Thursday, June 30, 2011

Competing in the Global Economy: The Basics

In our information economy, many companies are struggling to be operationally efficient. Some succeed because of their competitive disposition. They usually seized the opportunity by waiting for their competition to err .

The probable cause for the err is that their up and coming competition usually lacked the understanding of their surroundings and what their competition is actually doing. ...

The Basics
Following is an abridged listing of the reasons behind the "above average" competitors:
  • Having a good view of the Big Tangible Picture (BTP);
  • Having the willingness to take the time to assess the Big Tangible Picture;
  • Having the feeling of competitive urgency;
  • Having the economics and logistics to properly compete;
  • Operating with a correct flow of pertinent information ; and
  • Taking the advantage of the tactical imbalance of time.
If you want to operate with great strategic effectiveness, think about those points. Good luck.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Note on Sawyer's Latest Classic

There is more to the strategy game than the usual battlefield campaigns, the strategies, the tactics and other unique attributes, one has to understand the basic components behind it.

If you are seeking an integrated view of the Ancient Chinese mindset, we highly recommend this book.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Compass Tradition: Recognizing the Application of the Art of War (and other Strategic) Principles in the Movies

During our off-hours, some of us occasionally spent some of our time observing how the "Art of War" strategic principles are being used in certain action movies (and in political-economic and social matters). In our review session, we also discussed whether the strategic implementation could have been improved.

Recently, the 13 Assassins movie was one of few films that indirectly shows how a battle is strategized and fought from the perspective of the Art of War essay.

This movie never ever mentioned anything that relates to the Art of War . We would only presumed that the chief assassin was a devotee of the Sunzi's classic. The movie quietly preached its principles without ever mentioning it. That is considered to be the way of all ways.

Serious Art of War (AoW) followers can see some of the terrain traps and the strategic leadership errors that Sunzi warned his readers about. They would also see how strategic power can be created through good strategic assessment, the positioning of the strategic power through planning and preparation and the influencing of of their power.

In this movie, the underdog prevailed over the odds of grand numbers by doing the following:
  • assessing the terrain;
  • positioning themselves ahead of the opposition; and
  • influencing them with their strategic power.
The Process of Assess
The protagonist and his team assessed the configuration of terrain, the behavior of the target and the many possible scenarios that could happened.

The Process of Position
Once the assessment was completed,. they built a plan and transformed their arsenal of various strategic factors toward a small but tangible state of strategic power (or strategic advantage).

The Process of Influence
Proper pre-positioning enabled them to influence their target toward a circumstance of implementing poor strategic decisions.

(from Magnet Releasing)
Yusuke Iseya and Takayuki Yamada in '13 Assassins.

Click here for a video trailer and a very good review from the Wall Street Journal. NY Times also provided a well-written review on this movie.

Notes from the Compass Desk
Observe how the fisherman analogy was subtly utilized in this film and how the chief assassin used it against the targeted antagonist. (This concept of baiting and luring the target into a trap is quite popular with ancient Chinese strategists and modern business practices.)

Also, observe how the chief assassins re-configured the terrain into their framework of strategic power.

To the strategy aficionados, we highly recommend this movie. Be aware that it is quite violent and bloody.

Side note: You can also find the various strategic and tactical principles embedded in the Red Cliff movie. We also highly recommended the classic movie titled Seven Samurai.

Final Notes
Whether you are in a competing or cooperating situation, always follow these three Compass rules:
  • Always assess the Big Tangible Picture before positioning and influencing.
  • Identify and comprehend the risks behind the various advantageous and disadvantageous factors within the Big Tangible Picture.
  • Always know the small points, the urgent points and the big points of your situation
By assessing properly, one can decide on whether "the act of subjugating the predominant paradigm" of the target is possible.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Sign of the Times: Operational Effectiveness

Whether one is running a business or a high profile high rewards product groups, operational effectiveness. Politicians are also bantering this same message.

The benefits of well-played operational effectiveness usually means the reduction of costs, the minimization of response time and the mitigation of risk. It starts by increasing the quantity of productivity-driven practices, standardization of procedures and using the correct technological devices.

There is no perfect system. It is a process of continuous improvement.

Bridging the gap between risk management and cost effectiveness is the key to operational effectiveness. In a future post, we will discuss this matter.

The Big Tangible Picture
We believed that this trend will continue. There is a limitation to everything. Sooner or later, the non-innovative, but competitively efficient medical hospitals will have to compete against each other for a large piece of the pie, for the purpose of survival. While the strong organizations occasionally acquire the weaker organizations at some point of the game, the smarter organizations will thrive by focusing on becoming competitively innovative.

Based on historical data, there is always a possibility that the customer base might suffer on the long run. This is the sign of the times.

Building operational effectiveness is the fundamental basis for establishing strategic power.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Possible Truth of Our Strategic Being

Is the competition gene embedded in us? ...

Having it is not enough. To properly compete, it begins with a process. ... A process that integrated the assessed intelligence to the plan and then to the action of influence. You can read more about the process by clicking on this link.

Idealistically, it is important to have the right order of resources, relationships, intelligence, economics, logistics, etc. ...

Occasionally, one's position does not always have the right order of essentials for that moment . Processing the act of adjusting, adapting, enduring and evolving is the only alternative.

"As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." - Donald Rumsfeld.

Compass Rule: Read the Big Tangible Picture (BTP) before deciding on a strategic move.

Summary: When one's back is against the wall, one must adjusts and evolves while never losing track of their goal and their settings.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Assessing the Basics of Strategic Leadership

Unlike some other strategy forums, we have avoided the practice of treating the Art of War like a book of fortune cookie sayings. Not only does it demeans the essence of that book, it gives the new reader a narrow view of what strategy is about.

One key to assessing a specific situation is to study the quality leadership behind each competitor and then connecting the situation to a set of principles.

Someone sent us this news item and asked us to offer our assessment.

We viewed the situation where the vision of the leadership contradicted with the intent of the staff.

“In competition, two of the six types of organizational errors are chaotic and setback. This disaster is not caused by nature and the marketplace but by the leader's errors. ... If the leader is weak and not disciplined, unclear in his instructions and leadership; the implementers and the expediters lack discipline; and their deployment of expediters into formation is in disarray, it is termed chaotic. ... If the leader, unable to estimate the prowess of the opposition, would make a poor strategic match up decisions, it is termed setback. ... if you know the competition and know yourself, your victory will not be jeopardy. If you know the nature of your terrain and know the configuration of your terrain, your victory can be complete.- AoW 10

Mr. Newt Gingrich misunderstood the strategic power of his competitors and the relationship with his team. He should have focused his attention on securing more political and economic capital for his team, not going on vacation with his wife. Since there are more than five candidates, the competition for the pie of GOP donors was going to be fierce. Without this capital, his campaign was grinding. In a high-risk, high reward competitive situation, a right-minded group of professionals wanted to work for a campaign that had a winning chance.

Side note: What is the probability and the possibility of his former team is now heading to the Lone Star State?

Retrospectively, Mr. Gingrich did not show the discipline to make the right strategic move. The consequence is that his credibility for making the right move has been temporarily destroyed. ...
However, Newt can always fix his image by following the legend of Wuzi. Whether he is able to do something like that, is a different story. ... You can make up your own conclusion on this matter.

We wished much success to Mr. Gingrich in his next professional move.
Compass Rule: Always assess the Big Tangible Picture before deciding on the next move.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Compass Trend (5): Automated Code Generation

In the automotive industry, auto code generation is currently being used in the development of engine controller. The value of labor is now focused on creating efficient specifications while lowering the labor costs of grinding out C code.

The optimization of fat and bloated code is no longer necessary. The days of writing efficient code is near over. When in doubt, find a faster processor and add more memory chips. It is the sign of the times.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Compass Trend (4): An Unique Exception to the Automated Restaurant Service

... Click here to "see" the strategic exception to the automated service trend. ... Most of us know that the simple formula of sex and alcohol sells. It works as long as the entrepreneur targets the correct social and economic locations with the right amount of resources. ...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Compass Trend (3b): More on Automated Restaurant Service

Click here for more examples of automated restaurant service. In an economically repressed terrain, there is a significant need to be operationally efficient. In most slow economic growth situations, this specific trend will continue. It is only a matter of time, that the casual dining restaurants will no longer have a large team of waiters. It will become near-obsolete in some cases.

For what it is worth, we have been following this particular trend since last year.

Update (06.08.11):
Compass Rule: For every general situation, there is an exception to the rule.

We will post the exception to this trend some time this weekend.

Side bar: If there is an electric blackout, we wondered how will the "technophile" crowd behave in a restaurant?

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Sign of the Times: The Automated Trend Continues (2)

Here is another example of the growing automated trend. ... IBM has been developing their version of automated efficiency for the cities. ... There are a few cities who could use this type of solution.

Click here for our past view on this trend.

Ruminations From the Compass Desk
With automation, the human error is near-eliminated. The operating costs and the labor costs are greatly lowered. Efficiency and profit are increased. Soon, every relevant competitor will be functioning at this level.

Big Tangible Picture
There is a limitation to the approach of automation, outsourcing and copycatting that can be achieved in a non-innovative and efficiency-driven information economy. Once the surviving (and thriving) competitors achieved their apex level of efficiency, will they have the economics, the logistics, and the drive to compete against each other effectively? ... What is the possibility of these market players being involved in the excessive game of competitive darwinism? ...

Based on current data, we assessed that the model of "the last three men standing" would be prevailing in various macro marketplaces,

We will focus on the negatives after-effects of the "efficiency-driven" mindset i
n a future post.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Assessing Robert James Fischer

(minor update on o1.21.16)

We spent some time studying some of Fischer's key games and also talked to a few advanced chess players.

Following is an abridged list of questions that we have focused on:
  1. What was Fischer's approach for pursuing the path of least resistance?
  2. What were Fischer's favorite and least -favorite game situations?
  3. What were Fischer's competitive habits and tendencies?
  4. Was Fischer always decisive in his implementation?
  5. How did Fischer shaped and staged his game and the competition's own game before the actual game begins?
After a week of research and analysis, we concluded this mini-project with a quick summation on Bobby Fischer's chess playing style.

Side note: Our current set of priorities prevented us from performing a very deep analysis of Fischer's process of chess playing.

Always Play to Win
When playing white, Fischer has always played aggressively by controlling the center. It presented him the one move advantage. The one move advantage enabled him to set the pace of the game. Forcing his opponent to becoming reactive.

His next strategic step was to target his attention toward the location of the challenger's king. Strategically, his grand objective was to force the challenger to play catch up throughout the game.

As black, Fischer chose aggressive defenses. By constantly matching the opposition's moves with an incremental set of counter-offensive moves, the weaker opposition would somehow err. Early control of the tempo and the space of the game board allowed him to frequently forced the opposition into playing his game.

The Opening Game: Seize the Center
Fischer have always played chess openings that enabled him to immediately target the control of the center. As white, he usually played e4 as his first move. It frequently limited the opposition to a lower number of defensive openings and options. In some instances, the competition were not prepared to play these openings or new variations within those openings.

When playing against black e5, Fischer usually chose the aggressive Ruy Lopez opening. He occasionally surprised the challenger by playing the King Gambit and some of the various non-white king pawn openings (i.e., the English Opening, the Larson-Nimzovitch Attack, some variations of the King Indian Attack, etc.)

Assessing Fischer's Game Playing by Analyzing the Patterns and the Variations
Fischer has always played chess openings that were indirectly connected by certain patterns and variations.

His opening choices sometimes utilized the financhetto type of attack (i.e., the King Indian Attack, the English Opening with the King Indian Attack variation, the King's Indian-Grunfeld complex against the White's queen pawn opening, etc.)

As black, Fischer has never competitively played the Sicilian Dragon and the French Defense.These openings contradicted his philosophy of constantly attacking the opposition and being one tempo ahead of the opposition. From personal experience, it is never fun to play from a cramped position while being one tempo behind. 

Lesson: Always be ahead in time and space.

This unique level of specialization allowed him to quickly implement his mode of attack.

Another strategic habit of Fischer was to play the various theoretical variations that were only predictable to him. It usually lead to the innumerable quantity of chess positions that he was proficient at.  It also lead to him having the strategic advantage of tempo and territory.

 The quality of the game competition also determined his choice of chess openings.

A Few Specific Tendencies
In the opening stage of any tournament games, Fischer  has never played the same chess variation twice until his 1972 championship match against Boris Spassky.

His choice of openings and tactical variation enabled him to secure the advantage of time and space. This forced his competition to play reactive defense.

The BC4 Option
We have also noticed his tendency (as white) to use some variations of the Bc4 tactic to attack the competitor who regularly castled to the king's side of the board. (The end point of this intent was to target the F7 pawn, ...) Historically, Fischer implemented variations of this tactic in some of his other games (i.e., Ruy Lopez-based openings and games against the Sicilian defense and the Caro-Kann defense, etc., . ...)   This repeated tactic has always influenced his opponent to play "catch up" defense.

Securing the Advantage in the Open  Game
In open positional games, the exploitation of his bishops was always in play. ... He was also a master of integrating the rook, the bishop and the pawns as a pressing influence in certain endgame situations.

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

Whenever the initiative of being one move ahead and the control of territory were established, Fisher usually executed offensive moves that displayed the perspective of "multiple threats" while creating (or exploiting) new tactical imbalance scenarios against his opponents. This type of pressure usually influenced the opposition into a passive state or a poorly made decision. He also effectively integrated the concept of technical mismatching and the concept of positional mismatching for certain strategic positions.

This level of strategic power gave Fischer a setting of concealed predictability. It also limited his opponent to a certain number of options.

Ruminations From the Compass Desk
During our research, we began to appreciate his brilliance. Bobby Fischer had the gift of focusing on the objective while quietly minding the rest of his settings. ... While others were deciding on what was the current move, he has already anticipated the opposition's next move and began to focus on the next set of moves.

Regardless of his alleged acts of paranoia and madness, Fischer was a strategic genius in his own metaphor. He seized his opportunity cycle and made the most of it. ... Like most brilliant people, Fischer never saw the conclusion of his own cycle especially when the starting cycle of a larger variable has concluded it.

Interestingly, we have seen that some of the most serious strategic chess players have occasionally ventured onto the game of Go (weiqi) and rarely leave that game.

The Compass Principle: 
Mastering a board game does not mean that one can master the game of life.

Final Thoughts
In the information economy, each and every business competitor has a set of individual tendencies. By properly assessing the strategic foundation and their utilization of their strategic power, one could neutralize the potency of their targeted competitor with a balance of finesse and force.

It is quite significant for one to understand that the defining the overall goal would always sound more simpler than the planning and the implementation of the approach. There are always more people who enjoyed the process of improvising than the process of planning and preparing for the on-coming situation.

Knowing the projected outcome of anything is for the amateurish observers. They strived on knowing the rules and the simplified comprehension of a situation while the successful strategists preferred to focus some of their time and their effort on comprehending the strategic reasoning and the process of the targeted competitor.

We will post an item on the strategic distinction between weiqi (Go) strategists and chess strategists In a future post .

Side Notes: The Compass Thoughts
Q: What is your approach to assessing your competition?

Q: What aspect of the competition's strategic foundation do you focus on?

Q: Are you able to transfer your assessment to your strategic plan?

# # #

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Sign of the Times: Manufactured U.S. Goods

The growing trend for purchasing upper quality U.S. manufactured goods has been in motion for the last 12 months. Click on this link for more information on this economic upswing.

Following are some of those quality U.S. products are:
Other information can be found here.

Compass Rule:
  • In a service driven information economy, quality products and services will always have its niche.