By Cenen Herrera
Posted on May 21, 2016
We often encounter the constructs strategy, tactic and maneuver in business, school, church, and even in our personal world. How do these concepts influence our goals, our limited resources, our income engine, and our sphere of influence to win in what many will call the game of chess or is it really the game of life? After working for about forty years, i.e., almost non-stop from Asia to North America, I could not imagine how things could have turned differently had I not known how to play the game of chess. Mother bought the first chess-set in the family when I was six.
In chess, just like in real life, one has to construct a winning mission statement identifying clearly the legacy values one wants to accomplish and pass on to the next generation. Most chess players will aim to win the game in order to advance. Others would try to win the game or salvage a draw to improve his or her ranking say in a tournament. Still others would aim to fight a good chess player to gain insights and learn how an expert plays the game. Whatever purpose one might have in playing chess, the overarching objective appears to be how to win the game. In other words, once we have defined our mission statement, which normally happens after high-school graduation, i.e., for some it could happen after elementary or middle school graduation or still for some after graduating in college, the next steps would involve strategies, tactics and maneuvers to help us accomplish our mission or goal.
Foresight is the most important strategy in chess. It means how far in advance could you project your situation given a series of moves that you are about to take. It is said that a grandmaster could foresee in advance about 20 to 25 moves ahead. The alternatives could appear to be endless, but adopting sound tactics such as trying to gain a material advantage or sacrificing a piece to gain a positional advantage, could very well spell victory in the long run. The actual maneuvering happens when one exchanges a piece or two with his or her opponent. Be careful when you actually execute the maneuvering, i.e., material exchanges. It is in actual maneuvering that sometimes you end up losing the game because after the material exchange, you find yourself down by a piece or down by quality. Some of the best maneuvering tactics in chess could involve the following: (i) try to gain an early positional advantage by focusing your pieces at the center of the board; (ii) avoid having double pawns, (iii) the bishop could be better than a knight in an endgame; (iv) in general, a bishop pair in an endgame is better than a knight pair; and (v) always remember that the best defense is a good offense.
Preparation is the most crucial part of the game, whether it is chess or the game of life. When I was a bit younger, I remember asking myself why I have to study every day. When I finished college, I taught it was the end of my studies, yet I saw many people enrolling in higher-education to take up say an MBA, and still others will continue to study after their MBA, and complete their Ph.D., and finally I observed that most professional players embrace Life-Long Learning (Triple L). Indeed, professionalism is all about discipline, and to achieve the highest level of discipline (one prominent author calls it Level 5 Discipline), one must embrace Triple L. In a knowledge-based world, professionalism has become synonymous to Triple L.
Playing Chess Could Help Business Strategists Perform Better in their Leadership Functions
By Cenen Herrera
Writing from the City of Olds, Iowa
United States of America
4 September 2015
Business leaders are under constant pressure from stakeholders to meet their respective interests in the organization and increase the firm’s competitiveness in the market. As a result, corporate leaders continuously strive to sharpen their analytical skills, focus on long-term thinking, improve their strategizing abilities, and look at the “big picture” for assessing risks and potential rewards.
In my long years of playing chess, I learned a number of important lessons which allowed me to perform better in my career.
First, just like in chess where you expect the moves of your opponent, I learned to expect the moves of my boss. When I was a young professional, I practiced the art of expecting the next two to five moves of my boss. As I mature in my career, not only did I learn to think several moves ahead of my boss (up to 25 moves), but I also learned a number of important lessons that helped me increase the accuracy of predicting the requirements of my job as well as winning the excellent ratings from my boss.
Second, I learned that both business and chess rely on exchanges, and successful trades usually end up to one benefitting from the exchange and the other losing in the exchange. Thus, hard work, perseverance, learning from mistakes, and other intellectual and character traits are needed to successfully play chess, and the same is true in business.
Third, I learned that ethical behavior is important in both business and chess. Winning in chess is better if it results from a superior strategy rather than just as a result of a careless move by an opponent. The same is true in business; having a superior strategy creates a win-win situation that ultimately results to the company's positive performance.
Fourth, I find the classic chess gambit as the equivalent of opportunity cost in business. Chess gambits are normally applied to a chess beginner, and while it normally involves gaining a piece or two, the chess beginner normally ends up in an awkward position.
Fifth, I learned that flexibility in chess means the ability to have contingency plans for every move that the player takes. Flexibility refers to the ability to quickly change strategy in light of the development in the markets, i.e., depending on the opportunities and threats. I fully agree with Robert S. Graber of University of Arkansas – Monticello that there are a number of parallels between chess strategy and business strategy.
"Do you have an algorithm for success?"
17 July 2015 - Friday
by Cenen Herrera
Writing from Boston, Massachusetts
In my many years of experience in international finance, I learned three important phases in strategic planning: (i) Strategy Formulation; (ii) Execution; and (iii) Performance. For me, the best definition of strategy is resource optimization, which means maximizing the use of our limited resources to reach a desired goal. Execution is the actual implementation of your strategy, which could either focus on innovation or execution virus. Innovation according to Peter Drucker is change that creates a new dimension of performance. Execution virus emanates from institutional habits that kill innovation. The last phase of planning is actual performance, which could be any of the three results: a. Superior; b. Good Enough or c. Inferior.
The ultimate test of our collegiate level degree is when we are able to pass a Board Exam or a Professional Certification that is universally recognized. The post-graduate degree reinforces our educational training with a macro-view of our chosen specialty. Studies had shown that functionality has no correlation to educational attainment. If you want to achieve success in your specialization, you should adopt a personal algorithm for success. Formulating a strategic winning gambit or developing a personal algorithm for success is imperative if you want to achieve a superior performance.
CVP is my personal algorithm for success in life. It means continuously building your Character by engaging in activities that will strengthen your Values, and improve your People management skills.
By Cenen Herrera
Writing from the San Francisco Bay Area, USA
The strategic copula between Trial-and-Error Empirical Learning (TEEL) and Value-Chain Business Planning (VCBP) provides the groundwork for increasing one’s stewardship headroom. What is stewardship headroom? I define stewardship headroom as the difference between your existing creative capacity to contribute community-based values and the existing limit of your innovative skills. As a career professional, I generally find three layers of knowledge maturity, i.e., g-level career or entry level function, m-level career or management function, and c-level career or stewardship function. Bootstrapping the finance functions, i.e., controllership, treasury, risk management, auditing and information technology, drives the strategic copula between TEEL and VCBP.The g-level career is mostly characterized by TEEL. In this entry-level mode, one increases the functional level of knowledge through concrete and hands-on experience. It is at this level that the skill-set of an employee and its alignment to the job function is held to be of extreme importance. Reading the office manual is not enough, your research efforts must be grounded on the core principles of how values are created in your organization and the accompanying rationalization of the financial support that goes to each value that is created. At the g-level, it is extremely important to have a reliable training program aimed at continuously improving the skills of employees.The m-level group is characterized by people who are able to differentiate risks and potentials and because of TEEL, it is heavily influenced by the science of management. The m-level starts from the supervisory position to senior management. At this level, leadership traits such as character, credibility and reputation are considered to be of high importance. This is the functional group that enables the organization to monitor the day-to-day progress of work and measures the 5 Es of organizational excellence, i.e., ethics, effectiveness, efficiency, economy and the eighty-twenty rule. The performance dashboard typically outlines the difference between the rolling plan and actual performance. Gap analysis is then performed and any deviations from the rolling forecast are then accounted for in terms of pricing, material economics, product mix, business performance, and other factors such as contingent events. The science of leadership in turn provides the groundwork for appropriate delegation, accountability and responsibility. The third level of career maturity is popularly known as the c-level group in the organization. These are people who are not only charged with the management of the organization, but also its stewardship. It is at the c-level group where the interplay between TEEL and VCBP is expected to play the greatest importance. As the c-level group matures, it is critical that the stewardship headroom is maximized to continuously generate the benefits that the stakeholders of the organization expect from them.