Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to Assess Your Strategic Situation (via a Classic Samurai Movie)

Kurosawa's Sanjuro is a very good movie for those who are interested in learning how to assess (or read) a situation in terms of its specifics. 

Toshiro Mifune plays Sanjuro, a ronin who saves a group of young samurai from being slaughtered by a high political official and then began to mentor them on having the right set of information before any decision is consummated.     (The story is slightly more complex than what is being described here.)

Throughout the movie,  he indirectly advised them to patiently assess their situation on the tangible truth and sort through the information. Do not act on emotional impulse. This act of mentoring was repeated many times.

At the near conclusion of this movie, this group of novice samurai learned the lesson of being self-patient. 

Sanjuro almost always made good decisions- except for the choice of the Komyo Temple for his story and the picking of the flowers at the wrong time (for the purpose of signaling his group of samurai to raid the targeted house).  

Compass Rule
Whenever, one is not focused  on their objective while not being mindful of their setting and beyond, the probability of errors will definitely rise.

The Dao of Decision Management 

From this movie, the best lesson for budding chief decision makers comes from these two quotes 

Mutsuta's wife: You're too sharp. That's your trouble. You're like a drawn sword. Sharp, naked without a sheath. You cut well. But good swords are kept in their sheaths. 

Sanjûrô Tsubaki: He was exactly like me. A naked sword. He didn't stay in his sheath.

The Analysis of the Above Video
Before the first move, Sanjuro mindfully assessed that the drawing the second move (his first move)  of the match would be more effective than his opponent's capability was too slow and the execution of the opponent's second move would not work. He mindfully positioned ahead with a tactical move that was a hybrid of two intents:  1.  The execution of his first move with his left hand as soon as the opponent began his first move.  2.  The continuation of that draw by leading with his body while cutting deeply into the opponent's body while avoiding the opposing strike.  (Our martial arts associates at Cook Ding's Kitchen referred this movement as intercepting.) 

Click here to watch the entire movie and you will understand the events that lead to those quotes. 

Food For Thought
In practice, never a useless move. 
In operation, no motion is wasted.  
- The Compass Strategist

Comments from the Compass Desk
How does the decision management process of this movie reflected to our 21st century information economy?

Because of the pseudo transparency and the moderate levels of deception,  some people usually glossed over the configuration of their Big Tangible Picture and occasionally misunderstand the risk consequences of their own situation.  
Another words, they do not connect the dots.

This decision management action originates from their urge for immediate gratification.  Look around you. People do this all the time.  They erred. Somehow they get away with it with some level of damage. (We know the reason behind their action.)

To prevail, the successful strategists always calmly assessed the configuration of their situation and the quality of intelligence before deciding on anything. They rarely operates on his impulsiveness.

Note on the Compass Process Model
Fwiw, our process model is so scaleable that it enables the strategist to adjust to the tangibility of the situation.   This model success is based on the implementer's capability to properly execute it. We will talk more about it in a future post.

Q: Do you know how to increase your level of assessment when the complexity of the situation grows?  Without a process model, are you willing to grind it out?

Side note
"Intercepting" is a mindful strategic action that requires its implementer to assess the configuration of the Big Tangible Picture (BTP) and to capitalizes on the on-coming opportunity with the right efficient moves.  Fwiw, this concept is indirectly emphasized in the Art of War, the Jiang Tai Gong's Six Secret Teachings and the Li Quan's book.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

More on "Failure to Plan is To Plan for Failure" (2)

Today is the 26th of May.  Do you have a plan for your current venture?  ...  Are you going to wing it?  ... Or are you the man (or woman) with the plan?

Have you assessed your strategic situation?  If so, I presumed that you are one of those rare few who does the following:
  • connect the dots between the matrix of connectivity, the seasonal cycle and the grand setting
  • connect the dots between the logistics, the leadership and the grand setting.
  • identifying the competitive disposition within the configuration of your setting;
  • pinpointing the opportunity and the timing point of your setting;  and 
  • conclude the reality within the possible adjustment.
  • Brew a cup of tea or java.
  • Script out the various tasks/objectives.
  • Delineate the list of objectives in terms of the following specifics: the targeted date; the metrics; the benefits; the risk consequences; the connections; the time that it takes to complete that  task-objective; and the budget that it takes to complete that objective.
  • Prioritize your list of objectives by using the 90/10 rule.   Another words, focus 90% of your effort on the top 10% of your objective .  Some people preferred the 80/20 rule or the 70-20-10 rule to be their guide.
  • Delineate the approach and the means
  • Review by connecting the dots between the objectives, the operational plans, the competition and the trends.
  • Script out the tactical steps for those top 10% objectives.
  • Outline the specifics of the details.
  • Implement the script.
While mapping out the plan, focus on the task of the moment ...  Go ahead and do it.  The process of building the plan is not that hard.  ... It starts with your effect. ...  The answer is not in your copy of the Art of War or the Dao De Jing or the Bible.  No one is going to be your cheerleader.  ...  Look at the mirror.

Remember, heaven helps those who help themselves.  

  • If you have done it, assess whether your plan would enable you to be one step ahead of the situation or one step behind?
  • Do you have the patience and the control to assess the operability of your plan?
  • If not, do you have an outside adviser who will assess the tangibility of your plan?
Now that you have a master plan, what is the possibility that you will complete it on one smooth move?   

What makes you think that your plan is built for adjusted situations?

There are people who believed in that concept that a bad plan is better than having no plan.   If that is true, how do you know if or when your plan is inoperable?

In summary, there is more to planning than the building of a plan.

In a future post, we will explain why you need to assess your situation before you plan, prepare and implement. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

How to Secure the Strategic Advantage (or Strategic Value) in One's Competitive Terrain

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s current chief executive, loves to tell people that he spends “98 percent of my time thinking about 2 percent probabilities."  ... It becomes the alpha priority because of his understanding of managing risk in different situations. 

In your competitive terrain, where do you think that 2% is located at ?

Do you think that you can capitalize on the 2% before your competition can?

Side Notes

Targeting the 2% is a good grand tactical rule for the competitive-driven strategists who have the grand advantage of the time, space and resources. Click here for other unique strategic and tactical rules

Compass View
There are those highly competitive situations where the obvious strategic values between the various competition are near-even. By focusing on the two percent, the successful strategists would sometimes identify the perennial force multiplier (a circumstance of numerous variables that presented the strategists the needed strategic leverage) for that projected grand moment.

The 2% could be in this abridged list of strategic factors:

  • the leadership;
  • the strategy;
  • the tactics;
  • the resources; and 
  • the infrastructure.
You can find more about the basics behind those strategic factors in your copy of the Seven Strategy Classics (Seven Military Classics of Ancient China).   ... Hmmm!  ...  I wondered if it is in our copy of Zhang Liang's favorite essays on strategy. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Assessing the Competition (from the View of Sunzi's Art of War)

Following is an abridged check list of our strategic assessment process
  • Assess the competitiveness of a strategic situation.
  • Identify the five critical strategic factors (1. The Matrix of Connectivity; 2. the Cyclical Stage of a Situation; 3. The Strategic State of a Situation; 4. The Efficacy of the Chief Decision Makers; 5. The Effectiveness of the Logistics) behind the competitiveness.
  • Based on the five critical strategic factors, are you able to determine the strategic efficiency of each competitor?
  • Based on the analysis of each competitor's strategic efficiency, are you able to determine the situational advantage of each competitor?
  • Based on the answers of the previous questions, what is the best objective and the most pragmatic approach for each side?
  • Based on the proper assessment of the specific strategic and tactical factors, who has the advantage?
Using the answers on those questions, one concludes that who could have the "one to two steps" advantage over their other competitors. (We will review that strategic point later.)   Having the "one to two steps" advantage is the golden ring of the business. 

The next step is performing the scenario modeling stage where one determines the following factors:
  • the "first move" factor 
  • the "maneuver to advantage" factor and 
  • the "orthodox-unorthodox" factor.
After using those questions as a guide, were you able to assess the strategic efficiency of your competition? 

Based on your total assessment, do you believed that you have the foundation to thaw your competition's plans?  Better yet, do you think that you are able to defeat them through the various tactical match-ups especially in a heads-up contest?

Will those myriad of match-ups evidently lead your total victory?

Comments From The Compass Desk
In the future, we will publish our book on strategic assessment. The framework utilizes the Li Quan's strategic assessment chart as a guide. 

This unique chart integrates the various principles from specific Chinese strategy classics which enables the user to see from a top down view and a ground up perspective.

Due to our priorities, we have not decided on whether to publish our translation of Li Quan's commentary on Sunzi. ... However, there is a strong possibility that we will publish our e-book on Compass Scripting soon. 

Side note
To those who read, preach and teach the Art of War, do you know how to use the Five Critical Strategic Factors in your assessment of any situation? ... Are you able to forecast the predictability and the strategic position of any situations? ... 

The clue is here.  ... 

/// This post was updated on 05/15/2013

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Paradox Behind the Strategy Paradox

We have always heard about the various businesses who have used the macro approach of  "focusing on one objective with their projected tactic"  regardless of the criteria of the situation.  

Without ever assessing "the configuration of their 'Big Tangible Picture (BTP)'", these organizations "grounded and pounded" their way to the finish line while missing the possible opportunities.  ... They regularly fall behind their schedule and operating miles above their given budget. 

At the conclusion of the day, their chief decision makers present the deceptive lie that their mission is progressing forward and sell it to their investors, their troops and themselves.  

Strategists point out that the highest returns come when a company focuses on a single strategy, commits fully to it, and aligns all resources accordingly. When you look back at companies that have been successful, they often appear to have used this strategy.

But investing in the big opportunity invariably brings along a chance for the big catastrophe. As Michael Raynor argues in The Strategy Paradox, because the real world in general and competitive markets in particular are filled with great unknowns, the same focus and commitment that promise the highest returns also carry the greatest risk of failure. Raynor urges businesses to make sure they have “the ability to pursue alternative strategies…depending on how key uncertainties are resolved.” Raynor further suggests that CEOs should focus not on achieving results but on managing uncertainty.

A century ago, Andrew Carnegie had this advice: “Concentrate your energies, your thoughts, and your capital. The wise man puts all his eggs in one basket and watches the basket.” But of course the risk, then and now, is that no matter how attentive and focused you are, the basket you’re watching is simply the wrong one.

The strategy paradox is that the prerequisites of success are often the antecedents of failure."

1) A successful strategy requires full commitment
2) Full commitment, in light of unpredictable futures, can mean catastrophic failure.

Sidebar: The message of this approach reminds us of a similar message from the Cult of The Art of War. We will touch on that particular topic one day.

The Paradox
Telling people to focus on the potential positives of a project without ever being mindful of its possible negatives is like lighting a cigar while standing on a puddle of gasoline that leads to a gas station's fuel pump. Those who cannot see the Big Tangible Picture, would not be able to gain any long term commitment from their associates.

Excellence is the only attribute that one should be committed. One should not  behave like those who are described in Lord Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade."

For obvious reasons, successful strategists or smart expediters would not want to participate in a lost cause.

Questions from The Compass Desk
If you are competing in an unpredictable setting , do you think that this generalized "kitchen sink" strategic approach would work?  ... 

Does Mr. Raynor's approach has a strategic process model that heeds their competition's reaction?  

After assessing your Big Tangible Picture, are you able to forecast the predictability and the position of your situation? ... Do you ever think whether you and your team are capable of adjusting to the configuration of the situation before the grand change factor is restarted again?   

How do you assess the risk behind your projected objective and the approach?
The companies who have faltered by utilizing this approach. Would they ever admit to the failure of this approach of overcommitment? 

The Preliminaries to The Compass Solution
Commitment begins when the principal stakeholders accepted the risk benefits and the risk consequences behind the Big Tangible Picture that is connected to their goal. 

However, the commitment will diminish when the setbacks begin to accumulate.  To prevent this from happening, successful strategists are focused on creating positive momentum by making their first few moves to be strategically correct.

Side note: 
In most cases, the acceptance are one of the factors that determines the quality of the work.

Those who possessed the proper leadership qualities (wisdom, credibility, benevolence, courage and discipline), are able to influence people to commit to a cause. All of those five leadership qualities are always needed to maintain the total unity within the team.

Occasional assessment of the configuration behind the Big Tangible Picture would usually enable the successful strategist to determine the nuance of who is committed.

The Compass Reminder
To thrive in a chaotic setting. reading one's own Big Tangible Picture before implementing a strategic move and preparing one's self on how to adjust to situational changes are two essential keys that  successful strategist 

We will discuss more about our solution in a future post.