Sunday, August 28, 2011

Applying the Sunzi's Strategic Principles to the Real World

Click on this link for an interesting article on how the New York Police Department (NYPD) is indirectly using the Sunzi's strategic principles to find domestic terrorists. The Sunzi's AoW aficionado should be able to identify the strategic principles of the AoW that are in play within a New York minute.

In order to prevent terrorism, the NYPD is focused on identifying the possible strategic power of the opposition through their various intelligence gathering activities. ... It all begins by comprehending the macro configuration of the greater terrain, the current state of the terrain and the various adjusted situations. (We will continue this specific point later.)

Securing the path of minimal resistance begins by identifying the source behind the opposition's strategic power and the grand terrain that encompasses it. Pinpointing the operational attributes of the terrain (i.e, the information flow, the applied economics, the implemented logistics, etc.) take a great deal of time. ... Securing field level intelligence is usually quite different form the data found on-line. Instead of delivering with the context, one could see the specifics behind the content.

With the proper execution of assessing, positioning and influencing (API), one can prevail over their opposition with the greatest impact in minimal time and the least amount of costs.

Is your strategic team doing that for you?

Compass Rule
Assess. Position. Influence.

(minor content update: 09.10.11)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Maneuvering in the Info Society

Good strategy assessment begins with good strategic intelligence gathering (through various means). The amateurs espoused the belief that one can search for tangible and relevant information through the web with a few key words is good enough. They do not realized that the placement of various data on the web can be fixed.

How does one maneuvers through the information society when some aspects of the economy are driven by fabrication and temporary reality?

With so much data, most decision makers (esp. the news media) are usually confused.

Regardless of one's position within the terrain, the successful strategists are usually focused on understanding the certainty of the grand terrain and their positions within it.

The key to good strategic assessment is to match the numeric fundamentals of the terrain to the performance metrics of the targeted competitors.

The successful strategists are usually able to recognize those match ups and conclude what is the tangible truth.  Depending on the situation, they would then utilize it to enhanced their level of strategic power.

Here is one view's of strategic assessment from the movie Syriana:

Bob Barnes: Intelligence work isn't training seminars and gold stars for attendance.
Fred Franks: What do you think intelligence work is Bob?
Bob Barnes: I think it's two people in a room and one of them's asking a favor that is a capital crime in every country on earth, a hanging crime.
Fred Franks: No Bob, it's assessing the information gathered from that favor and then balancing it against all the other information gathered from all the other favors.

The Compass View
Good strategic assessment begins with superior strategic intelligence gathering (from the field). It usually take a great deal of time and effort. That there are not many companies who are willing to do that. The chief decision makers preferred to build a situation based on their presumption. Then they would create a plan for it. If failure occurs, their corporate assets and their human efforts are wasted. Other people would be blamed for their poor decisions.

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

In the real world, the successful strategists regularly weighted the relevancy of each intelligence item and the credibility of its source. Then, they balanced it to the principal points within the Big Tangible Picture. These steps enable them to make a relevant strategic decision.

Successful strategists who believed in the importance of assessing and positioning, followed this Compass rule:

"The time needed to influence your target is inversely proportional to the time that you have spent assessing and positioning."

Side note: There is an exception to that rule. We will touch on it in a future post.

So, how do you assess your Big Tangible Picture?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Big Tangible Picture: Assessing Yahoo

To compete in the information economy, the successful strategists frequently focus on understanding the value of the relevant and what is its rate of change. ... In the case of Yahoo, the chief decision makers did not think about the probable tangible changes within the Big Tangible Picture (BTP).

During their strategy session, they could have asked the following three questions:
  1. Is our decision based on the connection between our competitive disposition and the configuration of the targeted market terrain?
  2. Is our decision also based on the connection between our strategic influence and the configuration of the opportunistic situation?
  3. Is our decision based on the connection of the illusion and the reality of the situation to the change of the market terrain?
Compass Rule:
  • Know the specifics behind the Big Tangible Picture before one starts the process of questioning.

Proper strategic assessment of their buyers in terms of cycles and causation, would have helped Yahoo in adjusting to the probable change within their Big Tangible Picture without any major glitch. ...

The name of the game is to connect the dots and reap the rewards. ... It is that simple. ... Are you doing it?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Big Tangible Picture: Gaming the System (1)

The Chinese strategy classics emphasized that the successful strategist is one who comprehends the configuration of their terrain (and beyond). Thenfore he or she is able to connect the prevalent dots and then reap the rewards. ... Connecting the dots means that he or she will be able to neutralize the prowess of their current competition and the other future competitors by using the scope of their terrain as the starting point. ... (We will touch on these specifics behind this approach in our book.) ... Retrospectively, this concept is quite superior to the usual approach of direct confrontation that is favored by the many amateurs.

Gaming the System

"Enter the gap, attack the voids, evade the defended area and
strike the competition where he/she does not expect you." -Cao Cao.

To compete properly in our semi-transparent information economy, one has to understand the PESTO configuration of their terrain.

Rick Perry, the Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate was able to find someone who understood the rules of the U.S. political game. This talented person discovered the gap that enabled Governor Perry to quickly fill his coffers.

Money is the mother's milk of politics." - Jesse Marvin Unruh

Having coffers of money does not always guaranteed the immediate victory to the favored.

In 2008, McCain defeated Romney for the GOP presidential nomination despite that he was outspent 10 to 1 . McCain won by focusing on a common message that connected to the masses of voters.

Side note: To gain the consensus of the masses, one focuses on fulfilling their basic needs.

The successful strategist focuses on knowing how the grand system works before ever thinking about how to beat the actual competition.

Compass Rule: Know how the system works before identifying why it works.

Questions From the Compass Desk
  1. What strategic attributes are in your Big Tangible Picture?
  2. How do you see your Big Tangible Picture?
  3. Can you see the tangible connections between the various political factors and the economic factors?
  4. Are you able to prioritize the collected intelligence?
  5. Do you know the quality specifics behind your collected intelligence?
  6. If one cannot see the connections, how can he or she assessed the Big Tangible Picture?
  7. Without a good assessment of your Big Tangible Picture, what is the probability of you prevailing over your competition?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Assess, Position and Influence (11): The Big Tangible Picture

Q: Why does the Big Tangible Picture (BTP) requires a large quantity of quality information?

A: In most cases, too much information creates the act of "paralysis by analysis." Therefore, nothing gets done. Concurrently, minimal information is equal to no insight. The key to understanding the Big Tangible Picture is to promptly secure the right amount of quality information

Compass Rule:
The quantity of quality information is proportional to the quality of the analysis.

In some situations, the political-economic-social state of one's terrain usually rules the mindset of the people within it. If one does not know the political-economic-social state of their terrain, he or she will be grinding for a long time.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Assess, Position and Influence (10)

There is no such thing as a similar problem. Depending on the strategic positioning of a company, the effect of each problem would have a different impact. The strategist's experience is usually one of the many major reasons on how one viewed the problem. Having the time and the resources to properly assess the problem is another challenge.

Simultaneously, the risk/reward option and the risk/consequences would always be quite different for each company .
(from wikimedia)

Compass Rule:
During the assessment of your Big Tangible Picture (BTP), know your risk tolerance before deciding on your strategic move.

Ruminations From the Compass Desk
During one's climb of the political- economic-social value chain, the "risk/reward" attribute and the quality of competition usually increases. One should expect the duration and the frequency of the competitive pace to be occasionally intensive.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Compass Trend (6): Increasing Efficiency Through Automation

We are always wondering what would the future bring? Regardless where our position is at, some of us are just confused about the uncertainty factor. The most difficult task to perform is to spend some time viewing the Big Tangible Picture.

We are currently living in an information economy where "achieving the cost effectiveness and operational efficiency" is the mantra. The grand priority objective is to lower the human labor costs while maximizing the profits through the application of standards and technological-driven process.

Current Business Situation
In previous posts, we talked about the robotics trend in the service industry. Foxcom recently decided to pursued the solution of robotics. ... When the robots performed the majority of the manufacturing work, where would the workers go?... What are the odds of this company finding work for their workers?

While technology is constantly evolving, some people read the Big Tangible Picture and anticipating the on-coming trend. and adjusting to the non-obvious after-effects. These people quietly thrive. In most cases, the masses react. some survive. The rest just grinds.

Retrospectively, the evolution of technology usually diminishes the economic influence of the masses. The key is to staying ahead of the technological curve while maintaining one's focus on the target.

What does it all mean? Each day, there are mountains of information that one must digest per day . Whether one can prioritize this amount of information is another story.

It begins by assessing the Big Tangible Picture (BTP).

Following is a short listing of questions that you should ask yourself at the end of the day:
  • So what is in my BTP!?
  • How do I prioritizes my information?
  • How do I usually grade the quality of my information?
  • Is my situation stable?
  • Am I ahead or behind?

Regardless of the times and settings, the successful strategist always assesses the Big Tangible Picture (BTP) before deciding strategically.

Following are some of the key Compass Rules that you should remember:
  • Always assess the Big Tangible Picture (BTP) before deciding strategically;
  • Identify the various choices;
  • Determine the advantages and disadvantages of each choice;
  • Weight the risks and rewards of each choice;
  • Balance one's own "Big Picture" to the reality of one's grand settings; and
  • Act accordingly
As a reminder, always review each past strategic situation when necessary.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ruminations from the Compass Desk


The two grand objectives of most businesses are: knowing the state of one's competition and knowing the future. ... Since none of us are not psychics, we preferred the former option. ...

From our view, the Big Tangible Picture should have some of the following attributes:
  • the state of your competition;
  • the configuration of your terrain and beyond;
  • the cyclical state of the competitive terrain; etc.
By knowing the relevant information from the Big Tangible Picture, one mitigates the risks and the impact of possible black swans.

q: Currently, what is in your Big Picture?

q: Can you see the strategic points that lead to the current and the new profit opportunities?

q: Can you see the strategic points that lead to the current and the new cost cutting opportunities?

q: Can you see the strategic risk benefits and the risk consequences that are behind the discovered opportunities?

q: Does your Big Picture connects with the Big Tangible Picture?