Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Imperial Expansion? That's S.M.A.R.T.!

Welcome back to Funding the Kryptonite, a blog that will take a look at comic book super villains and discuss them from a business perspective.

Today’s blog post will discuss the Viltrumite Empire, from the Image Comics series Invincible. A race of aliens with similar powers to Superman (super speed, super strength, enhanced senses, invulnerability, significantly extended lifespan, and the ability to fly), they slaughtered half their own race to establish a warrior-society based on strength and conquest. To expand their empire, they would locate alien races that they deemed sufficiently advanced to be worth conquering and appeared en masse to offer them a choice: Join the Viltrumite Empire and benefit from the scientific advances they had, or refuse and be summarily slaughtered.

Yup, that would do the trick:

And it worked quite well, for a time. Unfortunately, resources within the Empire got overextended and the Viltrumite expansion was suddenly halted as more and more was needed just to keep what they had already conquered properly running. This led the Viltrumites to realize they needed to be more efficient with their men and time, through the implementation of S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Conquering everyone seems pretty smart, no?:

In this case, S.M.A.R.T. stands for the following:
-Specific: What exactly needs to be accomplished, why does it need to be done, where is it happening, within what requirements and limits, and who gets to do it?
-Measurable: The goal needs to be something that can be checked against a specific set of criteria, or otherwise detailed. It cannot be open-ended.
-Attainable: The goal needs to be within reach. It is pointless to set goals that are outside of your capabilities, and wastes resources in the attempt. The exception would be long-term goals supported by short-term goals that create new resources that can then accomplish the bigger goal.
-Relevant: The goal needs to actually be useful in a concrete fashion. It needs to fulfill a current objective, or create the capabilities needed for a longer-term goal to be accomplished.
-Timely: Goals need to have a deadline attached to them, otherwise they flounder by not having a specific end-date. This also motivates the goal-seeker to continually work on the goal.
It’s important to note that goals are not the be-all/end-all of how organizations operate. Other key components, to be discussed in other posts, include vision, values, and strategy, as well as the alignment between all of these components.

Conquest 101:

The Viltrumites decided on a new method of operating, whereby they send a single high ranking Viltrumite to an acceptably advanced planet. This lone warrior would integrate themselves into the planet’s society, subtly weakening its defenses and learning about its peculiarities over a 500 year period. At the end of that time, it would be quickly and efficiently taken over through the use of the information gathered over time and the lack of defenses in place. Does this match up with S.M.A.R.T.?
-Specific: The operative needs to infiltrate the society of the target planet, learn about it, weaken the defenses, and then transfer the knowledge at the end of the designated period. Pretty specific parameters, but with the flexibility for the agent to proceed at his discretion.
-Measureable: This one is a bit tricky. The Viltrumites have set a relatively binary metric of “Defensible? Yes/No” to measure that element, as well as the final success or failure of the enterprise. However, because familiarity with global society is harder to quantify, they seem to have not put measures there.
-Attainable: This is an attainable goal. The Viltrumites have proven capable of conquering alien planets before, and this new method should allow for continued success in that area.
-Relevant: Expanding the Empire through conquest of new planets for added resources and population is a very relevant goal to accomplish.
-Timely: While a 500 timeframe may seem like a long deadline, the Viltrumites are an extremely long-lived race (exact average age of death unknown). That being said, checkpoint deadlines for partial completion of goals would probably be appropriate.
On the whole, the Viltrumites appear to have buckled down and really set some proper goals for their overall expansion campaign on a planet-by-planet basis. While some areas can be improved (measurements and timeliness), this new system offers greater advantages than their previous system of “Take what we like”.

The last word:

I want to reiterate that this method, along with many others I hope to cover, is not maximally effective alone. In this case, one particular problem came up when the Viltrumite agent to Earth ended up overly acclimating to the culture and going native. This is why contingency planning would be a good complement to S.M.A.R.T. goal planning, as one example.

Our expansion screeched to an abrupt halt. It was clear that we needed a more efficient method of conquering worlds. So one was devised.” –Omni-Man (Invincible #11)

Final Rating: Good business!

Thank you for reading and please hit me up with your comments.

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