Why strategy needs to be specific…

20 09 2011

Today’s Dilbert strip hit on a couple of key thoughts, albeit in traditional Dilbert fashion…

This is a pretty simplistic, yet sadly realistic, manner in which we define corporate agendas.  We lay out a concept and expect the organization to translate our words into action.  What happens is that often the definition is fuzzy, which allows for all sorts of interpretation and a watering down of execution.

While a little nitpicky here, Increasing Market Share is a goal, not a strategy.  Why does this matter?  The primary reason is that we need to teach the organization to think along common lines. We need to communicate specificity – tell people exactly what we want.  The goal is to increase market share by 5%, and we are going to do this by increasing new product revenues by 10% and by $4mil in cross selling opportunities to our customer base.

Additionally, every company is striving for the same four things – Increase Revenues, Improve Profit Margin, Elevate Market Share, and Enhance Financial Health.  It is how we balance these four items that sets us apart from our competition, and how we tell the organization what matters.  Will we sacrifice a launch date and potentially our 3rd quarter revenue goal if a product is offline?  Will we bend over backwards to keep a customer from defecting?  Will we sacrifice margin for a new customer in a new market?  The company must know the trade off equation as most decisions impact something else.  Without understanding this, people make decisions based on what they want, not what the company wants.

Ask yourself how deep your organization understands its goals?  And then compare it to how specific the goals, strategies, and tactics are for the organization? If there is a gap, start somewhere and be very specific of what you want.  Changing the culture to be more specific is not all that difficult.





The analyst function is dead

8 09 2011

The role of the operational analyst has moved from the business into both Finance and into IT.  The Finance team typically focuses only upon the financial outcomes of the business and has left the operational side of the business to the IT team.

Here is a conversation a client of mine recently had with their analyst…

ANALYST: ” Here is the report on units sold this year.”

BUSINESS:  “What happened here?”

ANALYST:  “That is a spike in the data.”

BUSINESS:  “Right.  But what happened?”

ANALYST:  “That is what the data is showing.”

Sadly, this is not uncommon in the business world today.  Billions of dollars are spent every year on Business Intelligence software to help us visualize what is happening within the business, yet we are really no better off in terms of insight.

WHY is this happening?

  1. The biggest reason why this is happening is we have changed the role of the analyst.  It used to be a marketing person looking at marketing data, or operations looking at manufacturing information.  We have now moved that role to IT, or IT has promised that that can do it better with their understanding of data structures.
  2. We have wrongly assumed that a picture is worth a thousand words.  In BI terms, a chart is worth a handful of questions. IT can not predict that next series of questions and is then left to prioritize what questions to tackle next.
  3. The pace of business, or at least the pace and variety of business questions (like the data we collect) has risen exponentially and scaled faster than our ability to respond.
  4. IT is over burdened and lacks the political power and will to say “no.”  They are in complete reaction mode and lack the resources to cover the demand.

WHAT can we do to fix this?

  • First off, we need to understand the analytical gap within the organization.  IT can manage the data and needs to partner with the business, but the business needs to own the intelligence.  It is easier to teach the business a little about technology, than teach the IT resources about the business.  The business side needs to find that type of person who understands a little about technology, but has a solid mathematical or statistical mind with a curiosity about improving the business.
  • The organization needs to find a better way to integrate better analysis back into the management process.  We need to give the analysts a frame of reference in which to explore ideas and present results.  Some of this will follow reporting upon weekly/monthly operational outcomes, while most will likely by ad-hoc hypothesis or what-if scenarios about some aspect of the business.
  • The culture has to reward critical thinking.  This is not true in most corporate cultures.  All to often, the analyst is criticized for not “going along” with the current belief.  If the culture does not reward new thinking, then the analysis will quickly fall in line with visualizations that support the status quo.
  • Invest in tools and training beyond just the core cubes and reports of the BI market.  While a good portion of analysis can be done with Microsoft Excel and a data dump, the more we want out of our analysts, the more we need to give them.  We need them to look at market baskets, threshold containment, frequency curves, optimization models, assumption testing, correlations, and many other types of analytical tools.

 





Strategy & Operational Performance Management Survey

21 07 2011

If you have a moment, take a few seconds to fill out a survey.  I’ll post some of the more relevant survey results here over time. Basically 7 questions and a place to fill in your answer if you want to share more.

Link to survey





The enemy of my enemy is my friend

19 07 2011

Strange what a few years means to the technology sector.  Google, once champion of the little guy, the individual, the anti-Mircosoft, now becomes the problem.  The Michigan – Ohio State rivalry of the tech industry was supposed to be Apple and Microsoft.  They have spanned great battles over the years – and better commercials…

Yet, all of a sudden Google is the evil invader in the space.  What else could make Apple and Microsoft consortium partners?

WHAT!!  Wait a second…

Nortel Networks, one of the great patent holders, is watching its power, influence, and ultimately its profits dwindle away.  Up for auction were a sizable number of its patents.  While Google was the early favorite, Apple and Microsoft teamed up with Ericsson, EMC, RIM, and Sony teamed up with each other to outspend Google.

While we get to wait and see what this means for Google, we can wonder what our competition might be willing to do to us given the opportunity?

  • How do external opportunities trigger discussions within the organization?
  • Who monitors the external market for us?
  • How do we leverage information to make timely decisions?
  • How well do we gamemanship our competition?  Are they better at it than us?

 





Research in Motion’s public battle

5 07 2011

When executives feel they have to go outside of a chain of command in order to voice concerns, we see perfect examples of the need for Operational Performance Management (OPM).  The current Research in Motion public battle is a great place to start.  An anonymous executive sent an open letter to Jonathan Geller, of The Boy Genius (BGR.com), to call out the current RIM culture.  What is more entertaining about this is the fact that RIM responds publicly, which only makes this sound like a bigger problem.

Highlights of the RIM letter:

  • You have many smart employees, many that have great ideas for the future, but unfortunately the culture at RIM does not allow us to speak openly without having to worry about the career-limiting effects.
  • We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice — the end user doesn’t care. We simply have to admit that Apple is nailing this and it is one of the reasons they have people lining up overnight at stores around the world, and products sold out for months. These people aren’t hypnotized zombies, they simply love beautifully designed products that are user centric and work how they are supposed to work.
  • Teams still aren’t talking together properly, no one is making or can make critical decisions, all the while everyone is working crazy hours and still far behind. We are demotivated.
  • Strategy is often in the things you decide not to do.
  • We simply must stop shipping incomplete products that aren’t ready for the end user. It is hurting our brand tremendously. It takes guts to not allow a product to launch that may be 90% ready with a quarter end in sight, but it will pay off in the long term.
  • The truth is, no one in RIM dares to tell management how bad our tools still are. Even our closest dev partners do their best to say it politely, but they will never bite the hand that feeds them.
  • 25 million iPad users don’t care that it doesn’t have Flash or true multitasking, so why make that a focus in our campaigns? I’ll answer that for you: it’s because that’s all that differentiates our products and its lazy marketing. I’ve never seen someone buy product B because it has something product A doesn’t have. People buy product B because they want and lust after product B.
  • RIM has a lot of people who underperform but still stay in their roles. No one is accountable. Where is the guy responsible for the 9530 software? Still with us, still running some important software initiative. We will never achieve excellence with this culture. Just because someone may have been a loyal RIM employee for 7 years, it doesn’t mean they are the best Manager / Director / VP for that role.
  • However, overconfidence clouds good decision-making. We missed not boldly reacting to the threat of iPhone when we saw it in January over four years ago. We laughed and said they are trying to put a computer on a phone, that it won’t work.
  • Reach out to all employees asking them on how we can make RIM better. Encourage input from ground-level teams—without repercussions—to seek out honest feedback and really absorb it.

All of these are examples of what happens in almost every business culture I have witnessed.  It is certainly not unique to RIM. If you think this is not happening within your business you are sorely mistaken.

What can you do….

  • Foster honest discussions.  Stop punishing those who do not follow the company line. Reward critical thought.  Ask people to do their homework prior to the meetings.
  • Listen.  Tap into the collective intelligence of the organization.  1,000 eyes see a lot.
  • Act out.  Stress your opinion if you have a dissenting idea.If you love your company and passionate about what you do, chances are your opinions probably do matter.




Changing Market Place

7 04 2011

Yesterday in the NYTimes was a story about the speed of the changing U.S. race demographic.  As our demographic changes, so will tastes and demand.  Many companies have sat atop their markets feeling they are invincible, yet with these changes many of the companies will find out much too late that they were not as solid as they once felt.

Have you asked yourself any of the following:

  • What percent of our clients come from the majority?
  • Do we have products that meet demands from all sectors?
  • Are we at risk if the legislature, or governing boards, can their ethnicity over time?
  • Where are our biggest threats in this new market?
  • Where are our greatest advantages?
  • What else can we do to capture more in this changing market?
  • Where might new competitors come after our market?

If you are not strategically discussing questions like these, then you elevate your risk of something happening to undermine your position within your market.

 





Pink Bat

9 03 2011

I know I have not published much here lately, but I have been writing a fair bit.  Some of these I have just been a little timid about sharing as they are a little inconsistent with the goal of this blog.

Anyway, while I was doing a little research about my current project I stumbled across this and thought the video was well worth sharing. In a nutshell, train yourself to see solutions to problems.  Train your business to be more aware, to take risks, but more importantly to always be thinking about solutions.

The following video is from Michael McMillian and while the book does not get the wildest of reviews, the concept is and short video is worthwhile.

 

pinkbatmovie.com








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