Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Dao of Implementing the Strategic Advantage

"Those with the superior advantage, contesting in a predictable setting, will succeed.
Those with the superior advantage, contesting in an unpredictable setting, might be surprised (by their opposition).
Those with no advantage contesting in a predictable setting, might survive.
Those with no advantage, contesting in an unpredictable setting, will fail.
This is the "Dao of Strategy."
- Paraphrased from the essence of the Chinese Strategy Classics (Seven Military Classics of Ancient China)

Someone asked us to give an example on the basics of assessing and creating a strategic advantage. Here is a simple example of how one assesses, positions and influences the opposition with a strategic advantage.

Bucs stun Saints 20-17 in OT
By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer Dec 27, 8:57 pm

NEW ORLEANS (AP)—The moment Garrett Hartley’s(notes) foot drove through the ball, the Louisiana Superdome crowd erupted and Saints owner Tom Benson raised his arms in triumph. The presumption was that these Saints, in this magical season, were going to pull out another win in the clutch. Not so fast. Hartley’s 37-yarder hooked to the left, and those who’d allowed themselves to celebrate prematurely were sent home soon after in stunned silence.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman(notes) (5) eludes a sack by New Orleans Saints defensive end Charles Grant(notes) (94) as he scrambles for a first down to set up the game-winning field goal in overtime of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009. The Buccaneers won 20-17.

Carnell Williams rushed for 129 yards and a score, and Connor Barth kicked a 47-yard field goal in overtime, lifting Tampa Bay to a 20-17 upset on Sunday that, for the time being, prevented New Orleans from securing home field throughout the NFC playoffs.
Even in what will go down as the best regular season in Saints history, a franchise long known more for its stumbles than success found a way to make history with a loss.

According to STATS LLC, the result marked the first time a 13-win team lost to a team that came in with only two victories. “It’s hard to explain,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees(notes) said. “We started off fast, then after that there was a big lull.” Kind of like their season. New Orleans (13-2) won nine of its first 11 games by double digits. After a 38-17 win over New England, the Saints appeared better situated than ever to make the franchise’s first run to the Super Bowl.

Since then, the Saints have pulled out a pair of three-point wins over non-playoff teams and have lost two straight—both at home—starting with a 24-17 setback to Dallas.
If Minnesota wins its final two games, starting Monday night in Chicago, the Saints will have to win in Carolina next Sunday to secure the franchise’s first No. 1 playoff seeding. “The fact is we need to play better,” Brees said. “I don’t feel like we’ve played our best football in a while and there’s definitely some things that need to be corrected. “You always find out more about a team when you start facing adversity. This is just yet another one of those situations that I feel we have the right character, the right type of leadership to bounce back from and help us become stronger going into the playoffs.”

New Orleans was favored by more than two touchdowns over the Buccaneers (3-12).

New Orleans sped out to a 17-0 lead with its first three possessions, but the Bucs, who have refused to quit on the season, cut it to 17-3 on Barth’s 34-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

“We went back in the locker room and I tried to settle the guys down,” first-year Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris said. “They believe in me and I believe in them. … I know this team is getting better. I could see it every week, even when we were losing.”
Williams had not rushed for 100 yards since 2006—before serious injuries in both knees. He scored on a 23-yard run in the fourth quarter, speeding away from pursuit once he broke into the open near the left sideline.

Micheal Spurlock’s(notes) 77-yard punt return tied it at 17.
Hartley, who became the Saints’ lone place kicker last week when the Saints waived John Carney(notes) and made him a kicking consultant, said he rushed his missed kick.

“Knowing I let my team down is the worst thing,” he said. “It’s definitely humbling. You have to learn from these experiences in order to prevail the next one.” After Hartley’s miss, only the second in his two-year career and first from inside 58 yards, Tampa Bay won the coin toss to open overtime and scored soon after. “It feels great to win two in a row,” Williams said. “This organization learned something today: that no matter how far down you are you can still get back up. And that’s what happened out here today. I am so proud of our offensive line. They did all the work and all I did was hit the holes.”

The Bucs might have won in regulation if not for squandering two other scoring chances in the second half, once on Tracy Porter’s(notes) interception in the end zone and once on a failed fourth-and-short from the New Orleans 19-yard line.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay’s defense continued to show improvement since Morris took charge of the group following New Orleans’ 38-7 win at Tampa Bay five weeks ago.
Brees was held to 258 yards passing and one touchdown.

The Saints rushed for 124 yards, but gained only 28 yards on the ground in the second half, when leading rusher Pierre Thomas (notes) sat out with bruised ribs. Thomas had an 8-yard TD run for New Orleans’ first score.

Robert Meachem’s(notes) 30-yard catch accounted for the second and was set up by Darren Sharper’s(notes) ninth interception of the season, during which he set an NFL record for interception return yards in a season with 376.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman(notes) was 21 of 31 for 271 yards.

He did not throw a touchdown pass and was intercepted twice, but made a pivotal play in overtime when he scrambled for a first down on third-and-6, sustaining the winning drive.
Tampa Bay’s Kellen Winslow(notes) had four catches for 76 yards, including a 35-yard catch during a 98-yard drive that ended with Williams’ score.

NOTES: Buccaneers FB Earnest Graham(notes) was helped off the field favoring his right leg in overtime and DE Jimmy Wilkerson(notes) left the game under his own power with a knee injury. … Winslow has 828 yards receiving, breaking the single-season franchise record for tight ends that had been held by Jimmie Giles, who had 786 yards in 1981. …

With their 17th point of the game, the Saints became the 12th team to score 500 points in a season in NFL history. The previous was the 2007 New England Patriots, who scored an NFL-record 589 points while winning all 16 regular-season games.

By assessing their opposition's past game performance statistics and the injury status of their roster, the Tampa Bay team coaches realized that the strength of their opposition's offense was the deep pass and their defensive weaknesses was their weak run defense. They also discovered various tendencies in their offensive and defensive schemes.

Luckily, The Bucs possessed a decent running attack. They developed a plan that focused on their strengths and their opponent's weaknesses. The Bucs fell behind
during the game at the early stage of the game, but the coaches stayed w/ the plan. The comeback began when the Bucs started to attack the weaknesses of the Saints by running the ball through the various weak points with their defensive line. On defense, they also neutralized the Saints long passing attack with various blitz coverage schemes. As a team, the Saints started to disintegrated. At the end, the Bucs prevailed.

The question is: do you know how to assess the tendencies of your competition and how to position yourself to be victorious?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Understanding One's Grand Settings

"I told Coach Smith this story one time. I had a player come over to me one night, and said 'coach don't you want me to shoot that shot, they're leaving me wide open.' I said, 'the guy on the other team is not dumb, son. He's leaving you open for a reason.' We're going to try to do what we want to do, not what the other team wants us to do. I've always been amused somewhat by football coaches that say we took what they gave us. I don't want that, I want to take what I want. I think with the youngsters we have over there and the season they have under their belt this know, the adversity you had - it wasn't fun going through. But it's going to make each one of you stronger. And it's going to make each one of you enjoy the good times. ..."
- Roy Williams , head coach of the men's basketball team at the University of North Carolina.

"Those with the superior advantage, contesting in a predictable setting, will succeed.
Those with the superior advantage, contesting in an unpredictable setting, might be surprised (by their opposition).
Those with no advantage contesting in a predictable setting, might survive.

Those with no advantage, contesting in an unpredictable setting, will fail.
This is the "Dao of Strategy."
- Paraphrased from the essence of the Chinese Strategy Classics.

Following is some food for thought for the reader:
  • Have you assessed your company and your competition lately ?
  • Do you know what is your advantage?
  • Is your advantage based on the assessment of yourself, not on your competition?
  • Without assessing your opposition and your grand settings, do you know how your advantage will operate into the grand settings of your competitive arena?

Unanswerable questions means that you are not prepared to compete in this hyper-competitive global economy.

Compass360 Consulting Group . Copyright:2009 © All rights reserved. Copying, posting and reproduction in any form (without prior consent) is an infringement of copyright.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Strategic Assessment #2: Identifying the Hype.

Can this new hype be a paradigm shift?

Are you willing to trust a newbie with your investments?

How kaChing may shift mutual fund industry
James Temple, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Investment advisory firm kaChing boasts heavyweight backers and an equally matched ambition: revolutionizing the $10 trillion mutual fund industry.

By leveraging the disruptive force of the Internet, the company's leaders argue they can provide everyday investors with the same advantages now reserved for the very rich.

The Palo Alto startup allows individuals to mimic the portfolios of successful money mangers, while providing a level of transparency, control and analytical tools more akin to personal wealth advisers than traditional mutual funds.

"Consumers deserve a better way to invest," said Andy Rachleff, chief executive of kaChing and the co-founder of Menlo Park venture capital firm Benchmark Capital.

KaChing will reveal additional support for that goal today, when it announces a $7.5 million funding round led by its Palo Alto neighbor, DAG Ventures. That's more than double the amount it's raised to date from Netscape Co-founder Marc Andreessen, Open Table chief executive Jeff Jordan and others.

But some warn the model is untested, the approach is inappropriate for many and the company's vision could well turn out to be less ambitious than naive.

"Will this kind of model attract enough money that someone will be able to sustain a business?" asked David Schehr, research director at Gartner. "That's pretty likely. Will they end the mutual fund industry as we know it in the next two to five years? No."

KaChing began as a Facebook application in 2007 that allowed users to create fantasy portfolios. This October, customers could begin plugging in real money and those who had established stellar track records, dubbed "geniuses," were able to collect commissions for investing on behalf of others.

Figuring out what constitutes investing brilliance is the purported secret sauce of kaChing. Most investors pick mutual funds based on risk tolerance and previous returns, but as every fund is required to point out: "Past performance does not guarantee future results."

Measuring consistency

In addition to recent performance, kaChing evaluates how consistently the individual stuck to their stated strategy and the quality of their investment rationale, as evaluated by the collective user response. KaChing feeds these results into a complicated algorithm that spits out an investment IQ. If they score at least 140 and enter a legal agreement to disclose their holdings and abide by professional standards, they are designated a genius.

Customers can synthesize the advice and pick their own stocks, or invest into portfolios that automatically mirror the selections of "geniuses." Participants are required to have at least $20,000 in liquid net worth and invest a minium of $3,000. Since late October, about 450 of kaChing's more than 425,000 users have invested real money, totaling around $4.5 million.

In contrast to the quarterly statements of most mutual funds, kaChing users can look at every trade their portfolio manager makes, analyze their performance and be alerted when they drift from their strategy.

With mutual funds, "by the time you find out what's owned, that information might already be defunct," said Andy Mathieson, managing member of Fairview Capital in Greenbrae. He's a college friend of Rachleff with a kaChing "genius" score of 142.

It creates a "never-ending cycle of buying high and selling low," as commission-hungry brokers push the funds that performed best in recent periods, he said.

Management fees

The average annual management fee on kaChing is 1.25 percent - of which 75 percent goes to the geniuses - with an additional 2 cent charge for every share traded. The company claims those rates are well below mutual fund industry averages when various hidden fees are taken into account.

The company's promises are intriguing, but worthy of scrutiny, observers caution.

The track record that established the majority of the 11 "geniuses" now on the site was limited to an anomalous, less than two-year period on Wall Street. Mutual fund fees actually vary widely from product to product. And there's no empirical basis yet to assert kaChing's algorithm is any better, or even as good, as standard Morningstar ratings.

For that matter, it's unclear how it compares to those of other companies pursuing similar models, like Covestor Inc. The New York firm began allowing clients to echo the portfolios of its money managers this summer, with a minimum investment of $10,000.

Investors today are justifiably frustrated with the ways of Wall Street, but they shouldn't be so eager to cast aside the old that they chuck caution with it, Schehr said.

"Try it with a small piece of your portfolio," he said. "Take it for a test drive, but don't buy the car yet."

E-mail James Temple at

This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Remember ... all that glitter is not gold. ...

Compass Rules of Strategy
One assesses the grand settings of their target by doing their own homework. They know their goal and their objectives by researching their target and its terrains. Then they perform due diligence by validating the data with two independent sources.

While the amateurs focused on the basic statistics and the number crunchers are playing with technicalities, the ultra professionals centered their attention on the grand picture by connecting the technicalities to the cycles of the targeted marketplace and the secular global connection to that arena.

Watch the tide, not the waves.
Regarding what funds or stocks that you are investing in, remember that the market will always have its level of volatility and sometimes the falls can be significant. If you are patient, ignore the ups and downs.
Focus on the grand picture. Concentrate your time and attention on the long term goals and objectives.

The fundamentals of strategy never change. ... This is "The Dao of Strategy."

Final Thoughts
Only time can tell whether this new investment paradigm is tangible or 100% hype. Good luck to kaChing in their business venture.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Competing in the Global Economy with Processes and Protocols

The origin of any "capital generating" intellectual property can be traced to an experienced team of expert-implementers who was supplied with a well-devised strategic set of experienced protocols.

December 22, 2009
The Protocol Society

In the 19th and 20th centuries we made stuff: corn and steel and trucks. Now, we make protocols: sets of instructions. A software program is a protocol for organizing information. A new drug is a protocol for organizing chemicals. Wal-Mart produces protocols for moving and marketing consumer goods. Even when you are buying a car, you are mostly paying for the knowledge embedded in its design, not the metal and glass.

A protocol economy has very different properties than a physical stuff economy. For example, you and I can’t use the same piece of metal at the same time. But you and I can use the same software program at the same time. Physical stuff is subject to the laws of scarcity: you can use up your timber. But it’s hard to use up a good idea. Prices for material goods tend toward equilibrium, depending on supply and demand. Equilibrium doesn’t really apply to the market for new ideas.

Over the past decades, many economists have sought to define the differences between the physical goods economy and the modern protocol economy. In 2000, Larry Summers, then the Treasury secretary, gave a speech called “The New Wealth of Nations,” laying out some principles. Leading work has been done by Douglass North of Washington University, Robert Fogel of the University of Chicago, Joel Mokyr of Northwestern and Paul Romer of Stanford.

Their research is the subject of an important new book called “From Poverty to Prosperity,” by Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz.

Kling and Schulz start off entertainingly by describing a food court. There are protocols everywhere, not only for how to make the food, but how to greet the customers, how to share common equipment like trays and tables, how to settle disputes between the stalls and enforce contracts with the management.

The success of an economy depends on its ability to invent and embrace new protocols. Kling and Schulz use North’s phrase “adaptive efficiency,” but they are really talking about how quickly a society can be infected by new ideas.

Protocols are intangible, so the traits needed to invent and absorb them are intangible, too. First, a nation has to have a good operating system: laws, regulations and property rights.

For example, if you are making steel, it costs a medium amount to make your first piece of steel and then a significant amount for each additional piece. If, on the other hand, you are making a new drug, it costs an incredible amount to invent your first pill. But then it’s nearly free to copy it millions of times. You’re only going to invest the money to make that first pill if you can have a temporary monopoly to sell the copies. So a nation has to find a way to protect intellectual property while still encouraging the flow of ideas.

Second, a nation has to have a good economic culture. “From Poverty to Prosperity” includes interviews with major economists, and it is striking how they are moving away from mathematical modeling and toward fields like sociology and anthropology.

What really matters, Edmund S. Phelps of Columbia argues, is economic culture — attitudes toward uncertainty, the willingness to exert leadership, the willingness to follow orders. A strong economy needs daring consumers (Phelps says China lacks this) and young researchers with money to play with (Romer notes that N.I.H. grants used to go to 35-year-olds but now they go to 50-year-olds).

A protocol economy tends toward inequality because some societies and subcultures have norms, attitudes and customs that increase the velocity of new recipes while other subcultures retard it. Some nations are blessed with self-reliant families, social trust and fairly enforced regulations, while others are cursed by distrust, corruption and fatalistic attitudes about the future. It is very hard to transfer the protocols of one culture onto those of another.

It’s exciting to see so many Nobel laureates taking this consilient approach. North, the leader of the field, doesn’t even think his work is economics, just unified social science.

But they are still economists, with worldviews that are still excessively individualistic and rationalistic. Kling and Schulz do not do a good job of explaining how innovation emerges. They list some banal character traits — charisma, passion — that entrepreneurs supposedly possess. To get a complete view of where the debate is headed, I’d read “From Poverty to Prosperity,” and then I’d read Richard Ogle’s 2007 book, “Smart World,” one of the most underappreciated books of the decade. Ogle applies the theory of networks and the philosophy of the extended mind (you have to read it) to show how real world innovation emerges from social clusters.

Economic change is fomenting intellectual change. When the economy was about stuff, economics resembled physics. When it’s about ideas, economics comes to resemble psychology.


The value of the protocols increases when the Compass Implementer devises his grand strategic process to do the following:
  • Assess the grand picture;
  • Position the team with the proper plan and the right protocols; and
  • Influence the settings with the plan of protocols.
"Having paid heed to the advantages of my plans, the general must create situations which will contribute to their accomplishment. By 'situations' I mean that he should act expediently in accordance with what is advantageous and so control the balance. ... Therefore a skilled commander seeks victory from the situation and does not demand it of his subordinates. ... He selects his men and they exploit the situation. ... He who relies on the situation uses his men in fighting as one rolls logs or stones. Now the nature of logs or stones is that on stable ground they are static; on unstable ground, they move. ... If square, they stop; if round, they roll. Thus, the potential of troops skillfully commanded in battle may be compared to that of round boulders which roll down from the mountain heights. " - Art of War, 1, 5 (Griffith translation)

Do you have a process that allows you to assess the grand picture, position your team with the proper plan and the right protocols and influence the settings with the implementation of your plan?

With our Compass AE strategic process, you can do all three.

Of course if you have any further questions, feel free to contact us.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Strategic Leadership: Thriving Above the Pressure.

The successful strategic leader always uses the right set of numbers in their message, hoping that it would inspire the team to great heights.

The Outcome:

PSU volleyball makes history again
By Anna K. Clemmons

TAMPA, Fla. -- Penn State women's volleyball has followed a mantra this season:
"One game at a time." Despite the numbers, streaks and records the Nittany Lions have carried on their backs, they refused to focus beyond what lay immediately in front of them.

They entered the season's final match Saturday night, the NCAA tournament's No. 1 seed against 2-seeded Texas, with much at stake: a 101-game win streak, an undefeated season, an elusive third consecutive national championship and an all-time record for consecutive NCAA tournament victories. And for a while before a crowd of 12,087 inside the St. Pete Times Forum, it looked that all might end.

Penn State's come-from-behind championship win solidifies the Nittany Lions spot in NCAA history.
But records aren't created from nothing, and the Lions would rally from a two-set deficit to win their third consecutive national championship in five sets, 22-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-21, 15-13.

Texas, the underdog that hadn't won a volleyball national championship since 1988, came out the more aggressive team, battling through long rallies, 11 tie scores and six lead changes to win the first set.

Tournament MVP Destinee Hooker dominated the second set almost single-handedly, leading Texas to a two-set lead. Penn State hadn't lost a set by more than two points all season -- and had lost only six sets total prior to the tournament.

But then, Penn State coach Russ Rose affirmed why he's won more than 1,000 matches and the Nittany Lions showed why they haven't lost since 2007. They became the more aggressive, controlled squad as Blair Brown and Megan Hodge found holes in Texas's spread and forced the Longhorns into errors. Junior Cathy Quilico, the shortest Nittany Lion at 5-foot-1, dug out improbable balls on the back line. And Penn State battled back, taking the next two sets.

In the decisive fifth set, with almost the entire crowd on their feet, the courtside ESPN cameraman telling his wire controller, "This really is exciting!" and an improbable 10 tie scores, a Megan Hodge kill gave Penn State the final set, 15-13, and the Nittany Lions took the championship for their 102nd consecutive victory. They became one of only three teams in NCAA women's volleyball history to claim four national titles.

More records for the books, more streaks to continue and as Penn State senior setter Alisha Glass said with a laugh after the match, "a lot of pressure for them next year, for sure." But Saturday night was about winning an unprecedented third straight NCAA title. Destinee Hooker was named MVP of the NCAA tournament despite Texas' loss Saturday.

"I blacked out; I was asking everyone after the match what happened on the last play, who got the winning point," Hodge said when asked how she felt in the seconds following victory -- a win sealed by her own play. "We've done a lot of silly things this season as a team as far as not stepping up, but tonight we fought. We knew we'd have to do that to win."
Initially, Penn State's fight looked like it might not come. The team appeared flat-footed and without an answer to Hooker's relentless attack. The 6-foot-4 senior outside hitter had 11 kills for 11 points in the second set alone. "She had 34 kills and she had 38 of 88 points," Rose said of Hooker. "I was disappointed we didn't do a better job getting the tip because you'd like to think that was something you could get. But as the players indicated, she hits from such a high contact point and she kept going hard the whole time. … She did what we thought she'd do but it's a team game, and we had some ideas of what we thought we needed to do to have success." Between the second and third sets, Rose, who says he doesn't like to focus on stats, reminded his team of an important one: The last time they'd been down two sets and still won the match was against Texas on September 8, 2006. (The last time they were down 2-0 since was a three-set loss to Stanford in 2007.)

Texas' early tenacity still showed in the third set, but the Longhorns couldn't dominate and control the tempo the way they had in the first two. As Texas senior setter Ashley Engle said of the first two sets, "I think we were playing pretty perfect. I think we stunned Penn State; they definitely weren't playing their usual match. We knew coming out of the locker room that they were going to be on fire."
The Nittany Lions transformed Rose's motivation into action, emerging in the third with blocking power and several key shots by freshman Darcy Dorton and junior Arielle Wilson. Quilico dug out balls in the middle back and suddenly, Penn State had a shot. Junior libero Alyssa D'Errico, too, saved many Hooker shots from another marker in the kill column. "I think D'Errico doesn't get a lot of credit," Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. "The kid's a fighter, She has a tremendous amount of passion and she kind of willed them to get on the road to competing."

Megan Hodge had the championship-winning kill in the fifth set for Penn State.
That determination carried over to the fourth set, which had nine tie scores and two lead changes before a Hodge kill gave the Nittany Lions the set. Hodge became just the fifth player in Division 1 history to be named First Team All-American four years in a row and was also named the AVCA National Player of the Year for 2009.

After Hodge's final kill, the entire team erupted into a circle of hugs, laughter and tears. Dorton held three fingers in the air as she hugged Hodge, reminding everyone present of the three consecutive titles claimed by Penn State as Texas players and fans looked on, stunned.
These two teams had never met in the NCAA tournament and yet the matchup had been highly anticipated throughout much of the season.

The fourth NCAA championship for Rose's career ties him for the most all-time among Division I coaches with John Dunning (Pacific/Stanford) and Don Shaw (Stanford),
"It's something that you look back on and just think it is amazing," Glass said. "It has been amazing for us to be a part of it. This was our goal. This was what we wanted from the beginning of the season. We just would not let it go, so we are really happy that we came out here and got what we wanted."
Anna K. Clemmons is a writer for and ESPN The Magazine.

More on the Penn State women's volleyball team

Strategic Leadership: Dealing With the Pressure of Perfection (1)

Following are two stories of how to deal with a winning streak.

#Wednesday, December 16, 2009
One Patriot's lament
By Greg Garber

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Troy Brown walks, smiling, into the Renaissance Boston Hotel, which is a pooched punt's distance from Gillette Stadium.

Former Patriots star Troy Brown wishes the 2007 team openly embraced the challenge of finishing unbeaten.

Brown, who played for the New England Patriots for 15 seasons and caught 557 passes, is wearing a blinding piece of bling that goes above (and far beyond) most fashion statements. It's the ring he received after the Patriots won their third Super Bowl, XXXIX, over the Philadelphia Eagles.

He'd be wearing one with four huge diamonds, he insisted, if the Patriots had embraced their perfect regular-season run more openly during the 2007 season.

"We should have acknowledged the fact that we were undefeated," he said last week. "Tom Brady, myself or somebody should have stepped up and said: 'We are undefeated. It's a great thing. But we have a lot of work that's undone.'

"We spent more time and energy trying to cover that fact up and not really talk about it, [rather than] try to just acknowledge it and move along."

As it turned out, the Patriots fell one quarter short of an unprecedented 19-0 season when they lost to the New York Giants 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII. Like the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints of 2009, the Patriots' consistently downplayed their destiny -- to their detriment, Brown said.

"I just felt it put more pressure on us," he said, "and more tension in the room by just not coming out and saying, 'Yeah, we are the first team to go 17-0.' Every time that somebody interviews, just say it and put it out there and get it over with. And, boom, there's no elephant in the room."

What did that denial cost the tight-lipped Patriots?

Brown winced and said, "The Super Bowl."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for

Culture of hard work key to successBy Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
Published Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The unprecedented success can be directly traced to a culture, developed and nurtured over three decades, and based on the belief that nothing breeds success better than hard work.

In 31 years, Russ Rose has tried to instill that into every volleyball player he has coached at Penn State.

"I think all teams work hard," said Rose, the women's coach. "We have a culture that I work hard to maintain and try to keep people working hard all the time. And I don't care if they are mad at me, and I don't care if they are mad at each other. I care that we realize that the next team that we play is going to write a slogan on their T-shirt if they beat you. It's a lot different than just coming to work every day and being a college athlete. So you sign on for something, and when you get that chance to do something special and great, I hold them to that."

And he has held them to it. To say Penn State is in the midst of doing something "special" and "great" is an understatement.

The No. 1 ranked Nittany Lions (36-0) are preparing to compete for their third consecutive national championship this week at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. Rose has taken Penn State to 29 straight NCAA Tournaments.

Penn State is on a record 100-match winning streak, which dates to September 2007. It is the longest win streak in Division I women's sports history and the second longest for any sport, trailing only the Miami men's tennis program, which had 137 straight wins from 1957 to 1964.

Yet "the streak" — as it has become known — is the farthest thing from Penn State's mind. When the team won its 100th straight match Saturday over Cal in the NCAA region final in Gainesville, the Penn State fans began chanting "100."

"Honestly, we had no idea what the streak is," junior middle hitter Blair Brown said. "They were chanting a number, and we had no idea why."

That is all by design.

"We don't talk about the streak at all," Rose said. "I don't know the number; it doesn't make a difference. We're not thinking about the streak. When you're in the NCAA Tournament, you need to win the next match or you're celebrating Hanukkah. I don't know the number. I don't care about the number."

When told the number was at 100, Rose said, "It's 100? Well triple figure is better than double figures for sure."

Others marvel at the streak.

"What's incredible about that is things happen during a season," Florida State coach Chris Poole said. "You overlook a team on the road, or you have a heavy test week for your team, or you have the flu going through them and you drop a match you really shouldn't have dropped. That happens to everyone. It hasn't happened to Penn State. … They obviously find a way to win no matter what."

The Nittany Lions have taken every opponent's best shot — and persevered. That alone has made them a better team.

"I think that's true; people said we have a target on our back ever since the streak began," Brown said. "I think it helps us that people come out with their A game all the time against us, because it pushes us to be better and to have to come out every single time with that energy that we need. We have to step up right away. We can't come out and be casual because people jump on us."

Rose credits outside hitter Megan Hodge and setter Alisha Glass as the strength of the team — both are seniors who have won national titles.

Just making it to the Final Four isn't the goal. Making history is.

"I think our team is very focused on our side of the net," Hodge said. "When we control what we can control on our side of the net, I think we're a very powerful force for any team. So it's kind of us having that mentality that when we do what we need to do, we can beat anybody."

Added junior Arielle Wilson: "Our goal this year was not to make it to the Final Four. We have higher goals for the season, and I think we're concentrating on that."

Which should be a concern for the rest of the field.

Times staff writer Brian Landman contributed to this report.

The hype before the game

With the correct strategic process and good performance data, Coach Russ Rose usually assesses the opposition by identifying their tendencies during the scouting process.

We presumed that he has
positioned the team with a plan that is focused on creating technical mismatches against the opponent. As mentioned in a previous post, Coach Ross has prepared his team to align with his plan by explaining the reason why it will work and why their team will be victorious.

Saturday, December 19, 2009
Win streak adds to volleyball championship hype

TAMPA, Fla. -- It's a week before Christmas and it's raining and humid in Tampa. Despite the dreary weather, the Penn State and Texas women's volleyball players and coaches seemed in festive spirits Friday, the day before their decisive national championship battle (Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2, ESPN360).

Before the day's press conferences, the Penn State players sat eating and talking together. They looked loose and relaxed, laughing at each others' stories and reminiscing over moments during the season. On the podium, coach Russ Rose was his usual entertaining, thoughtful and occasionally sardonic self. When asked if he remembered what it felt like to lose (the Lions haven't lost since 2007), Rose replied, "Yeah. I'm married with four kids."

Relaxed demeanor aside, the Nittany Lions have much at stake Saturday night. Their win against Hawaii in a semifinal Thursday was their 101st victory in a row, the longest Division I winning streak in any women's sport. They have been ranked No. 1 throughout the entire season and are one of only two teams besides Stanford to have been invited to the NCAA tournament every year since its inception in 1981. They have won 17 straight NCAA tournament matches, dating to 2007, and the win Thursday night was also Rose's 1,000th career victory.

Just mention those numbers to the Penn State players. Much like the NFL's 14-0 Indianapolis Colts, they profess that going undefeated wasn't an outlying goal at the season's start. Instead, it's been more about focusing on the match ahead.

"Our team takes it one match at a time," senior Cathy Quilico said Friday. "I can't say every match we know we'll win, but we go in and prepare very well for each match."

"We don't like to talk about the streak," added Blair Brown. "Before you [a media member] said it, we didn't know what number we were at. We don't focus on it, and like Cathy said, we take it one game at a time, especially this time. We want this game."

That they didn't know about win No. 101 is a bit questionable, given all the hype around it. However, Rose is pretty matter-of-fact about the reality of that streak eventually ending. He just hopes it isn't Saturday.

"Losing happens all the time. It hasn't happened in a while in this program, but it'll happen, and when it does, we'll work on the things we need to get better for our next match."

For now, players and coach said Penn State-Texas will be an intriguing battle, regardless of the outcome. "It'll be an interesting matchup because we're both so physical," Brown said.

"They certainly match us and surpass us in some of the physical aspects of the game," Rose said. "Juliann [Faucette] hits the ball as hard as anyone in college volleyball, Destinee [Hooker] has a high contact point. A number of these players we've recruited, so I'm very familiar with them. I think they're a very talented group and have all the right reasons to be in the position they're in."

Rose shied away from drawing too many similarities between the teams in increasing hype.

"I think maybe we're similar because the players are bigger players, but I wouldn't compare a 5-1 [player] and a 6-2 [player] and say they are similar," Rose said. "Each team has a dominant attacker and a middle attack. I think that the similarity is the teams have the same goals."

Indeed, Texas came to the podium next with a more businesslike tone. Coach Jerritt Elliott immediately pointed to the hype around the matchup, noting, "We know that this is the match that everybody associated with college volleyball wanted to see at the beginning of the year."

Texas has had an impressive season as well, at 29-1 and 19-1 in the Big 12. To return to NFL comparisons, much like the Minnesota Vikings, the Longhorns' one loss doesn't reveal many weaknesses. They are still very much a threat to every team they face, given all their weapons.

Earlier, reporters had fished for Penn State players to speak directly about Texas' Hooker, the 6-foot-4 three-time NCAA champion in outdoor high jump. While Rose pointed to Hooker's vertical abilities on her shots, he said the entire Texas team was a challenge.

Texas answered in a similar fashion when asked which Penn State players they'll target, drawing comparisons to earlier-season opponents.

"Nebraska is a good, strong physical team that we've faced, and Penn State has some tall players. … Blair Brown, I think that we've seen others that relate to those players," Faucette said Friday. "We've been challenged, but they are the No. 1 team in the nation and are there for that reason."

Some stats to note: Texas has made 60 blocking errors to Penn State's 41; Texas has had 76 service errors to the Nittany Lions' 60. Penn State has totaled 1,723 kills while limiting opponents to 1,167; Texas has totaled 1,446 while holding opponents at 1,149. The statistical edge slightly favors Penn State in almost all instances, including its impossible-to-ignore win streak.

"College athletics is about emotion, being focused and competing on a high level," Elliott said. "Russ has gotten that out of his team night in and night out. People think it's easy when you have talent, but there's so much more that goes into it. Hopefully his streak will end tomorrow."

/// When the attributes of strength, speed, and skills between two competing  teams are equal, the coaches are focused on the team's will to win.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Suggestions

As old school strategists, we love good and sturdy gear. Our favorite place for radios and classic electronic devices is

Some members of our C360 Consulting group are IT techies.
Following is a brief listing of their favorite software tools:
  • Ultraedit (A fine programming editor that is available for Windows and Linux.);
  • Sourcegear (A very good toolset for small and mid-size tools);
  • PGP (A toolset of quality data encryption apps.);
  • Active State (A super programming toolset for web developers);
  • Suse Linux (A great professional Linux O/S); and
  • Mindjet's Mind Manager (This mindmapping app. is a first rate productivity tool).
For those who are looking for a durable gift, we suggest stand-up desks or standing tables.

We do recommend
Book Mooch and Bookfinder as good places for finding books.

We also
recommend Red Blossom Tea and Teance for tea.

One of our favorite good causes is Laser (We consider their global cause of commerce with compassion as world class. Check out some of their various social causes).

Happy Holidays!

Sidenote: We are not associated to any of these vendors.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Strategic Assessment: Pinpointing the Tendencies of the Competition

With the correct strategic process and good performance data, Coach Russ Rose usually assesses the opposition by identifying their tendencies.

His next step is to
position the team with a plan that focuses on creating technical mismatches against the opponent and prepares his team to align with his plan by explaining why it will work and why their team will be victorious.

Rose's influence prevails when his team wins.

December 8, 2009
For Penn State’s Volleyball Coach, the Streak Is Beside the Point

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — It can sometimes be difficult to determine just who is coaching the Penn State women’s volleyball team to this seemingly endless string of victories. During matches, when most coaches are pacing and shouting instructions, Russ Rose is usually sitting quietly, scribbling into a notebook.

Plenty of others track numbers, too, feeding them into a computer until they spit out of a printer as official N.C.A.A. statistics. Rose’s numbers and notes go into blue three-ring binders that few others ever see.

“My decisions in coaching are based on these statistics,” Rose said.

He pointed to shelves in his office lined with binders, filled with decades of handwritten scribbles and diarylike entries. Then he held up a computer printout from a recent match.

“Not these,” he said.

In 31 seasons at Penn State, Rose, 56, has always done things different from most, reflected in his droll, straight-faced sarcasm and his penchant for sweats, swear words and cigars.

“He’s like that black-sheep uncle,” said Adam Jarrett, a volunteer assistant for the program for 13 years.

But Rose’s success is registered in numbers, not quirks.

In the late 1970s, Rose wrote his master’s thesis on volleyball statistics. Today, he has a higher career winning percentage (.862) than any Division I women’s volleyball coach in history — and more than 100 points higher than the .751 of Joe Paterno, the far more famous football coach of the Nittany Lions. Rose’s top-ranked team is in the N.C.A.A. tournament for the 29th year in a row, on to the regionals, hoping to win its third consecutive national title this month.

Yet the number garnering the most attention is 98. And counting.

That is how many consecutive matches Penn State has won, dating to September 2007. It is the longest winning streak in N.C.A.A. Division I women’s sports history, and the second longest over all, trailing only the Miami men’s tennis program, winner of 137 straight from 1957 to 1964.

In recent weeks, Penn State volleyball passed, among others, the 88-game winning streak of John Wooden’s U.C.L.A. men’s basketball teams from 1971 to ’74, and the North Carolina women’s soccer program, which won 92 in a row from 1990 to 1994.

Count Rose as one person not keeping close track.

The statistics that I’m interested in are performance-related, not historical,” Rose said. “The streak is historical.”

Rose says he considers each season’s team distinctly different and largely unrelated to earlier teams. By his calculation, there are three winning streaks: one of 26 matches in 2007, after two early losses; the 38-0 season of 2008; and this season’s 34-0 record heading into Friday’s Round of 16 match against Florida in Gainesville, Fla.

“I’ve heard people say that maybe we’d be better served had we lost,” Rose said. “I was kind of wondering what profession they were in. I wouldn’t want a lawyer representing me to think like that. I wouldn’t want a doctor operating on me to think like that.”

His office windows were open to a brisk afternoon. Rose was trying to clear the air of the smell of cigars sitting on the desk. (“Cuban contraband,” he called them.) He usually smokes them on the plaza outside Rec Hall, an old brick gym where thousands fill the bleachers for each volleyball match. He says he does not know if that is allowed and does not seem to care.

Rose, who arrived at Penn State in 1979 with bushy dark hair and a Tom Selleck mustache, now has close-cropped gray hair and glasses. He usually wears a blue sweater to matches — a well-worn blue sweater, occasionally mended by his wife. He has a closet full of sweaters that people give him. They share space with suits that Rose avoids wearing.

He prefers shorts and sweats. This day, he wore a sweatshirt and sweatpants.

Raised in Chicago, Rose does not believe in schmoozing or sugarcoating. (Several players, asked to describe their coach, used one word: honest.) He rarely rants and yells, teaching instead in whispers, smirks and knowing glances. He swears in casual conversation. His players seem unfazed by it.

“My grandmother might be a little upset if she came to practice,” Blair Brown, a junior and one of four all-Americans who returned from last year’s team, said with a smile and a shrug. “But it’s Coach. You can’t ask to change who he is. It’s working.”

Administrators ask Rose to watch his language at matches. Rose will sometimes lift his notepad in front of his face and bark an expletive into it. Before a televised match recently, he spotted a courtside microphone near the Penn State bench. He unplugged it.

Rose thought he would be a gym teacher, maybe a basketball coach. But at George Williams College, he began playing volleyball under Jim Coleman, a former Olympic team coach and a future volleyball Hall of Famer. Coleman is credited with creating the modern volleyball statistics system, among other innovations.

Rose then spent two years at Nebraska, where his master’s thesis examined the skills most associated with winning. (“Passing predicts the level of play,” Rose said of his conclusion. “Hitting and blocking are most correlated with winning.”)

Official statistics have always bothered him. Most sports tally what the player did, not what he or she failed to do. He sees that as only half the equation. What about the rebound the basketball player should have had? Or the ground ball the shortstop did not reach? Or the dig that the volleyball player blew?

On that sheet,” Rose said, pointing to a match’s official N.C.A.A score sheet, “if you don’t hit the ball, you don’t get a statistic. On mine, you do. You didn’t hit the ball.

Most of his scribbles in the notebook reflect missed opportunities, what his players call “error control.” Rose grades each play, too, on a scale — not just whether the serve was in, for example, but how good the serve was.

“He keeps stats and gets stats of every play,” said Kaleena Davidson, a former player at Penn State who is in her first season as one of Rose’s assistants. “He knows everything you’d want to know. And everything you don’t want him to know.”

During matches, Rose will coax with sarcasm and freshly computed numbers.

“He’ll say, ‘You’re hitting negative right now,’ ” said the all-American setter Alisha Glass, meaning that a player has more errors than kills. “ ‘You might want to do something about that.’ ”

Glass said that “it’s all about the numbers” for Rose.

“His degree is in volleyball statistics or something,” she said.

“It is?” outside hitter Megan Hodge, widely considered the best player in the country, asked with wide eyes. “That explains a lot.”

Rose’s coaching strategy is largely one of playing devil’s advocate, a lonely role when thousands of fans see his team as unbeatable.

Since the winning streak began on Sept. 21, 2007 — after a loss to Stanford six days earlier — the Nittany Lions have won all 98 of their best-of-five-sets matches. They have won 294 sets; opponents have won 15.

Those numbers are not in any of Rose’s scribbled notebooks.

“I have my own stats,” Rose said. “Because I want to win.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 11, 2009
An article on Tuesday about Penn State’s 98-match winning streak in women’s volleyball described its competitions incorrectly. It plays best-of-five-sets matches, not best-of-three-sets matches.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Information links on the Russ Rose, the head coach of the Penn State Women Volleyball team and the Penn State Women Volleyball team

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another Note on Our "Strategic Assessment" Book

A good portion of the book focuses on the approach of assessing the grand settings for the purpose of strategic development. We are currently debating on whether to add the topic of assessing the settings for project (execution or operational) planning.

We appreciate your suggestion.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Assessing the Cyber Defense

Regardless of the arena, any defense can be penetrated. No defense is perfect. An infamous hacker prevails over Kaspersky Labs, the anti-virus vendor.

Every defense has a weakness.

Following are the basic steps for assessing the competition:
  • Gather intelligence on the basic and technical dimensions of the terrain;
  • Know how the competition configured their settings to their advantage;
  • Examine the cyclical process of the applied variables; and
  • Establish the reality from the vast abyss of illusions.
The supreme approach of playing the defense option is to have everlasting vigilance. The intensity of the competitive arena usually positions the participants in a constant guarded mode. Someone recently asked us whether our process can be used for assessing the cyber terrain.

We designed the general framework of our strategic assessment process to be utilized in any competitive terrain.

We are considering writing a paper on how to utilize our AoW principles-driven strategic assessment process in the cyber security arena.

More to come.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Brief Note on Our "Strategic Assessment" Book

We are currently working on a book that outlines the concepts and applications of our Strategic Assessment process. It is based on the strategic principles from the Art of War and other Chinese strategy classics.

One section of our book encompasses the rules of strategic assessment from various viewpoints, while another section compares the technical specifics of our strategic assessment principles to that of the popular SWOT process.

As our book endeavor gets closer to the completion stage, we will post more information on our book.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Makes An Expert


My Compass360 Consulting associates and I are always amazed that the news media has a tendency of interviewing experts who claimed that they are the consummate know-it all about a specific subject matter.

Most of them are quite polished in their viewpoints. Some are extremely biased in their opinions. At the same time, the background of those experts is questionable. Sometimes these experts are paid by larger companies to push their views and products. (That is another topic.) It is rare that there is an expert who is not promoting their wares. Image

My main gripe with some of these amateur experts is that they cannot connect their viewpoints with the grand picture of the masses. Most of the time, their viewpoints are so narrow. It is all about their client's agenda.


Honouring the Worthy (Tai Gong Six Teachings-Civil Teaching Chapter 9)

King Wen asked Tai Gong:”Among those I rule, who should be elevated, who should be placed in inferior positions? Who should be selected for employment, who to cast aside? What affairs should be banned and what affairs need control?”

Tai Gong said:”Elevate the worthy and place the unworthy in inferior positions. Choose the sincere and trustworthy, eliminate the deceptive and artful. Prohibit violence and chaos, stop extravagance and ease. Accordingly, one who exercises kingship over the people recognizes the ‘six hazards’ and ‘seven harms’.”

King Wen said:“I would like to know more about them.”

Tai Gong said:”For the ‘six hazards’:

“First, if your subordinates build large palaces and mansions, pools and terraces and amble about enjoying the pleasures of scenery and female musicians, it will ‘injure’ the King’s virtue.”

“Second, when the people are not engaged in agriculture and sericulture but instead give rein to their tempers and loitering about, disdaining and transgressing the laws and prohibitions, not following the instructions of the officials, it harms the King’s influence.”

“Third, when officials form cliques and parties - obfuscating the worthy and wise, obstructing the ruler from feeling the pulse of the state - it ‘injures’ the King’s authority.”

“Fourth, when scholars are contrary-minded and conspicuously display ‘high moral standards’ - taking such behavior to be powerful expression of their disposition - and have private relationships with other feudal lords - slighting their own ruler - it ‘injures’ the King’s awesomeness.”

“Fifth, when subordinates disdain titles and positions, are contemptuous of the administrators, and are ashamed to face hardship for their ruler, it ‘injures’ the motivation of meritorious subordinates.”

“Sixth, when the strong clans encroach on others - seizing what they want, insulting and ridiculing the poor and weak - it ‘injures’ the work of the common people.”

“The seven harms:”

“First, men without wisdom or strategic planning ability are generously rewarded and honored with rank. Therefore, the strong and courageous who regard war lightly take their chances in the battlefield. The King must be careful not to employ them as generals.”

“Second, they have reputation but lack substance. What they say and their stand is constantly changing. They conceal the good and spread the bad. They are always seeking short-cuts. The King should be careful not to make plans with them.”

“Third, they make their appearance simple, wear ugly clothes, spouting no regard for office in order to seek fame, and talk about non-desire in order to gain profit. They are ‘fakes’ and the King should be careful not to bring them near.”

“Fourth, they wear strange caps and belts and their clothes are very elaborate. They listen widely to the disputations of others and speak speciously about unrealistic ideas, displaying them as a sort of personal adornment. They dwell in poverty and live in tranquility, deprecating the customs of the world. They are cunning people and the King should be careful not to favor them.”

“Fifth, with slander, obsequiousness and pandering, they seek office and rank. They are reckless, treating death lightly, out of their greed for salary and positions. They are not concerned with major affairs but move solely out of avarice. With lofty talk and specious discussion, they please the ruler. The King should be careful not to employ them.”

“Sixth, they have buildings elaborately carved and inlaid. They promote artifice and flowery adornment, in turn interrupting agriculture. You must inhibit them.”

“Seventh, they con people, practice sorcery and witchcraft, advance unorthodox ways and circulate inauspicious sayings, befuddling good people. The King must stop them.”

“Now when the people do not give their best, they are not our people. If the officers are not sincere and trustworthy, they are not our officers. If the ministers do not offer their loyalty, they are not our ministers. If the officials neither of high integrity nor love the people, they are not our officials. If the chancellor cannot enrich the state and strengthen the army, harmonize yin and yang, and ensure security for the ruler of the state with ten thousand chariots - and moreover properly control the ministers, set names and realities, make clear rewards and punishments, and give pleasure to the people - he is not our chancellor.”

“Now the Way of the King is like that of a dragon’s head. He dwells in the heights and look out far. He sees deeply and listens carefully. He displays his form but conceal his nature. He is like the heights of the Heaven, which cannot be perceived. He is like the depth of an abyss, which cannot be fathomed. Thus if he should get angry but does not, evil subordinates will rise. If he should execute but does not, chaos will appear. If strategic military power is not exercised, enemy states will grow strong.”

King Wen said:”Excellent!”

--- Paraphased from Ralph D. Sawyer's translation of The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China


Wise words from Tai Gong. This level of deception is similar to some of our current set of politicians.

As for media pundits, the politicians can be described as the town crier or the court jester. They are not the leaders in the sense that King Wen speaks of. It is rare that some of them can actually connect their dribble to anything substantial. Their views rarely relates to anything with
historical context and future desires.

Retrospectively, they rarely ever have any grand influence to the situation.