Monday, September 23, 2013

Succeeding in the Info Economy by Assessing a Problem with the Phoenix Checklist

(updated 09/23/13 12:33 pm)

Do you think that you can succeed in our complex economy with a checklist without ever having to grind?

This "Phoenix Checklist" post originated from 

The Phoenix Checklist
Was looking through my notes recently and came across the Phoenix Checklist - a set of questions developed by the CIA to enable their agents and operatives to think about a problem thoroughly. It should come in handy for us planners and strategists.

The problem
  • Why is it necessary to solve the problem?
  • What benefits will you receive by solving the problem?
  • What is the unknown?
  • What is it you don't yet understand?
  • What is the information you have?
  • What isn't the problem?
  • Is the information sufficient? Or is it insufficient? Or redundant? Or contradictory?
  • Should you draw a diagram of the problem? A figure?
  • Where are the boundaries of the problem?
  • Can you separate the various parts of the problem? Can you write them down? What are the relationships of the parts of the problem? What are the constants of the problem?
  • Have you seen this problem before?
  • Have you seen this problem in a slightly different form? Do you know a related problem?
  • Try to think of a familiar problem having the same or a similar unknown
  • Suppose you find a problem related to yours that has already been solved. Can you use it? Can you use its method?
  • Can you restate your problem? How many different ways can you restate it? More general? More specific? Can the rules be changed?
  • What are the best, worst and most probable cases you can imagine?

The plan
  • Can you solve the whole problem? Part of the problem?
  • What would you like the resolution to be? Can you picture it?
  • How much of the unknown can you determine?
  • Can you derive something useful from the information you have?
  • Have you used all the information?
  • Have you taken into account all essential notions in the problem?
  • Can you separate the steps in the problem-solving process? Can you determine the correctness of each step?
  • What creative thinking techniques can you use to generate ideas? How many different techniques?
  • Can you see the result? How many different kinds of results can you see?
  • How many different ways have you tried to solve the problem?
  • What have others done?
  • Can you intuit the solution? Can you check the result?
  • What should be done? How should it be done?
  • Where should it be done?
  • When should it be done?
  • Who should do it?
  • What do you need to do at this time?
  • Who will be responsible for what?
  • Can you use this problem to solve some other problem?
  • What is the unique set of qualities that makes this problem what it is and none other?
  • What milestones can best mark your progress?
  • How will you know when you are successful?
Our Comments on the Checklist  
The conundrum of planning is that it requires some forethought. The complication occurs when one has no foresight of the opportunities or any experience in maximizing those circumstances. Sometimes the predictability of the settings and the experience of the strategist determined the quality of planning.

The list is long and dreary.  Why would anyone in their right mind use that list?  Would you assess your situation with that list?

The Gist of a Checklist
A basic checklist usually enables the implementers to be prepared to operate in a predictable setting. It also reduces some stress while allowing for a fewer surprises.

The Checklist vs. The Script

What are the differences between a "script" and a list?
  • The list sometimes produces the illusion of stability. 
  • The list is for people who believed that their settings are always static
  • The script is designed for competitive people who proactively operate with a purpose and are methodical by style.
  • The scripting process occurs after they have assessed the completeness of the Big Tangible Picture.
  • The script enables its implementer to operate in the settings of order and disorder.
I presumed that you know why the Checklist-based scheme does not always work!?  ...  

Why the Script Works 

The script only works when one's strategic operational team has comprehended the configuration of their Big Tangible Picture (BTP) and possessed a grand understanding of the various strategic and tactical principles.  By understanding the strategic efficiency of their Big Picture, the implementers recognized what adds up and when it multiples.
Then they decided whether to play the "risk game of pursuing the multiplier" or "to stay focused" on their objective, be efficient until the project is completed.

Amateurs compile lists of objectives or steps while professionals devise scripts.

The Process of a Script Verses An Assortment of Rules 
Having a large list of strategy principles and operational measures cannot always help the strategic implementer if he/she does not know how to script their operation in a concise way. (Some of the pseudo experts tell their followers to utilize a few of their interpreted principles for the purpose of resolving their problems regardless of their situation. It should idealistically work. The key word is "idealistically.")

Fwiw, the size of one's endeavor is proportional to the importance of having a well-devised script.

The Compass Script

The Compass Script is our macro approach that enables the implementers to organizes their assortment of lists of tactical plays for specific situations. It also enables them to adjust their process and their objectives for certain situations

Our approach is specifically designed for short-term, reward-based projects with long-range implications. These projects are usually aligned to unpredictable strategic situations where the macro variables could change.

We will discuss how a typical Compass Script works in a strategic terrain in a future post.

Question of the Day
Does your team operate from a script?

Organizing Data is the 1st step.

(Five staccato syllables to live by)
Organization leads to preparation
Preparation eliminates the unexpected. 
Be ready for everything. . . . 
Overlook nothing. ... 
"A team that is unable to discern good fortune and misfortune in the as-yet-uninformed does not understand preparations." 
- Military Methods, 22 (A minor revision on a concept from Sun Bin's Military Methods)

In any competitive strategy situation, the well-prepared and successful strategists are always focused on securing the last base camp before assaulting the summit.

In summary, preparation is the key. Knowing when and how to prepare for a planning and preparation situation is the first stage of preparation. ... Knowing what to plan for and how to plan is the next stage. ... It starts by assessing the situation and following your script to build the new situational script.

Cate Blanchett, a famous Aussie actress, enjoys making lists and crossing items off as she accomplishes them.

No comments: