Monday, February 24, 2020

Technologies Without Strategies

Layers of GIS Maps
Fingerspitzengefühl: The literal translation of this German word is finger tip feelings.  It is used to describe one's ability to maintain situational awareness by receiving real-time data. 
The problem with fingerspitzengefühl, in addition to difficult pronunciation - is knowing how much data a person needs in order to maintain situational awareness without it being too much.  Today we have data coming at us from every direction.  In fact, as I am writing this article I was notified that my security camera detected humans at my front door.  I now have situational awareness, but at the cost of distraction.  What is really needed is not just any information, but information that will materially impact one's ability to succeed.

In days of old, having fingerspitzengefühl in a military operation was achieved by scouting around, interrogating the local farmers and drawing 2 dimensional maps in the sand.  Today we can add many additional dimensions of information that can be added to a map including:
  1. Altitude 
  2. Time when someone or something arrives at a location on a map
  3. Start and stop times for various tasks completed at a location
  4. Travel times between locations on the map
  5. Traffic conditions
  6. Available workforces and associated costs at various locations
  7. Available equipment at various locations
  8. Activities happening at various locations
  9. Events scheduled at various locations
  10. Business processes involving different locations
  11. Expenses incurred at different locations
  12. Security steps taking place at different locations
  13. Transactions happening at a location
  14. Compliance tasks happening at a location
  15. Performances against KPIs (key performance indicators) at a location
  16. What Actors (customers, partners, suppliers, contractors, employees, etc.) are associated with a location?
  17. Relationships between actors at a work location
  18. Contract/Agreements related to a location
  19. Supplies, materials and equipment tracking at a location
The 21 data points listed above provide enhanced fingerspitzengefühl when compared to a sand drawn map, but as the number of data points become overwhelming we must filter them and identify the most important ones.  I find it useful to call the most important data points, the ones that truly reflect the status of your mission or business objective, Performance Impact Variables (PIVs).

With enhanced fingerspitzengefühl, new strategies can and must be developed. In support of that statement let me share a lesson from history.  During the period between WWI and WWII, all Western countries added new innovations which included tanks and military aircraft to their inventory of weapons supporting their infantry.  The Germans, however, did something other countries didn't do.  They added new strategies to go along with the new technologies:
  1. Added radios and radio frequencies so tanks, infantry and aircraft could all communicate and work together.
  2. Developed unified and coordinated action plans so the three different groups could achieve greater success through coordination.
  3. Changed to mission oriented command structures – so field officers could act quickly based upon what they were seeing and experiencing on the frontlines without waiting for HQ to approve. HQ defined the mission “intent”, but the details of how to accomplish the intent were left to frontline officers involved in the action.
The combinations of new technologies plus new strategies culminated in what is known as the Blitzkrieg - a strategy which enabled the German forces to easily overwhelm opposing forces during the early stages of WWII.

A maxim I often share in my workshop is, "New technologies without new strategies are wasted." So go ahead and enhance your fingerspitzengefühl with new technologies, but don't waste them.

Kevin Benedict
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.