Archive for category Strategy
by Scott Anthony | 9:00 AM September 12, 2012
Eighteen months ago, a massive earthquake struck off the northeast coast of Japan. The tsunami it unleashed caused devastating damage whose effects are still being felt. But it could have been even worse. Instead, a mere three seconds after the earthquake struck, a sophisticated early warning system kicked in. The system then triggered a series of messages via TV and cell phone warning about the impending tsunami that came about nine minutes later — which, as a Time magazine reporter noted, “can be just enough time to take cover, drive a car to the side of the road, step back from getting on an elevator or stop medical surgery.”
Corporations should have early warning systems to detect emerging competitive threats that have long-term potential to affect their business. Just as seismologists used research to determine what to watch for and then distributed networks of sensors to identify the right signals, strategists can look back at past transformations to inform their own analyses.
Strategic planning is an annual event, right?
It must be, because according to a recent Harvard BusinessReview article, almost nine out of 10 executives said their companies developed annual strategic plans. Moreover, they developed these plans without consideration for the pace of change in their business environment.
But the real question is whether strategic planning should be an annual event. And in today’s hyper-fast markets, the answer is a resounding NO!
As market pressures drive companies to become more flexible, responsive, and able to change on a moment’s notice, the ability to execute on a strategy is rapidly becoming more important than the strategy itself. In fact, business branding expert Denise Lee Yohn goes so far as to say that in today’s environment, execution is strategy.
According to Yohn, the amount of disruption in today’s markets (and the speed at which it happens) requires a very different planning approach. Instead of setting a definite strategy and following through at all costs, companies should focus on “strategically adapting to and excelling at whatever path they find themselves on.”
We are entering the age of the strategist. As our colleagues Chris Bradley, Lowell Bryan, and Sven Smit have explained in “Managing the strategy journey,” a powerful means of coping with today’s more volatile environment is increasing the time a company’s top team spends on strategy. Involving more senior leaders in strategic dialogue makes it easier to stay ahead of emerging opportunities, respond quickly to unexpected threats, and make timely decisions.
This is a significant change. At a good number of companies, corporate strategy has long represented the bland aggregation of strategies that individual business unit heads put forward.1 At others, it’s been the domain of a small coterie, perhaps led by a chief strategist who is protective of his or her domain—or the exclusive territory of a CEO.
Rare is the company, though, where all members of the top team have well-developed strategic muscles. Some executives reach the C-suite because of functional expertise, while others, including business unit heads and even some CEOs, are much stronger on execution than on strategic thinking. In some companies, that very issue has given rise to the position of chief strategy officer—yet even a number of executives playing this role disclosed to us, in a series of interviews we conducted over the past year, that they didn’t feel adequately prepared for it.
Whenever I share stories about “green” business strategy, someone inevitably asks me whether pursuing sustainability is against a company’s best interests. The question is understandable, but unfortunately it’s based on deep misconceptions about how businesses need to operate in a world of constant change.
Here’s a concrete example: I often talk about how Xerox (along with all its printer-making peers) is helping customers print less. As part of the fast-growing “managed print services” sector, the company shows organizations how to reduce the number of printers they use. The shift helps customers reduce their environmental impacts and costs by cutting back on paper, energy, and waste.
The question “What is strategy?” has spurred numerous doctoral dissertations, countless hours of research, and hearty disagreement among serious management thinkers. Perhaps this is why many executives also struggle with it. Nonetheless, decision makers seeking to steer a business to sustained success need a succinct and pragmatic response. After all, it can only help executives to have a shared definition of strategy when they are creating, communicating, and implementing a strategy for their business.
So, what is a business strategy? Strategy is different from vision, mission, goals, priorities, and plans. It is the result of choices executives make, on where to play and how to win, to maximize long-term value.
Hidden Persuaders II
A marketing guru reveals some of the secrets of his profession
Sep 24th 2011 | from the print edition
VANCE PACKARD was the Malcolm Gladwell of his day, a journalist with a gift for explaining business to the general public. But in his 1957 classic “The Hidden Persuaders”, he out-Gladwelled Gladwell. The book not only had a perfect title. It also revealed for the first time the psychological tricks that the advertising industry used to make Americans want stuff, instantly transforming the image of America’s advertising executives from glamorous Mad Men into servants of Mephistopheles.
“Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy” is an attempt to write a modern version of “The Hidden Persuaders”. Martin Lindstrom cannot write as elegantly as Packard, as his chapter titles (eg, “Buy it, get laid”) make clear. But as a marketing veteran who lists McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and Microsoft among his former clients, he knows the industry well. It is far more sophisticated than it was in the 1950s, and just as cynical. Read full article
Google must battle on at least six fronts simultaneously.
The Browser Front: Users have a choice between Internet Explorer (Microsoft), Firefox(Mozilla), Safari (Apple), and Google’s offering, Chrome. The speculation is that Facebook is interested in a browser, too, since Mozilla co-founder Blake Ross is an employee, but that hasn’t happened yet. More recently, the social browser RockMelt has captured some peoples’ interests, and last week secured $30M in financing, adding Facebook board members Jim Breyer and Marc Andreessen to its board. Andreessen obviously knows a thing or two about browsers. Though most browsers enable users to power their search by Google as an option, Googe’s Chrome offering isn’t the lead browser by market share, and not even in second place.
The Mobile Front: Apple’s iOS took the mobile world by storm in 2007 with the first iPhone. Then Google’s Android operating system roared alongside it, turning into a freight train of downloads, as Bill Gurley said, only recently to be slowed by Apple’s release of a phone with Verizon. While Android may have more installs, they don’t have the developer community to build killer apps because the Android marketplace (both for hardware and firmware) is highlyfragmented, whereas iOS is about symphonic convergence. All the along, there’s been ample speculation about whether Facebook was building its own mobile phone device, or as the company has publicly hinted, how it would integrate social layers into different mobile operating systems and platforms.