Thursday, September 29, 2005


“A clever warrior is one who not only wins, but excels at winning with ease”
—Sun Tzu

Since I was 14 years old, I have been an owner in an operated three businesses; been a general manager for one; bagged groceries, baked pizzas, flipped burgers; for all practical purposes, ran a 26-soldier combat engineer detachment; been a part of a team that managed the personnel actions and records for more than 1,000 soldiers; been an office manager for a defense contractor; and been a concierge for a world-renowned resort. This doesn’t count the small lawn-mowing empire that I had while I was a kid, either.

However, the years of 2003 and 2004 were not my finest in the business world. I fell. I fell hard: Somewhat because of my own failings, somewhat because of the betrayal of those around me; somewhat because of various environmental factors. I was burned, but vowed someday to get back into the business world and once again run a company.

That time is now. Over the past several months I have been training myself in the art of programming in visual basic for applications. I have previously taught myself pretty much every other language of BASIC (since the fourth grade), have picked up smatterings of HTML and Flash over the years, and was formally trained in the basics of Ada while in my first two years of undergraduate school. A few friends/co-workers and I have determined that we will start developing a game. This is a departure from previous projects I have worked on, mostly research and development, but I feel it could very well be a profitable move.

And so, it is time for the phoenix to rise from the ashes. It is time to play the game again.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Real Life and the Movies

You ever watch TV, and then compare it against real life?  

I was watching a TV show tonight…in fact, it’s still playing in the background, and there was a heated argument.  Upon one person making a valid point, the other person broke down and told the truth about the situation.  This doesn’t happen in real life.

In real life, when I make a valid point to a person, they often don’t rationalize (or even attempt to do so); they instead get defensive or combative (one goes with the other in many cases) and throw logic or any other linear thinking out the window.

However, things can be very funny like the movies.  And the special effects are sometimes better, too.

Work Update

This week has been a cross between “business as usual” and testing the waters in an environment where it’s been determined “the big, big bosses” won’t back us up on matters where we are dealing with customers.  In fact, it’s like walking on eggshells, afraid that you will fall through at any moment.

My attitude on the phone, when taking an escalation, is not very process-oriented as it is goal-oriented.  My intent, and my behavior on calls in the past, is to find a resolution for an issue as quickly as possible while getting through the B.S. that the customer usually has to say…anything from how they hate the company…yadda yadda…to I am a bad person…yadda yadda…to, well, you get the picture.  I know better:  People like to vent, and giving them some time to vent is often a good thing to defuse a situation.  

Most of the time, however, the customer simply perceives that they have a problem.  The computer systems have automated most every routine transaction as to ensure that errors aren’t made as much as people think they are.  

Oh yeah, I had one guy tell me today that he thought we were trying to de-fraud him out of money.  This becomes funnier in the context that this is not the first time I’ve heard the argument.  However, let me assure you…there is no wrongdoing.

Regardless, most perceptions are not reality.  Most everything is remedied with proper customer education, and I attempt to do that.  People just have a problem with not wanting to hear what, well, they don’t want to hear.  They impress and project their own thoughts and feelings into a situation and no amount of rational thought or intelligent interaction will make them realize, think, or perceive otherwise.

Having a mind for theory in whichever endeavor I am in at the time, I began thinking on the topic of call handling earlier this week.  To my good friend and colleague Rick, I state something along the lines of:  “You know, back here we take 2 kinds of calls…advice calls from representatives and escalated calls from customers.  However, in both circumstances we are always doing the very same thing:  Offering resolutions.  So why don’t we change the paradigm of an escalated call and an advice call to being a paradigm of all ‘resolutions calls.’”

There is a stigma throughout my organization about my work.  We take escalated calls and draw upon obscure policy and workarounds (ahem, hocus pocus?) to make things work.  Escalated calls carry with them a certain aura that is impressed upon representatives in their first days in training.  Changing the paradigm from escalations to resolutions was such a big hit I got my supervisor to thinking about implementation.

And then there is the new application that we are working on…one to generate notes for a calls with a few clicks of a mouse.  We are close, but the included feature set increased by about a fourth this week on a whim of mine to make the program more of a policy guide than it originally was conceptualized as being.
I also learned of a new word that a colleague of mine devised this week:  Dodophobia:  The fear of stupid people.

I fear stupid people, but I need to talk to them most of the time.

Quote of the Day

You ask if I’ll grow to be a wise man, I ask if I’ll grow old; You ask me if I known love...I’ve seen love come, I’ve seen it shot down, I’ve seen it die in vain" - Bon Jovi, "Blaze of Glory"

Strategy, Part III

War is a struggle between two forces that can be formulated into discrete formulas until irrationality and human emotion enter the fray.  As such, the study of warfare can be broken down into a series of geometries that face off against each other, exerting force on one another.
Concentration:  This is a number more suited towards the density of forces on the battlefield and can be measured when the application of force is being planned against an enemy’s own concentration of forces.  From a metaphorical standpoint, where are your assets, and how are they arranged relative to those things that you must conquer prior to reaching your goal?  Concentration is the brother to Economy of force.
Economy of force:  You have an idea what the densities of your forces are, but each of your assets have economical values.  For instance, fuel trucks are more economical for logistics (fueling vehicles) than they are in mechanized combat.  In the corporate warfare sense, you need to make the same kind of assertions about what you can do, what you’re up against.  When you’re going for strategy over brute force, economy of force is a key factor in a success.
Maneuver:  In a strategy-over-brute-force battle, maneuver is the pal of force economy, which will save the day.  You may have everything else arranged correctly, but if you can’t utilize the assets properly in the heat of battle, you will lose.  Losing is bad.

Cooperation:  You have planned arrangement of assets to include density and economical considerations, and how they will move to contact their intended targets.  Now, you must ensure that all the elements of this system interact as they should.  They need to cooperate well with each other.

Security:  And, certainly, you cannot maintain initiative in any sense if your forces—your assets—aren’t protected.  This could mean anything from securing your intellectual advantage by not letting out trade secrets to making sure you or yours are not hurt.

Next, we will start to look at strategy through the eyes of the great strategic thinkers and begin to produce a grand picture of strategic thinking and winning the war.