Thursday, September 15, 2011

Continuous Management

Continuous Management is one of two key C2/GOMA principles. It is based on the OODA Loop concept, which states, “A work of any active element in a management system can be considered as an information transformation process that goes through 4 distinct states: Observe, Orient, Decide and Act”. In this post I will discuss active elements, the OODA Loop, and Continuous Management in C2/GOMA.

Active Elements (or Decision Making Entities) are system elements that actively contribute to a management process. They can be a person, a group of people, an automated Decision Support System, a robot, or a low-level microcontroller.

The Continuous Management principle gives us a universal model to look at the work of any active element In the OODA Loop cycle (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act):

  • Observe: The active element receives initial information from the outside world (viewed world).
  • Orient: The active element interprets the information and makes certain conclusions (understood world).
  • Decide: The active element creates an action plan based on its goals and interpreted situation (action plan).
  • Act: The active element acts upon the plan by either taking action or delegating actions to other active elements. The actions performed then cause changes in the system and the environment (produced results).
  • Observe: The active element receives new information from the outside world with changes caused by previous actions and external factors.
  • Orient: The active element interprets the information, compares it to expectations, and makes certain conclusions.
  • Decide: The active element then makes adjustments to the action plan, or generates a new plan if the previous one was accomplished (or if it failed).
  • Act: The active element performs a new set of actions or delegates them to other active elements, and then--
  • The cycle repeats over and over again.

Here you can see the distinct methods of the OODA Loop being done, performed by an active element at any given state, that we call “Management Functions.” There are four different types of Management Functions:

  • Observation Functions: obtain initial information from the outside world, perform a preliminary check, and consolidate similar information received from different sources.
  • Orientation Functions: interpret information, apply it to expectations (plans), and make conclusions.
  • Decision Functions: generate or adjust an action plan.
  • Execution Functions: execute or delegate actions while making potential minor adjustments to accommodate for possible situation changes.

While looking at these functions and steps, it is important to understand that the OODA Loop is not a machine that creates states. The states represent stages in the information processing flow. All the states are active at the same time, which is illustrated by the following figure:

The OODA Loop is a constant process continually moving.

There is one more interesting fact to look at. Many of you probably know about the following pyramid model: Data - Information - Knowledge - (Results):

  • Data - raw unprocessed information
  • Information - processed, interpreted, relevant information
  • Knowledge - actionable information, action plans
  • Results - post-actionable information, effects of planned actions

If you relate those information categories to the states in the OODA Loop you can see that they map really well.

This fact is another confirmation that the OODA Loop can describe the information processing flow in any management system that turns raw information into actions and results.

So, why is Continuous Management so important to C2/GOMA?

When people develop management automation, they perform a lot of analysis. By doing that, they extract management functions and implement them. But when those functions are put together, they may not fit each other and the management reality seamlessly. As a result, the created management systems become incomplete, have numerous gaps, and do not address the organization’s problems well.

To improve, a different step than analysis must be made--synthesis. The Continuous Management principle uses the OODA Loop as a synthetic model to put different management functions together, link them in a natural flow, reconstruct the entire system, and then see how it works as a whole.

By doing this, the Continuous Management principle helps to eliminate the gaps in automation for an individual Decision Maker. It provides management functions and the required information, promoting a continuous flow to deal with gaps in information and functionality. Then, by providing management functions that are able to work alongside each other, moving information at different stages simultaneously, it covers the gaps in time between business processes. The principle of Continuous Management, with the OODA Loop and active elements, will greatly aid any organization’s management automation.

If you have any questions, I invite you to comment with them below.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Goal Management

C2/GOMA turns Goal Management into a formal scientific discipline, and it breaks the process down into the following areas of Formulation, Evaluation, Propagation, and Reaching.

We begin with Goal Formulation:

  • Goal Formulation. Defining and structuring a goal.

    • Definition - Definition of a goal in specific, measurable, and time-bound terms. A goal is typically stated using the 5WH principle:
      • Who - Who is responsible or will contribute in achieving the goal? “Who” specifies required resources.
      • What - What is the goal? What specifically shall be accomplished? How can the success of the goal be measured? “What” gives a formal or informal definition of the future desired state to be achieved.
      • Where - Where will the goal be accomplished? “Where” states subjects that the goal is applied to.
      • When - When will the goal be accomplished? “When” defines the time when work toward the goal shall be started and when it will end. Time can be defined in number of different ways:
        • Exact time
        • Relative, in relation to the start/end of another goal
        • Conditional, upon command or when a certain event(s) occurs
      • Why - Why do you want to achieve this goal? What’s the reasoning behind this goal? “Why” usually links the goal to one of its few higher-level goals.
      • How - How shall the goal be achieved? “How” usually defines constraints and directions that guides us towards reaching the goal. In a micro management style, “How” can prescribe the exact breakdown of goal into specific actions.
      • The SMART method (discussed in my first September 2011 post, “Try Personal Goal Management”) can then be used to review and improve the goal’s definition.

    • Structuring - Breaking down a goal into sub-goals. There are several aspects that should be taken into account while structuring a goal:
      • Completeness - Will reaching all sub-goals actually lead to the accomplishment of this goal?
      • Sequencing - Is there any specific order to how the sub-goals will be reached?
      • Clarity/Certainty - Sub-goals should be less uncertain--have lower unambiguity--than the goal itself. If uncertainty increases, it means the breakdown has not achieved its purpose.

There are several techniques which people use for goal structuring:
      • WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) - a hierarchical breakdown of a goal into a series of steps/tasks.
      • Delphi Method / Expert Judgement - the decomposition performed by multiple experts in several steps, with reconciliation after every iteration.

After the goal has been formed, the process then moves to Goal Evaluation:

  • Goal Evaluation. Evaluating a goal from different perspectives before acting upon it.

    • Suitability - Does it make sense? Will it lead us to where we really want to be? Are there any better alternatives?
    • Feasibility - Can it be done? Are we physically able to achieve the goal, taking into account the current state, resources, and other work that needs to be done? Are there any risks that may negatively or positively affect achieving this goal?
    • Acceptability - Are we willing to do it? Is this goal or method in line with company values? Are all possible side effects acceptable?

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis or Risk Assessment can be used at this stage.

We then move to Goal Propagation:

  • Goal Propagation. Propagating a goal through management levels after it has been structured and evaluated. There are two common ways to propagate a goal:

    • Setting - the primary way to propagate goals. Goals are given at the top and move down, as a boss to his or her subordinates.
    • Seeking - an alternative way. Goals are defined at lower levels and then pushed from the bottom upwards.

When people hear “Command & Control” they often image a highly controlled environment, where every step is prescribed, any initiative is suppressed, and where it’s not much fun to be. That was one of the reasons why we switched to alternative name--Goal-Oriented Management Automation (GOMA). In reality, C2/GOMA doesn’t force us to always set goals top-down. In reality, it is very healthy for organizations to let people at the bottom come up with their own goals. C2 just helps to capture and manage those goals. When a new goal is set, the boss immediately sees it. If he likes it, he can help the achievement of that goal, or even make it part of his plans and push it further up. However, if the boss disagrees with the goal, he can stop the work without spending valuable organizational time and money.

Finally, we come to the last area of Goal Management: Goal Reaching:

  • Goal Reaching. The final step: achieving the goal. Goal Management is able to help in achieving a goal and the processes after. It can turn a painful and blind execution process into an educated balancing act.

    • Balancing - Often organizations try to achieve multiple goals concurrently using limited resources. Goal Management gives formal ways to identify issues between concurrent goals, such as competition and conflict:
      • Competition - a relationship between two independent goals which require the same resources at the same time.
      • Conflict - what happens when differences between the current state and the desired outcomes of two goals point in different directions. For example: A person has a goal to save money for retirement. The desired outcome will require the money in his or her bank account to grow. Another goal, such as spending vacation in Hawaii, will conflict with the first goal, since it has a side effect which will lead to losing money.

There are two primary ways to balance between multiple concurrent and interdependent goals:
      • Arbitration - compromising between two goals by using somebody in charge to make a call between them.
      • Consensus - finding a common higher-level goal (a common ground), making predictions, and optimizing the outcomes by making balanced decisions. Even if the goals do not reach their full potential, the common higher-level goal will be maximized.

After balancing, we then analyze the progress of the goal:

    • Progress Analysis - estimating the current progress of the goal, determining if the goal is achieved, and, if not, making predictions based on the current status of the goal and trends happening around it. This may lead to making additional goals and repeating portions of the Goal Management Process in order to effectively reach the main goal and desire.

Through the Goal Management of C2/GOMA, goals can be achieved intelligently and orderly. The process is there for you. You only have to follow it. If you need motivation or some help achieving your goals through this process, take a look at my earlier September 2011 posts.

Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Goal-Free Living

While I was searching for personal goal-management books for my previous post, I found an interesting book called “Goal-Free Living” by Stephen Shapiro. To tell you the truth, I haven’t read the book yet as my order still has to arrive, but the way the book’s topic was stated intrigued me a lot. I just couldn’t resist making a comment on it.

Surely, the title was chosen for a purpose--to interest and attract the attention of its target audience. The book’s author is a very active and fruitful person. I tracked him down on the Internet to see how many books he’s published, it looked very impressive, and I can’t imagine that he was trying to convince people to drop everything and start spending their lifetime for nothing, going with the flow. But, I can understand why he chose such a title.. Having goals is hard.

The thing is that many people live today in a constant rush, working very hard to achieve something. However, they don’t enjoy the process or the achieved results. At the same time, many gurus of goal-management today put too much emphasis on the mechanical side of things. They assume people already have decent goals, and that they just need effective tools to reach them. However, that appears to be false. By doing this, they set people up for failure and discredit the whole idea.

The concept of goals refers to a future state that you may desire, or a current state that you are trying to keep. Just living without any perspective is wrong. Intuitively, everyone understands that, but no one likes pushing themself all the time for an elusive success.

From my point of view, the issue here is not a problem in the goal-oriented approach, but is a problem with missing a few important details by many people. Specifically:

  • The focus on short-term, immediate tasks, which may look like decent goals. In reality short-term tasks have to lead to long-term goals. Otherwise, it’s just busy work without much sense.
  • False goals. This is also a common problem. Too many people take alien, imposed goals for themselves. “Every man has to build a house, grow a farm, plant a tree,” or “every woman has to be married by the age of 25,” or “a person with less than a $100K annual income is a loser.” These are examples of externally imposed goals, which in most cases lead to failure.
  • A lack of individuality in goals. Even if we have a decent personal goal, there may be a problem with our individual particularities. For example, I’d like to have my own business. At the same time, I don’t like marketing, I hate to deal with officials, I’m not good with money, and I don’t like to talk to clients. If I choose to go towards such goal, the process and the achieved goal will be torturous for me. It is important to examine all personal particularities and formulate a goal that avoids stepping on our own pressure-points. For instance: business can be done jointly with another person or family member, who would like to take care of management formalities. That way I could concentrate on work that I find to be more creative. On the other side, I could come to the conclusion that the business itself is not important for me, but instead a sense of decision-making freedom, financial independence, and the desire to do the work I like. The goal could then be reformulated in a totally different manner.
  • Overall disbalance in goals. Sometimes, when we start doing something, we may forget about other important things. If it’s only for a short time, that’s fine. But, if we are lost at work for years, if we forget about family, friends, or our own emotional and physical state, then, sooner or later, reality will catch us, and we’ll be in trouble. Through a long period of time we should be mindful and balance our goals with the other important aspects of our life. And yes, I’m guilty myself here...
  • Overworking. Some people try to take too much of a bite and take too much on. But there are a limits that exist: a day has only 24 hours which include breaks for sleep and meals, the physical strength of one human is limited, and one’s productive life lasts for only 60 to 70 years at best. By setting too many overly aggressive goals for ourselves, we may die on a run like a beaten horse. Does it mean we should never set aggressive goals? Not at all! But we shouldn’t overwork ourselves to the point of failure. Actually, I do believe that there are no goals that are too aggressive. They can be reached, but it is smart and healthy to use help. Try to find companions willing to share the workload, or create a company, hire people, a put a good manager in place. Then you can reach far more aggressive goals, and you’ll have enough time to rest and spend with your family.
  • Unhappy process. It is also crucial to enjoy the process of reaching your goals--perhaps, even more than enjoying the final outcome. It is very likely that we will have to take unpleasant work. When this happens, as responsible adults we usually clench our teeth, suck it up, and tell ourselves, “I have to do that! When I do this and that, it will become easier. Even though I don’t like it, I just have to get it done.” That’s wrong! We don’t have to be so negative about the hard processes. Yes, there will be difficult moments when we have to push ourselves. But, if our approach is right, even in such situations, we should at least feel proud of ourselves. (On a side note, if you keep pushing without any positive emotional outcomes, it may be an indication of either false goals, or the ignorance of individual particularities, of which I wrote above.)

So, I do believe that goals are not the problem, but that bad goals and poor approaches are the reason for people’s unhappiness. Personally true goals and correct individual approaches are the key factors to living a happy life. That could happen even at strictly intuitive level, without any formalities at all. Be happy, whatever it means for you! :)

Books on Personal Goal Management

Since the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, the topic of personal success and goal management has gotten a lot of attention. Many books were and are still being published. They introduce you to the basic principles of goal management, show you different ways of doing things, and can give you a good motivational spark. Used copies of most books can be bought at Amazon for only three to five dollars.

The list of books below is not complete. Please, if you have any recommendations of your own, add your own links as comments to this post. I hope these are helpful to you:

Brian Tracy. Goals! How to Get Everything You Want -- Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible

A pretty thick book with basic methods on achieving goals and lots of motivational examples.
Keith Ellis. The Magic Lamp: Goal Setting for People Who Hate Setting Goals

A thin book that may help you to get started.
Gary Ryan Blair. What Are Your Goals: Powerful Questions to Discover What You Want Out of Life

If you struggle to understand what you really want, this book may help. It’s full of questions, and, by answering them, you can get more clarity on your own true desires.
Gary Ryan Blair. Goal Setting Forms : Tools to Help You Get Ready, Get Set, & Go for Your Goals!

Paper forms for manual goal management.
Gary Ryan Blair. Goal Setting 101: How to Set and Achieve a Goal!

A thin book with explanations of personal goal management basics.
Brian Mayne. Goal Mapping: How to Turn Your Dreams into Realities

A workbook with many motivational quotes.
Beverly K. Bachel. What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens

A book on goal management basics written for teens that adults may also find interesting. It’s one of few books that talk about “enjoying the process.”
Stephen G Haines. The ABCs of Strategic Life Planning

Helps readers to design a “Strategic Life Plan for their Ideal Future.”
Michael S. Dobson, Susan B. Wilson. Goal Setting: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Goals

Another thin book on goal management basics
Jim Cairo. Motivation and Goal-Setting

A small and simple book with 8 steps to achieving success.
Jeff Davidson. Complete Idiot's Guide to Reaching Your Goals

Besides providing explanations of the basics, this book gives you many examples and instructions for different life situations.
Larrie Rouillard. Goals and Goal Setting: Achieve Measurable Results
A good digest of goal management principles in the form of classroom training material. In addition to personal aspects of goal management, it touches on the propagation of goals in organizations.
Ph.D. Beverly A. Potter. High Performance Goal Setting : Using Intuition to Conceive and Achieve Your Dreams

The vast majority of books consider goal management from a strictly rational perspective. In contrast, this book talks about the use of intuition for setting and achieving goals.
Raymond Le Blanc. Achieving Objectives Made Easy! Practical goal setting tools & proven time management techniques

One more thin and simple book on goal management basics.
Mark Murphy. Hard Goals : The Secret to Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
Zig Ziglar. Goals : Setting And Achieving Them On Schedule
Gladys Stone, Fred Whelan. Goal!: Your 30-Day Game Plan for Business and Career Success
Stephen M. Shapiro. Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want NOW!