle to your success, use maximum resources at your disposal to neutralize it.
  9. No plan survives contact with the enemy (reality). Adjust your plans and implementation of them as you advance toward your goals.
  10. Accept that there will always be naysayers and competitors. Accept also that you can’t predict everything ahead of time. Keep resources in reserve to overcome and adjust to unforeseen circumstances.

Richard Martin is the Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. As an expert on strategy and leadership, Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

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

This week I’ve decided to provide a diagram which shows the distinct phases and requirements of leadership before, during, and after a crisis hits.

Leadership Action Framework

Richard Martin is The Master Strategist. An expert on strategy and leadership, Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

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

Every year the Institute for Crisis Management in the United States puts out a report on corporate and business crises that made the news in the preceding year. This organization has been tracking such information for over 25 years and it is truly interesting to see how little change there is from year to year in the nature of corporate crises. This knowledge has contributed two of the five “myths” about crises that I’m writing about this month. Here they are:

Myth # 1 – Most crises are caused by factors or the environment outside the company or organization.

Wrong! In fact, it’s the exact opposite. According to ICM, year in and year out, approximately 80% of crises have internal causes. Of these, fully half are caused by management actions and decisions, whereas employees cause the remaining 30% or so. These causes run the gamut from fraud and theft, to poor decision-making, industrial and workplace accidents and hazards, and defective products.

We just have to look at the most recent problems with GM and it’s recall crisis. It turns out that GM cars have been experiencing severe quality and safety problems since about 2000. The reigning corporate culture hindered or prevented the recalls from going forward. Most crises are therefore self-inflicted. Although the vast majority are not necessarily threatening to the public or the organization’s continued existence, this certainly doesn’t help external and internal perceptions. Which leads to the second major myth.

Myth # 2 – Most crises are unpredictable and appear quite suddenly.

Wrong again! And once again it’s almost the exact opposite that is the case. ICM’s data shows that in an average year 60% of all crises are what they refer to as “smouldering.” In other words, the crises don’t just erupt out of nowhere but instead gestate for a certain period of time before crossing a threshold into significance. This means that crises can be predicted and characterized before they become threats. This also means that they can be managed to a certain extent, through various preventive and mitigating measures.

When we combine the data on the causes and development of crises, we can note that almost 50% (80% times 60%) are caused internally and are susceptible to prevention and mitigation before they occur or grow into major problems.

Myth # 3 – Instinct can save my hide.

This is true, but only to a point, and certainly only during the incipient stages of a crisis. Humans and all other animals have an innate ability to react to danger through the fight, flight, or faint responses. If someone comes at you with an axe, there’s a pretty chance you’ll make like a gazelle and high tail it out of there. If you’re backed into a corner, you’ll try to fight your way to safety, like a wolverine. On the other hand, a small minority—and most people once exhaustion and despair set in—will just lie down and play dead, like an opossum.

Whichever way you look at things, though, the only purpose of these reactions is to get you—and your immediate group—out of imminent danger. In no way can instinctive reactions actually solve the underlying cause of the crisis or help you through the decision-making and problem-solving processes needed to get through the crisis. This is why rational thinking and carefully honed and inculcated intuition are the only sure way to weather the storm.

Myth # 4 – It’s about managing our image and PR.

Once again, this may be true, but only as a component of a much larger approach. Unfortunately, when most people think or talk of crisis management, they automatically think of PR and communications. A lot of crisis management firms tout their abilities to help clients communicate with the public, the media and other stakeholders. The real purpose of crisis management, however, is to solve the problem!

Myth # 5 – I can manage through the crisis from behind my desk.

This is probably the most insidious of all the myths, simply because it shows a complete misunderstanding of the nature of crisis and what is needed, to wit, strong leadership. Executives and managers have to lead from the front; they have to see what is happening and be seen. You can’t do this from behind a desk or in a “war room.” Yes, you need to make tough decisions and you have rational decision-making, planning, and problem-solving procedures in place. But you also have to show the world and the people in your team or organization that you know what is happening, why it’s happening, and that you’re trying to regain control of the situation. You have to inspire and motivate your team and those in your care. You have to exercise judgement, evaluate and guard their morale, and manage their welfare.

Richard Martin is The Master Strategist. He is an expert that brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for exe-
cutives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.
© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.