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Shape situations

A situation is the set of circumstances in which one finds oneself. A situation is the setting in which strategic decisions occur. We may be managing a dominant product company in a stable environment or a multibusiness firm in a turbulent financial environment. How we define and explain our situation influences our thinking about our strategic position. We can shape our situation by improving our understanding and taking subtle actions to create favorable circumstances.

Shaping a situation means taking small actions that change as subtlely as possible circumstances or factors in a situation. For example, if the locations of customers have changed significantly, changing sales territories may be a small, subtle intervention with major favorable results. Taking this action following a resignation or retirement may be an easy, subtle strategic intervention to realign marketing efforts.

Subtle actions are difficult to detect and yet may have major consequences.

Military strategist John Boyd asks "What is the aim or purpose of strategy? To improve our ability to shape and adapt to unfolding circumstances, so that we (as individuals or as groups or as a culture or as a nation-state) can survive on our own terms." Boyd's key concept was that of the decision cycle or OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act), the process an individual or an organization uses to react to a situation or event. According to Boyd, the key to victory is to create situations where one can make appropriate decisions more quickly than one's opponent.

Sun Tzu advises "If asked how to cope with a great host of the enemy in orderly array and on the point of marching to the attack, I should say: 'Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.' Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots."

from Sun Tzu

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