Options and Plan Flexibility

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Options Flexibility is having one master plan, but deliberately developing a number of tactics to achieve it, not just relying on one tactic. Sports teams often win games by changing their tactics during the game. Under dynamic competitive conditions, so do companies.

A student who wanted to enrol at a university but not incur a high student debt (tuition and accommodation debt) might consider each of the following tactics;

  • Work first and save to pay their fees.
  • Study and work part time together.
  • Get their employer to sponsor them while they study (cadetship/apprenticeship).
  • Start a small side-business to partly fund their studies.

Plan Flexibility is having several master plans at once. That way if one fails, you can activate another one quite quickly, because the options you’ve built up already, work well for each of your master plans.

The master plans might be to be the best ‘you’ that you can be & be the best partner you can be. By building up a strong personal network of trusted friends, generating goodwill with your partner’s family, taking some personal development courses and/or doing some activities outside your comfort zone, you’ll build confidence, insight and skills. These things give you options to help you achieve both or either master plan.

Someone might reach a ‘watershed moment’ where they need to move from Options Flexibility to Plan Flexibility. For example, becoming a refugee and having to flee their native country. Deciding whether to come out, or finding they need to change career.

In any case, when conditions are especially uncertain, or likely to change rapidly, why not boost your personal flexibility by using both Options and Plan Flexibility together?

Simon

Time and Personal Flexibility

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‘Time and tide wait for no man’, so the saying goes. Time flexibility is about controlling time.

Three opportunities (or tactics) are to play for time, buy time or re-invent time. Playing for time is to delay something or stall someone, in order to provide more time. Buying time is to somehow increase the time available. And reinventing time is to change the definition of time itself e.g. re-branding time, redefining time or taking a different view of time.

Examples of playing for time include:

  • The TV news playing in a doctor’s surgery or bank, for patients/customers waiting to be seen.
  • When you go to see your professional advisor (lawyer, accountant etc) and they delegate a task to an associate, while continuing your client meeting and covering other things in the meantime.
  • A sports team running down the clock.
  • A school student who takes subjects that allow them to keep their options open, if they’re unsure about what to do after graduating.

Examples of buying time include:

  • Having pre-order input screens in a fast-food restaurant (meal production can start as soon as the order is received).
  • Travelators in airports and lifts/escalators in train stations to move people to the departure lounges/platforms quickly.
  • Setting your phone alarm earlier than usual, to make an earlier than usual start.
  • Hiring an expert (with knowledge built up over years and fast execution).
  • Buying a specialist tool or labour-saving device.
  • Pre-recoding a TV programme and fast-forwarding the adverts when you watch it.
  • Standing in line at the supermarket checkout. There aren’t enough till operators, so they buzz to get more staff to come and serve customers.
  • Timetabling software, ready meals, kitset furniture and plant seedlings.
  • Covert pre-assembly (partial assembly in anticipation of future demand).
  • Someone saying they can’t deliver a solution in the short term. But upping the ante by promising a much better solution in the longer term.
  • Parallel running parts of a process (shorten the critical path to completion).
  • ‘Infinite capacity planning’. This involves hiring more resources to work concurrently to meet a tight deadline. This is applicable where the penalties for missing the deadline exceed the additional, short-term cost.

Examples of re-inventing time include:

  • Reverse mentoring (young IT savvy workers mentor older workers who have different skills say),
  • A company exploiting people’s selective memory of history to sell their products or services. For example, a company marketing nostalgic/vintage/retro products rather than new ones.
  • Forcing the pace/bringing forward a deadline. For example, a political party calling an early election, to play to its strengths. A department store runs a large sale with 50% off normal price, to bring forward future sales.

It’s clearly hard to think of and deliver a really good solution when you’re under time pressure. Therefore, for people wanting to manage their time better, why not play for, buy or reinvent time. Or do some combination of these things.

Food for thought?

Simon

Personal Flexibility and Discrimination

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Maybe those of us in a position of privilege (baby boomer white males like myself especially) can learn the most about personal flexibility from the people that society discriminates against the most. How they cope on a daily basis and their stories of struggle are probably the best examples of flexibility and the strength of the human spirit both.

I recently watched the first TV series ‘Pose’ – largely about the LGBT community in New York in the late 1980s. A review by the Guardian newspaper of the series is as follows:

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/mar/21/pose-review-ryan-murphy-show-voguing-underground-ballroom-new-york

The hit series has lots of great lines, colourful characters, irony and great acting too. It’s also sparked some interesting post-series interviews and discussion with the main actors – refer You Tube interviews with Angelica Ross, Dominique Jackson and Indya Moore, to name a few.

The series shows how the trans-gender community, particularly black trans-gender women were effectively at the bottom of the status pecking order and it’s an open question whether they still are. For the characters in the series, attending costume balls hosted by their LGBT community and running fashion houses to support the models attending those balls was about celebrating human expression, their identity and defining humanity on their own terms.

Often for many of us, giving feels like a one-way street. We might choose to work in Not for Profit roles, favouring mission over reward. Do some community volunteering. And/or reach out to family and friends in various ways. The Blanca character in Pose effectively sets herself up as a house mother and one person charity to those in the New York LGBT community. Yet has few resources and quite a bit of discrimination of her own to deal with. Her giving contribution is eventually validated by all concerned, but her leadership along the way is inspiring, for those of us walking the one way street.

What we can all do is discriminate and judge a bit less. The World will be a better place for it. There won’t be so much work for litigation lawyers, therapists, social workers, hospitals or the companies who make weapons. Like one of the characters in the series said ‘kindness doesn’t cost you anything.’

Simon

Surfing the ups and downs

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Surfers know about staying on their board to ride out the lows and enjoy the highs. Breaking right or left when the opportunity arises. Surfing away from danger if they spot a shark in the water.

How can companies or staff use flexibility to stay sustainable through boom & bust cycles? For companies, buying up distressed assets and companies in an economic downturn isn’t the only game in town. With companies desperately shedding cost by laying off staff, the downturn is a golden opportunity to pick up experienced talent in plentiful supply. Likewise for staff, stay open to new opportunities from those companies wanting the good people.

In the downturn, if they can’t justify hiring operations staff, firms can hire more developers instead, to deliver for the next bull run. Or better still (in a flexibility sense), acquire staff who develop in the downturn and do operations/marketing in the boom. For staff, think about widening your skills from operations into development and marketing too.

In a downturn, business ethics are tested by fear, not greed. Whether boom, bust or in between, staff can work hard to join up their personal morals with the business ethics of the business, to keep the customer love alive and thriving.

Finally for staff, if you’re not involved in development innovation (team leaders and middle managers), try to catch the eye of senior management, by helping them develop real options for the company’s future. For the company, having both innovations and real options is the equivalent of riding the surfboard through the ups and downs both.

Simon

 

Management and Leadership

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On environmental pollution, managers collect rubbish and send it to landfill sites. Leaders ensure consumer products are biodegrade.

On Brexit, managers coax passengers into making the trip. And pressgang the rebels on to any boat that floats. Leaders engineer the journey of a lifetime, on a robust, spacious ocean liner, designed to make the journey trouble-free.

On housing, managers write up the waiting lists, set the criteria for allocation and fix the rents. Leaders spread the jobs regionally, deliver modular housing units for the masses and reform planning regulations to fast-track construction.

Managers push sentiment change to get regime change. Leaders keep suggesting reform of unpopular practice, until the weight of popular opinion drives mass momentum towards a useful outcome.

Managers create a one door pathway. Leaders create a many door environment for followers to choose from.

Managers move movers & shakers to move forward. Leaders shake shakers to shake movers forward.

Managers downplay rigid to progress. Leaders practise flexibility to progress.

Simon

Looking forward

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True flexibility makes options. It also leaves the options not chosen, available for later use.

Arguably we all need to be futurists. Embracing flexibility will make futurism less daunting.

Are dairy farmers a model for how man-machine partnerships should work? Dairy farmers made hay and mud bricks until they discovered milk production was more lucrative. Cows are the intelligence that convert grass into a substance that gives our physiological systems the ability to be more healthy and act in smarter ways. The rest is up to us!

The best markets have the greatest flexibility. Both in trading and in regulatory compliance.

In the same way data security software monitors data networks, automated regulators need to monitor market trading and evolve as fast as markets evolve.

Regulatory agents aren’t there to impede trading per se. But to limit the task of their peers in welfare means-testing (or UBI) for parts of the community that markets don’t reach.

AI needs to become an acronym for assisted initiatives, absent inequality and augmented innovation.

Simon