Enterra Insights [Calling all People Who Are Called On First]

Cats are Processors–Dogs are Strategists. If opposites attract, then all people who love cats are Strategists–those who love dogs are Processors. At least I think that is why I love my cat. Just watching her go through the process of life makes me feel somehow calm. Having this dog, which is still a puppy, around me all the time is anything but calming. The thing about strategy, you have to be willing to “get” it wrong, and that “get” is life “it” self.

Just thinking about what this dog is capable of getting wrong makes my head spin. Right now he is sitting in the bathtub on a bathmat that he dragged in by himself. He is barking at his shadow, which is making a kind of 3-dimensional image (of a monster?) as his shadow is cast on the white rug in the white bathtub.

How wrong is the strategy in barking at your  own shadow, even after attacking it several times? He finally went off of the attack, but I was afraid he was going to continue barking until the sun moved the sunlight out of the tub.

Eventually, and like most cats, he became bored and left for something more Entertaining. However, the difference, between the cat and dog, would be that the cat is quicker to act, while the dog is quicker to attack. The cat would have taken the time to orient herself to take advantage of the shadow, and then after the process of Orientation was over, she would have covered the distance between decision and act in great speed. The feedback she received would have determined if another attack was necessary, which knowing my cat, she would have given up after the first attack. But more importantly, an attack my not have been forth coming, if the cat oriented herself properly.

Not so for the dog. Once there was enough data in the environment to warrant a response, he attacked.

That is why I was so good at being a first respond’er at work, I am a strategist. When the shit goes down, you have to be willing to make a mistake and , like my dog, mistakes were never a problem for me. To not act was worst than not acting at all, and failure to take advantage of the situation was the worst. Perhaps that is the Scot in me.

The problem with most first-responders, who are thinking strategically, is in not thinking about the mistake, which all strategy is flawed with, and which could be fatal. The mistake a poor strategist makes is in thinking that all strategy is not flawed.

I remember responding to an emergency at the pits (deep pits that our company cast aluminum into 20 ft logs at different diameters). I pulled our Mechanic’s Cart  into the pit area and parked as close to the edge of the pits as possible, weaving around guys who were very busy at the moment on fork trucks or swinging sledge hammers.

The cart I drove into the pit area was a two man cart with room for the porta-powers, sledge hammers, wedges and our poor tool boxes that tend to just slide around in back most of the time. My strategy was, “you never knew what was “up”, and sometimes it meant getting-out-of-Dodge in our cart, to turn a valve in another location on/off manually, or you will be needing something out of the cart, real quickly.

I and my companion (I think he was an apprentice) got out on either side of the cart and headed towards where the action was. We had just stepped up onto the curb when, bamb! The concrete under the cart, where we had been sitting, was missing the top 3/4″‘s of its surface. The only damage was to the battery box positioned somewhat between the two passenger seats of the cart. I think it took-out two of the batteries, but I can’t quite remember. It’s not like I had to pay for the batteries.

Anyway, I screwed up. The guy on the fork truck that I had just driven around, had just picked-up a hot crucible and was carrying it away from where I parked. The cruses were actually “pigs” (large 1″ thick molds with no insulating bottom) that they had been dumping gallons of liquid aluminum into, (the call I was responding to) and someone had set it down on the concrete floor, a big no-no. Concrete “pops” very easily as it reached 1000 or so degrees.

Normally in the process of pouring into pigs, they have in-laid cast iron bricks to set the pigs on, but these bricks were not under this cruse. While I was responding to one emergency, this fork truck operator had been responding to another. His strategy was to get the pigs off of the floor as quickly as possible, my strategy was to get as close to the problem as possible, and the “risk” that we could be wrong, caught-up with our cart.

Did my apprentice mind that I had just let the cart get blown-up? I never really asked him, but I image the answer was, yes. I think, if I remember correctly, it took me under a minute to fix their problem, so he was more than happy to fix the cart, after I told him we could leave the area. It could have been that we had other problems that day, the least of which was the battery cart, but that was a long time ago.

In the image above, taken from the Enterra web site, the first statement filed under The Levers of Control–“To control the internal risk that accompanies strategy” (the bold type is mine)–the “Levers of control” that they talk about were the tools and cart that I parked. I needed these tools to control the internal risk , in my strategy. Perhaps it could be said that while my speed was correct (we made it out of the cart before the concrete under it blew-up, my strategy was wrong in parking too close. I had watched while the operator picked the cruse off the floor, but I had failed to understand what it meant. I wasn’t trained to properly identify the environment I had entered, but I knew enough to keep moving, but this was another strategy.

I had watched accidents before, in the casting area, in which aluminum had blown-up because of water, and I knew the explosive material always blow up-ward. The tin roofs in our area spot-lighted the floor with many round streams of light. So, one strategy (perhaps not the best) was to keep moving. You pretty much wanted to keep moving, sometimes immediately after you get there, as I and the apprentice was hoping, because distance matters.

As a first-responder, one can go through a process in which you make no mistakes, or use strategy that holds risks. If I had gone through a process of check-list and control of actions, I may have either taken myself out of the game (waiting for all the fires to burn-out), or perhaps I would have been caught sitting on the cart, when things got noisy.

For me, the best I could ever hope for as a strategist was to own the mistakes I made, which means, at times, you have to rely on the process.

Perhaps strategy can best be thought of as the Knight in chess. The Knight has control in four directions and commands in just one, perpendicular to control (non-linear attack). The Bishop, on the other hand controls and commands in the same direction (it’s just a linear process that requires Action).

via Enterra Insights.

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