Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Precision as a Competitive Advantage

Throughout history military leaders have suffered from a lack of knowledge.  They often were desperately searching through the "fog of war" to find the answers to seven key questions:
  1. Where are my enemies?
  2. Where are my own forces?
  3. Where are my allies?
  4. Where are everyone's supplies, materials and equipment?
  5. What condition are they in?
  6. What capabilities are available at a given time and location?
  7. What are the location and environmental conditions that might degrade capabilities?
These great “unknowns” impacted the strategies and tactics leaders used and the results of battles throughout history.  Leaders were forced to expend massive amounts of resources just defending themselves against the inherent risks of these unknowns.  

While military leaders of the past were handicapped by a lack of tools for gathering insights and intelligence, today we have many. With sensors of all kinds, wireless and satellite networks, mobile technologies, drones, analytics and artificial intelligence the “fog of war” can be greatly reduced.  Precise, real-time data from around the globe can be instantly aggregated, analyzed and results distributed to all relevant groups nearly instantaneously through network centric operations.  The resulting reduction of unknowns, releases leaders and resources to be focused more on strategies and solving problems based on knowns.   This is a monumental development in history.

Sensors extend our senses beyond our physical reach and act as our globally distributed digital nerves. These new capabilities significantly impact how businesses can operate, and offer new opportunities for competitive advantages for business leaders.

W. Edwards Deming, the father of quality improvement, once said, “The biggest problems are where people don't realize they have one in the first place.”  These “blind spots” – the unknown status of a process, schedule, delivery or available resource, for example – should be a relic of the past. Today, we have the ability to remove conjecture and work with precise data.

Many companies have yet to evolve from legacy business models based on the “unknown and imprecise” and continue to throw good money after bad by following "estimate-based" models. Many companies have yet to implement a comprehensive digital nervous systems.  As a result, these organizations have yet to update their strategies and tactics to support new models of real-time precision. Ignoring today’s “revolution in precision” is unacceptable, and would be like a manufacturer ignoring the “continuous quality improvement” movement in manufacturing. Leaders must recognize both the micro and the macro-trends impacting their markets.

Deming also said, “It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.” Taking advantage of precision is a must if surviving is in your plan. As automation increases due to advances in sensors, bandwidth, artificial intelligence, algorithms and machine learning, precision becomes not only possible, but necessary.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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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.