Posts Tagged ‘risk’

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.

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.

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.

Now is the time to get ready for battle!

And you don’t have to go in blind. Why don’t you call on the best strategist to give you the edge you need?

Richard Martin served as an infantry officer for 21 years in the Canadian Army.

He is the expert in applying military wisdom and know-how to winning business and organizational battles.

Richard shows you how to apply the fundamental principles of military strategy and leadership: manoeuvre and discipline.

Richard will lead a real, honest to goodness BATTLE PROCEDURE BRIEFING for you and your team that will propel you to victory!

“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?” – Richard Martin

Duration: 3 to 4 hours, at your location

Investment: variable depending on needs and objectives of client

Contact me right away to see if you have what it takes!

Richard Martin, The Leadership and Strategy Catalyst, Alcera Consulting Inc.

514 453-3993

Check out Richard on video:

Richard Martin is the author of Brilliant Manoeuvres: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles

Brilliant Manoeuvres is Sun Tzu’s Art of War combined with Drucker’s The Effective Executive.”

— Alan Weiss, PhD, Author of the bestselling Million Dollar Consulting

The agenda and content may vary according to the client’s objectives, Richard’s professional opinion and experience, or the exact nature of the situation under assessment. While the procedure is important, it is also critical that strategic and tactical conditions guide the process. Richard has the expertise and discipline to keep the team on track with a systematic approach.

Note: Battle-dress not required… 😉

Every once in a while we’re faced with highly emotional reactions to risky situations. The “lone wolf” attacks perpetrated in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa on Canadian state institutions (i.e., soldiers and Parliament) last week fall into this category, as does the Ebola outbreak in western Africa. Yet, if you watch the news and read newspapers, you’d think we’re under attack!

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that the Ebola crisis in Africa isn’t dangerous and a major catastrophe, or that the terrorist threat isn’t real. But we have to keep things in perspective.

So far, a few people have contracted Ebola in North America and Europe. They have all been people who have been in prolonged bodily contact with infected victims in Africa, or who have treated these people. From what I gather, the non-Africans are also all health care workers. A few have survived, although we don’t know yet what, if any long-term consequences there will be on their health.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) deem that a quarantine system is not needed, based on scientific opinion. Meanwhile, some states (e.g. New Jersey) have chosen to impose their own quarantine rules, overriding the considered evaluation of the CDC. The CDC is basing its recommendations on a scientific, rational assessment. I’m not sure the states and various schools that have reacted emotionally are doing the same thing. The science could be wrong, but at least it’s based on rational assessment of the risks and threat, not just emotional reaction. It’s therefore subject to updating as more empirical evidence is gathered and as the theoretical understanding of the disease progresses. Moreover, where does the epidemiological know how reside, in the CDC, or a handful of much smaller and less capable state and municipal agencies?

Whenever we face a potential health crisis, such as a pandemic or epidemic, it’s normal to assess the threats and risks and take preventive or compensatory action. On the other hand, we have to keep the threat in perspective. Every year, thousands of parents refuse to have their children inoculated against common diseases. Whether we’re talking about measles or smallpox, the risks of infection and mortality vary. The common element is that this stupid attitude toward proven measures for preventing and containing these diseases has enabled a periodic resurgence of measles, pertussis (whooping cough), etc. And, we’ve been lucky that smallpox has not come back in strength.

Here’s the thing, though: measles and pertussis can actually kill people, especially the weakest, and that usually means children. So, on the one hand we have an overreaction to Ebola by state and municipal authorities in the US (and no doubt other countries), while some people are too fearful or pigheaded to take active measures such as allowing vaccinations for their children. Not only does this put their own children at risk, but it reduces the overall “herd immunity” of a population. This is required to protect those for whom vaccination doesn’t work no matter what. If you doubt this, I invite you to watch a recent episode of PBS’s Nova science documentary on vaccination panics in the US. You can watch it online.

There is also a lack of perspective on the terrorism threat, and we need a balanced and reasoned approach to the risks of what are known as “lone wolf” terrorists. This isn’t a new threat, or proper to Islamic extremism. There have always been crackpots with various motivations, be they environmentalists ready to spike trees in order to injure forestry workers or Jewish ultra-orthodox extremists willing to blow themselves up in Jerusalem. We also need to keep in mind that terrorism and urban guerrilla are the strategy of the weak. As I wrote in my book, Brilliant Manoeuvres, it “stems from a realization the force one is commanding is incapable of highly coordinated, and highly damaging offensive action.” Security consultancy and analysis firm STRATFOR points out that the “lone wolf” approach to Jihadism is actually mostly a failure for extremist Muslims intending on creating havoc in the West. It comes from a realization that they are unable to launch destructive and coordinated attacks without exposing themselves to extreme risks of mission failure.

When a crisis hits, it’s time to think, even if hastily, not to panic and run around responding to popular appeals to “do something, anything.” We often have to weigh a range of unsavoury options in order to select and implement a “least bad” solution. The danger with overreacting to terrorism is that we impose so many restrictions on civil liberties and access to democratic institutions that the terrorists get a political and social response that is out of all proportion to the actual risks.

When we’re talking about health risks, the danger is that we overreact while we ignore or tolerate much more damning behaviours in our own back yard. Reasonable measures to prevent and mitigate contagion from Africa are one thing. But meanwhile, there are incipient outbreaks of easily preventable and controllable diseases right here, and they don’t come from Africa.

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.

When a crisis strikes, you can’t just manage in the normal manner, you also have to exercise effective crisis leadership. Too often executives see their role during a crisis as managing the organization’s image and communicating with the public through the media. This is a necessary function, but it is only one small part of crisis leadership and management. Crisis leadership involves the following principles:

  1. Take charge of the situation.
  2. Recognize what is happening.
  3. Confirm information before reacting.
  4. Maintain situational awareness.
  5. Lead from the front.
  6. Implement contingency plans and procedures immediately while initiating deliberate decision-making about the next steps.
  7. Continue planning ahead.
  8. Act, assess, and adjust.
  9. Care for yourself and for your subordinates.
  10. Maintain morale and cohesion within your team or organization.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He 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.

The best time to prevent or mitigate a crisis is, not surprisingly, before it occurs. Most crises are smouldering, which means that they develop slowly but become apparent suddenly, just like a slow-burning fire that erupts into a conflagration seemingly out of nowhere. Here are principles to guide in leadership before a crisis occurs:

  1. Mobilize your team by anticipating and identifying potential crises before they strike.
  2. Implement rational risk management measures.
  3. Establish priorities for prevention and preparation on an ongoing basis.
  4. Create robust contingency plans to deal with the most likely and most dangerous situations you can envisage.
  5. Implement sound policies and procedures for the most likely crisis situations and events.
  6. Prepare yourself, your team, and your team through diligent practice and training.
  7. Employ trusted advisors and associates and ensure they are well qualified and working as a team.
  8. Build as flexible and resilient an organization as possible within the constraints of time and resources.
  9. Work on becoming more self-aware as a leader and seek to acquire the competencies to lead in a crisis.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He 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.

One of the things I learned working with military technology is that it exploits parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that is out of the normal range we have evolved to use. Visible light is only a very small part of the EM spectrum. However, radio uses much longer wave lengths to communicate over great distances. Microwaves are useful for directional communication of large quantities of data. Radar uses another part of the spectrum to enable all-weather detection and navigation. Infrared radiation gives vision in a part of the spectrum just below the visual bands. Sound is also used as a means of detection as well as direction and rande finding. For instance, there are acoustic detectors that can find the source of artillery fire, and acoustic sensors that can detect vehicle noise. There are even seismic sensors that can detect and characterise ground vibrations of vehicles.

All of this shows that you have to get out of your normal means of seeing and hearing in order to become aware of the wider world around you. If you’re in the dark about something, you have to wonder what you’re missing. And therein lies the risk. Find a way to listen and look at parts of your particular spectrum that you haven’t explored before.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He 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.

After every major undertaking, it’s always a good idea to conduct an after-action review to determine what went well, what went poorly, and how to improve for the next time around. This is modelled on the military approach to after-action review, which I’ve described in more detail here.

I’m currently working with a client that has been through a merger and now an acquisition. Here are some of the areas to examine in conducting an after-action review to improve the next time around:

  • Competitive and corporate strategy
  • Financing & ownership
  • Brand & repute
  • Competitor reactions
  • Strategic planning
  • Planning & budgeting
  • Operations
  • Information technology and management
  • Website and online presence
  • Client relations & communications
  • Client retention & turnover
  • Other stakeholder reactions
  • Marketing & promotion
  • Employee relations (especially management)
  • Revenue generation
  • Redundancy & cost control
  • Administrative processes & systems
  • Compensation & benefits
  • Recruiting & integration
  • Key people retention & turnover
  • Succession planning

For each of these areas, you can ask your key stakeholders to identify the following:

  • Successes
  • Mistakes
  • New strengths resulting from merger/acquisition
  • Weaknesses & vulnerabilities resulting from merger/acquisition
  • New opportunities
  • Risks & threats
  • How to improve the process in the future

It’s unfathomable to me how Pearson International Airport, Canada’s major international airport, can be so negatively affected by harsh winter weather during the last 2 weeks. After all, we DO live in Canada. The Greater Toronto Airports Authority, GTAA, has set the goal of making Pearson an international hub. If they want to achieve this lofty goal, it seems to me that they have to make allowance for the possibility that it might get colder than -10 degrees Celsius at some point during the winter. I’m quite sure the airport’s leadership has contingency plans and has exercised how to react to crashes and certain types of security risks. But the most likely threats, such as bad weather, pandemics, and various business scenarios must also be foreseen and exercised. What’s more, there are many other airports in Canada that are used to dealing with harsh winter conditions, such as Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal, and Quebec City. I’m sure they could provide a lot of knowledge and information to help with developing procedures and plans for the winter months.

Food for Thought
The difficulties of dealing with uncertainty are understandable, but staying in the dark or failing to cater to various emergencies and threat scenarios that are foreseeable is unexcusable. Especially if the information and knowledge are readily available or can be “wargamed” and contingency plans developed.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He 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.