Archive for February, 2015

Business Growth – Hard Truths and The Way Ahead

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Every company runs out of momentum sooner or later.Hard truths and the way ahead - the importance of strategic planning

When it happens, it’s really frustrating and confusing for business owners who have overseen many years of steady growth. Discovering that the things that re-started growth in the past no longer work is hard to understand.

So is accepting that it’s not necessarily because of something they have not done.

When they come to terms with all of that, a bigger, harder step is waiting – realizing that they:

  • Have to do something they may never have done before – strategic planning – and they
  • May need help doing it.

Notice I say strategic planning, which is a process, not writing a strategic plan, which is a document that will lie unused from the day it’s completed.

Done well, strategic planning will help a business owner see the smartest way forward, while providing flexibility to adapt as more information becomes available.

Two things make strategic planning more important today than before.

  • The volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) that exists today, and
  • Accelerating technological changes, which have opened up opportunities to businesses of all sizes, in all industry sectors.

An article in Inc. magazine last year confirms the points I’ve made and reinforces 2 of the 4 things that I’ve said growing companies have to do to turn strategic planning into results.

Develop a Clear Growth Path

A good, old-fashioned SWOT analysis provides the foundation for a growth path.

It’s not something that gets people leaping around with excitement. But, done well, it helps a company get results by using its strengths to figure out the best opportunities to take.

That drives out what has to be done to close the gap between where the business is now and where the owner wants it to be in 3 years’ time.

Link it to Action

A number of things will have to be done to close the gap. They have to be prioritized so that those providing the greatest leverage for long-term success are completed first.

The top priorities are broken into very specific, measurable action/project plans and someone is made accountable for completing each one.

The action/project plans drive the goals for each of the 3 fiscal years. They are reviewed throughout each year and before the start of subsequent years – keeping flexibility in the strategic planning process.

Next time

I’ll give you some tips on how to run strategic planning off-sites.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Playing It Safe – The Enemy Of Business Growth

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Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

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What is a Strategy Focused Organization?

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

 

This week’s guest is Dick Albu, the founder and president of Albu Consulting, a strategy management consulting firm focused on engaging and energizing leadership teams of middle market private and family business to formulate robust business strategies and follow through on execution of key strategic initiatives.

 

 

The ultimate prize for all NFL football teams is a Super Bowl win.  There is no greater reward for a well planned and executed season.  Management, coaches, and players need to be aligned and focused for every game.  They also need to be committed to the overall team strategy.  Successful teams embrace the strategy focused organization model.

What can business owners and CEO’s learn from these NFL football teams?  A strategy focused organization understands that strategy is dynamic and it has adapted a continuous strategy management process of addressing issues and weaknesses, leveraging strengths, and exploiting opportunities on a timely basis. As with a winning football team, the ability to successfully execute the game plan is critical to business owners and their management teams. Here are three key elements for successful strategy execution.

Mobilize and engage the senior team – Alignment and commitment from the senior team is an essential ingredient to success.  Without complete buy-in from the leadership team, it is a sure bet that little change will happen.  Management and coaches all need to be on the same page, guided by a strategy that everyone has bought into.  Involving and getting buy-in from all managers through a collaborative process is critical to creating a strategy focused organization.  Keep in mind that this type of engagement does not happen overnight.  Establishing a strategy focused organization happens over years, not weeks or months.

Translate strategy to action in a way everyone can understand – Use a simple system that everyone can understand to explain who needs to do what by when.   Successful coaches make game plans easy to understand and make execution as flawless possible.   In our experience, a simple framework where objectives, initiatives and tactics are aligned creates a great deal of clarity and ensures engagement.   Employees get energized when they understand how they can contribute to the success of the strategy.

Embed the strategy execution process into day-to-day business operations – Organizations need a predictive, consistent, and continuous methodology to manage strategy execution.  Coaches are constantly making adjustments to their strategy as the season progresses because they appreciate that the football season is dynamic.  New opportunities or critical issues come up at any time, like an injury that leaves you without your starting quarterback.   Organizations need to think in the same way.  Strategy requires a dynamic and continuous process with consistent follow up throughout the year with the entire organization. Our approach with clients requires an ongoing execution process of monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings to measure, review progress and adapt strategy as necessary .

There are obviously many more aspects to creating a strategy focused organization that can lead change and improve performance.  Skipping any of these elements will prevent any company from achieving success.  We would like to hear your reaction to these important points, and let us know how you are creating a strategy focused organization.

Dick can be reached at 203-321-2147 or RAlbu@albuconsulting.com. For more information on Albu Consulting visit www.albuconsulting.com.

4 More Reasons Why Strategy Isn’t Dead In The Water

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Saying strategy is dead is a sweeping generalization.4 more reasons why strategy isn't dead

I don’t buy the argument that strategy is a complete waste of time for every company, regardless of size or industry.

There’s no question that the world has changed dramatically and we have to change how we approach strategy.

But to say that we should stop doing strategy completely is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Two articles which appeared recently, one in the Globe and Mail and an earlier article in Forbes magazine, laid out 7 reasons why strategy is, or may be, dead.

Last week I commented on the first 3 reasons, here are my thoughts on the other 4.

4.  Competitive lines have dissolved. Strategy, it is argued, has long been based on well-defined market sectors, containing established competitors. Now a competitor is likely to come from an entirely different sector.

But is this a new phenomenon? Didn’t IBM, under Lou Gerstner, become an IT solutions provider?

5.  Information has gone from scarcity to abundancy. It is argued that the value of strategic planners and consultants lay in the proprietary, or scarce, information they possessed. Today, information is easily accessed via the web.

Commenting on this point one of the authors of the 2 articles said “It’s …….how you translate that information into actionable activities that is critical”. Isn’t that what strategy execution was – and still is – all about?

6.  It is very difficult to forecast (option values). Before opening a new factory, expected costs were compared to forecast revenues to see if it was a good investment. But, it’s argued, the outcomes of investments in, for example, the Internet of Things are wild guesses at best. Is this new? We’ve had to make educated (not wild) guesses about the unknown for years, e.g. the development of the Boeing 747, the world’s first jumbo jet.

7.  Large scale execution is trumped by rapid transactional learning. In the past, organizations could roll out improvement programs in a deliberate, staged fashion over a number of years. These days, it’s a whirlwind, and you must be learning all the time.

Recently I wrote about Rita McGrath’s book ‘The End Of Competitive Advantage’, which profiles 10 large, publicly-traded corporations that have found ways to combine internal stability with tremendous external flexibility and achieved remarkable results.

Have they abandoned strategy? No.

If whales can do it, so can minnows.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy The Difference Between A Strategy And A Plan

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Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

3 Reasons Why Strategy Isn’t Dead In The Water

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

I hate sweeping generalizations.Is strategy dead, or dying?

Strategy is dead is one that I particularly dislike.

To say that, it seems to me, is to say that it’s a complete waste of time for every company, regardless of size or industry, to have a strategy.

An article appeared in the Globe and Mail late last year, headline “Why Strategy is Dead In The Water.” It was based on an earlier article in Forbes magazine, headline “Is Strategy Dead? 7 Reasons The Answer May Be Yes.”

We’d gone from strategy might be dead to signing its death certificate – in the space of two headlines.

Here are 3 of the reasons the Forbes author offers to support his argument.

1.  Incrementalism has been disrupted by disruption. The argument is that managers talk big but really focus on delivering incremental change. Hopeless now when, for example, companies like Uber disrupt an industry. Disruptive change isn’t new – otherwise we’d all still be driving horse drawn buggies – but is it realistic to expect it in every single industry, simultaneously?

2.  Innovation is occurring with high variance outcomes. Contingency plans are used to deal with the most likely market reactions to a strategy. Now, it’s argued, there are too many possible outcomes to anticipate, never mind plan for. Assume that intuition, common sense and gathering information can no longer help us isolate all of the possible outcomes. Does that prevent a business selecting one or two of the most likely ones and running with them in a controlled, limited way i.e. hedging its bets?

3.  The past is no longer a good predictor of the future. Because life expectancy has increased, consumer behavior has changed and we are able to quickly access data, it is argued that the future no longer looks anything like the past.

Could that not have been said about the rise of consumer spending in the 1950’s, the shift to low cost, offshore production, or half a dozen other seismic changes that have taken place?

Has the past ever been a good predictor of the future? The old adage is, if we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it. Isn’t adapting a way of learning?

Isn’t the entire argument that strategy is dead, or dying, rather like throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

I’ll comment further next week.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Strategy Working? Then Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes

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Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

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