Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

A Crystal Ball for Business: 9 Tips for Future Success

Posted on: January 29th, 2014 by Graeme Codrington No Comments

crystalballAs another year dawns and we turn our eyes to 2014, it’s still clear that we are living and working in an era of extreme uncertainty.  A global recession continues and is combining with significant disruptive forces in technology, politics, economics, corporate organisation and societal values.  In other words, we are living at a moment in history when a large number of different trends are all working together to generate more change than we’ve ever experienced before.

We cannot just continue with business as usual.  And we can’t wait for things to “go back to normal”.  It just isn’t going to happen.

An era of change such as this brings both threats and opportunities.  The threat is that as the rules of success and failure are redefined, your business fails to keep up and becomes outdated – when the rate of change outside your business exceeds the rate of change inside, you are becoming a dinosaur.  But there are opportunities too.  In order to identify these potential new business opportunities, you need to be able to see what is changing and anticipate how this will affect your industry.  A key part of ensuring your ongoing success is to better future-proof your strategy by looking in new places and directions.

A crystal ball would be useful.  But assuming you don’t have access to some supernatural knowledge, here are nine ways in which you can gain insights into the future of your industry and create tomorrow’s competitive advantage today:

Ask new questions to new people – Companies often don’t realise they are stuck in a rut.  They repeat last year’s activities, listen to the same experts, run the same focus groups and ask the same questions of the same people year after year.  Broaden your horizons and ask new questions to new groups of people inside and outside your organisation – especially the young, bright ones who find it easier to embrace change.  You might discover that there are people other than your current customers who are interested in what you do.

Data, data, data – the radical power of knowing everything – Businesses have access to more data than ever before.  Capture everything you can and use it – but with a twist. Look for new trends and the likely impact of any disruptive change by combining different data sets.  This new science of business analytics is sometimes called ‘big data’.  Understand that this is a real source of competitive advantage and insight.  You will need to employ a new type of person (“data scientists” or “data detectives”) to do this – it will be worth it.

Enjoy the discomfort (and bring ‘uncomfortable’ people into your life) – In a world dominated by disruption, you need to ensure your people are comfortable with constant change.  Changes in our working environment, increased globalisation, technology advances and changing social values are all challenging people to work differently and forcing us to change our habits. Employ people who can take you outside your comfort zone and engage with new technology and business practices to help your business transition to where you need to get to.  Don’t just look for people who are similar to your existing team – bring in a few mavericks and stretch your boundaries a bit.  Do something every day that takes you out of your comfort zone, and meet with one person every week who will do the same.

Change the physical space – Our physical environment shapes our habits, and these in turn shape our thinking. Move things and people around, and allow your people to work in different places and at different times. Sometimes change really IS as good as a holiday.  Nothing opens the mind more than travelling to different parts of this diverse planet. When you travel on holiday, do at least one activity that deliberately is aimed at chasing an insight that will help your business.

Learn to share – 83% of Generation Y (teenagers and 20-somethings) will trust a company more if it is socially/environmentally responsible and 79% want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society.  These are your future staff and customers and they are looking for you to demonstrate that you are not only making a profit but sharing the value that you generate not just in terms of cash but also knowledge, technology and people.  Future-proofing your business by ensuring you contribute to community and society is a simple, but highly effective strategy.

Watch the competition you didn’t realise was your competition – This is quite difficult to do, because you spend a lot of your time watching your own industry.  But recent history shows that in times of uncertainty and change, there is the potential for your industry to be ambushed by unexpected competitors.  There are plenty of examples of missed opportunities: Kodak spectacularly failed to see the shift to digital photography; Nokia has fallen so far so fast by missing the smartphone revolution; Sony, EMI and the other music giants failed to see Apple coming in to dominate their markets.  And I wonder if the car companies of the world realise that Google will become big competition with their driverless car?

Who could come into your market and ambush you?  Learn from them: not just the competition you know, but innovators and start-ups in other sectors.  Your future competitors may well be in a completely different industry.  They don’t pose any threat today – but who might they be?

Mind the Enemy Within – talking of the competition you don’t realise is competition, our team is convinced that the biggest issues you will face in the next few years will not be from market forces and competitors, but actually from inside your own company.  We call these the enemy within.  This has to do with your mindsets, your orthodoxies, your systems and structures that actively work against your future plans.  It’s also to do with a significant percentage of your staff that are actively disengaged from your business, some even working against you.  This is not just an HR problem.  This is key to future success.  And not many leaders are prepared to take both the time and the hard work to look inside and honestly identify the internal hurdles that need to be overcome.

Read, watch, listen – Make it a habit to expose your mind to content that doesn’t directly relate to your industry or even to business.  There are thousands of great publications, blogs and websites out there to keep you up to date with what’s coming.  Try TED videos, The Economist, Wired, Popular Mechanics, or The Futurist magazines.  Get your team to report back on what they’ve seen and how it has helped them to think differently.  There is remarkable value in looking at innovations and change in other industries and sectors – you never know when a radical idea will spark a creative thought for you.

Use stories to make sense of it all – Some of what you learn will have a huge impact on your business; some less so.  The same data can help you reach different conclusions.  Use you business knowledge to create scenarios or narratives not just facts.  How will your customers live and work in the future?  How will they commute?  How will they exchange ideas?  What will meetings look like?  Or will they work from home – in another time zone?  How will this impact your sales team?  Your customer service centre?

Build scenarios and play with new ideas in your mind.  The future is ours to both discover and create.

Our ability to see the future is not a matter of luck or fortune telling.  It’s a skill that can be developed.  And it is something that everyone in your team needs to be involved in.  Thinking about the future is no longer something for just the senior leaders to do once a year – everyone at every level of your organisation needs to be looking for the threats and opportunities that lie ahead of us in a changing world.  Only then can you really future-proof your business.

Strategic Insights: How Kraft delivered performance and profit improvements by offering teams blank cheques

Posted on: September 2nd, 2012 by Dean van Leeuwen No Comments

In 1960, during a Mercury space flight, John Glenn used the powdered breakfast drink Tang. Not surprisingly, as the general public became aware of NASA’s endorsement of Tang, sales skyrocketed. In recent years, however, sales – especially globally – had been sluggish. Kraft Foods who now own the brand decided to give the product team a blank cheque to deliver sustainable growth and profitable revenue. The results have been very encouraging – “The secret of Tang’s turnaround was to free the team from resource constraints that could limit their imagination, inspiring them to achieve unprecedented results that would create a virtuous cycle of growth.”

At TomorrowToday we are always looking for innovative and new business models. The concept of giving leaders blank cheques to grow their business units sounds contrary to best business practice so I was intrigued when I discovered an article in Strategy + Business in which the authors describe how Kraft  has transformed brands like Tang to grow their “developing markets business from $6 billion in revenues in 2007 to more than $15 billion in 2011, significantly improving margins.” That’s impressive!

There are a few aspects of Krafts business model that impressed me:

  • It’s simple, clear and easy to remember: Kraft Foods have a strategy that is focused on five key categories (e.g., biscuits and chocolate), 10 power brands (e.g., Oreo, Tang, Trident, and Cadbury), and 10 priority markets (e.g., Brazil, India, and China); the strategy is called 5-10-10
  • Kraft picks the best bets using the 3Ms:
    • Momentum – “mine for gold” — identify what is working and then scale up quickly .
    • Margin understand the potential for uplift in the business performance. Growth for the sake of growth is often dangerous.
    • Material — something that produces high impact with the least possible effort. There should be sufficient headroom for the business to grow.
  • Team selection: Blank cheques are bets on people so Kraft puts the right people in charge of delivery.
  • Define goals and plans: Targets need to be aggressive.  You are not looking for incremental improvements. With a blank cheque comes the responsibility of delivering extraordinary results. it is not for the faint-hearted nor those who seek the luxury of pursuing marginal improvements or initiatives that will take a long time to produce results. Teams should be forced to question all their assumptions about their business and to confront orthodoxies that have been blindly accepted by the company.
  • Formally hand over the blank cheque: Once the business plan has been agreed upon, business leaders need to formally “issue the check” by approving the amount the team has asked for and transferring it into an account that can be accessed by the team leaders.
  •  Monitor results and accept that failures will occur: Blank cheque initiatives involve redefining how business is done. Remember you are looking for significant and sustainable performance improvements. This often involves challenging the way business is done and innovating new approaches. The team needs to be encouraged to run experiments and take risks, and some of these experiments will inevitably fail. Failing is part of the learning process. What is important is to fail early, fail cheaply, and learn quickly from the failures. Blank checks produce spectacular results when they work. However, business leaders need to be prepared for some of these initiatives to fail. There are two important lessons in dealing with failures — learn from the failures and overcome the fear of failure. In the case of Kraft Foods, the leaders of blank cheque initiatives are often promoted even after the business venture fails because they showed courage, initiative and learned from mistakes.
The article offers three case studies of successful blank cheque initiatives:  the acceleration of the Cadbury business in India; the revitalization of the Tang powdered beverage business; and the transformation of Kraft’s China business. You can read these at the S+B website or by clicking here on the read more

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The map is not the territory

Posted on: February 8th, 2012 by admin-kablooey 1 Comment

Sitting in Dubai at a senior mangers conference for one of the biggest companies in the world and something became very evident to me.

The map is not the territory

It’s true that you can look at all the new business strategies, future business, HR strategies, sales strategies and every other strategy under the sun. These strategies are great ways to improve our business and guide us through the future and current challenges in business.

Here’s the complication, as Debra Searle discovered, training on the River Thames does not help when you are training for a race across the Atlantic Ocean. The still water of the Thames helped Debra train for the race by preparing her strategy to complete the race, to get fit for the race and to understand the race better. The planning phase on the Thames provided the map but the territory was very different. You are still rowing, you are still aiming towards the same destination but everything else is different.

You see strategy helps you draw the map and decide on your route. When you get past the map and start following the map you soon discover that there are so many intrigues that weren’t discussed in the strategy.

Following the map takes more guts and more leadership than designing the route or drawing the map. The map drawing and the route picking takes a lot of intelligence and you often need great business consultants and strategists to help you through the process. However the route following takes guts and determination, it takes more time than you have in your business conferences, it takes investment and a confidence that you have made the right decisions.

Designing the map is the easy part, following the route you have mapped is the hard part.

So at this point I would like to raise a toast to those leaders who have the guts to follow the route and test the terrain. These leaders should be in the hall of fame.

If you would like to, why don’t you add the names of men and women who you believe have tested the terrain and lead their businesses through great change that changed their industry and the world we live in in the comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Results – a hidden gem of a business book

Posted on: November 18th, 2010 by Graeme Codrington No Comments

“Results: Keep what’s good, fix what’s wrong, and unlock great performance” by Gary L. Neilson and Bruce A. Pasternack was written in 2005, and never made the best selling big time (buy it at Amazon.co.uk or Kalahari.net). A search for it online produces very few hits, and no summaries (except a HBR article from 2008, which was written by Neilson and two colleagues from Booz & Co). I cannot understand why. This book is a gem. We’ve used it for the last four years in our company to great effect, and have used it with many of our clients. Almost every time we do it results (excuse the pun) in superb results.

The heart of the book revolves around research that comes out of Booz & Co, and identifies four key building blocks of organizational DNA. The four factors combine in different ways in different companies, producing seven different corporate cultures. Most clients we have worked with find that one of these types uncannily describes their internal business culture – and helps put a finger on things are getting in the way of real results. Having identified which corporate culture you’re dealing with, you can then use actions linked to the four building blocks to move your company to a results-oriented entity.

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The modern business plan (by Seth Godin)

Posted on: June 9th, 2010 by Graeme Codrington 1 Comment

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin. I recently signed up to get his daily blog entry sent to me by email – these are often just thought bullets, but sometimes he writes a longer piece that’s very insightful and incisive.

A few days ago, he suggested a new approach to business plans. I have long been a critic of the type of strategic sessions that companies engage in – taking management teams away fr a few days to come up with a tweaked “vision”, “mission” and “purpose” statement, and a long list of strategic objectives. Watch a video of me having fun with this at a conference.

Seth, in fact, talked about this recently as well, saying:

But you’re not saying anything – [this] is the problem with just about every lame speech, every overlooked memo, every worthless bit of boilerplate foisted on the world: you write and write and talk and talk and bullet and bullet but no, you’re not really saying anything.

It took me two minutes to find a million examples. Here’s one, “The firm will remain competitive in the constantly changing market for defense legal services by creating and implementing innovative and effective methods of providing cost-effective, quality representation and services for our clients.”

Write nothing instead. It’s shorter.

Most people work hard to find artful ways to say very little. Instead of polishing that turd, why not work harder to think of something remarkable or important to say in the first place?

But, back to his thoughts on business plans, Seth suggest that we abandon the traditional headings in our plans, and develop them under five new ones.

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TIDES of Change: the five trends disrupting business in the next 5 years

Posted on: December 3rd, 2009 by Graeme Codrington 9 Comments

Updated in May 2010

Download a copy of this article in PDF format – right click here. The contents of this article can be presented as a keynote or a workshop for your team. Contact our UK or South African offices to find out how.


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As the world slowly emerges out of recession over the next few years, it will become increasingly clear that this was more than just an economic downturn. Disruptive forces are significantly reshaping the world of work. Some of these changes have been brewing for a decade or more – and now this recession has exacerbated their influence and speeded up their effects. Companies that have survived the downturn need to shift their focus to surviving the upturn. We are not ever going to “get back to normal” – a new normal is emerging for everyone, everywhere.

The most successful companies will be those that find ways to be strategically responsive. To do this, it is important that everyone – at every level of the organisation – has an understanding of the forces that will be shaping the next decade. Some key trends that were already vaguely evident a few years ago have now been catalysed by the downturn, and will fundamentally change the way we work, the rules of the game and the methods by which companies will gain and retain competitive advantage in their industries. When your people understand this, they can contribute meaningfully to your company’s success. You can develop these insights through regular analysis of your environment and strategic conversations throughout your organisation with all of your people. Their understanding will help them buy into your vision and strategies. And it is also essential for problem solving, creativity, innovation and the proactive identification of opportunities and threats in your industry and marketplace.

There are at least five key drivers of disruptive change that every organisation in every industry and sector needs to track. These are the T.I.D.E.S. of change. (It’s a corny acronym, I know, but hopefully it will help with both remembering the framework, as well as making it easy to use on a regular basis in team meetings and informal conversations throughout your organisation). Here then are the key drivers of disruptive change in the next decade, and some questions to ask yourself and your teams as you plan to respond to them:

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