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The problem of “Peacegaming”

February 17, 2010 5 comments

Garry Kasparov, russian chess grandmaster and ...
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During one of our staff group brainstorming sessions, we were considering the shortfalls of conventional wargaming when it came to examining/understanding Stability operations, and the transition to them.

The conventional wargaming methods didn’t feel right in helping us try to visualize our situation and solve our problem.

We weren’t sure that it made sense to take a technique that has been optimized for force-on-force conventional fighting, between “units” of capabilities operating with a common frame of reference in terms of time, space, purpose, capability, and criteria for success that is well understood by both sides, and somehow try to translate that into a process that features multiple players, partial and complete, with varied interests, shifting loyalties, degrees of commitment, different problem definitions and scopes, criteria for success etc.

It emerged from our discussions that conventional wargaming, is an attempt to model warfighting as a game of chess, with defined terms, rules, pieces, outcomes, predictability and control; a game in which it makes sense to act-react-counteract; where actions can be known, and results reasonably forecasted, and effects to be reasonably calibrated, and future actions evaluated on the basis of doctrine.

It didnt seem that this kind of model and approach was suitable for evaluating, analyzing, understanding and appreciating the nuances and complexities of Stability or nation-building.

It occurred to us that we might need a “peace-gaming” model that was more like Poker or the old parlor game of “Diplomacy” to capture the right feel; a game where multiple parties could be modeled or represented; where actions, reactions, counteractions and the results that occur as a result of how and when they are mixed, are neither deterministic or definitive.

We spent some time puzzling through how such a game might be modeled by a staff trying to evaluate or appreciate a complex game plan.

Somehow it seemed that we needed more than just the Black & White of enemy and friendly forces. Somehow the game must reflect the complexities, the anthropological nuances of modern social reality in a major city or populous region. This begged the question of how we could assemble an expert panel that could “judge” the outcomes of potential policy mixes. The idea of Human Terrain Teams and Red Teaming were inevitably considered.

The only thing harder than that seemed to be what to do with the output of any such process, and how serious to treat it, with what degree of confidence, and how to describe the limits of its applicability, and how to turn that into actionable orders

These are essentially many of the same cognitive challenges that associate with Design itself.

It intrigued us so much in 24 C&D that examining these ideas will carry over in to some independent research during the upcoming elective period.

If you have some thoughts about this or can recommend some resources or a research/cognitive strategy, we’d like to hear it so it can inform our own efforts.

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A reflection on meeting management and the use of silence

February 14, 2010 Leave a comment

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Manny: I agree that when we feel connected to our purpose that our decisions and actions come naturally and easily and we can find the resources we need to break through challenges. Staying connected in a human way to our sources of strength with an appreciation of our own limits but our own potentials helps us turn the long journeys into successful ones.

Loyalty really is an important part of our decision-making, because it commits us to taking actions on the basis of incomplete information and which affect our values at the deepest level. This is why I have been arguing this term for the importance of transparency as opposed to poker playing with our deepest beliefs. I believe we owe it to our superiors but more importantly our subordinates to be as transparent as possible in order that they can have trust in our commitments and confidence in where to place their loyalties.
I agree that silence in the meeting is as important as the space between musical notes. I make sure that when I go into our important curriculum design meetings with the senior leadership I have carefully laid out the arguments I want to make with key phrases that I want to install in their minds that are supported by deep analysis which I can call upon if needed. I look at the agendas to anticipate where I can most effectively and logically make the arguments and I rehearse our meeting routines to see how and where I can best insert my insights.

I make sure that I have considered who will be at the meeting and how I can approach them before hand so that they’re not surprised by the things that I will say and to gauge their response to my ideas. I have found this to be very helpful in communicating my ideas effectively and preventing me from taking on ill considered recommendations in public. By being transparent in writing with my proposals I find that I have built trust-based relationships and a reputation for having no hidden agendas.

Expressing myself in writing demonstrates a commitment to transparency and evidence which has silenced many “he said- she said” responses to complex negotiations.I then make notes during the meeting on who I should talk to and on what topics immediately following the meeting to seal the deal. I make sure also that the person making the written notes for the meeting is on my distribution list and that the things that I thought were important are reflected in their written record of the meeting. This artifact becomes an important tool for developing the situation in the days and weeks ahead because it is the basis for taking formal action.

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Reflections on leadership and risk management

February 14, 2010 Leave a comment

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Carol: as you develop experience with working for new and different bosses, you find yourself with a standard strategy of how to size them up and find out what makes them tick so that you can work with them and for them? Do you find yourself spending more or less time with that the more often your bosses change. How good are we had really reading peoples take motivations and personal preferences and how much time do we take to be certain of what our first impressions lead us to believe?
I share your concerns about the trade-off between reward and risk when it comes to taking on experiments. As you have seen in my commentary on Heifetz, I don’t think they give this important judgment enough treatment.
Regarding Brenda’s comments about leaders and a willingness to take on risk. The most successful risk managers that I know, and I work with many on a professional basis in the world of both finance and defense, all share a quality of a finely tuned ability to compare rewards with risks and a sense of how close to the edge they can navigate safely or relatively safely. An unwillingness to approach the boundary condition limits leaders abilities to move to the highest levels of an organization where complexity and uncertainty dwell but conversely where the greatest rewards and risks also dwell. It is precisely the ability to successfully navigate uncertainty for the highest of stakes that distinguishes the qualities of successful senior leaderships in my experience.
Regarding cameras comments about the risk-averse boss: you can see here a case where the boss is overcome by his vision of risk that he can’t see the reward and cannot figure out how to successfully integrate the two into actionable decisions while at the same time providing protection for the consequences of the actions for the rest of the organization. He’s been promoted beyond his ability based on what you’ve described. An unwillingness to act to seize opportunity is a natural response to overwhelming uncertainty. A friend of mine who is one of the most successful commodity traders in the world has a program of recruiting talent which examines this ability. Carefully and it is clearly one that is affected by the size of stakes. He has traders who can trade million-dollar accounts professionally but who cannot trade a $10 million account because they get overcome by the number of zeros. It is the context of the consequences of our decisions which make the decisions more difficult on the inside than they may seem to the outside observer.
This is why I think Heifetz is discussion on creating a sense of false confidence to be so dangerous. I am much more interested in examining what the basis for a feeling of confidence is than trying to convince yourself through the power of positive thinking to go beyond your skill level

Carol: as you develop experience with working for new and different bosses, you find yourself with a standard strategy of how to size them up and find out what makes them tick so that you can work with them and for them? Do you find yourself spending more or less time with that the more often your bosses change. How good are we had really reading peoples take motivations and personal preferences and how much time do we take to be certain of what our first impressions lead us to believe?
I share your concerns about the trade-off between reward and risk when it comes to taking on experiments. As you have seen in my commentary on Heifetz, I don’t think they give this important judgment enough treatment.
Regarding Brenda’s comments about leaders and a willingness to take on risk. The most successful risk managers that I know, and I work with many on a professional basis in the world of both finance and defense, all share a quality of a finely tuned ability to compare rewards with risks and a sense of how close to the edge they can navigate safely or relatively safely. An unwillingness to approach the boundary condition limits leaders abilities to move to the highest levels of an organization where complexity and uncertainty dwell but conversely where the greatest rewards and risks also dwell. It is precisely the ability to successfully navigate uncertainty for the highest of stakes that distinguishes the qualities of successful senior leaderships in my experience.
Regarding Tamara’s comments about the risk-averse boss: you can see here a case where the boss is overcome by his vision of risk that he can’t see the reward and cannot figure out how to successfully integrate the two into actionable decisions while at the same time providing protection for the consequences of the actions for the rest of the organization. He’s been promoted beyond his ability based on what you’ve described. An unwillingness to act to seize opportunity is a natural response to overwhelming uncertainty. A friend of mine who is one of the most successful commodity traders in the world has a program of recruiting talent which examines this ability. Carefully and it is clearly one that is affected by the size of stakes. He has traders who can trade million-dollar accounts professionally but who cannot trade a $10 million account because they get overcome by the number of zeros. It is the context of the consequences of our decisions which make the decisions more difficult on the inside than they may seem to the outside observer.
This is why I think Heifetz’s discussion on creating a sense of false confidence to be so dangerous. I am much more interested in examining what the basis for a feeling of confidence is than trying to convince yourself through the power of positive thinking to go beyond your skill level

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Developing organizational vision

February 14, 2010 Leave a comment

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Sometimes I think of the building of vision in an organization to be like the game of post office in which each communication transaction more of the idea just a little bit and that what we end up with is considerably different than what we started with. It seems like we need to have divergent communication in visioning in order to explore the boundaries and potentials and then some convergent group consensus, certified by leadership, in order to come up with a restated recalibrated community vision to launch us into the next round of excursions.

When you think of all the different modes of formal and informal communication and our tendency as humans to reframe and reinterpret what we see and hear it’s no wonder that our vision is a living breathing dynamic entity all of its own. I think this is what Melanie is looking at when she talks about the power of story in leadership in how the story itself can become a force and an entity all of its own

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Stanley Cup vs Superbowl: Peyton’s walk of shame

February 9, 2010 Leave a comment

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all the controversy about Manning walking off the field only highlights the difference between hockey and football culture

Football is full of “me me me”: TO, Ocho Cinco, trash talking:  juvenile

Hockey is about the team AND respect for the other teams, all of them, who pushed you beyond what you thought were your limits:  Your opponent is respected fro their effort that made you go thru their fire.

Hockey’s tradition of handshaking is planned for, expected, and is for me the highlight of a yearlong honorable quest, even better than the skating of the cup, when you get to see the players acknowledge each other after the competition: its what makes us civilized again, right after the supreme competitive effort.

That’s why Cindy Crosby’s snub of Nick Lidstrom last year was so telling; Crosby lacked the maturity and poise to do the right thing, being so caught up in the moment; That’s what boys do, men  remain centered

American football culture cant wait to crown the winners and discard the “losers”. To even think in those terms tells you whats wrong with football culture that cant make time for the acknowledgement of the other.

If Peyton were a hockey player, with his respect for the game and his intensity, he would have been the first in line to congratulate, because he honors the traditions. But because he is a football player, he did what football players do: he acted like a loser and cleared the stage.

Football would be better if it were more like hockey.

Football would be better if it WERE hockey

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Coaching & mentoring: can you do both at the same time?

February 7, 2010 Leave a comment

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In one of our weekly leadership discussions, the question was posed: can someone be both a coach and a mentor to someone at the same time: the concern raised wa that the two roles could cause conflicting signals:
i think its pretty hard to be a mentor to someone with whom you already have a formally defined professional relationship, especially if you are in their performance evaluation “chain”.
The mentor might wonder  about how genuine the request is, or it may appear like extra-favorable treatment to others who aren’t being mentored. Or, the mentee may feel pressure to accept career advice since hey might worry about the consequences of not following the advice.

i think thats why Michelle’s insights are important about mentors mostly asking questions or in helping the mentee explore 2d and 3d order effects

This is a reason i have deep concerns about “requiring” senior Army leaders to develop mentoring programs, since it puts the locus of control with the seniors and not the juniors.

I’ve tried to give good career and personal advice to my subordinates, which includes helping them find a mentor.  And i have been open to being a mentor to officers and NCOs outside the chain of command. Its gratifying to see students coming thru our college in the rank of Major that i commanded or was a mentor to when they were Lieutenants 10-15 years ago.

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is there a difference between coaching and mentoring?

February 5, 2010 1 comment

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Here are the differences I see between coaches and mentors:

1. to me coaching is about improving performance first and the person second. I see mentors focused on individual growth, holistically, rather than specific or particular performance.

2. I think the coach gets his power or authority from the formal position that he holds on the team or organization and his role is generally well understood and standardized, whereas a mentor I think shapes his role in consultation with his partner.

3. I think coaches are taking specific looks at improving performance on a particular task and usually as a member of the team whereas I think the mentor is considering positive personal growth that spans a career or an entire life.

4. I think mentors get chosen by the junior partner whereas coaches are assigned to a team in your on the team so that your coach and perhaps the only choice you have is whether or not to join the team.

5. I think coaches have standardized templates of high-performance that’s related to specific tasks whereas mentors develop the agenda for growth after consulting with their junior partner.

6. I know a lot of people that don’t have mentors and yet seem to do just fine, whereas I cannot imagine a team that would do very well without a coach

7. I think there are many times when coaches can be directive and authoritarian, whereas a mentor just about has to be Socratic to be effective since everything is about the inner life of the junior partner whereas in coaching it’s about the team

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