This article discusses what’s Competitive Intelligence got to do with Situational Awareness? It uses British Military examples. And breaks down Situation Awareness down to Look, Think and Act.
To understand what’s going on in our world, we all need to have good Situational Awareness. With angry social media screaming out it’s managed opinions, questionable media and more reliable sources competing for over clicks. It’s becoming even more critical to have your own Situational Awareness.
What’s happening here and now
What’s happening here and now. Not last week. Or what’s in the previous management meeting notes. Or the previous year’s Gartner report or what a social media influencer is telling the world. It’s normal for the view of our market sector to fragmented and incomplete. And more than occasionally wrong. Compounded further if you are not even looking at the competition at all.
Providing the what, who, where and when to decide what the problem is, what to do about it and what action to take.
Competitive Intelligence creates Awareness of threatening and opportune situations. Situation awareness needs to answer the following questions for you:
- Do you know what information you have access to?
- What do you need to know but don’t?
- How reliable is the information you have?
- Is there deceit, disinformation and misinformation within your market?
What is Competitive Intelligence?
Competitive Intelligence is the collection, collation and analysis of information to help you find out what’s happening, explain why it’s happening, outline how things could develop, and offer possible options available to make better decisions. Competitive Intelligence helps you avoid surprises, think more moves ahead, minimise uncertainty, differentiate and stay ahead of the competition. It’s unspoken, hidden key to success.
What is Situational Awareness?
According to Wikipedia, Situational Awareness is the perception of environmental elements and events. With respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status.
There are many definitions of Situation Awareness. As we love to keep things as simple as possible, we boil it down to 3 words – Look, Think and Act. Good Situation Awareness allows you to be aware of your surroundings. Understand the meaning of these surroundings and what it means to your business. And what they will mean in the future and then use the information to act.
Here’s our Situational Analysis questionnaire. It’s designed to assess your competitive threat awareness. We would love to hear some feedback too:
3 phases of situation awareness
We have broken the phases of situation awareness into 3:
This phase is about figuring out who is doing what. What’s happening, and what does it mean and importantly, why should we care? This phase is the core of the principles of Competitive Intelligence. Human instinct is to look and sort things into patterns. It enables us to use it for future reference. So we survive and develop. Back in prehistory, if five of your tribe have eaten the fruit from a particular bush subsequently died. Then it is likely the fruit in question is deadly. Over time we have developed patterns recognition. Those species that haven’t developed pattern awareness are no longer around to compete.
What do we think what we’ve observed is going to affect us? We project into the future from what we believe, then we go and plan and decide and act. This is how we think what we’ve observed is going to affect us.
Internal situation awareness questions include:
- What are they up to?
- How’s it going?
- What problems are they having?
- What do they need me to unblock?
External situation awareness questions include:
- What’s happening within your organisation’s external situation?
- What’s happening outside, and what does that mean to us?
- And what’s going with my tactical teams?
Planning should only take place once your team has identified your highest priorities. Otherwise, it becomes straightforward to try and make plans for everything. And end up delivering very little.
How planning for action works in the Military
Western military communications mare based on procedures called the NATO sequence of orders. They are designed to make it very clear what you and your team intend to do. It’s a fixed process to ensure everything is thought through. Stumbling blocks are considered and planned for.
Now it’s possible you may be planning to ambush your competitor in their car park. But if you’re not, then some sections of the military doctrine won’t be relevant. But some of the sequences of orders could be very useful.
Military orders are simple to understand and break down as follow:
- Situation: Why are we doing what we’re doing? “Do what by when in order to achieve” statement. Repeated twice
- Mission: What is it you actually going to try and do.
- Execution: – Do it
All too often, businesses dive straight into the execution without thinking the situation through. The “just get on with it” attitude or running around panicking and shouting at each other.
Just taking an hour or even a few minutes. Take time to look at your external landscape. Think through the things that might go wrong.
And planning should have been done long before any contact with the enemy. So if something does go wrong, you still want to be in a position to be able to move towards your objective. Take time to think about the most significant risks you face. And then you think about all the assumptions made. And then, you can mitigate risks or what you can do if any assumption proves incorrect. In the Military, this part of the audit process is called “Actions On”.
Suppose we are advancing across this piece of ground towards your objective. If attacked, you should have outstanding Situation Awareness. Assuming the new officer isn’t in charge of the map, you know where you are and where the things you need are. You know what to do and where to go. So when things do come up, they’re not unexpected. And we have a pre-agreed mitigation strategy, so there is less panic; people know their jobs and what to do.
When it comes to action, we take a leaf out of NATO military doctrine. Acting on situations falls into three-time frames and two different perspectives.
Tactical actions you’re going to be taking as an individual or in small groups. Time frames can be hours, days and up to about a week. In the Military, these are the actions that are given to a Section. A section consists typically of 7 to 12 soldiers and is part of a platoon. So, for example. “Section Z is to assault that enemy bunker at 0500….” Internal actions include ensuring rifles are in good order. Or that they have enough supplies of food and water. The boundary of these internal actions is within their team.
Operational actions are tactical actions brought together to achieve a more significant objective. In the British Army, this will be a platoon. A platoon divides into 3 or 4 sections and consists of 25 or so soldiers. Taking the above example, “Number two Platoon are to take the enemy positions on that hill at 0500. Each Section is to take these bunkers and….” Internal actions would be to ensure that each Section has sufficient supplies. And the correct ammunition is available to achieve their objective.
A Company controls a platoon. A company consists of around 100 and 150 soldiers. Platoon and Company leaders are responsible for ensuring they know what’s going on. To ensure they are on track to deliver within the many tactical timeframes to achieve the battlespace director’s strategy. They were known, of course, in the Military as Generals.
Strategic actions are big picture decisions. Like what do we need to do to achieve a six-month operation you have been deployed to do? What profit do we want to achieve over the next year? Which market sector are we going to target next year?
The importance of fresh feedback is another lesson from the Military. So, it’s fresh in mind; it does not matter how tired teams are when arriving back from a mission; they sit down and conduct a debrief. They describe what happened and what was achieved. Learn lessons and use what they have found for the next planning exercise. The debrief is structured in a way to strip out subjective opinions. It just concentrates on the facts. It is detached, details what happened and what everybody did. There is no blame game or finger-pointing.
Questions answered like:
- What does it mean?
- What were the biggest wins and losses?
- And what got done, what did not?
- What tensions can we resolve?
- What lessons do we want to learn to place into our Standard Operational Procedures?
- From what we have learned, what’s the one thing we can do to make things easier if further actions are necessary?
Within the debrief, you crunch down all of the information you’ve found. Explain the experience you’ve had. And then the next plan is what unfolds from that crunching down.
What’s Competitive Intelligence got to do with situational Awareness?
This article discussed what’s Competitive Intelligence got to do with situational Awareness? It used examples from the British Military. And broke Situation Awareness down into Look, Think and Act.
And here are some more articles: