Posts Tagged ‘operations’

by Richard Martin

There are three pillars underlying readiness: vigilance, preparedness, and robustness. Vigilance involves staying on the lookout for changes and trends. Preparedness is about creating conditions for future success. Robustness is the capacity to sustain hits and disruptions and to continue functioning in the face of obstacles, friction, and opposition.

However, not everyone in an organization exercises and implements vigilance, preparedness, and robustness in the same manner. A salesperson or production manager has different concerns, responsibilities and perspectives than the CEO or VP Marketing. It’s critical to view the situation through the most appropriate lens. Are we developing strategic readiness, operational readiness, or tactical readiness?

Strategic readiness views the world through the lens of conflict and competition. It is the perspective of any entity striving to survive and thrive in the face of uncertain conditions and the antagonistic actions of other entities. If there are no conflicting or competing interests, there is no need for strategy. Thus, we need strategy for warfare, politics, business, fundraising, and sports, for example, but we don’t need strategy to build a bridge, perform a musical score, or decorate a house. In essence, strategy entails a contest of wills with rivals who want what we want and are willing to interfere with our aims, and we with theirs, under conditions of risk and uncertainty.

Operational readiness is the perspective through which strategy is translated into concrete plans and actions on the ground. It bridges the conceptual and organizational gaps between strategy and tactics. The key questions in operations are: How can we achieve the organization’s objectives and implement its strategy? What resources and capabilities are needed? How much time will this take? What are the sequence of events, the preliminary actions to create conditions for success, and the intended “flow” of the campaign? Not everything can be achieved at once, nor to its fullest extent. Operational leaders must therefore set priorities and assess the feasibility of various options before deciding on a definite course of action for implementation.

Tactical readiness takes the view that conditions, resources, and tasks are mostly set. You go into battle with the hand you’ve been dealt and make the best of it. There is little room for manoeuvre and limited scope to adjust missions, tasks, and goals. In military terms, once troops have been committed to action, they must achieve victory in a succession of engagements, and these cumulative successes are what lead, quickly one hopes, to the success of the strategy.

Are you in an existential struggle? Are you facing opposition, competition, and conflict? Could any of these change the course of your ultimate purpose and vision? If yes, then you’re dealing with strategic readiness. If you’re considering various courses of action, the different ways of achieving your strategic outcomes, what systems, structures, and processes are needed to be successful, then you must view the situation through the lens of operational readiness. Finally, if you’re considering the immediate actions you must take given a relatively immutable set of conditions, then you must see the situation as one of tactical readiness.

The three pillars of readiness, vigilance, preparedness, and robustness, will vary depending on whether you’re considering the situation strategically, operationally, or tactically (or a combination of these). I’ll explore these three readiness perspectives in coming Stand To‘s.

Richard Martin’s 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.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

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?

Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?

Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!

And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.

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.


A version of this article has been previously published in Canadian Defence Review, Vol. 20, Issue 6 under the title “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be.”

My financial advisor and I were discussing how our respective clients tend to ignore their future financial and business well-being and focus almost exclusively on the present. David Maister, an expert in professional services, calls this the “fat smoker” syndrome. Some people continue to smoke, overeat, or laze about, instead of adopting healthy habits and lifestyle. Psychologists haven’t fully elaborated the reasons for this, but they have made headway in naming it. It’s called “future discounting.”

In most cases, people—that means you and me—view the future as a realm of wishes, possibilities, and potentialities, some of them hopeful and some of them threatening. The far future is abstract and nebulous. The present and near future are concrete. We can see menaces and opportunities starting us in the face, so we act with less hesitation.

This problem also exists in military strategy and tactics, but military planners have devel­oped ways to overcome future discounting and paralysis in the face of uncertainty. There are three key concepts that are particularly relevant for business strategy and tactics.

The first and most powerful of these concepts is to plan and operate over three temporal horizons: current operations, future opera­tions, and future plans. Current operations are about executing the commander’s existing plan. Future operations are about developing the next steps after the immediate objectives are attained. Future plans are devoted to the development of contingency and follow on plans after the current operation and its im­mediate successor is complete.

But it’s not enough to have three time ho­rizons. You also have to put “troops to task” to ensure you have people focused on the present, others focused almost entirely on the immediate future, while still others explore the more distant future.

While the chain of command works on executing plans in the present, there are staff officers preparing the next phase of the operation. They are busy analyzing the current situation and adapting plans for follow on actions (and reactions). Their time focus ranges from the next few hours (for a battalion) to the next few months (for, say, an expeditionary force).

There is a smaller group of analysts and planners developing enemy and friendly sce­narios over a more extended time scale. They are also looking at ways to “shape” the future battlespace, so that friendly forces are in the best position to impose their will on the enemy (or stakeholders and belligerents, if you’re talking about peace-support or low-intensity operations). Leadership is critical for the three time horizons. The commander exercises his will in the present, while considering advice from, and providing guidance and direction to, his future operations staff and future planners.

The second key concept comes from the fact that there are always multiple ways of achiev­ing the aim. Too often military planners, as well as business executives, get in a rut. They continue doing things in the same old way because that’s how they learned them. But, as Marshall Goldsmith says, “What got you here won’t get you there.” The strategies, methods, and tactics that generated your current suc­cesses (or failures) won’t necessarily work (or fail) in the future.

Leaders and their staffs must analyze condi­tions and the factors that impinge on them so they can generate a range of options. Each of these options must then be weighed against the enemy’s (or competitors’ and buyers’) potential actions and reactions. The optimal course of action becomes the basis for the main plan, while lesser options provide the basis for contingency and follow on plans.

The final concept that military planners have developed is scenario-based planning. This is a whole field unto itself, but in essence the idea is to look at the strategic, operational, or tactical environment as a spectrum of alternate realities. Each scenario paints a picture of a more or less altered world, which can then be explored to identify and qualify their implica­tions from a variety of perspectives and in a number of dimensions.

Scenario-based planning is particularly relevant the further out in time you look, where the intricacies of cause and effect and cascading developments can be assessed and evaluated. The findings provide input for shaping the future of the organization and its impact on competitors, markets, and other stakeholders.

There is no silver bullet solution for future discounting and hesitation in the face of un­certainty and risk. Unfortunately, trying to convince people to be virtuous is a bit of a lost cause. The military approach to this problem provides a range of methods and ideas for dealing with the “fat smoker” syndrome.

© 2015 Richard Martin

Here is an extract from my first teleconference in my 2013-14 Teleconference Series on How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles. You get more info here and register for all ten teleconferences. The cost is only $150.00 for all ten. That will amount to 9-10 hours of audio. I provide a MP3 download within 48 hours of the call so you can listen as many times as you want at your leisure.

Listen to a sample extract:

The full teleconference last approximately 55 minutes and is available for purchase at $20.00 Cdn. Just contact me at

It’s not too late to register for all 10 teleconferences. The teleconferences will start at noon eastern on the 3rd Friday of the next ten months, and run until June 2014. Each of the calls covers a different aspect of how to apply military wisdom to win your business battles, and is based on a chapter in my book, Brilliant Manoeuvres : How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles. I’m adding new material and content so these aren’t just a repeat of the book.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.