Posts Tagged ‘Military Lessons’

 

I learned a valuable tactical lesson as a young infantry officer in the Canadian Army. We were on exercise in northern Norway, training to defend against a Soviet invasion (or incursion) as part of Nato’s deterrent stance.

My platoon was in a company that had to adopt a defensive posture against the forces simulating the enemy. As we rode into our positions in the company commander’s jeep, he told us that a quick and dirty technique to reconnoiter a defensive position was to drive into the area on the route we believe the enemy will take. That way, we get a view of the terrain from the enemy’s perspective and can incorporate that into our own positioning and planning.

It was a valuable lesson which I used throughout my military career, whether on the offensive, the defensive, or in peacekeeping and internal security. Always look at your situation from your enemy’s point of view. What is his objective? What is he trying to achieve? How is he likely to move and manoeuvre? What are his concerns and weaknesses? What are his strengths? You can apply this not only to an enemy, but also to a potential ally or any of the numerous stakeholders and bystanders on the modern battlefield.

When you think of it, though, this wisdom is just as applicable in business and management in general. I’ve been working as a volunteer with a non-profit to organize an upcoming event. I’ve been applying a similar logic to the people we want to attract to our event, as well as the potential exhibitors we want involved. What is their likely goal? What are their interests, concerns, values, and fears? What will make them comfortable in committing to participating or attending?

A colleague and friend of mine has had a long career in marketing, promotion, selling and business development. He says the key word in marketing and selling is “other.” What does the other person want? What are his goals and interests?

If we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and look at the situation or the transaction from their point of view, we can gain a lot of understanding (and even empathy) and that will help us formulate better plans, strategies, and communications to reach them–and achieve our ends!

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!

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.

© 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.

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.

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.

Step 11 in the Business Readiness Process: Exercise Leadership

leadership-action-framework

I’ve developed the Leadership Action Framework to improve the understanding of the leadership environment and the roles of leaders before, during and after an event or crisis.

I make a distinction between a normal event (the lower, dashed curve) and a crisis (the higher, solid curve), because the former should in principle be much more frequent than the latter. A crisis is any event or circumstance in which you’ve lost control of your plan and its execution, or you’ve lost the initiative to the competition or opponents.

Crises can’t be completely avoided, but sound leadership before one occurs can help in preventing one, and then mitigating its worst impacts if it does come to pass. Risk management, contingency planning, and operational continuity are part of this equation, but these are directly dependent on the organization’s leaders exercising their leadership to good effect in normal conditions.

Before an event or crisis, the leader’s role is to prepare his or her organization or team for upcoming missions and operations. The key output of “before” leadership is high business readiness. The ideal is to avoid and minimize the likelihood of a crisis. If that can’t be avoided, then at least be ready to deal with one.

During execution, the leader must focus on directing from the front while letting team members to achieve their respective missions and tasks. The leader must provide moral and material support, including building and maintaining high morale and influencing team members to perform at their highest level. During a crisis, morale is dependent on the welfare of “the troops” and an effective leader will ensure that (reasonable) creature comforts, safety, security, and care of subordinates are taken care of.

After execution, the leader’s main role is to maximize individual and collective learning from the event, execution, or crisis. This is probably one of the most challenging aspects of leadership. It’s easy to motivate everyone when there is a crisis or when adrenaline is high because you’re starting to implement your plan. However, once everything’s over, or you fall into a routine, the natural inclination is to let off a heavy sigh of relief and quickly get back to business as usual. That is when the leader must get everyone together for after-action review to generate lessons learned for the team. Even more challenging is to maintain momentum in implementing changes so they become part of the organization’s DNA.

An organization can be at multiple points of the Leadership Action Framework for different projects or departments. Leaders must be flexible and recognize where they are for each one.

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.

operational-continuity

Step 10 of the Business Readiness Process: Ensuring Operational Continuity

The capacity to analyze, decide, and act during and after crises is critical. Here, I focus on the principles and techniques to manage and operate on a 24/7 basis during a crisis. These approaches are directly inspired by military command and control methods.

Operational continuity is part of the contingency planning resulting from risk management. The aim is to continue operating during and after a crisis or emergency, especially ensuring that customer services are maintained as much as possible.

There’s no such thing as a 9 to 5 crisis

If something is going to go wrong, it will probably do so at the worst possible time and the worst possible place. Just like the military, businesses and organizations providing essential services and mission-critical functions must be capable of operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Time enough for blame

Ensuring operational continuity is about solving the problem, not finding someone to blame. No matter when or where, it’s human nature to want to find someone responsible to lash out or punish them. But does that solve the problem? The focus during a crisis or emergency is on reacting in a timely and effective manner. There will be time enough to determine cause and accountability afterwards.

Caring for your people, caring for yourself

You can’t last long if you’re exhausted, nor can your people. True welfare during a crisis is about making sure your people are well rested and well fed, with proper hygiene, safety, and health care. This also extends to their families if it’s crucial to mission and operational continuity. Military forces know this first hand and take welfare measures very seriously, because it contributes to morale, team work, and resilience.

Operational rhythm and routines

Organizations such as hospitals, fire departments, and police agencies can respond around the clock. But, they also must operate on a continuous basis and be ready to handle surges in demand or action. The model for this is military battle rhythm. This assures leadership, decision-making, and command presence on a continuous basis. This section shows how to follow a military-inspired headquarters rhythm and routine.

Information management and the crisis operations center

The brain of any response must be in the Crisis Operations Center (COC). Information is the equivalent of neural signaling and cognition. The top leader can repair to the COC for briefings and updates, while exercising leadership and influence at the front lines. He knows that no matter what happens, someone is minding the shop to maintain situational awareness and to conduct ongoing planning and control of operations.

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.