Sunday, 26 of October of 2014

Category » Sense-Response Cycle

Hong Kong Thinking

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I flew to Hong Kong on Friday; I’m running a workshop for a client on Monday and Tuesday. Here are some random observations:

  • Plane departed 15 minutes late because, according to the pilot, “we were a bit heavy” and they had to offload some cargo. What did they do, put a 747-400 on a scale? How did they know?
  • Facinating mix of old and new technology in use in HK. I was walking down the street observing the scaffolding used for the rebuilding of an older 10 to 12 story building. It was all hand-lashed bamboo. Tried and true technology at work. At the same time a bus pulled up and I watched a young man pass his wallet near a fare-reader by the driver. RF technology at work. Interesting mix of pragmatism.
  • Cell phone ubiquity — I walked down a busy shopping street. More than half of the young people I passed had a cell phone to their ear. Less than 10% of old people (like me) had a phone. I wonder what will seem old about the young people when they age? I wonder if they think they will ever get old?
  • Great public transportation. Lots of busses and trolleys and most of the riders were young. How will they feel about public transportation in the years to come?
  • Went for a walk, took a wrong turn and got lost. Fascinating experience when you don’t speak the language. Thank goodness for maps. I wonder if we could make better use “maps” in business to help the people who don’t speak the language of business find their way?

I’ve been traveling for about 40 years now — hate the travel — love the trip. It opens eyes. Comments?


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Want to see your future? Observe actively!

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I conduct workshops focused on critical and strategic thinking and my definition of “strategic thinking” is pretty simple — think well about the future. And to get people to consider the future I ask them about their mental radar screen. Visualize a radar screen and consider three zones.

In the middle of your radar screen is your Reaction Zone. This is the mix of all the usual stuff (mostly out of your control) that consumes your day (like meetings, e-mail, customer complaints, etc.) It’s the stuff that hits you and you and to which you have to react. In today’s economy, a lot of people are spending all of their time in the Reaction Zone thinking about current problems.

Go out a bit further on your mental radar screen and you come to the Adaptation Zone. What you see here (if you look) is stuff that you had better do something about before it becomes a problem.  It’s usually pretty clear and you have some time, so don’t waste it. For example, as the economy turns around (as it always has) how will you sell to a more “discriminating” buyer? Or how will you appeal to the Y-generation and their heightened social consciousness?

Finally, look at the edge of the radar screen and look into the Anticipation Zone. What are the clues you see that portend a new future for you or your organization? This stuff is NOT clear and requires a bit a squinting to see a possible new future. Think about a hospital and the Anticipation Zone. What does personal medical records + Internet + reduced insurance benefits equal? I see both the incentive and the capability to “shop for value” becoming BIG. What do you see?

OK, here’s the bottom line. We have to look at the whole radar screen often. We have to react AND adapt AND anticipate if we are to succeed. This goes for businesses and for individuals.

What’s on your radar screen and what are you doing about it? Most importantly, do you pay attention to the edge?


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There is no more normal — part 2

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Humans are interesting, egocentric and forgetful. We also tend to have a little bit of the chicken-little DNA running through us. Therefore, we tend to act as if the current crisis is the worst there has ever, ever, ever been and, OMG, overyone should feel bad. Bull!

Time to take a lesson from my old gunnery sergeant. As a young Marine in the mid-1960s I was sitting in a class (in the mud) learning about how to act if caught in an ambush. (Very meaningful as I knew I would be in Vietnam in the next couple of months. But I digress.) Anyway, Gunny made it real simple: When caught in an ambush don’t sit around and think about it. MOVE!!  If you sit still you are dead. Period.

Many of your businesses have been ambushed by the banking crisis, the housing crisis, the economic crisis, the global crisis, the crisis crisis. OK, what are you going to DO? Not sure, talk to some of the “old timers” and ask them about past crises. (Believe me, this is not the first time some of them have experienced painful changes in how they make a living.)

After this is all resolved some smart people will sit down and write the history of the latest downturn. And they will note that the winners actually did something.

You, your career, your company are caught in an ambush. What are you going to do?


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SRC — time to adjust speed?

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The responsibility of management is to run the organization’s Sense-Response Cycle (SRC) at, or just a bit faster than, the speed of industry evolution.  The cycle has four phases (sense, make sense, decide, and act) and an organization has to conduct the work associated with each phase in a timely manner, because the only thing that counts is running the entire cycle “fast enough.” If you run it too fast, you may move beyond your industry’s ability to respond (ask some of the great dot-com companies from 1999). if you run it too slowly, you risk becoming irrelevant (do we need Sears Roebuck today?)

The current economic crisis requires every manager to rethink the speed of their SRC. Some may need to speed it up; others may need to slow down. All we know for sure is that the speed of business is changing for most companies. What’s right for your company and your industry?


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Rubicon Decisions

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The metaphor “crossing the Rubicon” harkens back to the move the Julius Caesar move to control the Roman provinces. Once he crossed the Rubicon River there was no going back.

Our current economic times are tough, to say the least. But now is a good time to make some of those Rubicon Decisions you have been putting off. Should you kill a product line? Should you close a plant? Or, on the positive side, should you start that new business line and prepare yourself for the future of your business?

Standing on the bank your personal Rubicon River may make you nervous, but you will never know the results until you cross the Rubicon. And the river is much too wide to keep a foot on both banks.

Be honest with yourself. What tough decisions have to be made and are you willing to make them? If not, let someone else run you business. You don’t have what it takes. (Or do you?  It’s up to you, and you alone)


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