Administrative Toolkits & Frameworks (ATF)

The SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team is a law enforcement unit that uses specialized or military equipment and tactics. First created in the City of Brotherly Love (Go Eagles!) in 1964 to handle an excess of bank robberies, SWAT teams are today considered to be the premiere paramilitary police unit (PPUs). Indeed, the number and usage of SWAT teams has increased both in the 1980s and 1990s during the War on Drugs and later in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. On average, SWAT teams across the USA are deployed 50,000 times every year, 80% of the time, to apprehend nefarious narcos. Since the 1960s, SWAT teams have been increasingly equipped with military-type hardware and trained to deploy against threats of terrorism, for crowd control, and in situations beyond the capabilities of ordinary law enforcement, sometimes deemed “high-risk.”

The SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis or matrix, is another brainchild of the 1960s and is usually associated with a management consultant named Albert Humphrey at the Stanford Research Institute (although Humphrey never claimed to have invented the famous framework).

Similar to SWAT teams, SWOT analytics involve a structured planning method, only instead of dangerous criminal situations, the focus of the SWOT is on evaluating four critical elements of an organization, project or entrepreneurial venture. It is not for ordinary managers.

The Classic 2X2

A lesser known application of SWOT, is when you use the framework to analyze a product, place, industry, or even person. I especially love using the SWOT whenever I onboard a new partner, team member, employee or even intern. It helps set a baseline, which could be regularly revisited on a quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis. The SWOT involves detailing:

  • Strengths: characteristics of the firm or the individual that give it or him/her an advantage over others. The focus here is on the internal.
  • Weaknesses: characteristics of the business that place the business or team member at a disadvantage relative to others. The focus here is on the external.
  • Opportunities: elements in the environment that the company or employee could exploit to its advantage. The focus here is on the internal.
  • Threats: elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project or employee. The focus here is on the external.

Another supercool application of SWOT is when you start to break it apart and place certain seemingly unrelated pieces of the puzzle together. This was something Steve Jobs was fond of as well. For example:

W+T = Disasters Waiting to Happen

S+O = Highlight How Your Can Profit from the Core

T+O = Chances You Are About To Lose

S+W = Which Strenghts to Use to Kill Your Weakness

Identification and cross referencing of SWOTs is important because the framework can inform later steps in planning to achieve the overall objective. First, decision-makers should consider whether the objective is attainable, given the SWOTs. If the objective is not attainable, they must then select a different objective and repeat the process. This now gets us into SMART territory, another framework that can be used for individuals, their department, the company or even the entire country.

SMART was first coined in the November 1981 issue of Management Review, a paper by George T. Doran called “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives”. In a nutshell, the paper discussed the importance of objectives and the difficulty of setting them.

Ideally speaking, each corporate, department, and even individual objective(s) or Key Performance Indicator (KPIs) should be:

  • Specific — target a specific area for improvement
  • Measurable — quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress
  • Assignable — specify who will do it (often confused with Achievable). For an individual SMART, I usually like the FTE to think about how they will achieve it)
  • Realistic — state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources
  • Time-related — specify when the result(s) can be achieved

From Doran’s article:

Notice that these criteria don’t say that all objectives must be quantified on all levels of management. In certain situations, it is not realistic to attempt quantification, particularly in staff middle-management positions. Practicing managers and corporations can lose the benefit of a more abstract objective in order to gain quantification. It is the combination of the objective and its action plan that is really important. Therefore, serious management should focus on these twins and not just the objective.

— George T. Doran

Finally, I believe it is important to mention how individual KPIs or objectives should then coalesce into the overall departmental KPIs or objectives which should then feed into the overall company KPIs or objectives. The same logic can be used in government (even the illogical ones), whereby each individual’s KPIs should coalesce into the overall division’s KPIs, which then feed into the department’s KPIs which then feed into each under-secretariat and then into the overall ministry’s KPIs, which should then inform the delivery or implementation agenda of the Council of Ministers or the de facto leader of the executive branch of government, the Prime Minister. Furthermore, just as the Board of Directors of a company should hold the management of the firm to account using these predetermined SMART objectives, so to should the Parliament, as the main legislative branch of the government, hold the executive branch to account. To organize this process, I would like to introduce the last beautiful toolkit — the Balanced Scorecard (BSC). It is not for ordinary leaders.

A Digital Dashboard

Ever since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, business and political organizations have used systems consisting of a mix of financial and non-financial measures to track their progress. One such system was created by Art Schneiderman in 1987 at Analog Devices, a mid-sized semi-conductor company; which he called the Analog Devices Balanced Scorecard. Schneiderman’s design was similar to what is now recognized as a “First Generation” Balanced Scorecard (G1BSC) design.

In 1990, Art Schneiderman participated in an unrelated research study led by renowned Harvard University professor Robert S. Kaplan in conjunction with US management consultancy Nolan-Norton. Subsequently, Kaplan and David P. Norton included anonymous details of this balanced scorecard design in a breakthrough 1992 article: Measures that Drive Performance, where the masterful analogy of the manager’s BSC akin to the pilot’s cockpit first came into place. Kaplan and Norton’s article wasn’t the only paper on the topic published in early 1992, but the Kaplan and Norton paper was the most popular, and was quickly followed by a second article in 1993 and a book in 1996 called The Balanced Scorecard. These articles and the first book spread knowledge of the concept of balanced scorecard widely, and has led to Kaplan and Norton being seen as the creators of the concept.

The beauty of the BSC is that it allows Presidents, Prime Ministers and CEOs alike the ability to cascade down their munificent vision statements into actionable strategic thrusts (implementation plans) which are achieved by the various ministries, business units, support units or departments, under their auspices, all the while creating strong alignment between the various moving parts of the executive body.

So whether its SWAT, SWOT, SMART, KPIs or BSC, the common theme between all these administrative toolkits and frameworks is that when faced with a daunting task that requires swift action — a structured approach — is the best way forward.

Dr. Mussaad M. Al-Razouki receiving a signed copy of “The Execution Premium” from Professor Robert S. Kaplan

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“The Way of the Future”

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Dr. Mussaad M. Al-Razouki

Dr. Mussaad M. Al-Razouki

“The Way of the Future”

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