Is blitzkrieg enough?

Did the Germans win WW II?

Maneuver warfare, a modern updating of the infiltration tactics that led to the stunning German successes in 1939 through late 1941, is a better way to fight opposing military forces: Create a gap in the enemy defenses, penetrate into his rear areas, cause panic and chaos, and exploit before he can figure out what’s going on. Numbers become irrelevant and can even be a vulnerability once panic sets in. Continue reading

Bad news for Imperial Class?

You may recall my prediction that in about five years, the three legacy major airlines in the US will merge and discontinue coach class service. This would leave them with a 2-class product, business and a superpremium offering I called “Imperial Class.”  You can read more in the press release, available on the Articles page.

Grant Martin, however, notes in a piece on, that none of the all-business-class airlines, started during the last decade, succeeded. The sole survivor, Open Skies, now flies a dual coach / business class configuration. Continue reading

What customers want

Gregory Ciotti has an interesting column on LinkedIn today, “Why Steve Jobs Didn’t Listen to His Customers.”

The subject is market research, and the question is: Should you ask customers what they want? My answer: Sure. Why not? You going promulgate an edict: “Never ask customers what they want.”?

The big issue is what you do with this information. Well, why not just build what they say they want? Sometimes this works. If I had to guess, I’d say it works pretty often because you can reliably predict that customers want problems fixed. As Ciotti notes:

Perhaps this is the truth behind Apple’s innovation — Steve Jobs did actually listen to customers, but only to find out which problems they faced, and to identify the biggest points of friction they had.

Continue reading

Figures and maps from Certain to Win

I know a lot of you have bought electronic editions of Certain to Win (“a lot” being relative, but I’m highly grateful and flattered, nonetheless) that did not have legible figures and maps. My sincerest apologies.

I’ve uploaded a PDF file with all the graphics in the book. There’s a link to this file on the Articles page.

Some electronic editions also didn’t play well with Table I on page 43. I recreated that table in an earlier post and have also added a link on the Articles page. Continue reading

Kill your business model. Now!

Eric Beatty has an interesting post on this subject on LinkedIn, “Challenge your business model before someone else does.”

He suggests that companies examine their customer experiences and try to find “pain points” that they can solve. He cites, Square, and Uber as start-ups that have created new business models and asks why established companies can’t do the same.

It’s a very good question. Continue reading

The march to Imperial Class

Continues unabated: “Etihad’s New Three-Room Suite, for When First Class Just Doesn’t Cut It” in BusinessWeek.

The space, which costs about $43,000 for some flights, is priced to include two travelers and comes with a butler, chef, and shower.

For the background on Imperial Class, here’s the original press release, and here’s an update.

I’m not criticizing Etihad, by the way. If they feel there’s a market for this service and they can make a dirham or two, more power to them. That’s what business is all about.

It’s sometimes said that services like this indicate a bifurcation — the superrich and everybody else. That’s sort of what I was driving at in the original news release. But that’s not quite right.  This service is a consolation prize for those who are rolling in dough but can’t afford a Gulfstream. The real superrich will fly their own G650s or similar, leaving a service like Etihad’s for the merely very wealthy. It’s the distinction between the 1% and the .01%, a distinction that is, I’m sure, important to those concerned.

Quantum entanglement, the arrow of time, and John Boyd?

Time, as every reader of this blog knows, plays a fundamental role in Boyd’s philosophy of conflict. The whole idea of fast transients, for example, which morphed into “operating inside the OODA loop,” depends on one side’s ability to change the environment more rapidly than the other side can comprehend, that is, within the time it takes them to reorient.

Does time exist? Not a question I’m going to go into here because even if it didn’t exist, what difference would it make to, say, operating inside the OODA loop? In either case, we can still imagine, and work with, an arrow of time: Just as you can tell whether Kill Bill (either part) is playing forward or backwards (hint — blood); in a business competition, you can generally tell who is operating inside whose OODA loop. Continue reading

The Smartest Guys on the Tarmac?

As I recently reported, Delta has made systemic changes that are improving many measures of quality simultaneously.  Their financials are also improving, with the airline reporting a net income of $2.7 Bn last year. Put these two together and you have a strong indication that they are successfully applying lean principles to the airline industry.

This is great, and as a long-time Delta flyer (and million miler), I wish them well. But a recent write up by Jens Flottau  in the industry standard Aviation Week does raise a red flag.

You see, the real key to lean is orientation, and a great rule for orientation is to stay paranoid. No matter how good you are, there is somebody out there who will learn from your experience and who, because they aren’t the industry leader, is hungrier. More motivated. Leaner. Dangerous. Continue reading

Plausible deniability?

That seems to be what many CEOs nowadays are going for: “Chiefs at Big Firms Often the Last to Know” (paywall), in yesterday’s Wall St. J. The argument goes

Bosses need to know what’s going on to make informed decisions, but that knowledge is dependent on what direct reports choose to tell them.

So you have lots of levels and filtering going on at every level. Pity the poor CEOs at the end of the chain.

To which I reply, “Only if they’re stupid.” Or their idea of management is to sit in their corner offices, ponder their enormous salaries, and receive the ministrations of minions. Continue reading