Archive for December, 2011

Management Consulting – A Strange Business?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Our guest this week is Paul Chato, CEO at Your Web Department™, the world’s first and only hosted website management system that lets people update and design their websites without programming. It’s hard enough to succeed in one career. Paul has succeeded in four different pursuits. See below…………

Jim Stewart, the custodian of this ProftPATH blog has given me some space here. I just hope he doesn’t regret it.

Management consulting is that strange business whereby if we only ran our companies better, more efficiently and with an attention to the obvious we wouldn’t need the service. Sure, there is the argument that having an outside opinion is a good thing but I tend to think we use that ‘outside opinion’ as a way to confirm long-held beliefs and then we use the assessment as a cudgel on the inefficiencies that we always knew existed. Some of us are blind to the obvious, but most are just insecure about doing anything about it. Maybe if we had better employees, or trusted them more we wouldn’t need management consultants.

But you know why having a relationship with a competent management consultant is a good thing? It gives you someone you can just plain talk to about stuff you can’t talk about to spouse or subordinates. It’s pretty lonely running an SMB and a good MC is vital to your mental health. Forget about the details about capital expenditures, or going over the P+L, sometimes you just need someone to talk to about the pressures and frustrations of running a business.

I think, as a trusted advisor, that’s the greatest role a management consultant can play. We’re only human.

More About Paul:

At first pursuing a potential career in nuclear physics, Paul chose, instead, to develop his creative skills. After graduating from Ryerson’s Radio Television Arts program he started Chato Art Ink, one of Toronto’s more successful independent design firms. He stopped designing to take up comedy, helping to form the now legendary Frantics Comedy Troupe, and will be forever remembered as Mr. Canoehead, “Canada’s aluminum-headed crime fighter.” Paul then joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation rising to the position of Head of TV Comedy. After considering a move to Los Angeles to take up a position as VP of Development at a major Hollywood studio, Paul instead chose to exercise his interest in computers. He started Electramedia and in the intervening years produced the hugely successful CD-ROM game Jewels of the Oracle, hundreds of corporate presentations, videos and Internet sites. In 1997 Electramedia switched its focus 100% to the Internet and most recently has become Your Web Department™.

If you would like to contact Paul email him at paul@yourwebdepartment.com

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I’m Not Alone………

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

It started last year.

It continued to bother me this year but I didn’t say anything to anyone. I couldn’t, I wasn’t sure how to put it.

Then I found out that someone else felt the same way. He has a much higher, more public profile than me. And he wasn’t afraid to speak out.

That tipped me over the edge.

Just as I took my first couple of tentative steps, I discovered there’s someone else, also with a higher profile than mine, who is talking about it too.

I feel so much better. So I’ll say it out loud……..

The words strategy and strategic are being overused and misused. And it’s wrong because it’s causing confusion and doing harm.

It first became clear to me………….

…..when I read Richard Rumelt’s book “Good Strategy: Bad Strategy, The Difference and Why It Matters”.  I believe 3 of Rumelt’s 4 major hallmarks of bad strategy involve misuse of the words strategy or strategic.

He describes “Fluff” as a superficial restatement of the obvious combined with a generous sprinkling of buzzwords.

Rumelt’s example of fluff is a major bank stating “Our fundamental strategy is one of customer-centric intermediation.” Intermediation, accepting deposits and lending them to others, is what all banks do. And this one’s processes didn’t make it any more customer friendly than its competitors. The statement is fluff not strategy.

Then there’s “Mistaking goals for strategy”. For example he talks about a document labeled “Our Key Strategies” which was no more than a list of goals with no reference to a key strength the company could leverage to achieve the goals.

The third one is “Bad strategic objectives”. Rumelt talks about “dog’s dinner objectives”, a list of things to do with the label strategies or objectives, where 1 of the “to do’s” is to create a strategic plan. There are also “blue sky objectives”, which are simply a restatement of the desired state of affairs.

And now there’s someone else……………….

…..who is making a similar point. This week Harvard Business Review published a blog post by Joan Magretta called “5 Common Strategy Mistakes”. I think 3 of them also involve confusing strategy with something else.
First is confusing marketing with strategy. Doing that, she argues, means overlooking the point that a strategy not only requires a value proposition, it also requires a unique configuration of (companywide) activities that best delivers the value.

Next is confusing competitive advantage with what you’re good at. Companies often look inward, see a strength – and overestimate it. But to form the basis for a strategy a strength has to be something the company does better than its rivals. And that judgment can only be made by the market.

Finally there’s thinking that growth or reaching a revenue goal is a strategy. Sound familiar? Mistaking goals for strategy is on Rumelt’s list too. It’s not the goal (e.g., reach $50 million in revenue), nor is it a specific action (e.g., launch a new product, enter a new market, make acquisitions). Strategy is the set of integrated choices that define how you will achieve the goal; the actions are the path you take to execute or realize the strategy.

Now that I feel better, that I’m not alone…………

…..I’m going to continue speaking about it.

Because it will only get better if we get it into the open, get people, business owners, talking about it.

We have to stop overusing and misusing strategy and strategic. It’s causing confusion and doing harm to the most important part of a company – its business strategy.

By the way, you can see my first couple of tentative steps here and here

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