Five years ago this last Monday, Katrina struck along the Gulf Coast. Its aftermath still lives with us, the 9th Ward in New Orleans still devastated with diminishing hope. The Katrina experience was transformative along many dimensions. It graphically illustrated the execution rigidity born of planning and responsiveness that comes from leadership gained through cronyism and political machines. Lives were lost and value was destroyed in an experience that put light on our soft underbelly. In fact, 1836 people died and 135 were missing and financial losses exceeded $108 billion. The aftereffects from looting, violence, and losses to the economies would fill scores of books. It reshaped the local economy, created a diaspora of resources and cast doubts globally about our values.
Elected leadership made bad decisions. “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” - Mark Twain (1835 – 1910),
On the flip side, Entergy, the electric utility, distinguished itself with an exceptional response and record setting electrical system restoration. They were ready, willing, and able. This last weekend Isabel struck the East Coast, but this time, with very different consequences. We learned and many alive today can give thanks for that. Elected and appointed officials were ready, willing, and able. The final count is not in, but fewer (40+) have perished and early estimates of costs hover around $10 billion. It brought with it the still growing calamities from flooding, yet to be assessed.
While both storms destroyed property and economic value, some irrecoverable, those in charge with preparation and execution during Irene saved scores of lives. Why? While arguably we may have some better elected and appointed officials, the gene pool of the planners and responders did not change. What did change was the process, specifically, the process capability. The game changed from disaster response to disaster prevention. The process learned from the consequences of managing downstream from the storm, to well upstream of the storm. Change comes and storms are unavoidable, and they are both opportunities to be harvested. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity and there is opportunity in every storm.
Our business environment is well into a violent and unstable economic and geopolitical hurricane season. Do our planning and response processes reflect that? Do we hunker down, hold our cash in a safe box and wait for the storms to end, or harvest the opportunities each storm creates? Are managing with “detect and correct” or with “predict and prevent”?
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” Salt in My Attic by William Shedd
The 9.0 earthquake that devastated northern Japan continues to have severe aftershocks. They are shocks in what clever physicist would ascribe to a type of space-time. It’s not about Star Trek stuff, or the time travel that fantasies love to use, but rather how one type of event starts a whole series of other events along a different type of path, affecting a different space at a different time, but connected. These types of other events are very real “butterfly effects” where a small change in one place can cause a whole bunch of changes downstream. Believe it or not, that earthquake has changed our lives, our businesses, and our collective futures. Toyota, the world’s largest automaker is expecting a 35% drop in profits, primarily from supply chain disruptions. Maybe that’s a no brainer, but it’s also driving severe supply chain effects globally and very real adverse economic and employment pain here in the US. From automakers and their suppliers, to many of the stuff we buy including our beloved electro-gadgetry … it’s still hurting.
How many of our business plans had “the earthquake” included as a scenario? Not very likely … Our nuclear industry was in the early days of a beautiful renaissance, one with a promise that would be a large driver of untethering us from our OPEC masters … but it too has been severely damaged by an aftershock … but one with no Richter scale. Disruptive events aren’t what they used to be. Historically, disruptive events were contained to the extent of our technological and logistical isolation …. We weren’t all networked. Globalization has changed that … we’re one big interdependent and interconnected family. The apparent and marketed successes of globalized supply chains and very sensitive “just in time” systems had a big Black Swan lurking … behind our chosen lines of sight.
Today, complexity has become a global behemoth, creating new rules of business and generating many more choices and opportunities for innovation and value creation. I certainly love my Android phone more than the beeper I had 30 years ago. For businesses, that complexity requires a severe filtering of what is included in planning and consequently what we chose to be blind to. Planning in business love the optimists and sometimes ostracize the pessimists … the ones who ask the unnerving questions.
Given Japan’s location, how likely are earthquakes? I heard an unfortunate comment from a nuclear industry spokesperson … unfortunate because it is an industry I love and believe in … that “the damage at the Fukishima plant was not from earthquake damage … but rather from the tsunami, it performed as designed.” Aren’t earthquakes and tsunamis connected?
Today’s world is much less dominated by trends and easy predictions … how many surprises have we had to respond to in our enterprises? My bet is that we’ve had more of them more frequently … in some multiple of our increasing interconnected interdependency. Take a look back and count them … what would we have done if we had known or prepared ahead of time? As we look ahead and build our planning and business models for the coming year … are we asking the right questions? How many levels of “what if” along our interconnectivity are we exploring? Have the aftershocks created more timidity in decision making? How much time do we invest in complexity driven failure modes versus “win” and “capture” plans. Do our business continuity plans address the really scary stuff?
There is opportunity in every storm, after all, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Seneca, Roman philosopher, mid first century AD.
What’s in a name? How about the three R’s: recognition, reputation, and revenues? What’s the value of a brand? BRANDZ has just published their evaluations and valuations of global brands. It’s a measure of just how valuable the commercial brand is and supporting insight into the whys and wherefores. The shifts and changes in their rankings are a barometer of how our choices of who delivers value are manifested in our buying behavior. It’s not an opinion poll, but rather an evaluation that incorporates business results with analysis inclusive of some subjectivity. It’s free and easily downloaded. The big global headline is that Apple, with an 84% jump in score, has surpassed Google as the most valuable brand in the world. Technology, specifically technology that enables our multi-polarity and interconnectivity to flourish, rules the top of the list … the standard bearers of an increasingly untethered and disintermediated consumer and commercial world. That means that value propositions increasingly incorporate wireless connectivity without a middle man. Googling it, Tweeting, linking up on Facebook or LinkedIn, catching it on YouTube are fully integrated into our lexicon. Recently, repressive government regimes in the Middle East have learned just how powerful these untethered forces are.
There is surrealism to this, particularly for us Baby Boomers. Brands exist in a very Darwinian environment, with success belonging to the fittest. What being fit means has changed lots over the years. The shift years ago from industrial dominance was led by the services economy. In fact, one of the top 5 this year, IBM, now a consulting and technology services giant, was once a hardware maker selling typewriters and lots of computers, behemoths and little ones. The current kings of the hill are all technology firms, with the exception of McDonalds and some might argue that their value proposition and the stuff they sell are untethered, disintermediated, and high tech as well. To nail down the point, Amazon is now a more valuable retail brand than Wal-Mart.
Early losers in this sea change included stock brokers replaced by powerful web engines that enabled more effective, efficient transactional capabilities. Those that transitioned to become trusted advisors are still with us, but very few order takers remain. Be they Borders or Blockbuster, wireless and untethered trumped brick and mortar between customer and supplier.
Delivery of value has increasingly demanded convenience as the driver.
- How often do we measure our performance in delivering convenience?
- Are we ubiquitous in accessibility?
- How many hand-offs exist in between us and the customers’ actual securing the benefits they seek?
- How well are our electrons delivering value? Do we paper or pdf, snail mail or email, travel or teleconference, drive to the mall jungle or click to Amazon, carry cash or card it, keep knowledge in persons or in our systems and processes ……?
- How are our customers deciding where to shop and how will they decide with whom to buy?
- How quickly do we adapt and respond to changing requirements?
- Are our improvement efforts focused on where our customers are going or on getting better at where we are at today?
The Macedonian Phalanx was a battlefield formation developed by King Philip, father of Alexander the Great. It was the most effective military ground weapon to meet enemy forces head on, enabling attack by cavalry and other forces along the flanks. It utilized collapsible long spears and was virtually undefeatable for over 300 years. It combined the interlocking and cohesion of shields and the long reach of the spear. The units were well trained. It was a marvelous combination of strategy, technology, resources, process and, execution. Sounds like a phrase of a business book. The phalanx had worked so well, that it changed very little strategically until the Battle of Pydna in 186 BC when Roman Legions massacred the Macedonians. The Romans also combined strategy, technology, resources, process, and execution. There is one contrasting difference, the phalanx was a weapon built on rigidity, and these Roman legions applied agility against their enemy. The phalanx was vulnerable on uneven ground, the flanks and rear and was next to useless close up. The Roman gladius was the epitome of a close battle weapon, a breakthrough technology, one that moved from bronze and iron to forged steel.
The Macedonians experienced a disruption in their capability; they did not decay battle by battle. Content with the phalanx, they continued to make it better, each day, and becoming less likely to win against the Romans. They suddenly discovered and dearly paid the Cost of Unreadiness. Over the last few years evidence of the Cost of Unreadiness has been unavoidable. We saw it in the recession triggered by the meltdown, to the ravages of earthquakes and tsunamis, lagging or no capability in response to Katrina, incompetence with the oil spill; there are plenty to consider.
So, there is such a category of cost and it can be so high that it can be terminal, life ending, for humans or businesses. This cost is part of a family of costs we don’t measure, but we experience. We budget for them, but not explicitly, rather they are buried in our standards and estimates, processes, and plans. Traditionally, Lean has sought to reduce the costs of imbedded waste, Six Sigma attacking the costs from unwanted variation. In our current environment, full of complex systems, interdependencies, changing requirements, these other costs are likely to grow, perhaps with emphasis on the costs of unreadiness and rigidity.
Looking back at the last few years, how did your enterprise fare with:
• Reduced capability?
• Consequences from unplanned events?
• Costs from rigidity?
• Costs from unreadiness?
• Lessons learned?
• Changes in strategy, technology, resources, process and, execution?
Are we ready for the next surprise? Any thoughts?
How often do we say “OK, I get the picture” when someone is explaining or trying to make a point? There is a lot in that phrase. I believe that often a thousand words can be worthless, yet a picture can be priceless. The picture can be priceless because we are wired to understand patterns and for some communications we can see and understand more from a picture than we can from what we read or hear. Imagine having to get from here to somewhere we’ve never been to and having the choice of listening to directions that may involve twenty or thirty turns and changes, versus written directions, or a map. Say that map also had pictures of what to expect along the way. I’d pick the map.
Visual signals work across all kinds of disciplines and environments. Courses to improve our memory utilize mental pictures as the medium for us to retain important information. TV news has increasing viewership while printed news is disappearing as a media. Visual signals can also transform workplaces and have led to remarkable improvements in performance and communications. A picture is an integrated medium, while written or spoken are linear mediums. With the written and spoken word, we often have to hear the end of the message to fully understand the beginning of the message. That process has a long track record of failing, dependent on writer, medium, environment, and reader to all work precisely well. A picture has a lot more going for it in getting a message across.
Something very exciting is happening. Something that is very likely going to save and extend lives, lower personal and societal costs, and will surely stir up some noise. An urgent message that has lived in a very unremarkable background, written in dull language and situated on the sidelines is about to become graphic and taking center stage, in our face, and unavoidable. This message will be impossible to ignore and its intent and meaning will be unambiguous.
The Food and Drug Administration has taken decisive action to help us get the picture. As part of their program to eliminate some risks to life and health and warn current and potential smokers of the risks they face, they are moving to require very graphic images on cigarette packs, ugly pictures. These images will cover over 50% of the packages and will display the horrific side of death and disease from smoking. The proposed messaging is eye popping and disturbing, unavoidable and engaging. From lung cancer to death, the pictures will be provocative and hopefully evocative, driving an important message home. It will not interfere with free choice, but may well improve the quality of informed choices. They will be tough reminders to current smokers and severe warnings to potential ones.
An interesting tidbit is that years ago, a major cigarette brand displayed a virile cowboy as the image to attract customers. The actor in the photos died emaciated from the ravages of lung cancer. This program may well produce the picture that is worth a thousand lives.
How powerful would a similar strategy be in our workplaces when attacking unsafe behavior, waste, or poor quality?
Last Wednesday, October 14th, H.R. 946, or in plain English, the Plain Writing Act of 2010 was signed into law. It’s a refreshing intent to align the language of government with the language and understanding of the people governed. For centuries, our law has been written in codes that require specialists to interpret and often serve as combatants in a system wherein the consequences are typically borne by others. Granted, it does not address doublespeak in contracts and service agreements, but it is a good directional beginning. Specifically, “plain writing” in the new law is defined as writing that is “clear, concise, well-organized and follows other best practices.” Perhaps now the governance battle moves to decide what best practices are.
Best practices are an interesting term, particularly in the management of enterprises. It has taken on very different meanings, ranging from very good to disastrous. Best practices can mean:
• How the best in our organization get something done, or how well they are doing in relation to the rest. Often this is used as a means to get multiple groups within an entity to agree upon a methodology. This has become increasingly dangerous, particularly in poorly performing entities. The result could become the application of the best of the worst, or emulating the cream of the crap.
• How the best among organizations in the same industry or providing competing products or services execute. This broadening of the perspective improves the subsequent DNA of the resulting process or practice. However, if the gene pool for benchmarking is the same industry, like the subprime mortgage industry, the results may resemble sheep following blind shepherds over a cliff.
• How the best among organizations executing the same activity or process across all industries or organizations get it done. This approach increases the odds of identifying better methodologies. However, it gets us only so far, and that may not be enough if the best of the best are improving quicker than we can catch up.
But, alas, the government has recognized that language matters a lot, and it is an essential factor in the effectiveness (quality) and efficiency (time and cost) of the execution of communications. Within organizations, the same holds true. Unfortunately, many of our organizations have enough functions, job descriptions, organizational structures, technologies, and cultures to create a Tower of Babel. The languages of sales, engineering, customer service, accounting, technology, design, finance, … et al are very different and often unintelligible to other “tribes” within the shop. Add to that the added complexities of our multipolar world, and the odds for misunderstanding are very high. When we use narrative, spoken or written, as the means of communication, someone will get it wrong.
Universal as this challenge might be, there is a best practice that can go a long way to bridge the language chasms among us. It is no different than getting a good map for travelling from here to there. When travelling, we’ll use all kinds of maps; road maps, street maps, airport maps, seating charts, shopping mall maps, grocery store maps, piping and wiring diagrams, fire exit maps, lots of maps.
What happens when we don’t use maps? What happens when we take a wrong turn or get lost?
How about within our organizations?
Yesterday, residents in the San Francisco neighborhood of San Bruno returned to what was left of their homes. Several had burned when a 24 inch transmission gas pipeline failed and a fire ensued. The section that failed was due to fail and, following the rules of physics, it complied. Those who own older homes, older cars, or are getting personally old know that time, elements, and decay will eventually win and create a disruption. The organizations who own and operate the pipeline take their responsibilities to customer, public, and customer safety with lots of gravity. The pipeline was due to be replaced and there was a plan filed with the regulatory agencies to do the repair work. They follow a business process that requires lots of opinions and decisions to weigh in before the line is fixed. It is called regulation and the real problem is compounded, not created by regulation.
In this case, the sometimes dysfunctional relationship between physics and economics has created another calamity. There are powerful forces at work to make it certain that many more calamities will happen. These calamities occur in all types of business systems: personal, private and public sectors, for profit or not. We operate these systems with a very specific fuel and consume that fuel to create value, deliver it, sustain it, and get some more fuel to run the process some more. When we are running out of that fuel in our tanks, we must convert the value we create into more fuel, find ways to consume less, borrow some more fuel, or stop consuming all together. That fuel is money, the lifeblood of economies worldwide. In order to operate our business we are required to compensate our sources of money at a specific rate. It is often the alpha process of all processes. The laws of economics will stipulate that no money means no process.
We have all seen the effects: work stoppages (private and public), staffing impacts, restructuring, budget adjustments, reworked plans, downsizing, ad infinitum. There is one specific behavior that is very dangerous; to systematically postpone, delay, underinvest, or forego maintenance of the physical and human systems that operate the business. It happens. An item scheduled for this year gets pushed into the next year’s budget in order to meet this year’s economic plans and aspirations, and we expect the laws of physics to change for us. Since many of our maintenance plans are statistically derived, the odds that a specific item will fail as a result of a “small” delay seem like a safe bet. It’s a bit like skipping an oil change or maybe taking a medication every other day. Does that become a habit? Do we eventually build a decision system that believes that the odds will always play out in our favor? Do we manage our plans and messaging to reflect an optimistic view? What happens when lots of the stuff is already old? Do we believe in luck?
When we deliver value, it is done so at a certain level of capability, meaning that some are better at converting money into value than others. Left alone, all these systems are subject to decay and disruption. That can be a pipeline or the skills of our people. When we engage in a process that decays faster than the business requirements to create value, a disruption is inevitable, physical or monetary. Yes, a delay in maintenance increases the chances that failure will occur and delays in building knowledge, skill , and tools for our people does the same.
When satisfying an economic goal in the present is competing with a possibility of a negative consequence in the future, who wins? As we face the current economic challenges, how do we decide what not to do? Do we manage the future from the present or the present from the future?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
So begins the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain signed by the United States Congress on July 4, 1776. We in the US, celebrate July 4th as Independence Day this weekend with festivities, fireworks, picnics and devotionals to those whose lives were dedicated and often taken to secure these unalienable rights. In fact, the words could serve as anthem to peoples all over the world as a never ending objective and pursuit.
The instrument declared states as the independent parties, and in doing so established, “that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.”
The Declaration of Independence was a consequence of a people rebelling against abuses with no responsiveness to appeals or due recourse for resolution. It is interesting to recognize that the only activity specified that is specific to an individual is the right to establish commerce. The document enumerates abuses by the Crown and intolerable and unendurable behaviors and, not surprisingly, many can be traced to actions to serve commercial objectives, those of the Crown and to the detriment of the colonists. (It took a subsequent Constitution and Bill of Rights to establish governance.) But, to continue the thread, business strategies are in fact conquest strategies and occupation strategies, and governments align to these to different degrees. Political colonies have typically as occupation entities to be harvested.
The consequences of the boldness of the Declaration of Independence and subsequent execution have enabled many of us to pursue happiness, enjoy liberty, and create life with hope. Three important dimensions are forever present in my mind:
1. Declaration was followed by sacrifice and vigilance to earn the liberties and the responsibilities to sustain them. Declaring that we are or we will be better or great can warm the tummy for a bit, but it is execution and on-going management that makes it real. Projects exist to create processes and processes must manage to the objectives of the entities. This applies to governance of individuals, organizations, enterprises, societies, religious orders, groups, and nations.
2. As the world changes and our prosperities grow, our opportunities are a powerful magnet for others seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Although many believe that these rights come as a consequence of national versus global birth, perhaps through education or lack thereof, it is the right to earn them that effectively determines what we do and whether life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is achieved.
3. The first two create obligations and responsibilities, societal and commercial. Recognizing the unalienable rights do not come as a geographical or political birthright … not because of where we were born, but rather, because you were born is important, particularly if we are to be civil in our behaviors among our global community. We must not act in a way that denies the right to the pursuit of opportunity to earn happiness, personal or commercial, simply because we can at this point in time.
I cherish the opportunities life in the United States brings every day, and am grateful that my loved ones can pursue their own dreams. I honor and respect those that live and die daily to protect these opportunities and am ashamed of those that deny them to others, here or abroad.
Today, independence is more complex, perhaps because prosperity has redefined for many what the pursuit of happiness is or ought to be. Somehow, I find it is easier to find clarity in challenging times, and rewarding to reflect on the earned independence we enjoy and the responsibility to continue to earn and never deny.
There may be a really big storm brewing. It may be a signal from a political barometer, or positioning, real outrage… not sure, but the thunder is increasing. The last few months have stoked the fires of outrage, anger, frustration, and deteriorating confidence from a public that may feel that they may have been too trusting. Mine disasters are prompting a more diligent review of whether laws were broken and whether responsible regulators did not regulate, or were distracted when they should have been focused. The oil spill disaster is challenging the process of due diligence and the veracity of permitting submittals, leaving people scrambling to solve the should-have-been foreseen or explicitly considered in operational risk assessments. The financial crisis and the ensuing Goldman Sachs nightmare is ringing lots of alarm bells around the public service halls, prompting the questions of, “Did we do enough? Were we diligent in our responsibility? Where will the light of review shine next?” I suspect that readership will skyrocket for Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that have been ringing the bells for regulatory reform, transparency, accountability, and better oversight for many years. The scary part of a pendulum swinging is that it often has an axe attached at the end. The court of public opinion is a feeding frenzy for responsible and irresponsible media.
The challenges ahead are not easy, simple, or clear insofar as right or wrong, the role of government, and the balance between protecting the public trust and preserving an environment that is economically fertile for business. The polarity of positions makes the task of finding societal answers that are workable frighteningly complex, requiring agile minds, principled players, and strategic balance. The ravages of unemployment and a riskier economic outlook may stoke the fires for those in search of the guilty. Anger and the search for public justice enjoy a history of harming too many innocent in search of the guilty.
For those enterprises where compliance is a large economic investment or burden, consider getting ahead of this storm. For those who were doing “just enough to get by,” change is likely around the corner.
Compliance brings three categories of costs:
• The Cost of Non-Compliance. That is all the bad stuff that happens when someone is caught and held accountable for breaking the rules.
• The Cost of Compliance. This is a really big number that captures all the activities and costs associated with understanding the rules, complying, or doing whatever is necessary so as to not be found in non-compliance. This usually has many, many more hidden costs that the explicitly budgeted costs.
• The Cost of the Fear of Non-Compliance. This one is very nasty as it captures all the unnecessary, just in case, better look it over, get more reviews, run it by the lawyers, get lots of extra approvals, let’s have a meeting, and endless tons of costs and constraints heaped on because we are afraid of getting in trouble.
Far too many of the assurance and compliance systems rely on “detect and correct.” The unfortunate consequence of control and contain systems that rely on downstream checks and inspections is that they will always fail to some degree. That means that sometimes we learn that we’re dead before we learn that we’re sick. Yep, failure is what tells us that something is wrong. The smarter folks are applying the principle of “predict and prevent.”
Now, what if the yoke of regulation and compliance is about to get heavier, and those who are responsible for guardianship of the public trust are under greater scrutiny, might they also be thinking about their own fear of non-compliance? What’s the cost to everyone else if that is true?
Where are our enterprises? Is this something to think about, or something to think through?
“A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.” Winston Churchill
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” – Winston Churchill, House of Commons, August 20, 1940. Many recognized this as the timeless phrase describing the valiant effort by the British Royal Air Force Fighter Command during August 18th, 1940. It has come to represent the Battle of Britain and lives among the legendary victories, Agincourt, Trafalgar, and Waterloo. The Battle of Britain was very different, strategically, tactically, and operationally. The Battle of Britain developed a fascinating strategic application that becomes ever more relevant, Strategic Ubiquity.
Under the genius of Air Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding, the RAF Fighter Command overcame overwhelming odds against the behemoth German air forces. Dowding did so through technology, stealth, organization, managing awareness, resource dispatching, and mostly agility. I will leave the details to those willing to invest in further reading as many hundreds of books abound. The principle of Strategic Ubiquity manifested the ability to “be everywhere” with much fewer resources than thought possible. The strategy also generated a world class pull system for delivering aircraft long before the Japanese could spell Deming or develop what we apply as Lean. Again, this is a different tickler for the curious. This strategy incorporated leveraging the agile integration of cross-functionality and achieved measurable synergy, one plus one equals three; even more for the curious …
At this time in military history, great powers (military or commercial) relied on quantity, power, and mass as a strategic hammer with which to overcome the opposition. More, everywhere as deployed resources, that could battle it out until consumption won out or size scared the opposition into submission. RAF Fighter Command under Dowding harnessed the power of more information, deployed to the right people, specific to the purpose of the specific people, and in time to act. It was “predict and prevent” rather than “detect and correct.” Downing’s resources, his “chicks”, always feigned to be too few, but were able to be where they were needed, when needed, with as close to real time data and awareness as then unimaginable. The few, through agility, were able to execute against the many. The strategy did not completely lift Clausewitz’s “fog of war”, but did much to see through it. It was not a software thing, it was a process thing. It was an agile thing…
Strategic Ubiquity is something very doable. With the right focus, discipline, and follow-though, the leverage created by technology can be game changing. There is a way to think about it, plan it, deploy it, measure it, and sustain it.
Agility is much more than an athletic term and ubiquity is more than being everywhere. Strategic Ubiquity is about being at the frontiers where and when the business battles are fought, not everywhere where battles may be fought. A few (300) agile Spartans along with a few thousand supporting Greek city-states in the Second Persian War picked the straits of Thermopylae for good reason. Agility put the right resources with the right focus, discipline, follow through and technology to achieve a strategic objective of delay. It was not Strategic Ubiquity circa 550 BC, but Dowding’s Fighter Command made it happen in the summer of 1940.
Today’s dynamic business environment demands capability on multiple fronts and challenges how to plan, build capability, and then have sufficient agility to win. It’s harder and too expensive to be big enough to be everywhere. Garrisons, be they business or military are places where waste is born and bred.
‘Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.’ Sun Tzu
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