Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Compass360 Consulting's Predictions and Prognostications.

Following is our list of 12 predictions for 2011:
  • Certain regions in the U.S. economy (especially N.Y. city, certain parts of New York state, Colorado, Texas, and Washington State) are on the up-shift;
  • Netflix will temporarily hit its threshold of saturation;
  • The New England Patriots will obviously play in the 2011 Super Bowl;
  • IPTV will continued to be the hot technology while the use of cable technology continues to decline;
  • Digital publishing of high-tech books will overtake its printed counterparts;
  • The incremental use of automated processes and robotics in the service economy;
  • Gold surpassing the $1500 barrier while the value of the U.S. dollar continues to drop;
  • The rising prices of batteries, hybrid cars and other high-technology products that use batteries;
  • The rising prices of various energy sources, commodities (wheat, oil, cocoa, copper, etc) and food;
  • The rise of more state government driven user fees;
  • The continuing drop of housing prices at various U.S regions; and
  • Chinese software companies introducing their brand of web software to western countries.

Interestingly, one can only expect the political blow back from the rising prices to be quite brutal in 2012.

To the well-informed, most of them are obvious. The key is to take advantage of those points before it becomes a prevailing reality.

Here are some more interesting but obvious predictions regarding to the cyber economy from McAfee Labs, Cisco and an Infoworld's columnist. (updated on 12.31.10)

In our cyber economy, most of us are overwhelmed with many dots of information. Identifying the crisises and the opportunities is always the challenge for most people. The successful opportunity finders are those experienced people who can filter the order from the disorder and determine what are the priorities.

Following are the keys to finding the order:
  • View the big tangible picture in terms of the terrain, its cycles and the people within it;
  • Recognize the relevant strategic factors (dots);
  • Examine the connections between the events, the people and the ideas;
  • Analyze the integrity of the data; and
  • Deliberate the preliminary decision.
We believed that having a comprehensive strategic process is how one becomes effective in a complex world.

We always meet people who know the current state of their surroundings. However, the majority of them rarely understand the cause and the effect of their situation and the rate of change. Without properly understanding the risk-consequences of their situation, they usually take their circumstances for granted.

When a negative event impacts them, they rarely understand the cause of it. Their usual response is to grind out the course of the situation. This decision usually takes a great quantity of time, effort and resources.

Those who anticipate the on-coming causes, are usually ahead of the herd. They are so prepared that they rarely lose their focus of their time, their energy and their resources.

The successful people are those who frequently connect the dots and reap the rewards. They are usually ahead of the curve.

Following are some questions for you to think about:
  • Do you know the strategic factors that connect you with your vendors, your clients, your alliance and your competition?
  • If you know your grand settings, how do you take advantage of it?
  • Do you know the current and the future profit opportunities that are within your competitive terrain? If so, what are you doing about it?
By understanding the significant connections with the big tangible picture, one gains insights to do the following:
  • Maximizing on new profit opportunities;
  • Minimizing on current costs; and
  • Ensuring quality
Conclusively, he/she will work smarter not harder.

If you are interested in learning more about our strategic process, please contact us at:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Predictions and Prognostications

The trademark of a very good strategist is to know the big tangible picture and predict the future.

From the NYT, forecasters and policy makers predicted an economy recovery.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Sign of the Times: The Slow Decline of Silicon Valley

"The world under heaven, after a long period of division, tends to unite; after a long period of union, tends to divide. This has been so since antiquity. " - Romance of the Three Kingdoms

The Current State of Silicon Valley
The slow economic decay of Silicon Valley is the sign of the times.

The possibilities of California ever returning to the foundation that made Silicon Valley great, are quite low. The economic influences of our global economy have changed the approach of manufacturing anything innovative in California.

We will focused on this interesting matter in a later post.


Other Topics: The Trends of the Virtual Economy
Social networking, e-commerce and online-game companies are the hot virtual businesses. ...

In our information economy, there are a ton of amateurish ideas that are being touted. While, the venture capitalists support some of these aspirations and the global consumers are willing to use some of it and sometimes purchase it, one can conclude that there is some value to those ideas.

Sooner or later, this cycle of virtual illusion will terminate. The stronger companies will prevail. It is only a matter of time. ...

A Pragmatic View on the Participants of the Virtual Marketplace
If (or when) the economic state of the virtual players ever declines, will he or she be able to afford the rising cost of food and so forth. Are they willing to eat their ipod and pda for lunch and supper? Will they eat their virtual steak and salad from their face book page? Will the food critics offer lessons on the type of digital wine that they should drink with their virtual food?. ...

Sunday, December 19, 2010


For those who are interested in unique holiday gifts:

We suggested the following items:
[DISCLAIMER] We are not compensated for suggesting these items.

Wishing Happy Holidays to our readers
--- Compass360 Consulting Group

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Macro Approach of Strategic Implementation (1)

About three to five years ago, we heard about a major dilemma where a grand organization (Competitor A) was being outmaneuvered in the global marketplace by an upstart rival (Competitor B). This upstart was utilizing a combinational approach of the various strategic principles (from the Art of War and other strategic classics) and the "GO (weiqi) game" approach of encircling their opposition in their various business ventures.

Macro economic numbers tell us that the winning streak  of the Competitor B has been extended. We presumed that they are continually using this unique strategic approach.

We will comment on this topic later next year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Questions for Our Reading Audience

If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing. - W. Edwards Deming

Here are nine questions for you to think about?
  1. What is your compass for making strategic decisions?
  2. Has your Big picture of profit opportunities enabled you to connected to the Big Tangible Picture of shifts and changes?
  3. Are you able to manage multi-strategic situations and variables with no problems?
  4. Do you prefer a simple strategic criteria or some sort of technology as your foundation for making good decision?
  5. Better yet, does your technology properly support your decision-making process?
  6. Lets presumed that your process has helped you maximize your profit opportunities. What is your current success rate?
  7. Is your success number comparable to your competition?
  8. Are you able to decide with fearlessness?
  9. In summary, did we get you thinking?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Becoming Effective in a Complex World

Strategically, we all want to be effective. Being effective means that we can maximize our profits while minimizing our operating costs concurrently. It also enables us to (almost) to almost always be ahead of the competition and the market curve. The challenge is having the strategic process and the execution prowess to be effective, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.

Within the confines of our information economy, the world has become more fluid and quite dynamic. One point changes another and so forth. Suddenly, a major event alters the objectives and the approach of many at another point of our globe.

For example, a major political and/or economic occurrence that started from the shores of Asia now prevents a prompt delivery of a major item for a small company located in Washington state. Not only does it alters the economic state of their current and future objectives, the revenue base could be affected for many months.

Should this company have anticipated it? If so, do they have the leadership and the resources to counter the change? Is it better to respond or to react to it? ... It depends greatly on their strategic and situational experience.

You can comprehend the big picture from a top down view by doing the following:
  • Recognize the current state of the terrain and the competitors within it;
  • Examine the operational direction of the terrain;
  • Analyze the reliability of the data; and
  • Determine the strategic positioning of the terrain.
Identifying the ebb and flow and the causation of the big picture is also significant. It enables one to know where he/she stand within it.

There are more detailed steps to the Compass process. (We will touch on those steps later.)

If one can assess the strategic scope of your marketplace and the contending competitors within it, he/she would know the illusions and the reality within the terrain. By knowing the correct categories of market intelligence (the economic numbers, the logistic numbers, etc.) and assuring the veracity of the data, one can predict their strategic actions and their contingencies. The probability and the possibility of their strategic positioning becoming an advantage increases.

We will focus on this matter in a later post and in our future book.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Strategy Statistics (1)

"90% of strategies fail due to poor execution. ..." - Harvard Business School research

We believed that the origin of this problem begins in the poor understanding of the following three points:
  • the "assessment of the market terrain" process;
  • the "positioning of oneself through the planning and preparation" process; and
  • the "influencing of the terrain and the competition within it.
One cannot plan and execute when he/she does not understand their market terrain and beyond. Do you agree?

We will discuss more about those big points in our future book.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Simple Contest

We will give a paperback copy of Ralph Sawyer's Essence of War to the first person who can explain to us the conceptual parallels and the technical differences between Jiang Tai Gong's Six Secret Teachings and Sunzi's Art of War. It must be technically specific. The end date for this contest is the 1st of Jan. 2011. If there is a tie, we will either draw straws or flip a coin.

We will print the winning answer at the end of Jan. 2011 or the early part of Feb 2011. If none of the participants provide the correct answer, we will stage a similar contest or a different contest at a later date. We will give the correct answer sometime in 2011.

You can send your answer via this channel. Please include your email address. If you win, we will e-mail you a request for your mailing address. We are committed not to spam you or anyone with any marketing messages from us (Realistically, we have never send any marketing spam to anyone. We have a larger endeavor to complete.). At the conclusion of this contest, all sent e-mail addresses will be deleted from our archives.

Good luck in your participation and thanks for your time and your attention.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Principles-Driven Assessment

Most of the readership of this blog is consisted of well-read strategic thinkers of various levels. We decided to focus the premise of this article on the process of strategic assessment by presuming that the majority have read the Sunzi's Art of War essay and understood the premise behind this essay..

Click here for an introduction article on the Sunzi's The Art of War.

Our recent research told us that some of the readers selectively viewed the Art of War essay and preferred to focus their time and their attention on the building of the plan, the strategic maneuverability and the engagement of the conflict.

Professionally, we have always considered the initial chapter- Strategic Assessment as the most relevant chapter of the book. It is one of those sections that people read quite often, but not understand how to apply it strategically.(We are working on a book that explains the theory and applications of this chapter).

The primary purpose of this chapter is to understand the big picture of one's settings before doing anything relevant. One can only improve their own future performance by properly assessing the big picture of their grand terrain and the obstacles that are within it.

How does one use the strategic assessment process in their business?

Assess and Reflect
Following is a set of 13 Sunzi principles-related questions that we have occasionally given to my clients who were trying to assessing their current state of business:
  • Does my strategic assessment process included anything in the gathering of intelligence?
  • Did the act of intelligence gathering improve the decision-making points of my venture?
  • Has my current decision making process always helped me in prevailing in the various situations?
  • Was my position in those situations based on my initial understanding of the entire terrain?
  • Did my comprehension of the entire terrain show in my strategic maneuverability?
  • Did my strategic maneuverability improve my adjustment to the situation?
  • Did my adjustment enable me to prevail during the engagement of various obstacles?
  • During my engagement of obstacles, was I able to pinpoint its weaknesses and strengths?
  • After the strengths and weaknesses were pinpointed, did my strategic influence prevail?
  • Was my strategic influence based on my initial strategic disposition?
  • How much of my strategic disposition were delineated in my initial plan?
  • How much of my own plan was based on my initial understanding of the challenge?
  • Was my grand understanding of the challenge based on my initial strategic assessment?
(The list has been slightly altered for this reading audience. The context behind this topic is deeper than those questions.)

After reviewing your response to those questions, you can determine whether the specifics of your strategic assessment approach need to be improved.

After each major project milestone, you should spend a macro moment to assess your experience.

While reflecting on your overall experience, focus on comprehending the strategic disposition, the strategic influence, the weaknesses and the strengths of each relevant competitor, including yourself..

Transforming the Assessment to Relevancy
“In planning never a useless move. In strategy, no step is in vain."
- Chen Hao

Once you are able to consciously understand yourself and your strategic disposition within your settings, it becomes easier for you to build (and improve) your plan toward adjusting to the grand settings of your competing (market) terrain.

Compass Rule: The dimensions of your goals and your current settings sometimes determine the predictability of one's future settings.

The key to transforming the assessed data to something of value is to understand your goal. Knowing your goals and objectives will enable one to focus their time and effort in a positive and constructive way.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Playing Mind Games

Here is a change of topic, at Cook Ding's Kitchen, there is an interesting post on the Hakka.

Without dwelling into the operational specifics of a "Hakka", this unique tactic is used to intimidate the opposition before a conflict (or a contest) begins. Over familarization (esp. in our information economy) causes this tactic to lose it potency. There are different ways to "psych" out the opposition. It usually function better when the strategists apply variations of their best "psych" move at their own home territory.

Sidenote: The amount of success sometimes transforms the specialized strategist into an expert for this domain

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Compass360 Consulting Group's Endorsement of a Software Tool

If you are looking for a very good mind mapping tool that "transforms ideas, strategic thinking, and business info. into blueprints for action", we highly recommend Mindjet Mind Manager. From our experience, it is a very easy to use software program. ... We have always use it for our brainstorming activities and found it to be a very good productivity tool.

In summary, the combination of a good strategic process and a good software tool usually creates a force multiplier for good strategic project professionals to operate from.

Side note: This is an unsolicited endorsement.  Why?  It is one of our favorite tools and we think very highly of this software tool.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Applying the AoW Principles to the Martial Arts

Someone recently asked us if we can apply the Art of War principles to the martial arts

Without getting into a situation of espousing "fortune cookie" like quotes, we prefer to focus our effort on explaining the essence of
Sunzi's strategy classic. Fundamentally, this book greatly emphasize on the act of prevailing over the competition by finding the path of least resistance and pursuing it.

One of our favorite examples of world class martial arts experts is: Miyamoto Musashi.

Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584–June 13 (Japanese calendar: May 19), 1645), also known as Shinmen Takezo-, Miyamoto Bennosuke, or by his Buddhist name Niten Do-raku,[1] was a Japanese swordsman and samurai famed for his duels and distinctive style. Musashi, as he was often simply known, became renowned through stories of his excellent swordsmanship in numerous duels, even from a very young age. He was the founder of the Hyo-ho- Niten Ichi-ryu- or Niten-ryu- style of swordsmanship and the author ofThe Book of Five Rings (Go Rin No Sho?), a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy that is still studied today. He is considered as one of the greatest samurai warriors of all time. from:

After numerous duels and battles, Musashi developed the Nito sword method. This technique was based on the concept of using two swords simultaneously as an complete offensive, defensive or counter-offensive movement.

While the focus of the first sword is to "control" the opposition's time and space, the second sword is used for extreme neutralization or as an add-on move to the first sword move (i.e., trapping, disarming, striking, etc.).

Symbolically, the use of both swords was his representation of the fullest use of one's weaponry. Mastering this method requires one to possesses a deep understanding of practicing each sword separately before beginning the process of utilizing them as one entity.

In summary, this method was based on Musashi's experience and his interpretation of his profession. His complete comprehension of the strengths and the weaknesses of his own process and his opposition is what enabled him to prevail.

Methods come and go. The mastery of the method is what counts. The timing and the targeting of the method is what is vital to the victory.

How does it connects to the art and science of decision-making?

One should always make decisions that are based on their understanding of the big tangible picture.

What is the "Big Tangible Picture?" It is the total understanding of the following attributes: the competitive terrain; the competitors within it; the situations; the grand process of logistics and procedures; and economies.

By understanding the Big Tangible Picture, the strategist makes various decision points based on whether to cooperate or compete. In the case of Musashi, he made the decision of evolving as a swordsman-strategist due to his belief of being the consummate warrior.

The pinnacle of any professional strategist is to prevail over the situation (or the competition) in minimum time, with limited usage of resources and the least amount of effort. Idealistically, the avoidance of direct confrontation is the focal point. He/she can only achieve that through one's understanding of the big picture.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Dao of Strategy: Making Decisions (3)

Occasionally, some people based their decisions on their immediate emotional needs and wants. They usually think about the benefits of the current moment, not about the future-based consequences. In summary, They rarely think beyond their situation.

Taking time to understand the tangibility of their big picture would have enable them to make better decisions in their personal life and in their business.

We at Compass360 Consulting Group believes in the grand strategic action of understanding the big picture before deciding on anything is the key. ... How do you make your decision?

Click here for an interesting article on why many people cannot make decisions.

Our interpretation of the Chinese strategy classics tells us that understanding the settings (in details) determines when to think in black and white and when to understand the level of grayness.
... One typical step of our Compass AE strategic decision process is to prioritizes the core values first. Then,
determining what are the risk rewards and risk consequences.
how it can be affected at a later time frame.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Abstract Behind The Compass Decision (1)

We have occasionally met with chief decision makers of all sorts and discussed about the different matters regarding to their views of what strategy is about. During the course of our conversation, we asked them about their strategic decision-making process . Some of them have told us that they have a tendency to implement their strategy regardless of the circumstances. They are rarely process-driven and feel that the concept of "assessing the big picture before acting" takes too long and that it is technically irrelevant. The only thing that counts is their ability to make things happen and lead their team to capitalist glory.

The Flaw Behind Their Strategic Decision Management Process
Due to a lack of complete information, they do not understand whether the grand situation is stable or chaotic. Their absolute focus is to understand of the immediate risk/rewards, not the risk consequences that are derived from the outcome of their decisions. .

A breakdown of different strategic decision-making styles

Regardless of their style of decision-making, we usually emphasized to them the importance of increasing their understanding of the big tangible picture before implementing any strategic moves. Conclusively, it usually leads to a better decision.

Following is a list of questions that might provoke some thoughts:

  • What is your view of the big picture?
  • How do you use it to your advantage?
  • What is your process to transform your assessment to a tangible plan?
We will further touch on this topic at a later post.

side note: We will discuss the matter of "when to make contingency moves" in our future book.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Strategic Decisions Without Borders (5)

We have always noticed that some of the so-called motivational-driven leaders have a tendency of focusing on inspirational speeches and their own (petty) causes. They rarely ever focus on the larger picture.
Whenever they ever focus on a challenge, their solution is quite abstract, idealistic, vague and intangible.

These leaders are idealists who usually have not spend anytime assessing the big tangible picture. Regardless of the reasons, their decisions are usually political-driven, limited in scope and intangible in most cases.

The big picture of these non-strategic leaders is usually quite limited. In most cases, he or she does not have the "real" capability to make a sound strategic decision in five min. or less. They do not possess the aptitude and the attitude to either evolve and let the professionals do their job. ... He/she occasionally do not know the way of trusting. .It ultimately lead them to fail in the task of delegating. ...

In spite of the situation, are they willing to to put their reputation on the line if their decisions are wrong?

The Dao of The Strategist
The "true" strategy professional looks at "strategy" as one thing and many things. He or she observes the big picture from different angles and knows the various attributes that are involved (i.e., the time line, the spacing, the resources, etc.) . In general, the strategist
gets the most out of the situation by knowing the full scope of the big picture. What is meant by the full scope is the advantages and disadvantages of the specifics behind the big picture.

This strategist only makes decisions when he/she knows the state of their informational picture.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Our Current Progress on The Book Project

We are currently debating on whether to include a section that introduces the black art of quantified estimates to our Strategic Assessment book project. Your suggestions are appreciated.

This section is based on the following quotes from the Art of War:

"Now if the estimates made in the temple before hostilities indicate a victory it is because calculations show one's strength to be superior to that of his enemy; if they indicate defeat, it is because calculations show that one is inferior. With many calculations, one can win; with few one cannot. How much less chance of victory has one who makes none at all! By this means I examine the situation and the outcome will be clearly apparent. " - AoW 1 (Griffith Translation)

What set of calculations have you used to assess the big picture of your business terrain? ... If you are not properly assessing the big picture, what good is your plan?

More to come.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Assess, Position and Influence (2)

A Counter Point For Every Offensive Point
Some believed that there is a counter play for every offensive play. That concept works as long as he/she is able to anticipate that move. Foretelling the move is the signature move of a very good strategist.

Regardless of the strategic situation or the called play, some believed that the strategic act of execution is the key. Other people think that the choosing the right approach at the appropriate moment is the answer. The key to that approach lies in the latter chapter of the Art of War.

Making the Strategic Decision
One usually prevails by choosing one of the following four strategic approaches at different stages of the competition:
  • Take what the opposition offers;
  • Dominate by the "Force of Will";
  • Use the "Force of Will" approach to set up the deception (play-fake); and
  • Use the "Take what the opposition offers" to set up the "Force of Will."
Assessing the configuration of the competitive settings and knowing the timing points for implementing those approaches are the keys to gaining strategic leverage.

The Basics of Assessing
1. Identify the strengths and the weakness of the terrain and the opposition within it.
2. Determine its tendencies.

Regardless of those steps, most people forget to examine whether the competitors are able to
properly execute their plan from start to finish.

Recognizing the decisiveness of each chief decision maker (of each competitor) behind the execution is the key to the art of "quan" (weighing the factors)

This process of assessing strategic data is usually long and deep. The quantity of quality data (intelligence on the business terrain and the competitors within it) usually increases one's probability of succeeding greatly.

As a chief decision maker, do you know the relevant strategic assessment points that enables you to understand the big picture?

Without having the conceptual framework for strategic assessment, your strategic team is just guessing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dealing with Adversity (1): The Process

What works in the business world, does not always work in real life. In life, most people rarely get a second grand opportunity to climb the social-economic ladder of success.

Compass Rules:
1. Know the big picture before making a move
  • Understand how things work and how things connects from an inside to outside view and from a top to bottom view
  • Recognize the positive points and the negative points of the situation
  • Test the decision with "what-if" situations.

2. Record your decisions.
  • At the end of the project launch (or the business year), review your decisions.
  • Learn from it.
  • Focus on improving your strategy and your execution
3. Gain as much relevant experience as soon as possible
  • Experience results

Here is an interesting article on recovering from failure

In summary, one learns the following:
  1. What does not kill you, will only makes you strong;.
  2. The key to being strong is learning from that experience; and .
  3. It is better to know the big tangible picture and the exceptions before making a strategic move.

"While the amateurs learn the rules and tricks,
the professionals
always know the big tangible picture
and the exceptions to the situation before making
a strategic move. ..."
- a paraphrase from a nameless strategist

Do you know the big tangible picture and the exceptions to the rules of your terrain and beyond?

"In planning never a useless move;
in strategy, no step is in vain." - Chen Hao

How can someone properly plan anything relevant when he/she does not know the big picture? What are the chances of him or her succeeding with that plan on the long run?