Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (30): Assess and Predict

The C360 group wrote about the possible recovery on the 19th of April 2009.

"In Jan. 2009, some associates told us that the U.S. economy will recover sometimes late this year. That the upper tier banks have slowly begun to release money to the upper middle tier of our society. It will slowly trickle down to other parts of the economic value chain."

We immediately assessed the source of their information and believed the validity of their view.

Our assessment told us that the overall growth of the job market will be slow. We believe that the fore-coming economic upswing will positively benefit the professionals with ultra-class expertise. We advised those with average
work skills to master an arcane high valued trade that has a minimum chance of being obsolete.

Those who thrive in this challenging economy, usually have
ultra class expertise in one or two "hot" areas. They also have a few "above average" general skills.

Someone asked us the question of what to assess.

Following was (the abridgment) of our response:

"Assess your grand settings cautiously and carefully focus on the following three points:
  • the disposition of the (entire field) of competitors;
  • the economic influences; and
  • the market influences.
... Failure to stay focused on the objective while minding their grand settings usually create a position of failure. This frequently occurs all of time. Do not be a victim of repeated negative habits. "

Our globally connected society allows the many global forces to shift and sway the economic foundation of the United States and the rest of the world each and every month.

Conclusively, we do live in interesting times.


July 25, 2009
Off the Charts

Leading Indicators Are Signaling the Recession’s End

THE American recession appears to be nearing an end, but only after it has become the deepest downturn in more than half a century.

The index of leading indicators, which signals turning points in the economy, is rising at a rate that has accurately indicated the end of every recession since the index began to be compiled in 1959.

The index was reported this week to have risen for the third consecutive month in June, and to have risen at a 12.8 percent annual rate over those three months. Such a rise, pointed out Harm Bandholz, an economist with UniCredit Group, “has always marked the end of the contraction.”

Mr. Bandholz said he expected that the National Bureau of Economic Research, the official arbiter of American economic cycles, would eventually conclude that the recession bottomed out in August or September of this year.

If that proves to be accurate, the recession that began in December 2007 will have lasted 21 or 22 months, making it the longest downturn since the Great Depression.

There are caveats to the forecast, of course. Somewhat illogically, the index of leading indicators is subject to revision in coming months, which could make the recent gain seem smaller and not necessarily indicative of an approaching recovery.

Only seven of the 1o leading indicators for June have been reported by the government, while the other three were estimated by the Conference Board, an independent research group that compiles the indicators. Some of the seven indicators that have been reported may be revised.

As can be seen in the accompanying charts, six of the seven recessions since 1960 either ended in the month the indicator first showed a 12 percent annualized gain, or had ended a month or two before the index did so.

The exception was the 1990-’91 recession, which was followed by one of the slowest recoveries ever. The official end of the recession was in March 1991, but the recovery was so tepid that it was not until December 1992 that the economic research bureau made that call. As it happened, December was the same month the indicator first showed such a strong three-month rise.

An end to recession is not, of course, the same thing as the beginning of a boom. The indicator “has an unblemished record on calling the turning point,” said another economist, Robert J. Barbera of ITG, “but it is not a particularly good guide to the power of the upturn.”

Indeed, one of the strongest moves in the leading indicators came at the end of the brief 1980 recession, as credit controls were removed. But the economy soon fell into another, longer recession.

Mr. Bandholz thinks we may get a “W” recovery, in which early gains are followed by weaker figures. “We do not expect this recovery to be strong and self-sustaining,” he said. “What is lacking is support from consumer spending.”

During the most recent three months, the strongest indicators have been the financial ones. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has risen while the gap has widened between long-term and short-term interest rates. The indicators index was also helped by an increase in consumer expectations and a slowing in deliveries by suppliers. (Slower deliveries are assumed to be caused by rising orders, although such a change could indicate the suppliers simply laid off too many workers.)

Two of the 10 indicators — the money supply and new orders for consumer goods — have shown declines.

Another measure compiled by the Conference Board, the index of coincident indicators, has fallen for eight consecutive months, and dropped in 17 of the last 19 months. That indicator is often used by the economic research bureau in dating decisions, and its failure to stabilize is a reason that Mr. Bandholz says he thinks the downturn is not yet over.

The index of coincident indicators has fallen 6.4 percent from the peak it reached in November 2007, making this the deepest recession since 1960. Before this cycle, its steepest decline was a 5.6 percent slide during the 1973-’75 downturn.

Floyd Norris’s blog on finance and economics is at

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Way of Strategy (7): Enhancing Your Competitive Edge

Pragmatic experience is good. Having good know-how from experienced strategists is also important. Besides various translations of the Art of War and the other strategy books, C360 Consultants is a big fan of Gerald M. Weinberg's books

Following are five of our favorite "Weinberg's" books:
Jerry Weinberg is the professional's professional. His books possess superb insights for the novice and the seasoned consultants. We highly recommend his books.

Mr. Weinberg has also given us an "unsolicited endorsement" for our strategic ideas and process.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lessons from A Strategic Mishap

"It is the business of a general to be serene and inscrutable, impartial and self-controlled."- Art of War 11 (Griffith's translation)

Lesson #1
Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a
mistake. - Napoleon

If one is ahead of the game, he/she creates situations that force the opposition to self-destruct. The "pole position" holder should never be in "risky" situations that reverses the roles of "host and guest"

"According to Fan Li's book, 'If you're last use yin tactics, if you're first then use yang tactics. When you have exhausted the enemy's yang tactics. When you have exhausted the enemy's tactics. When you have exhausted the enemy measures, then expand your yin to the full and seize them.' This then is the subtle mysteriousness of yin and yang according to the strategists."
- Questions and Replies between T'ang T'ai-tsung and Li Wei-kung.

Never give the opposition any emotional ammunition to rally their team and recover

Stay silent and smile.

In planning, no useless move. In strategy, no step is in vain -Chen Hao

It always amazes us that some people do not spend any time preparing themselves emotionally before broadcasting a public message. They would rarely ad-lib, thinking that he/she has the situation under control.

Regardless of one's advantage of momentum and timing, there are no positives in offending someone publicly. One should always show reverence to the opposition. In the game of politics, one's past and current opposition could be their future ally.


Obama Rallies the Troops and Money With DeMint’s “Waterloo”

July 21, 2009 5:18 PM

ABC News'Sarah Tobianski reports:

What started as a battle of words Monday when President Obama hit back at Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina for saying health care could be Obama’s “Waterloo," has now turned into a full blown war to rally support and money behind the president’s health care policies.

Obama’s “Organizing for America” and are ramping up their campaigns to curtail - what they say - are the same old Republican “scare tactics and outright lies to stall reform.”

The groups are flooding the inboxes of supporters with requests for money and calls to members of Congress as it tackles reform in the days leading up to recess.

“With Congress only days away from finalizing their plans for reform, it's time to stand up with the President and fight back against this disastrous brand of old-style politics,” says Mitch Stewart, Director of Organizing for America. “So we need as many people as possible to publicly support the President's principles for health care reform and call on Congress to act.”

In the coming days, Organizing for America will also collect signatures of supporters on its website and publish them in papers across the country.

On Monday, the president took a similar tactic first hand.

“This isn't about me,” Obama said at a Children’s hospital. “This isn't about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America's families, breaking America's businesses and breaking America's economy. And we can't afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care. Not this time, not now. There are too many lives and livelihoods at stake.”

This likely won’t be the last time we see Democrats using DeMint’s words, painting Republicans as being too political, as they attempt to win the health care battle.

-Sarah Tobianski

President Obama Finds DeMint Fresh

We told you yesterday that the White House planned on using the comments of Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, about opposing President Obama's health care reform efforts against the GOP.

"If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo, it will break him and we will show that we can along with the American people, begin to push those freedom solutions that work in every area of our society," DeMint said on a conference call.

Today, Mr. Obama did so.

Speaking at a children's hospital, the president said, "Now, there are some in this town who are content to perpetuate the status quo, are in fact fighting reform on behalf of powerful special interests. There are others who recognize the problem, but believe -- or perhaps, hope -- that we can put off the hard work of insurance reform for another day, another year, another decade.

"Just the other day," the president continued, "one Republican senator said -- and I'm quoting him now -- 'If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.' Think about that. This isn't about me. This isn't about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America's families, breaking America's businesses, and breaking America's economy."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (29): Assess with the Right Data

What is your approach for gathering intelligence?

What is your approach to determine if the data is correct?

If you don't know the answers, what will you do when you chasing the hindquarters of your competition?

One always need the correct data before assessing the big picture. How do you know if you have it?

Many C-level officers assume that they have the latest data. The question is whether due diligence has been performed!?

In the global economy, it is not that difficult to deceive the competition with bells, whistles, smoke and mirrors. In future posts, we will touch on that topic.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009 11:19 AM/EST

Law of Averages Overturned

by Tony Kontzer

All those business school lessons about using historical averages to predict probable outcomes? Apparently, that may have been precisely the wrong approach.

In his new book, The Flaw of Averages (2009, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), Sam Savage, a consulting professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, posits the theory that averages are a hopelessly useless statistic for determining risk, and that it's time for business decisions to be made using more accurate predictors.

One possible answer, Savage claims, is the emerging field of "probability management," which draws upon a type of data Savage has helped define known as "distribution strings." Unlike numbers, distribution strings are based on the unknown, making it possible to take the uncertain into account when determining a probability. So instead of a spreadsheet cell containing one number, it contains a distribution string of thousands of numbers--called Monte Carlo trials--that constantly are updated any time another cell in the spreadsheet is changed. The idea is that risk isn't a fixed number--it's an ever-changing collection of averages that are inter-related.

"The flaw of averages happens when people plug a single number into a cell to represent a probability," Savage said during a recent interview. "Think of taking a spreadsheet and adding a third dimension to it. Any cell in your spreadsheet should be able to provide you with an average."

It's a big concept to get one's brain around, so to illustrate the problem consider this crude example of how Savage believes averages doom many IT projects: Take a software development project in which 10 separate teams are each working on a particular sub-routine, with no interdependence between them at all. The project manager isn't sure how long each sub-routine will take, but he knows the average will be 3 months, so he relays that to the boss when pressed.

Unfortunately, according to Savage, there is only one chance in a thousand that the project will be done in 3 months--the same odds as flipping a quarter and have it come up heads 10 straight times. In the end, the boss is unhappy, the project manager is held responsible, and stress levels for the next development project rise. Ultimately, companies find themselves resigned to accept that most software projects will take longer than expected, when in fact the problem is that the practice of using historical averages to compute probable completion dates is fundamentally flawed.

The way Savage see it, this dependence on averages has had some pretty grave consequences, which the recession highlights. "We ignored this, and we flew into the side of a cliff," says Savage. He expects that risk analysis will be handled quite differently going forward. "There will be a tremendous move, after this recent meltdown, of people trying to understand risk and uncertainty better."

For IT, in addition to rethinking how project timelines are estimated, this is likely to mean the need to deploy and support tools that can handle this ramped up focus on risk and uncertainty. New applications will be needed for processing distribution string data, and then for analyzing that data to determine probabilities.

In the meantime, if you want to give probability management a test drive, you have two options. You can purchase Frontline Systems' RiskSolver application, which is the brainchild of company President Dan Fylstra, who was the original distributor of VisiCalc back when the Apple II made its debut in 1979. Or, you can try downloading Savage's less powerful--and less expensive--XLSim.

And you may want to brush up on your knowledge of probability management, distribution strings and Monte Carlo trials--something tells me your ability to sufficiently analyze risk and uncertainty will soon depend on it.

Related: Scott Rosenberg on the difficulties of software development.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Way of Strategy (6): Maintaining Your Competitive Edge

Protect Your Competitive Edge

When everyone knows the particulars behind your strategic advantage, the competitive advantage is now gone.
If the opposition has more resources and a deeper network than you do. What is your counter move?

Brill: In guerrilla warfare, you try to use your weaknesses as strengths.
Robert Clayton Dean: Such as?
Brill: Well, if they're big and you're small, then you're mobile and they're slow. You're hidden and they're exposed. You only fight battles you know you can win. That's the way the Vietcong did it. You capture their weapons and you use them against them the next time.
--- Enemy of the State (1998)

You have to gather and assess intelligence faster and better than your opposition. You need to move faster and set higher standards of performance.

Lesson: If you are ahead of the competition, focus on expanding your competitive lead. If you are behind, focus on finding an innovative way that will change the paradigm of the grand competition.


Beane may not be ready for big screen,
but he is looking forward to a big turnaround

Susan Slusser, Chronicle Staff Writer

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Billy Beane, in his 12th year as the A's general manager, has become a nationally recognized figure. Brad Pitt was even set to play him in a movie.

That's partly because of the team's success - Oakland made the playoffs five times in seven seasons from 2000-2006. It also has a lot to do with Beane being the central character in Michael Lewis' bestseller "Moneyball," which detailed the general manager's attempts to exploit market inequities despite operating with a lower payroll than most clubs.

"Moneyball" the movie was set to begin filming at the end of June, but it was abruptly shelved a few weeks ago and its future is murky. Beane's team, meanwhile, is at the bottom of the division and enduring a rough season full of injuries and underachievement.

With all that going on, The Chronicle recently sat down with Beane to talk about movies, baseball, philosophy and the future. The following Q&A has been edited for content and clarity.

Q: What is your take on "Moneyball" the book? Was it a good thing for the team, in retrospect?

A: I always have to remind everyone that I, or we, didn't write the book nor did we commission someone to write the book. And the fact that it is still a question seven years after the fact, whatever impact it has is maybe not the result of us but maybe because Michael Lewis is a well-thought-of writer. I'm amazed it's still as much a subject of conversation as it is. Again maybe that's the genius of Michael, it's certainly not of us.

For some time, the book and the team seemed synonymous. The "Moneyball" A's.

At this point it seems outdated and I can assure you it's outdated. Listen, you can't get stagnant in this business and we certainly haven't. There are teams that are probably far beyond what we can imagine in this office based on their intelligence and their resources. You can probably figure out who they are.

This is still a great place to work. We have our challenges, but the good outweighs the bad.

Q: So much is made of that so-called "Moneyball" approach in which you identify areas that might be undervalued (in the book, on-base percentage was one such area). How would you say your philosophy has changed or is changing?

A: Listen, you can't do the same things, in this case, seven years later. There are too many changes in the game and it's more and more competitive. Whatever philosophy you label anyone, every one of us has the same philosophy: We'd all like to have good pitching, we'd all like to have a strong defense up the middle and we'd all like to have power on the corners. We don't have this template where we're going to do this and not going to do that. ... The one we have now is the same one that's been around for 100 years.

Q: How would you describe the state of the team right now?

A: If you look at where the current team is this season, where we are right now, where we are headed long-term, there are some good things going on right now, and some things we thought would be better. We thought we'd be healthier, we're not. And we thought we'd be a better offensive club, and we quite frankly haven't been. Some of that, I can't explain.

From a long-term standpoint, we're going through a necessary part of rebuilding this franchise. The history of this franchise is full of very good teams, starting over, all the way back to Connie Mack. It's a function of a lot of things but there's only one right way to do it and there are really no shortcuts in this market.

Q: What are the bright spots?

A: The good thing is that we've started to develop some young starting pitching, which is critical for us to become a good team again on a consistent basis. That's what we set out to do, to try to get the pitching in place. I think they're starting to get established. There are still going to be some growing pains, but there's no denying they have talent and they've shown the ability not only to pitch here, but to pitch well. So it's sort of a glass-half-full situation.

Pitching is so expensive and if you look at small- to mid-market teams - the ones that have had success - they've really developed those pitching staffs organically. We did it, the Twins are certainly one of the most successful ones around, and the Angels are mid-to large-market but they've done a really great job.

Even a large market (team) would like to take that approach and when you look at the Red Sox, they're trying to do that, too. That is an area we're going to have to develop from within and through trades. We've done a little bit of both because it's the one area we really can't go outside ourselves and bring people here. It's very risky and it's expensive and we're probably 20th in line for that free -gent pitcher based on finances.

Q: What is the most pressing need?

A: Some of it is pretty obvious. We need to get some position players and some bats. What's funny - well, it's not that funny, not hah-hah funny - is that when I first started here, we really had no luck developing pitchers and we always had guys who could hit. Recently we've done a good job with the pitchers and we need to get some core position players in place. The good news is that we have some kids coming that I think will be a part of that. With the injuries, we've had a tendency to rush some of the development and it's not ideal. We want to make sure we do everything to give them a chance. But obviously as we go through the summer, we might want to see if some of these guys are ready for the next level. We just want to make sure they get a solid foundation first.

Q: What sort of misconceptions are there about this team, particularly on the financial side? You've mentioned that there is no need to cut payroll, for instance.

A: We really truly want to rebuild, and there are no shortcuts, but in the interim one of the things we're going to try to do is to be respectful of our fans. We're going to spend any excess we have. We owe it to the people who come here to have the best players we can within the confines of our payroll.

This article appeared on page B - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle


Billy Beane should not have publicize his "Moneyball" process. In a field of copycats, most of the top tier competition were able to catch up with the "Moneyball" approach.

The two points that one must remember are:

  • One must always conceal their competitive edge as long as possible.
  • While concealing the competitive edge, one should be innovating another paradigm shift.

"Do not loan sharp weapons to other men. If you loan sharp weapons to other men, you will be hurt by them and will not live out your allotted span of years."
King Wen said:"What do you mean by benevolence and righteousness? ...
Do not allow other men to snatch away your awesomeness. Rely on your wisdom, follow the norm. Those that submit and accord with you, treat them generously and virtuously. Those that oppose you, break with force. If you respect the people and trust, the state will be peaceful and populace submissive."
- T’ai Kung Liu-t’ao (Six Secret Teachings)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (28): Assess and Predict

The first step to predicting the future is to assess the data source and its reliability. The next step is to assess the data through regressive means. Understanding the data from an active view, a functional view and a grand picture view enables one to see the trends. In future posts, we will touch on each view.


July 8, 2009
Seeking a Way to Predict Baseball Injuries

LOS ANGELES — Beyond the massage tables and stacks of athletic tape in the Dodgers’ cramped training room stands a dry-erase board with scribbled questions like “Fat? Skinny?” and “Country of origin? Region of the country they grew up in?”

Stan Conte, the team’s director of medical services and head athletic trainer, expects the answers to help him resolve a problem plaguing professional sports teams: injuries.

In Major League Baseball, where players are breaking down in record numbers, teams paid about a half-billion dollars last season to players on the disabled list.

The ability to predict how players’ bodies will fare is a holy grail. With an actuarial approach, Conte seems to have a head start in the pursuit. He is trying to build a formula that would give teams a competitive advantage and help them avoid players who spend their days in the training room and not on the field.

“The insurance industry has made millions of dollars off figuring out how, when, where and why people are going to die, and we are trying to figure those things out about injuries,” Conte said.

Every major league team and scores of independent analysts are trying to understand why injuries strike certain players. But Conte said his effort is more advanced because his data has been compiled over 15 years as a trainer for the San Francisco Giants and now the Dodgers. He has had hands-on interaction with hundreds of players before and after their injuries, and his observations and medical records inform his hypotheses.

Conte also draws on the analytical prowess of David Zes and Adam Sugano, statisticians who teach at U.C.L.A., and Matt Marks, an employee in the Dodgers’ baseball operations department. They are building mathematical formulas that they hope will show the chances a player will be injured within the next season.

“This project couldn’t have been done 5 to 10 years ago,” Sugano said. “There weren’t enough numbers, and there wasn’t access to lots of the numbers. The numbers weren’t being collected, and those that were weren’t the cleanest. And 20 years ago, there wasn’t the computational power. It didn’t exist.”

Billy Beane, the general manager for the Oakland Athletics, called it “the natural progression of statistical analysis.”

Beane was at the forefront of baseball’s first surge in statistical analysis, as detailed in the 2003 book “Moneyball,” when he embraced new ways of evaluating players’ talents. Now Conte is applying similar methods to injury research.

“Injuries are a huge part of the game and it makes sense that they are doing it,” he said. “I just don’t have the money to let someone spend all year looking into this.”

Conte considers many of his findings proprietary, but in a recent interview at Dodgers Stadium he provided a glimpse of his project.

About once a week for the past six months, Conte has sent an e-mail message with lists of players’ identifying characteristics to Sugano and Zes. They build logarithmic formulas and computer codes that test Conte’s hypotheses, such as Dominican players being more durable than Americans and whether high pitch counts lead to injuries.

“He has been working and seeing things over his career that he thinks are trends, and he needs someone to execute them,” Sugano said. “We are the executors.”

Marks helps Zes and Sugano by scouring the Internet and baseball databases for statistics on players’ performance and injuries.

Although Conte said the project is far from finished, he has begun to apply some of his analysis to advise the Dodgers’ front office on personnel decisions, including free agents.

When the team’s contract with relief pitcher Scott Proctor was due to expire last year, Conte said he and his assistants conducted a risk assessment that considered Proctor’s medical history, the number of pitches he had thrown and his frequent appearances two seasons in a row.

“We did a risk analysis — I can’t tell you what it was, but we saw him go 83, 83 in appearances two years in a row and had some concerns,” Conte said. “Without getting into specifics, we ended up not tendering him a contract.”

Proctor signed with the Florida Marlins. He sustained an elbow injury in spring training and needed major surgery. He may miss the entire season.

Conte’s injury analysis has evolved. He said it is more sophisticated and, he hopes, more accurate. Three years ago, he advised the Dodgers that signing pitcher Jason Schmidt to a three-year, $47 million contract was not a high risk. Since then, Schmidt has had two shoulder operations and pitched in only six games.

“Everyone asked me two, three times a day, ‘If you had to do it all over again, how would you analyze Schmidt?’ ” Conte said. “I didn’t have all the answers with Jason Schmidt, which has pushed me to get better knowledge.”

A nagging challenge is the absence of a centralized database of injuries. All Conte’s team has to work with is Major League Baseball’s disabled list, a relic that includes errors and misinformation.

“People in M.L.B. don’t believe it, and we still don’t,” Conte said, adding that teams sometimes manipulate roster moves by putting players on the list who may not be injured. “But it is the closest thing we have to anything.”

Unlike the N.F.L. and the N.H.L., baseball does not have a central database of league-wide injury data. The commissioner’s office has begun trying to help teams track injuries reliably and consistently. But that project may take several years.

“Stan has been all over us with this trying to get all the data into one place,” said Chris Marinak, Major League Baseball’s director of labor economics. “The difference between Stan and other trainers is that he has taken a real vested interest in this.”

Conte said he was conducting his research on his own time, not as part of his job with the Dodgers. Considering all the money teams have invested in injured players, the formulas could become lucrative if successful. Conte said he has no agreement with the three others on sharing any potential profits.

“For now, we are having fun and that’s enough,” Sugano said. “It’s something we have talked about, but we will be careful. We will let them taste the sauce. And it’s something that won’t work if they don’t have our algorithms; we have the recipe and it won’t work without it.”

It is not clear whether other teams are attempting similar research because they are not inclined to discuss something that may provide a competitive advantage.

Lonnie Soloff, the head trainer for the Cleveland Indians, a team considered to have a progressive medical staff, said he used a mathematical formula to assess injuries but admitted, “it is not an exact science and I am not sure it will become an exact science anytime soon.”

The Boston Red Sox, another team with a progressive medical staff, declined to let their trainer be interviewed.

Conte believes the long-prevailing belief in baseball that injuries are a matter of chance is misguided.

“I refuse to think we are doing all these things to get them healthy, and it’s a matter of luck whether lightning hits or doesn’t hit,” he said.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Way of Strategy (5): When A Good Strategy Was Not Enough

When I coached basketball many years, my responsibility was on the defensive side of the game. Many weeks before the season began, I prepared my players on the different defensive alignments and traps that I was going to call during the season. I kept the execution of each defensive alignment quite simple. The starters and the bench had to learn it. Despite the offensive prowess of certain players, everyone had to play defense. I gave them historical and statistical reasons why playing defense was important to their success. The team understood with my reasoning and agreed to play defense.

The head coach and I chose weak opponents to practice our arsenal of "pressure" trap maneuvers. When the entire team mastered the current page of tactics, I either added more variations of the traps to our playbook or increase the level of opposition to raise their quality of play.

After a progression of success, the belief of team defense created a high level of team camaraderie. We reached the Championship round with a formidable defense, but lost the final game.

Regardless of the outcome, it was a lesson of where the grand process of planning and preparation prevailed.

Thoughts on Elena Dementieva's Coach Strategy
Elena Dementieva's coach could have developed a strategy that she was not prepared to implement consistently. Sometimes, the player's inability to adjust at a short notice, is a major obstacle to the best strategy.

Strategy has no value if the implementers disbelieve its criteria. Disbelief usually creates a level of apathy that influences the implementers from executing it properly.

The smart strategist prevails due to his assessment of available talent and the various elements around his settings. He also succeeds because the foundation of his strategy is based on the given talent of the coach.

The focus of a good strategy is to give the team a general perspective of what is their goal and the direction that they will take. If the team believes in the plan, they would comply with it. If the team disbelieves in the plan, they would either fight it or flee from it

Conclusively, the expectations of the goal never exceed the expectations of the implementers.

With our Compass AE process, your project implementers knows the circumstances for strategic adjustments. If you are interested in knowing more about our Compass AE methodology, please contact us at service[aatt]collaboration360[ddott]com.

July 3, 2009, 11:06 pm

A Good Strategy Was Not Enough for Dementieva

The Serena Williams-Elena Dementieva match was played at a remarkably high level for close to three hours. Dementieva’s serve may be the most improved shot on the tour, and she won a high percentage of both first and second serves against Williams, arguably the game’s best returner. Like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the men’s side, Serena and Venus Williams have elevated the level of play on the women’s tour, with their big serving, aggressive returns and seemingly indomitable wills. Give Dementieva credit for responding to the challenge; she was a shot away from the final, and, for long stretches of the match, outplayed Serena.

In addition to her improved serve, Dementieva wins matches with superb footwork and solid, heavy groundstrokes, struck flat with just a whisper of topspin. Her game plan Thursday was to direct as many penetrating shots as possible to Serena’s forehand, which can go awry if pressured. If you look at the serve statistics from the match, Dementieva served to the forehand a great deal, especially in the deuce court. She mixed it up, of course, to keep Williams from dialing in on her return. But in the deuce court, Dementieva hit 21 first serves wide to the forehand, winning 13 points. On her second serve, she was even bolder in attacking Williams’s forehand, serving 18 out of 21 second serves out wide. She won 17 points, 15 when going to the forehand.

In the ad court, Dementieva served wide as well, aiming 19 first serves out wide and converting on 15 of those attempts. On the second serve, she tried to go at the body, hitting 10 out of 13 right at Williams. Interestingly, she was less successful in the ad than the deuce. Perhaps adding a serve up the T in the ad will help Dementieva in her future battles with Serena Williams. It might have made a difference in Thursday’s match.

A tactic Dementieva employs against Serena Williams is to rarely engage in backhand crosscourt rallies. One way to think about playing Serena is to view her as a lefty with a huge forehand, and try to steer more balls to the forehand side. Craig Cignarelli, an excellent coach based in Los Angelas, calls this “switching the rally” in an article on John Yandell’s Web site, Dementieva did this brilliantly for the first two sets, but less so in the third. Give Serena credit for working harder to set up on her forehand side, and she also went back up the line more often rather than always going crosscourt. This forced Dementieva to hit more often to Williams’s feared backhand.

There was a pivotal rally late in the match that illustrated why Dementieva hatched her game plan in the first place. With Serena serving at 5-6 in the third, deuce, both players locked on to a scintillating backhand crosscourt rally. It was strength against strength as Dementieva and Williams hit heavy, high percentage crosscourt shots on a big point. I kept hoping Dementieva would change direction and go down the line to Williams’s forehand. But that would mean going over the slightly higher net into a smaller court, and changing the direction of the ball, no easy task against Serena’s pace. The point built in drama and tension, but Serena’s pace and depth increased, until finally, she ripped a deep, unreturnable backhand that skidded low on the worn grass, bringing a dejected Dementieva to her knees. She would only win two more points after this rally, which would have given her a second match point had she won it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Way of Strategy (4): Always Know When to Infuriate the Opposition

"All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable, feign incapacity; when active, inactivity. ... When near, make it appear that you are far away; when far away, that you are near. ... Offer the enemy a bait to lure him; feign disorder and strike him. .. When he concentrates, prepare against him; where he is strong, avoid him. ..Anger his general and confuse him. ... Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance. ... Keep him under a strain and wear him down. ... When he is united, divide him. Attack where he is unprepared; sally out when he does not expect you. ..." - Art of War 1 (Griffith translation)

What is the true intent of the Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci?


CE-Oh no he didn't!
Part LXI: Acer chief says Japanese PC companies "the weakest today"

by Nilay Patel, posted Jul 7th 2009 at 8:39PM

We're pretty sure we've heard Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci say PC industry consolidation resulting in fewer players and lower component prices would be a good thing before, but he dressed it with a side of smackdown today: speaking to the New York Times, he said that Toshiba and Sony's PC businesses would the first targets, since "the Japanese for sure are the weakest today." Ouch. It's especially harsh since Sony just broke down and released its first netbook this morning after claiming that the low-cost machines were a downward spiral, but that wasn't enough blood for Gianfranco: he also said that ASUS and Lenovo need to "think long and hard" about remaining independent companies. Yow -- sounds like someone's planning to do a little shopping, don't you think?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Another View of Sunzi (Sun Tzu)

We found this item in our archives

# # #

Sun Tzu, Hamlet, and Bruce Lee
by Paul McGuire filed under Product Reviews
You have probably already read Super System by Doyle Brunson-the book poker players like to call "The Bible." I'm sure you've also read the followup titled Super System 2, along with the Theory of Poker by David Sklansky and anything written by Dan Harrington.

I always recommend those books to novice players but I also give them a few non-poker titles, because there are many valuable lessons that poker players can learn by reading them.

Here are three books that you might like...

1. Art of War by Sun Tzu was written in the 6th century B.C., yet some of Sun Tzu's military strategies and tactics are stilled employed to this day by both the military and astute businessmen. Sun Tzu stressed the role of positioning in strategy, which is affected by both the environment and the subjective opinions of the combatants involved. His philosophy was that proper strategy required quick responses to ever changing conditions. Sun Tzu said, "All warfare is based on deception." That is one his most valuable pieces of wisdom, which I think about every time I sit down at the tables. If Sun Tzu played online poker, my guess is that he would crush the game.

Through an assortment of relevant strategic experience and a good sense of conscious awareness, one can respond effectively to the ever-changing conditions.

The writer might know some of the generalities. However, we disbelieve if he understood the intent behind the application of the strategic principles of the AoW.
The key to the AoW's approach is to neutralize the opposition (or finish one's mission with maximum efficiency.

Another words, secure a total win by the following criteria:

(a) in the shortest possible time;
(b) with the least amount of resources;
(c) with minimum damage to the settings

Overall, the writer's view of the Art of War is quite general.

2. The Warrior Within: Philosophies of Bruce Lee
by John Little, is a book that I have written about in a previous column. The Warrior Within is one of the more influential books that I have read in the last couple of years, because it helped me to focus on knowing myself and exploring my limitations. Most people view Bruce Lee as just a kung fu actor and overlook his attempt to apply Eastern philosophy to Western living, which is chronicled in the book. Throughout his life, Lee formulated a complex personal philosophy that celebrated the virtues of knowledge and complete mastery of one's self. His most influential sections deal with the ability to defeat adversity by adapting to circumstances, which is something that every poker player has to apply to their game.

As a kung fu instructor, Lee didn't specifically teach his style of fighting; rather he encouraged his students to find themselves.
Lee is who he is because he was not copying anyone else. He evolved into his own person. He was never fond of styles, because he felt that they prohibited true expression. It was important to learn technique but not as important as learning about yourself.

3. Hamlet by William Shakespeare is one of his most celebrated plays. I have a morbid fascination with Hamlet and have spent many late nights pondering the actions of the indecisive 30-year old Danish prince and what lessons could be learned from his mistakes. Hamlet is the most compelling character in all of literature. This is a guy wrought with emotional conflict and guilt due to his inaction. He knows that his Uncle Claudius killed his father and yet he's slow to avenge his murder. The conflicted Hamlet accidentally killed Polonius, the father of his girlfriend

Ophelia, who in turn committed suicide by drowning herself which triggered the series of events climaxing with one of the most brutal endings in the history of storytelling.

The story of Hamlet had existed for many years before Shakespeare penned it four hundred years ago. He was the first to adapt the legend of Hamlet and he turned it into one of his most famous pieces of work. The themes that Shakespeare touched on four centuries ago still hold today in an extremely dissonant world.
Inaction and slow decision making are personality flaws that best describe Hamlet. He was doomed from the start and if you carry around those two traits in your emotional baggage, then you're doomed as well.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Common Practices of Desktop Strategists

Plan your work. Then work your plan. Does that sound simple?

How can one plan their work when he or she does not know the basics for building a plan?

Following is a list of questions that the newbie strategist should ask him or herself?

  • What is the first step for planning a project?
  • When does one establish the metrics for their goals and objectives?
  • When does one establish the priorities for their goals and objectives?
  • When does one establish the risk points for their goals and objectives?

If one does not know those basics, it is time for him or her to take a class on strategic project management and read the "Eight Strategy Classics."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Way of Strategy (3): Adjusting to the Big Picture

The key to adjusting to changes within one's big picture is to understand the important connections from the various points within the image.

In most competitions, there is always an exchange of point/counterpoint.

very strategic move has a counter move. The understanding of the big picture always enables the consummate strategist to create a countermeasure (on time and on budget) that causes a strategic impact with a long time line and a minimum use of his/her resources.

The following story is a good example of disruptive technology that causes social-economic havoc. (This is a favorite topic in our virtual office.) The opposition immediately counter the disruptive technology with a countermeasure.


S.F. techie helps stir Iranian protests

Matthew B. Stannard, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

6-16) 20:52 PDT -- Little about Austin Heap's first online venture, a site hosting free episodes of the cartoon "South Park," suggested he would one day use his computer skills to challenge a government.

But for the past few days, Heap, an IT director in San Francisco, has been on the virtual front lines of the crisis in Iran, helping people there protest the presidential election, which opponents of the incumbent regime maintain was fraudulent.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets since Saturday, organizing and sharing news on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The Iranian government, in response, has blocked those sites, along with mobile phone service and other communications tools./

But Iran has the highest number of bloggers per capita in the world, said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University, and they were undeterred. "People used Twitter, and people used their cell phones and used all kinds of mechanisms."

Heap, 25, has never followed Iranian news much. But as reports of the election began dominating Twitter - but not, he believed, American mainstream news - Heap felt the same defiant frustration that led him in the past to butt heads with the music and movie industry associations by creating file-sharing sites.

"I believe in free information," he said Tuesday. "And I especially have no room for a tyrannical regime shutting up a whole population. I was 13 and able to take on a huge company like Comedy Central from my bedroom. With a computer, everybody has the power to do that."

Proxy server a weapon

Heap's weapon in the past few days was the proxy server, a computer configured to act as an intermediary between a computer user and the Internet. Such servers have many legitimate functions, such as speeding response times, and some illegitimate ones, such as helping spammers hide their identities.

What interested Heap was the use of a proxy server to bypass censorship. Properly configured, a proxy server could identify Web surfers in Iran and route them to Twitter and other sites the government had restricted.

People around the world were posting network addresses for such proxies on Twitter and elsewhere, Heap said, but there was no organization and the servers were unpredictable.

Simple first effort

Heap's first effort was simple: a list of working proxy servers that he published Sunday afternoon. Almost immediately, those servers began to vanish. Perhaps spammers or pornographers, who constantly cruise the Internet looking for open proxies, were overwhelming the system, he thought.

It was only later that Iranians on Twitter warned Heap - and others publishing lists of open proxies - that by posting public lists they were exposing those proxies to attack.

"I really didn't expect their government to be this on top of it," he said. "I know everybody knows about Twitter. But I didn't think it was going to be to this extent."

So Heap took another tack, creating a password-protected list of proxy servers and giving only a handful of people access to each, reducing the possibility of a widespread attack. On his blog, he published simple instructions for configuring proxy servers.

Heap wasn't the only techie setting up or promulgating proxies, but his easy-to-follow instructions quickly spread through Twitter and the blogosphere.

/* That is a good example of our API (Assess, Position and Implement) process. Heap assessed the grand picture, positioned himself with a plan and then a tool and finally implements his tool. After a while, the competitor assessed the grand picture and counters his move. Heap adjusts by repeating the API cycle.

Suddenly, people were sending him addresses for new proxy servers in Australia, Japan and Mexico. Traffic on his blog grew from a couple of dozen unique users a day to more than 100,000 in 24 hours. A woman in Canada asked him for help getting her Iranian family back online.

On Twitter, a Tehran resident posted: "@austinheap Thank you for all you are doing to help my people. This support and kindness will never be forgotten."

'Almost made me cry'

"Most of the reactions from Iran have almost made me cry," he said. "Having somebody tell me that their family thanks me - that's the power of the Internet."

The last 24 hours have been less fun, Heap said. He's had to figure out which of the professed Iranians contacting him he can trust and which might be seeking access to a proxy service to shut it down.

Monday night, his site came under a denial-of-service attack - a flood of phantom file requests from the United Kingdom designed to bring his system to its knees. Tuesday morning he received his first e-mailed threats.

Still, he thinks he's doing the right thing.

"If I can help them get their message out and help them tell the story and step back, that's my job," he said. "(But) my mom is terrified right now."

By mid-Tuesday, Iran appeared to be blocking all non-encrypted Internet traffic, making the 1,600 new proxy-server addresses now in his in-box temporarily useless. But Heap was working with other professionals and companies seeking new ways to reconnect.

"I haven't been in the middle of an outpouring like this, ever. And it makes me incredibly proud of the IT community," he said.

While it's not clear how much impact Heap's efforts are having, history may look back on his tweets about proxy servers as a profound moment in political evolution, said Stanford's Milani.

"The regime probably doesn't recognize it, but I can tell you, the marriage of civil disobedience with the social networking savvy is the death of despotism in these places," he said. "If you combine these two, you have a very potent force."

E-mail Matthew B. Stannard at

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle


Friday, July 3, 2009

Best Practices of Desktop Strategists (7): Always be timely

What are your best practices for managing time?

Knowing the "best practices for managing time" does not always enable one to be effective in their actions. Without the conscious understanding of why timeliness is important, will only deter the amateur strategists from reaching their goal effectively.

The Art of War emphasized that t
he objective of a timely execution is to maneuver toward the advantage, promptly and precisely.

"To complete your objectives and succeed in your offensives, but fail to exploit these achievements is ominous and may be described as 'wasteful delay'. It is said that the wise strategist deliberate it and the good strategist embodies it in his actions. - Art of War , 12