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Perform operational, tactical and strategic planning avoiding limbic brain traps

Perform operational, tactical and strategic planning avoiding limbic brain traps

Feb 6th, 2019

We taught MBA students how to Perform operational, tactical and strategic planning avoiding limbic brain traps.

Perform operational, tactical and strategic planning avoiding limbic brain traps

During the MBA held at the Turin Business School we ran three exercises geared towards that goal.

The exercises

1. A risk assessment on personnel flights

This one had the goal to enhance awareness on the need to define the system and the success criteria.

It took them a while to formulate the success criteria. Before they did they were considering all possible hazards that could either delay or take down a plane. That lead to double and treble counting and generated “paralysis by analysis”.

Also, it was long and painful for the delegates to see that the system has to include:

  • waking-up at a correct time (clock has to work, for example),
  • airport transfers to and from airport, and finally
  • stop-over along the way (non direct flights).

They ended-up formulating the criteria as: “arriving alive and in the same state of health the traveler had before leaving home, in time for the next meeting/engagements, with all the luggage and gear necessary and sufficient to carry out the contractual tasks.”

Students suddenly realized that:

  • Using the criteria, the assessment would be easier and clearer. Indeed, they could reference flights crashes statistics, delay statistics as they include all possible hazards generating them. Furthermore the focus of the study is on the delay or the crash, not on the causes of these nefarious events.
  • Stop-overs can significantly increase the chances of overall delays.
  • In this particular study the tolerance function is very simple to determine.
  • Operational, tactical and strategic planning issues can be dealt with once a clear understanding of their nature is reached.

2. A risk assessment on the decision to pursue a higher education, for example a MBA

Here the risk assessment looked at two alternatives: not pursuing and pursuing. The notion of upward risk was introduced once the delegates defined their success criteria.

The difficulty was to define the consequence function. Indeed, in this case consequences include not only the candidate but their families, both though available time, hence nurturing the relationship, and financially, i.e. financing the education program, perhaps accepting a reduced income during the courses, making or not making more money at the end of the program.

Students saw how their decision had been based on gut-feelings and although they were happy to have taken it, they had not seen all the layers and dimensions of potential consequences. They we blinded by the excitement of a prestigious undertaking.

3. A risk assessment on the decision to take a vaccination.

In this times of “no vax” controversy, the aim of this exercise was to show how a rational quantitative risk assessment can foster transparency, risk communication and lead to reasonable decision-making. Students assumed three points of view as follows:

  • salary person risk assessment,
  • free lance consultant or entrepreneur or startup leader risk assessment and finally
  • owner of a small to medium company where most employees are highly skilled and “irreplaceable”.

The delegates developed the three risk assessment in parallel and simultaneously. At the end they had the opportunity to compare “the numbers”. They noticed how changing the point of view alters the risk landscape, how gut-feeling can lead to decisions that are not supported by facts.

Perform operational, tactical and strategic planning avoiding limbic brain traps.

Beyond what we discussed above it became quite evident that fears drive a lot of misconceptions.

After the first exercise, watching at the results and understanding the implications on travel habits, delegates generally reacted stating that their boss would not be in agreement.

That’s why the second and the third exercise became “personal”, i.e. suppressed the obstacle of the boss.

Then it became quite obvious that our fears, our limbic brain, is “our boss” and drives us to take oftentimes poor decisions.

That generally occurs as soon as rational procedures come in conflict with the “basic instincts of the limbic brain.

Is there a short term solution?

Probably not, but at Riskope we firmly believe that one can deal with operational, tactical and strategic planning issues once one reaches a clear understanding of their nature. That experience shows us how to avoid the limbic brain traps.

It is our mission to support corporations and individuals to reach that goal.

Contact us to learn more.

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