Give yourself the best vantage point to enhance your situational awareness.
My friend Gene is rural Southern renaissance man. One of his many pursuits is bee keeping. Recently I was fortunate enough to observe a fascinating bee-keeping process Gene called ‘pageanting.’ He was combining two hives, and after taking all the bees out of the first hive, he placed a twig in front of the receiving hive. The new resident bees would land on the twig walk slowly along it, and go inside the door to the hive, after stopping briefly in front of it. This process of forcing bees to slowly access their new home by filing along a twig (as if on a pageant run way) encourages them to slow down and take stock of their surroundings, heightening their situational awareness and enhancing their ability to remember their way home when they leave the hive at a later time. Brilliant!
In a business leadership context, developing keen situational awareness is the sharpening of a substantial complementing skill. Imagine sitting down in a conference room and being able to take stock of the reaction of the room to the presentation material, knowing who is working on what high-impact initiatives and how the seating arrangement is building informal cliques within two or three closely seated colleagues, as well as the availability of white boards, markers or presentation materials in case you are asked to give an impromptu situational briefing on a project you are working on… If you have developed observational skills, you will be able use situational awareness to quickly coalesce the audience into a group of stakeholders with a shared interest (likely where their projects intersect with yours as a compliment to their own success) and move effortlessly into presenting a compelling update.
Like the bees, these observational skills that develop better situational awareness start with a little ‘pageanting.’ In my favorite military movies, it is called ‘checking your six,’ but military strategists refer to the higher functioning cognitive elements of situational awareness as the “OODA Loop.” A process of coalescing your Observations and environmental Orientation, to Decide what the relevant present conditions are and what your personal plan of Action should be.
Observation: Staying in a relaxed-alert condition and gathering observational data on what’s happening in your immediate environment. Keep your focus broad, and look up from your smartphone, alert and attentive to the surroundings.
Orientation: This is where your observations lead you to actions. Monitor the outside environment related to key performance indicators, and predictive analytics. Know how the company and the teams are functioning so you can aggregate environmental and historical performance datum with forward-looking analytics into helpful situational human judgement.
Decide: Bring the cumulative observations and orientation data together to make better, scalable, and repeatable decisions. In an optimal business situation many decisions can be “pre-loaded” and anticipated. For my supply chain colleagues this is especially poignant with respect to inventory or procurement demand management and order fulfillment, as well during active supplier negotiations.
Action Coalescing all the observations, data, and projections into a solid baseline of information, and forming an immediate plan of action. Whether you need to act on it or not, you are ready and can immediately participate at a very high level when necessary. (for deeper review on OODA, Google – ‘military strategist John Boyd’).
To help develop the observational skills associated with keen situational awareness, practice asking yourself these questions…
- What’s going on here?
- What’s the general mood?
- What’s the “normal” activity that I should expect?
- How do most people behave here most of the time?
- What would cause someone or something to stand out? (The art of Manliness Blog February 5, 2015 http://www.artofmanliness.com)
As always, until next we meet, ‘check your six’, and I appreciate all you do to fill the hands that heal!
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Timothy Hagler is an experienced supply chain leader, with an ever-accelerating interest in earnestly connecting stakeholders with creative ideas to meet new economic realities for healthcare providers. Tim has enjoyed an excellent track record of achievement and advancement earned through demonstrated contribution to bottom-line results, employing strong solutions architecture, analytic and financial skills in challenging, multi-client environments. Tim and his lovely wife Kandy enjoy spending time at the beach in South Carolina. Tim’s hobbies include photography, American folk music, and writing about himself in the third person.