Archive for the ‘Strategy Development’ Category

Get Results From Your Strategy Offsites

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Holding a strategy offsite is like going to the dentist.Get results from strategy offsites with these tips

Doing it regularly should prevent unexpected pain and discomfort.

But going to the dentist is something that can be avoided. Why do it when everything’s going well, when it’s not necessary?

After all, a visit to the dentist can result in discomfort or even end badly.

It’s the same thing with a planning meeting.

It’s uncomfortable when, for example, people don’t want to get behind the business owner’s ‘stretch’ goals. And most people can look back on an offsite they attended and wonder why they bothered – because nothing changed.

So here are some things we’ve learned to ensure strategy offsites deliver results.

1.    Before the meeting

Set a realistic goal.

I ask clients to imagine we’re packing up after the last day of the offsite, and they’re feeling really good about what has been achieved.

Then I ask them what has to have happened for them to be feeling that way.

Sometimes, after they reply, we have to use our experience to illustrate what can, and can’t, be achieved in 1 or 2 days.

Distribute pre-work before the strategy offsite to maximize productivity in the time spent face-to-face. Any thinking that can be done in advance should be and any information required to make decisions should be distributed and studied.

2.    During the offsite

Keep people focused by:

• Announcing times for coffee and lunch breaks and insisting email and calls are dealt with then.

• Using a  ‘parking lot’ to record topics that are important, but not immediately relevant. Clear it at the end of each day.

Relieve the intensity of the discussions by using brainteasers and humorous video clips. Vary the pace, and make sure everyone’s thoughts are heard, by using sub-groups for some sessions.

Our process ends with the development of specific, measurable, time-related action plans to solve the problem that was the focus of the offsite.  Appoint Champions to coordinate the completion of the Plans.

This way everyone leaves with a sense of accomplishment and a clear plan of action.

3.    After the meeting

Capitalize on the momentum by holding regular, structured follow-up meetings.

Get everyone together at least once a quarter. Each Champion gives a progress report on his or her Action Plan and adjustments are made if necessary.

Take these tips and you’ll get results from your strategy offsites.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy What’s The Best Strategy – Grow The Core Or Expand?

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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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Purpose, People, Profits

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

 

This week’s guest is Mark Lukens, a Founding Partner of Method3, a global management consulting firm, and Tack3, a business and non-profit consultancy. He has 20 plus years of C-Level experience across multiple sectors including healthcare, education, government, and people and potential (aka HR). Most of Mark’s writing involves theoretical considerations and practical applications, academics, change leadership, and other topics at the intersection of business, society, and humanity.

 

In the 1980s we were told that profit was king. The whole economy was restructured to put this focus before all else, on the basis that if we did that right then everything else would follow. But the reality is very different. Profit itself follows from putting a sense of wider purpose first, and from looking after people in the way that such a purpose ensures.

Purpose

To put profit first is to let someone else set our direction. It is to act as if we have no choice, when what we are really doing is choosing the easiest path, the one that makes us least distinctive.

But taking the immediate easiest path is never taking the most beneficial path in the long term, because so many others are following the same path, all fighting for scraps of the same short-term benefits. This creates situations like the current housing market, which creates financial bubbles rather than new housing for those who most need it, even though a different path could solve the shortage in less than a generation.

If you want to create something that stands out, something that endures, then first you have to choose your path, not let the market choose it for you, whether that purpose is social housing, radical design or an alternative approach to cloud solutions. Start with what you want to achieve.

People

An organization with a sense of purpose will naturally end up serving the people who share that sense of purpose, as innovations to assist that cause also assist them.

Improvements to the battery life of the Tesla Roadster provide an example of this. The company wants to provide more efficient environmentally friendly ways to drive, and their customers want the same thing. As they achieve improvements to this technology, like a battery that can go further between charges, they come closer to their aim of better environmentally friendly cars, while also providing a better service to the people driving those cars. Over time, this will increase the number of people using their products, through better service and value for money.

Tesla Motors are no mere novelty. They are a company on the rise, financially and in terms of profile. That rise comes from serving a purpose, and so serving people.

Profits

Across the globe, there are signs that a sense of purpose can lead companies to profit by better serving people.

Like Tesla Motors or Woetzel, Mischke and Ram’s schemes for a better housing market, the Fairtrade movement finds it purpose in a grand cause, aiming to provide a better income for poor third world producers. This directly puts people first, and has led to profit for organizations large and small, from African mango growers to London boutique shops.

But a purpose doesn’t need to be political or social to benefit a company. Apple’s sense of purpose has long been built around providing technological innovation and user-friendly products. This has provided customers with products they never knew that they wanted but now can’t live without, such as the iPhone, and a design aesthetic that has a huge cult-like following. Their strong sense of purpose has provided for people, and ultimately for huge profits.

PPP

Putting purpose first is about recognizing that profit is not an end in itself, but a way of supporting companies and those who invest in them. If your purpose is something that people value then those people will naturally be served by your work, and profit will flow from that.

It’s not about ignoring profit. It’s about putting purpose first.

You can reach Mark at marklukens@gmail.com or visit his website at http://www.marklukens.com

Your Company, Your House

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

I heard a wonderful metaphor a couple of weeks ago.To grow your business, think of your company as a house

Think of your company as a house.

The functional areas or departments – for example sales, marketing, operations, HR and finance – each represent a room in the house.

You can’t have a house without rooms and rooms have no purpose on their own. A house is not a home if it’s just a bunch of rooms.

The construction materials with which your house is built are, for example, peoples’ skills and experience; processes that enable the areas to function effectively; IT systems that provide data to manage performance.

Your culture is the mortar holding your house together.

What happens when we decide we want to grow? After all, as business owners, our main – if not sole – focus is on growth.

Growth can be achieved in 2 ways. By making one or more rooms in your existing house larger or by designing and building a bigger house.

1.  Making one or more rooms bigger

You can do this by, for example, adding more sales people to bring in more orders, or by launching a marketing campaign to generate more leads.

But making one room in a house bigger puts pressure on the other rooms. That has consequences. If you don’t believe me, try making one of your children’s bedrooms larger while making another one’s smaller.

As one room or area grows, everything else is forced out of proportion. You may even put pressure on the structure of the house and cracks will appear as the bricks and mortar strain to hold everything together.

A couple of examples of the business equivalent are tight cash flow, an increasing backlog of orders or losing good people.

2.  Designing and building a bigger house

Design and build a larger house and you grow, while structurally keeping everything in proportion.

How does this apply to your Company?

Designing and building a bigger house is equivalent to developing and executing a business strategy.

Each of the functions, or rooms, still has its own strategy. But they work in the context of, and by supporting, the strategy for the entire house/business.

If you involve your team in the design, the end product will be better and they’ll be more committed to getting it built.

I like this metaphor. What do you think?

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Sustainable Growth – How To Achieve It

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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

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

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

3 Lessons About Successful Business Growth

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Two books, published 19 years apart, yet saying similar things about a key aspect of successful business growth:Lessons about successful business growth

‘Built To Last’ was published in 1994. In it, Jim Collins analyzed 18 companies that he called visionary because they were the best in their industries – and had been that way for decades.

Collins argued that the core values and enduring purpose of all 18 could be separated from their operating practices and business strategies. And that, while the former never changed, the latter changed constantly in response to a changing world.

In her book ‘The End Of Competitive Advantage’, published in 2013, Rita Gunther McGrath studied the performance of large, publicly-traded companies from 2000-2009.

She found that only 10 of them grew their net income by at least 5% every year. All 10 had found ways to combine tremendous internal stability with tremendous external flexibility.

McGrath argues that to win in volatile and uncertain times, companies must learn to exploit short-lived opportunities quickly and decisively.

If you look at the things that Collins’ companies kept unchanged and those that gave McGrath’s companies their internal stability, you find, in my opinion, a number of similarities:

  • Collins’ companies all had a sense of purpose, a lofty aim. So did McGrath’s – to become world class. Neither talked about making money.
  • McGrath’s companies focus on values, culture and alignment. Collins’ had ‘cult-like’ cultures, only employees who shared their values stayed.
  • Collins’ companies invested in ongoing employee education, some building learning centres. McGrath’s also invest heavily in employee education and ‘upskilling’, increasing peoples’ internal mobility as the strategy changes.
  • The most senior executives in all 10 of McGrath’s companies were promoted from within. Collins’ companies showed amazing consistency promoting ‘home grown’ senior management and CEOs.

I think there are 3 lessons for the owners of smaller, privately-owned companies:

  1. Think about why you started the company. I’ll bet it was not ‘to make money’. Communicate that constantly, use it to shape the company’s values and vision, build your strategy on that foundation.
  2. Be clear about your values. Hire only people who share them and train those people to grow with you.
  3. View the company as something that can contribute to your community, long after you have moved on and develop people who will carry on your vision.

There are other lessons from these books. More on that later……..

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 4 Things That (Positively) Affect 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

6 Tips For Growing Your Business in 2015 – How to Use Them

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

I was asked a good question last week.How to implement 6 tips for growing you business in 2015

“Loved your last blog post, Jim – but how do companies like mine do those things?”

So here are some ways any business owner can implement the 6 tips in his/her company.

1. Able to spot trends earlier than most of their competitors.

  • Stay close to key customers and suppliers – ask what they see in the future, how you can help them. Don’t leave it to sales people, meet with the owner/CEO twice a year. Pay special attention to customers who are ‘early adopters’ of new technologies and processes.
  • Get involved in industry bodies, serve on committees, listen for trends in what suppliers and competitors are saying.
  • Make your own internal data easy to access and analyze.

2. Very willing to try new things (innovate, adapt).

  • Have a pipeline full of growth initiatives at different stages of development.
  • Understand that people who are good at making things efficient aren’t good at innovation. They’re 2 different skill sets, have a mix of both.
  • Do limited tests of new products and systems and quickly roll out the ones that work.

3. Always trying to be better – than themselves.

  • Adapt your culture so that employees are comfortable challenging the status quo. Continuous improvement and innovation become by-products of that.
  • Never sacrifice effectiveness to short-term cost reduction programs.

4. Following a strategy or plan.

  • Have a clear picture of what your Company will look like in 3 years.
  • Set priorities and allocate investment and resources accordingly.
  • Anticipate change. Update your current situation twice a year and adjust where required. (Staying close to the market also allows you to surface risks and respond to them early.)

5. Skilled at turning their plan into results.

  • Link your strategy to your annual planning cycle.
  • Do forecasting and budgeting after your annual plan.
  • Link every individual and department’s goals to the company’s goals.
  • Hold everyone accountable.

6. Working from a solid foundation.

  • Automate everything you can:
    • For example: your CRM system; accounting system; project management system; etc.
    • Use dashboards to monitor key financial and operational metrics e.g. cash flow forecast, number and value of incoming orders; delivery times; IT down time; etc.
  • Implement ISO, Six Sigma or any other standard/process that could apply to you.
  • Ensure all your core business processes – e.g. selling, product development and launch, HR (developing in-house talent, recruiting, onboarding) – are robust and effective and document them.

There now, let me know if that’s better. And if we can help……..

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Slow and Steady Growth Is The Key To Success

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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

6 Tips For Growing Your Business in 2015

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

January is the month for New Year’s resolutions, freezing cold and, for many, a new fiscal year.Tips to successfully grow your business in 2015

Everyone wants to ‘do better’ in 2015 than in 2014 and, for business owners, ‘doing better’ is shorthand for growing.

I don’t know how often, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been asked something like “What are your top 6 tips for growing successfully”.

The answer depends on a number of things.

That said here are some of the things that the companies I’ve seen grow successfully have in common.

Those companies are:

1.  Very willing to try new things (innovate, adapt). However they don’t bet the farm. They do limited scale tests of new products and ways of doing things first. Ones that work are rolled out quickly; ones that don’t are killed – just as quickly.

2.  Always trying to be better – than themselves. They are continually looking for ways to, for example, improve their own quality, do things more quickly and become more efficient. They don’t compare themselves to others, they just want to the best they can be.

3.  Following a strategy or plan. They know where they want to be in 3 – 5 years but don’t expect to get there by following a straight line. They try to keep growing steadily in good times and in bad.

4.  Skilled at turning their plan into results. Knowing what success will look like makes it easier for them to set priorities and allocate the resources and funds to achieve them. They link every individual and every department’s work to the company’s goals and hold themselves accountable.

5.  Able to spot trends earlier than most of their competitors. They stay close to their customers and suppliers, monitor their competitors and watch for developments in technology.

6.  Working from a solid foundation. All of their core business processes – sales, marketing, operations, finance and HR – are tried, tested and automated wherever possible. They find, hire and retain smart people who are a good “fit” with their culture and values. They are fiscally cautious, never over extend themselves and can fund their growth.

Here’s the rub. All 6 are much easier to talk about than do.

But if you start on them now you can make some progress this year. And if you need some help just give us a call…….

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 3 Leadership Tips From A Great Scotsman

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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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