1.9.2 Span of Control

The eight keys to understanding the boundaries of competition and productiion.

Art of War Quote: 

"You must control your field position.
It will always strengthen your army."

Sun Tzu's The Art of War 10:3:1-2

Perspective: 

"Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning." Thomas Alva Edison

General Principle: 

Planning works narrowly while strategy works broadly.

Situation: 

Just as the skills of competition and production are intertwined by the nature of competitive comparisons, they are divided by our span of control. Only within our span of control do we have good information and control of our resources. Both physically and philosophically, the area that we control is relatively tiny when compared to areas we do not control. The most powerful person in the world can utilize only a tiny fraction of the world's resources. We live in a world with almost seven billion people and tens of millions of organizations. Each of these people and all their various organizations have their own spans of control. Each of these overlapping spans represents limits of information and capability.

Opportunity: 

Production opportunities lie inside our area of control. Competitive opportunities lie outside our area of control. Our area of control is tiny compared to the vast expanse of areas where we have no control. This means that most  opportunities lie outside of our span of control, where we cannot use the method of production to improve our position. A little circle of light represents where our skills at organization and production matter, and a vast ocean of darkness represents where our skills in positioning and competition matter. The good news is that this means that there are almost an infinite number of strategic opportunities. The challenge is discovering them, which is why so many of the principles of strategy involve collecting and filtering information.

Key Methods: 

The eight keys to resolving the challenges describe a repeating cycle of expansion and contraction.

  1. We must listen to expand our strategic perspective. The appropriate strategy to deal with the vast amount of strategic area is a cyclic process of expansion and contraction. Starting with expansion, we use our current span of control as the starting point for gathering information to develop perspective on our position in the larger environment (2.0 Developing Perspective).
  2. We then must focus our listening on identifying opportunities. We follow this broad perspective development by narrowing our focus. We must focus our listening to identify the opportunities in our external environment for advancing our position (3.0 Identifying Opportunities).
  3. We aim to expand our position into the opening of the best opportunity. Improving our position within our tiny area of control requires more and more detailed knowledge about what we control. Because of the scope of the external environment, getting more and more detailed information about everything is impossible. We need to pick our best opportunity so we can focus on improving our knowledge of that area. This learning increases our chances of gaining control (4.0 Leveraging Probability).
  4. We then focus our aim to minimizing our mistakes in exploring opportunities. This process is like breathing, expanding and contracting. We first broaden our knowledge in a specific direction, but then we must select only one action to focus our actions. We then narrow the scope of our activities to make the most of our resources (5.0 Minimizing Mistakes).
  5. We move to expand our position by leveraging the conditions that we discover. As we cross the boundary into areas outside of our span of control, we discover new situations and sets of conditions. To move under these conditions, we must respond appropriately to these conditions (6.0 Situation Response).
  6. We then focus our moves on innovation to create momentum. While appropriate methods are needed to start a move, innovation is needed to create the momentum necessary to complete it. This focus on innovation requires the courage of commitment to win the control of new position (7.0 Creating Momentum).
  7. We claim to expand the rewards from a new position. Getting control of a position doesn't make it a valuable addition to our span of control. It must generate resources which we can control to produce value (8.0 Winning Rewards).
  8. We then focus our claim to defend the value of our positions. This is the last step in the process, by which we consolidate our gains. At this point, we have expanded our span of control, but we must invest in activities that protect it (9.0 Using Vulnerability).

Illustration: 

Let us illustrate these ideas by comparing the general business approach to expanding a business with the more specific sales problem of winning a single customer order.

  1. We must listen to expand our strategic perspective. In business, we listen to discover how others see our market and how it is changing. In sales, we first listen to discover the broad needs of a customer. 
  2. We then must focus our listening on identifying opportunities. In business, we focus on identifying the best of new market opportunities. In sales, we focus to identify specific needs that our products can easily fulfill. 
  3. We aim to expand our position into the opening of the best opportunity. In business, we aim to expand picking the best market opportunity. In sales, we aim to expand our stales by meeting the customer's needs. 
  4. We then focus our aim to minimizing our mistakes in exploring opportunities. In business, we identify products and services that we can offer to test a small part of that opportunity. In sales, we aim to win the smallest possible commitment from the customer.
  5. We move to expand our position by leveraging the conditions that we discover. In business, we expand by offering products and services to meet customers' unmet needs. In sales, we move by making a proposal to the customer that they can readily appreciate.
  6. We then focus our moves on innovation to create momentum. In business, we offer something different to win customers away from alternatives. In sales, we use a novel approach to setup the close.
  7. We claim to expand the rewards from a new position. In business, we use our new market position to create profitable sales. In sales, we ask for the order.
  8. We then focus our claim to defend the value of our positions. In business, we focus on defending our new market positions and customers from arising vulnerabilities. In sales, we focus by making sure the order is handled well. 

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