Posts Tagged ‘risks’

Can Strategic Planning Pay Off?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

“The most fundamental weakness of most corporate plans today is that they do not lead to the major decisions that must be made currently to ensure the success of the enterprise in the future.”Key factors to make strategic planning pay off

It sounds like something I might have written in one of my blog posts because the point applies equally to owner-managed businesses.

But, regrettably, it wasn’t.

It’s from an article written by a 31-year-old, who then goes on to say:

“…..Nothing really new happens as a result of the plan, except that everyone gets a warm glow of security and satisfaction now that the uncertainty of the future has been contained……”

Does that sound familiar? The author goes on to say:

“……too many managements fail to…….recognize that the end product of strategic analysis should not be plans but current decisions.”

He then lists the reasons why decisions aren’t made:

• It’s risky – a bad decision could jeopardize the company.

• It’s difficult – “Strategic planning….deals with the most complex questions facing a company……synthesizing critical issues and strategic options to resolve those issues….is fundamentally a creative process. Many…..find it an elusive, uncomfortable task.”

• It requires leadership – making controversial decisions requires a willingness to be tough-minded.

• The value system works against it – owners often emphasize short-term results, which have little to do with long-term strategic success.

Next the author points out that “Many planning systems simply….produce forecasts of financial results, or statements of objectives”.

This is “….momentum” planning as opposed to dynamic planning that is attuned to the realities of external change……..

To deal with this, emphasis must be given to 3 things – evaluating the external environment; thorough evaluation of competitive strategies; and developing contingency plans.

Finally, the author provides 2 recommendations for motivating the people who can make or break a strategy. Involve those who will actually have to execute the strategy and adapt reward systems to recognize longer-term performance and the achievement of strategic goals.

So, which of today’s leading thinkers wrote the article? None of them did.

An up-and-coming member of the McKinsey team called Lou Gerstner (of IBM fame) wrote the article in 1973.

I like the article because it addresses all 4 of the Risks we believe growing companies face – having a Clear Growth Plan; linking it to Action; getting Buy In and holding people Accountable.

You can find the full article here.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Strategic Planning – 3 Things That Are Wrong With 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

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Strategy Execution – How You Do What You Do

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Twice in a week.Business strategists echo what we've been telling our clients about strategy execution

That’s how often I’ve encountered credible, experienced business strategists echoing what we’ve been telling our clients.

First, it was the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), now it’s Roger Martin.

Both of them express their points of view in a way that’s different to the other and to us. In Martin’s case, it’s through the lens of his own approach to strategy execution.

Despite that, we’re all saying the same thing.

In my last post, I explained how the WSJ’s approach dovetailed with ours. Here’s how I think Roger Martin’s does.

Martin says that:

  • “…it is absolutely critical that each person in the organization knows what it means to take actions that are consistent with the intent of the strategy as asserted.”
  • To do that every person has to think about 4 things – the strategic intent of their managers/leaders; the key choices they make in their work; how to align those choices with those above them; and how they communicate the reason for their choices to their reports.

How does that align with our approach, which says that to execute its strategy successfully, a company has to avoid 4 Risks?

•  Since a strategy has been “asserted”, then Risk #1 – No Clear Growth Path – has been removed.

•  The title of Martin’s post is “Strategy Isn’t What You Say, Its What You Do” and he talks specifically about taking “action” in the quote above and on several other occasions. Risk #2 – No Link To Action – is dealt with.

•  Risk #3 – No Buy In – means that employees are not motivated by the strategy or engaged in its execution. To get buy in, we say the strategy, the initiatives required to execute it and the actions and goals which will turn the initiatives into results, must be linked directly to the goals of each department and individual employee in the company. The 4 things that Martin says every person has to think about cover precisely that.

•  Our fourth Risk – No Accountability – isn’t discussed in Martin’s post, but I’ve seen enough of his work to believe that he considers accountability as critical as we do.

Finally, in the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I think:

  • Roger Martin’s book “Playing To Win” is one of the most logical, easy to understand and practical approaches to strategy I’ve read.
  • The WSJ’s statement of the main requirements for successfully executing a strategy is nice, clear and succinct.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 5 Reasons Why I Love Execution

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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

The Keys To Executing A Strategy And Getting Results

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

I really liked a recent post in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).The keys to executing a strategy and getting results

It said that the main requirements for successfully executing a strategy are:

  1. Clear goals for everyone in the organization, that support the overall strategy
  2. A way to regularly measure progress toward those goals
  3. Clear accountability for that progress.

That’s a very nice, clear, succinct way to put it.

I must admit that I was a little relieved when I saw their next sentence, which said that these 3 “are the basics”.

That clarification allows the discussion to continue, so that additional factors can be included. The authors themselves went on to say that good execution also requires facing reality and a strong culture of execution.

Those are 2 of the points made by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan in “Execution”, one of the best books ever written on the subject.

On the other hand, I was pleased to see the 3 main requirements.

Why? Well, they correspond nicely with the 4 Risks I’ve talked about in recent posts. Here’s how.

Risk #1 – No Clear Growth Path:  The ‘overall strategy’, mentioned above, incorporates the path a company takes to grow to size in the future.

Risk #2 – No Link To Action:  A key step in linking a strategy to action is to develop clear goals. The best goals are specific, measurable, and attainable and have deadlines. They are also a result of prioritizing everything that has to be done so that limited resources can be allocated to get the best return.

Risk #3 – No Buy In:  Giving every employee clear goals, which support the overall strategy, is an important factor in getting buy in. Involving employees in developing those goals is another. A third is frequent, ongoing communication so that everyone understands how achieving their goals will help the organization achieve its goals.

Risk #4 – No Accountability:  A process for measuring progress toward goals and regular review meetings are the foundations for accountability. They enable the reasons for progress – or lack of it – to be assessed objectively. Those accountable can be recognized, paid bonuses, even promoted – or they may leave the company.

So I’m delighted that the main requirements for successfully executing a strategy, identified by the WSJ, are the same things we have been helping companies with for over 12 years.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 5 Traits Effective Business Owners Share

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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

Risks 3 and 4 to Growth – And How To Avoid Them

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

During the last 12 years we’ve worked with well over 100 companies ranging in size from less than $1 million to over $300 million in annual revenues. They were

  • In a variety of industries, from manufacturing to software development.
  • All at different stages in their lives, for example in some, growth had stalled, while others were growing quickly – too quickly.Risks 3 and 4 to business growth and how to avoid them

In a recent post, I talked about the 4 things we’ve done for the ones that we know, with the gift of hindsight, achieved the results they wanted.

Was their success solely attributable to what we did for them?

I can’t prove that. But I can say this, ignore these 4 things and you will not get the results you want and your company will not achieve its potential.

Last week, I talked about 2 of them – having a clear growth path and linking it to action – in some detail. Here are the other two.

3.  Get Buy In

How often have we seen a team of committed people do the apparently impossible?

When people participate in the development of the growth path and understand the role they must play in making it a reality, they become fully engaged in achieving the company’s goals.

Some of the things which make that happen are:

  • The owner and management team get representatives from across the company involved in building a picture of what the company will look like in 3 years time.
  • The picture, and annual goals, is communicated throughout the company – repeatedly.
  • Departmental and individual goals are linked to the company goals.
  • Progress toward goals and targets is communicated and updated continuously.

4.  Accountability For Results

Moving a company or division along a growth path involves identifying and completing a number of initiatives, made up of specific, measurable steps or actions.

The individual who has overall responsibility for each initiative and those involved in completing the steps, must be held accountable for the success or failure of their efforts.

This is achieved by:

  • Using a process – it can be a simple Excel spreadsheet or a sophisticated, cloud-based execution management system – to track the progress of each step.
  • Holding regular, quarterly meetings to review progress and adjust plans and budgets where necessary.
  • Reflecting every individual’s performance in their compensation, promotion – or even their continued employment with the company.

So how can you tell how well your company or division is doing all 4 things? I’ll tell you more about that next time.

 

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

2 Risks To Business Growth – And How To Avoid Them

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

We’ve worked with well over 100 companies since we started ProfitPATH.2 of the 4 risks that affect business growth and how to avoid them

A couple of posts ago, I commented that we did some, or all, of the same 4 things for the companies that achieved the results they wanted.

Was their success solely attributable to what we did for them? I can’t prove that with certainty.

But I can say this,

  • Ignore these 4 things and you will not get the results you want and your company will not achieve its potential. (That’s why we call them the 4 Risks.)
  • On the other hand, if a company deals with all 4 regularly, it will improve its results.

Here are the first 2 and some tips on how to deal with them.

1.  Have A Clear Growth Path

Having a clear growth path means having a picture of what you want your company to look like in 3 years’ time.

The best pictures are rich in detail and sharp in focus. In this case:

  • Detail comes from the depth of analysis that goes into building the picture.
  • Focus is a result of the choices that are made about the initiatives required to get there.

Using other language, this is your Vision, your Mission and your Strategy.

Bear in mind that we update photos of things we love – children, pets – as they grow and change. The same applies to a company.

2.  Link It To Action

The 3-year picture is what you desire. Turning it into reality takes action which yields results.

The key is to break what has to be achieved in 3 years into 3 sets of annual goals. Figuring out what has to be done in 12-month bites provides the flexibility to adapt as you learn more than you knew when you started out.

However, this requires a process and the discipline to use it every fiscal year.

  • Where must we be in 12 months? Where are we now? What’s the gap? How do we close it?
  • Prioritizing the list of “to do’s”; allocating resources to the high leverage items; and putting action plans in place to complete them.

This process drives the annual financial budgets – not the other way around.

I’ll touch on the other 2 Risks next time. For now, ask yourself this: “Where do you want your business to be in 3 years’ time?”  And, “What do you think you have to do to get there?”

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy A Vision – Is It Worth Investing The Time?

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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

4 Common Mistakes In High-Stakes Decisions

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

I saw a business owner do and say some things in a meeting today that made me think of an article I’d read recently.4 common mistakes business owners make in high-stakes decisions

The company is developing a product which will be the first of its kind. It’s for a market the company has never played in. And the product will fill a need the users don’t know they have.

Challenges don’t get much more complex or high-stakes.

The owner is a smart, well-educated professional.

She’s also a born entrepreneur. All the signs are there. A vision that, if she’s right, will transform an industry. Passion that is breathtaking and inspiring. An understanding of how to use technology that is unique and innovative.

She has a willingness to take risks that would cause lesser mortals to hesitate. But also an apparent refusal to consider that she could be wrong.

Which brings me to the article. It’s a well-researched piece on why high-stakes decisions go wrong. It describes 5 mistakes that account for the vast majority of poor decisions.

And I saw 4 of them being made this morning.

The first mistake is an inability or failure to understand the complexity of the problem.

This owner has been successful in the past and is convinced her vision is transformational. Perhaps as a result, she seems unable, or unwilling, to grasp that she has to overcome 3 separate marketing challenges – new product, new market, unknown need – each of which is risky and complex. And she’s taking on all 3 at once!

The second is failure to consider alternatives. Her marketing company laid out several different alternatives for getting the message to the target market.

They recommended using social media because the results of a campaign can be measured quickly and accurately. The owner insisted on traditional media because of her conviction it would be most effective.

The third mistake is failure to consider opportunity costs. The marketing communications costs could be covered, the owner said, from an existing revenue stream.

But because that revenue has been flowing into the company for some time, the funds are probably being used to cover existing expenses.

Diverting them to the new opportunity may appear to be a “freebie”. But the company could face additional costs if it has to increase its line of credit to pay existing expenses.

The fourth is underestimating the challenges involved in execution. At least the owner is thinking it will take 6 or more months to launch the new product.

But that’s not going to be enough. And I’m not alone in my estimate. Another experienced supplier told the owner the same thing. She did, however, appear to pay attention to that warning.

Is this project doomed? No it’s not.

The owner has her ego under control, she’s not irrational and is willing to listen. Her enthusiasm is what’s carrying her along for now.

And that’s understandable because she has a great idea!

I’ve changed a few details, by the way, to respect those involved.

You can read the full article here.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy A Vision – Is It Worth Investing The Time?

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