Action Decisions

Using Positioning Dynamics to Pick Better Political Candidates

Strategic positions exist both in space and time. Positions are not a point on the map but a path that evolves or degrades over time. The single most common strategic mistake is making judgments based on "snap shot" that doesn't show the relative changes and the speed of those changes. This brings me to a topic I lasted visited in this post, the problem that the Democratic Party has picking successful presidential candidates.

Problems into Opportunities: Obama's Opportunity

Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that all problems are secretly opportunities in disguise. Converting a problem to an opportunity requires the process of "reversal," which means turning a situation upside down and backwards, looking for the opportunity. This is a confusing idea for most people, but we have a good example. Let us look at Obama's problem with Rev. Wright. Since the problem is about Obama's past beliefs and associations, Obama needs to reverse it and make it about his future actions and associations.

Human Progress

Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that progress is always possible and that we are more likely to have to adapt to change from progress than from failure. On the radio and at public events, I hear from people who are certain that things have never been so bad. As a response, I plan to memorize this paragraph from a recent George Will column:

Leadership, Climate, and Ground: Super Delegates

In my last post, I discussed the need to get internal methods in sync with external competition. However, this comes from leadership. In classically strategy, the job of a leader is to make the tough decisions about winning by judging the nature of the ground and the changes in the climate. Someone who makes popular or easy decisions while ignoring the ground and climate is a no leader at all.

Mission and Ground: Obama Mispoke?

Mission is the core of a strategic position and defines the other four elements: climate, ground, leadership, and methods. The connection between mission and ground is especially important. Recently, we discussed how unity from a shared mission creates strength and how spread-out ground positions are inherently weak. There is a strong connection between these two issues. This is illustrated by the Obama statements about small-town PA people to contributors in San Francisco.

Dynamic Positioning versus Sticking to the Plan: The Iraq Army

The mist common strategic mistake is confusing dynamic positioning with planning. Sun Tzu's strategy is the fluid response to the immediate situation, not the execution of predetermined steps. The unpredictability of the environment is the real enemy. Military leaders have to be the first to understand this. For example, the Iraqi military is becoming effective today primarily for one reason: they are learning to respond to the situation instead of fearfully following orders.

Finding Open Territory: Reversing the Rules

In our training programs, we show people how to develop a simple competitive map of their industry using a tool that we call the Strategy Analysis Matrix. This matrix condenses the five competitive dimensions of Sun Tzu's Warrior's Rules into a two-dimensional representation. The purpose of this tool is to identify the market openings that represent opportunity. One of the companies we use to illustrate the use of this map is Apple. Apple is particularly good at finding the open spaces in the market that others are missing.

The Dynamics of Positioning

The most common strategic mistake is thinking of positions as fixed rather than dynamic. All positions are path, not a point, and that path is affected by everything that happens. Thinking of positions as fixed is most common mistake among politicians. Right now, for example, many are calling the race between Hillary and Obama decided. But, under the surface, positions are changing, first from Obama's pastor scandal then from Hillary's sniper blunder.

Leadership and Character

Sun Tzu defines good leadership as mostly a matter of strong character. I blame my own weaknesses of character on the fact that, for the most part, I have lived a highly-protected, comfortable life. My father, however, lived through the Bataan Death march, seeing ten thousand of his fellow American servicemen die in seven days, and then surviving four more years while starving in Japanese prisoner of war camps. Most of our political "leaders," like I, have lived shallow, comfortable lives, but Senator McCain offers us something different.


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