Barry Horwitz shares an article that extolls the benefits of reading and reading some more.
Students in my strategy classes at Boston University often ask: What applicant characteristics matter most when applying for positions with strategy consulting firms? Of course, there are some obvious ones — sharp analytical skills and strong communication capabilities among them. But one that is often overlooked — and yet quite valuable — is possession of a healthy curiosity.
As I wrote in an earlier newsletter, creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems often come from insights garnered outside of an organization’s specific field. A robust curiosity (despite its potentially negative impact on cats!) can lead you to seek additional information and generate creative insights.
Curiosity’s proven value is also why business leaders often design their offices with central gathering points (whether mailroom or kitchen areas), where individuals from different functional areas are likely to encounter one another. As Vinit Nijhawan used to say when he ran the office of tech transfer at BU, he wanted to “minimize friction and maximize collisions.”
Read, Read, and Read Some More
Of course, one of the best ways of gaining insights from a broad range of fields is to work in a broad range of fields. But what if you are early on in your career or if your career journey to date has kept you tightly focused in just a few areas?
The answer is simple: Read… broadly and a lot. Hopefully, that’s obvious. Less obvious, though, is what to read.
Key points include:
- A reading list
- Email newsletters
Read the full article, Curiosity Killed The Cat… But It Can Keep Your Business Thriving, on HorwitzandCo.com.
Surbhee Grover shares an interview, recently published in Thrive Global, that focuses on several aspects of her entrepreneurial journey, including a perspective on the beauty business, and insight into launching a start-up in this industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been drawn to creation (and I define “creation” quite broadly). I’ve also realized that money and title are not my primary motivational drivers. As a result, I’ve often wandered off what might be the standard trajectory — at IIM Ahmedabad, where I went for my Masters, I was also involved in choreography and theatre. At NYU Stern School of Business, I traded some of the business credits to learn creative writing. As a global strategy consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton (Booz & Co), where I advised companies on growth and innovation, I once accumulated several weeks of vacation only to spend it doing a film-making course in London. When I look back, there was always a pattern, a consistent theme to what I was drawn towards — discovery, innovation and creation of something that gave me joy.
Around 2015, I was doing a lot of strategy work for luxury, retail and consumer clients and it struck me that while several concepts, ingredients and wellness practices from the Indian sub-continent had made their way into the daily life and lattes in the West, these barely scraped the surface of all the region had to offer, and that brands from that part of the world were woefully underrepresented in the aisles of beauty/ wellness retail. Thinking back, I believe I was staring at a café menu in Brooklyn that served turmeric lattes, when it struck me that I HAD to play a part in this movement… taking these rich, regional botanicals and practices that had yet to make their way outside their native regions, and make them unique, relevant and exceptional for today’s wellness consumers (the “how” for that would come later!). And that’s when the seeds of my latest entrepreneurial venture were sown.
Key points include:
- Innovative products developed by Love Indus
- Elements of the beauty industry that inspire and cause concern
- What you need to know to succeed in the beauty industry
Read the full interview, Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry, on ThriveGobal.com.
In this post, Peter Costa offers one man’s perspective on gender and leadership.
There are mountains of research on the importance of diversity in building high-performing organizations. There is at least as much insight on the nature of leadership, including that there is no one “right” leadership style. The most effective leaders are true to themselves, their strengths, and their values. At the same time, different situations call for different leadership styles. Are these conflicting ideas? Perhaps, but if the current situation shows us anything, it’s this – the women are getting it right.
Just my unscientific opinion, but female political leaders are performing far better than their male counterparts. Not to say that all the women are getting it right or that all the men are getting it wrong, but consider these facts:
72% of Germans approve of how Angela Merkel’s government is handling this pandemic (DW News).
88% of New Zealanders trusted the government (led by 39-year-old Jacinda Arden) to make the right decisions about addressing COVID-19 (The Atlantic).
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s approval rating is 68.5%, up from a nadir of 24.3% just over a year ago (Nikei Asian Review).
If you want to see what effective leadership in a crisis looks like, watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vT8e7lkjl8
All of these women moved decisively AND effectively; the results speak for themselves. Taiwan has had just 6 known coronavirus deaths in a country of 35 million. Germany has seen a far lower coronavirus death rate than most other developed countries and seems to be well past peak new infections. New Zealand has good reason to believe it has stopped community transitions. All three countries are starting to reopen their economies. (Business Insider, US News and World Report, The Economist).
These leaders are succeeding because they are very effectively drawing on what is traditionally considered to be “feminine” leadership traits: empathy, collaboration, and even humility – the humility to admit they don’t have all the answers and to draw on the people who do.
Key points include:
- Leadership traits as cultural artifacts
- Authenticity and empathy
Read the full article, Gender and Leadership – One Man’s Perspective, on Capmanllc.com
Robyn M. Bolton shares an evergreen post on the benefits of thinking visually for business, and how to do it.
Last week, I wrote about Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), a process of using art to teach visual literacy, thinking, and communication skills.
Typically, used in primary school classrooms, VTS has made its way into the corporate setting, helping individuals and teams to build and strengthen their problem solving and critical thinking skills, ability to communicate and collaborate, and effectiveness in delivering and receiving feedback.
While I did my best to capture the Why, What, and How of VTS in that post, there’s no substitute for learning from an expert. That’s why I asked Suzi Hamill, former Head of Design Thinking at Fidelity and the woman who introduced me to VTS, to share her experience using the tool.
Hi Suzi. Thanks for sharing your VTS wisdom and experience today. I understand you’ve been doing a fair bit of VTS-ing lately.
Suzi: Yes! Just a few months ago I was at Oxford University coaching 30 Chief Marketing Officers from large global corporations on how to apply Visual Thinking Strategies to their work and their teams. And just last week, I led a session with a group of women on the West Coast of the US.
Key points include:
- VTS for business leaders
- How it helps people quickly internalize new insights
- Moving from knowing to doing
Read the full article, VTS with the Best: An Interview with Suzi Hamill, on LinkedIn.
Kaihan Krippendorff identifies the importance of proxemics between product and consumer/user as a key component of growth for businesses.
Shuffling through the crowds of Fourth of July weekend shoppers, I spied my prize. The farm stand’s rows were bursting with color—juicy strawberries, rich blueberries, and robust peaches. “Over here,” I called out to my kids to join me. We carefully selected handfuls from the overflowing baskets. Fresh berries would make a perfect addition to our family’s dessert that night.
When I approached the shop owner to pay, I had a brief moment of panic.
“Is it cash only?” I asked her.
“Nope,” she replied, revealing the white square hooked onto her phone. “We take credit cards now.” I breathed a sigh of relief as I handed her my card to swipe through the reader. She smiled and bagged our fruits, and I followed my kids on to the next stand.
TODAY’S CUSTOMERS WANT PROXIMITY
It would be difficult to stroll through a small-town market or other pop-up shop without seeing a Square reader. These recognizable contraptions, which now include contactless payments for cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, easily connect to mobile devices and empower small- and medium-sized business owners to accept credit and debit card payments on the spot.
No longer do merchants have to turn down sales because the buyer doesn’t have cash on hand. Square is a leader in digital payments, and its onsite and digital point-of-sale systems are part of a bigger trend that’s helping people purchase the goods and services they want exactly when and where they want them.
Today’s technologies have a human mission. Our mortal desires have always demanded instant gratification. Wants and needs arise, and we are driven to satisfy them as quickly as we can. The underlying concept, coined by my friend Rob Wolcott, is proximity—products and services produced and provided ever closer to the moment of demand in time and space. Square represents a proximity technology; it allows a business owner to cheaply and quickly set up a point-of-sale system on the spot at a weekend pop-up event.
If shoppers prefer to stay home, they can order from a small business online and receive their shipment in just a few days. It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend. We’ve come to expect Amazon packages in mere hours. Food deliveries arrive within an hour at our doors. Our doctors and educators enter our homes through video cameras.
Enabled by technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing, virtual reality, Internet of Things (IoT), self-driving cars, and 5G connectivity, proximity is occurring at an accelerated pace, and it’s going to continue to transform nearly all aspects of our lives.
Key points include:
- Customer demand
- Investor returns
- Three steps to benefit from proximity
Read the full article, How “Proximity” Technologies Are Bridging The Gap Between Demand And Delivery, on Kaihan.net.
Barry Horwitz identifies why it is important to address the predisposition to the positive and how it often arrests the growth and improvement of the company.
Back in the early 90s, I joined the senior management team of a regional retail chain. I was new to the company and had moved there from out of town. The rest of the leadership team was made up of longstanding executives — people who had been there for years (in some cases, decades).
Not surprisingly, my colleagues enjoyed telling the positive story of their achievements. And that was fine, they had certainly accomplished quite a bit.
But the market and competitive landscape were changing; they were blind to the ways in which we were being newly threatened. In my view, if we didn’t evolve our strategic positioning, we were in danger of falling behind, or worse.
Were these executives unusual in this way? Not at all, unfortunately. Organizations work hard to build cohesiveness and teamwork among their employees and people like to feel good about the things they are doing well. Toss in the human tendency for confirmation bias and it’s easy to overlook a lot:
Sales were off a bit last month? That may have been due to bad weather or some other factor — it’s probably just a blip.
Donations are down from prior years? It’s probably the economy or the change in tax laws.
Given this predisposition towards the positive, how do you raise issues and deliver news that may not be welcomed? There is a perceived (often real) risk that by pointing out bad news or blind spots — even if it helps avoid bad things from happening — one will be labelled “not a team player,” perhaps getting sidelined or even fired as a result.
Here then, are some suggestions for highlighting — and slaying — those organizational sacred cows….
Key points include:
- Addressing prior beliefs
- Structuring recommendations
- Establishing a safe environment
Read the full post, Slay the Sacred Cows, on HorwitzandCo.com.
David A. Fields shares a post that illustrates the value of naming the intellectual property of your consulting business to encourage client buy-in.
In today’s world of smartphones, texting, and in-car wifi, the 1970’s CB radio craze hovers somewhere between quaint and weird. Yet, one aspect of that short-lived fad will help your consulting firm win more clients and, importantly, deliver higher perceived value to your current clients.
In the parlance of CB radio fanatics, your handle was your short, memorable on-air nickname. A CB-er would refer to herself with a moniker like “Big Tuna” or “Boombox” or “Sir Burpsalot”.*
The genius of handles for a consulting firm was revealed to me over 20 years ago. I had developed a sophisticated, market ranking methodology for one of my clients, and the approach delivered excellent results.
However, my algorithm would have been a one-time, geeky solution had my boss in the consulting firm not said, “David, this methodology needs a handle.”
We named my approach the “VQ Model” and our clients contracted well into seven figures worth of VQ consulting projects.
Clients loved the VQ Model and perceived the results as robust and valuable. Simply having a name made the model far more sellable and higher value.
Key points include:
- Where to Apply Handles
- Avoidable Handles Mistakes
- Quick Tips for Developing Handles
Read the full post, Consulting Firm Razzle Dazzle: The Art of Handles, on David.A.Fields.com.
Stephen Wunker shares a post that identifies how the pandemic has presented aggressive businesses with an opportunity, and why the key to success lies in customer service.
‘Consumers don’t trust real estate agents,’ says Jimmy Mackin, whose business is selling software to…real estate agents. He continues, “There are minimal requirements to become a licensed real estate agent. The industry tends to attract the get-rich-quick crowd.”
How could someone with such a dire assessment of an industry make his living selling to it? And what are the lessons others can draw from how COVID is accelerating a long-overdue industry transformation?
Lessons from a Vendor
Mackin runs a business called Curaytor, which provides marketing services to tech-enabled real estate agencies. The COVID pandemic has been a boom time. In Mackin’s view, it all makes sense. “We’ve seen a significant increase in the use of Matterport, a tool that enables an immersive 3D home tour with an interactive walkthrough and floorplan. It was once considered a luxury in our industry and it is now becoming a requirement.”
But the need for virtual solutions is just the tip of the iceberg. To Mackin, COVID has simply turbo-charged a pre-existing trend that separates full-time professionals from part-time hobbyists in his industry, and this explains his overall optimism. “Consumers are demanding a personalized experience, and the more you can be of service, the more you can learn about your customer’s needs.” The professionals invest in software, proactive service, and personalization.
With COVID, consumers are demanding virtual tools and responsiveness to their particular concerns, and the more service-oriented agents can deliver the goods. He summarizes, “In order to earn your commission, you’ll have to be more than a glorified Uber-driver that gives someone a tour of a house. The role of the modern real estate agent is to be an expert advisor, not merely a facilitator.”
The transformation of real estate is part of The Great Reboot affecting industry after industry. Rather than seeing the pandemic as a pause between normal periods, forward-thinking businesspeople seem to be jumping on the moment as a time to do major updates of longstanding practices.
Read the full article, How COVID is Transforming a Profession Few People Love, on NewMarketsAdvisors.com.
Aneta Key shares a 2-minute video from a series that dives into how to assess the situation.
This sequence of videos emphasizes that strategic decision-making starts with assessing the situation.
The prior video discussed “speed” as a dimension and this one focuses on another important dimension — the gravity of the decisions leaders make. This simple consideration can have a profound impact on how execs allocate their scarce leadership capacity given all the decisions they need to make.
Key points include:
- The upside and downside
- Time pressure
- Leaders’ response
Watch the full video, Sizing up the Situation – Gravity, on YouTube.
Alex Sharpe shares a post from the archives that illustrates the pertinence and importance of social media as critical infrastructure.
“If you can spy on a network, you can manipulate it. It is already included. The only thing you need is an active will.”Michael Hayden, Former Director, NSA and Former Director, CIA.
Social Media is getting lots of attention especially with the upcoming election. There is good reason, but Social Media is not only an election issue.
Social Media has changed the way we work and live. It has helped us navigate national emergencies like Covid-19, wildfires, tornadoes and floods. It has created new business models. Social Media has created entire industries and countless jobs. The average person is more affected and more dependent on social media than they realize. Social Media is used every day without giving it a second thought.
According to the Pew Research Center, three fourths of adults in the United States get their news from Social Media and email. What chaos would ensue if Social Media suddenly disappeared or you could not trust what was there? How much more difficult would your life have been during Covid-19 without Social Media to inform, to communicate or to stay connected?
Is it time to consider Social Media a Critical Infrastructure (CI) like telecommunications, transportation, and our financial system? The rest of the world seems to think so. Maybe it is time to make it official.
According to Infragard, Critical Infrastructure is defined as:
‘…the assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.’
Key points include:
- The incapacitation or destruction of social media
- The perception of social media as a free service
- Social Media based attacks
Read the full article, “Is Social Media Critical Infrastructure?“, on LinkedIn.
Paul Browne shares an article on stress testing and cash management as a means to help business survive another COVID-19 shutdown.
Cash Management and Stress Testing
The full force of the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting the UK with most businesses either completely shut down or working well below capacity. Most law firms are in the latter category. The key challenge for managing partners, after ensuring the safety and well-being of staff, is to ensure the firm survives this hiatus, which couldn’t have come at a worse time with most firms year-ends fast approaching.
They need to ensure their firm’s cash flow is secure, that they stay within their credit facilities, and that the firm is able to trade profitably, if not immediately, then in the near future to ensure compliance with the SRA Code of Conduct for Firms, specifically:
2.4 You actively monitor your financial stability and business viability.
3.6 You notify the SRA promptly of any serious financial difficulty relating to you.
Firms should prioritise the collection and conservation of cash.
However, this can only effectively be done against the backdrop of an up to date cash flow forecast which is regularly stress-tested for a number of different scenarios, including the loss of significant time recording at least over the next three months, a dearth of new client instructions and clients, similarly, experiencing severe financial pressures, either unable to settle bills or looking for more favourable terms.
Key points include:
- Collecting and conserving cash
- Talking to your bank
- Alternative funding
Read the full article, COVID-19 Pandemic-Survival Steps for Law Firms, on LinkedIn.
Robyn Bolton draws innovation inspiration from the Princess Bride to illustrate how the innovator embarks on a hero’s journey within a corporate setting.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post using quotes from “Moneyball” (the movie, not the book) to describe the experience of trying to innovate within a corporate setting.
It was great fun to write, I received tons of feedback, and had many fascinating conversations (plus a fact check on the year the Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino), so I started searching for other movies that inadvertently but accurately describe the journey of corporate innovators.
The Princess Bride
If you have not seen The Princess Bride, stop reading and immediately go watch it. Seriously, there is nothing more important for you to do right now than to crawl out from the cultural rock you’ve been under since 1987 and watch this movie.
If you’re reading this, you’ve clearly watched the movie and know that it is packed with life lessons and quotable quotes. It also captures the reality of innovation within the walls of large companies
“You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya
A company’s focus on Innovation usually begins the moment a senior executive, usually the CEO, declares it to be a key strategic priority and promises Wall Street analysts that significant investments will be made.
It then trickles down to business units and functions, with each subsequent layer told to “be more innovative” and “come up with more innovation.”
Then, one day, the responsibility for innovation lands in someone’s lap and stays there. To be honest, it’s usually an exciting day for the person because they’ve been asking questions, suggesting ideas, and pushing for innovation for a long time, and now the powers that be have permitted them to do something about it. They may even have been given a title and budget specific for innovation.”
But “innovation” was never defined.
The CEO may think it is an entirely new business, something flashy and new that rivals anything coming out of Silicon Valley.
Key points include:
- Defining the expectations of innovation
- Supporters and champions
- Courageous innovators
Read the full article, What “The Princess Bride” Teaches About the Corporate Innovation Experience, on milezero.io.
Kaihan Krippendorff shares an article that identifies how to take better control of your subconscious to become aware of valuable information.
We have heard the adages like “work on your business, not in it” and “come up to see the forest for the trees.” At McKinsey they urged us to continually take the “top management perspective” by zooming up to look at the business overall before jumping into the details.
But we know Bill Gates used to lock himself in a cabin for a week every year just to read and think during his “Think Weeks”. My friend Tony Crabbe, an organizational psychologist, has written two outstanding books with practical advice for clearing out the busy to give you time to think. Cal Newport goes deep into the need for us to clear space for “deep work” in his book.
Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, gets up to write at 4 a.m. 365 days a year. Stephen King clears his calendar to write 2,000 words every day before he allows himself to engage with the outside world. Great athletes envision the game before they get on the field (indeed, my friend and former roommate who served as captain of the US national rugby team told me he would spend hours envisioning every moment of the game before a match).
In other words, maybe the old adage should be reversed to “don’t just do something … sit there!
Key points include:
- Identifying what you want
- Instructing your mind
- Structuring your thinking process
Read the full article, Activating The Subconscious Power Of Strategy, on Kaihan.net.
Tobias Baer takes on the role credit bureaus play and misguided government prescriptions in this post.
Credit bureaus are both feared and loathed – feared because their revealing of “sins” of the distant past can dash many a dream such as buying a house or a car, renting a flat, or even just getting a postpaid mobile plan, and loathed because their verdict on an applicant sometimes appears unfair or even incomprehensible – e.g., when sensibly taking up an interest-free “Buy Now, Pay Later” offer from the likes of Karna causes the credit score to fall rather precipitously.
On the upside, there is therefore much to be improved (in the US and many other markets) – ranging from the trivial (such as better protection from plainly wrong data and identity theft) to the visionary (such as eliminating racial and gender-based discrimination perpetuated by credit scores). On the downside, the role credit bureaus play with regard to these problems is poorly understood, and hence many prescriptions discussed by politicians and the media are misguided and at times outright dangerous. Beware the unintended consequences! Recent years have seen a lot of innovation and movement in the credit reporting agency industry. Across the globe, credit bureaus have been adding additional, non-traditional data sources and sought to provide scores also for unbanked customers and new applications (such as predicting likelihood of returns for online shoppers). The IPO of Credit Bureau Asia Ltd in Singapore last year (up 46% since) and FinTech start-ups such as Nova Credit and Credit Kudos remind us of the growing potential for profits to be made in the space.
Key points include:
- How to ensure high data quality
- Reporting positive or only negative data
- Fighting racial and other discrimination
Read the full article, Joe Biden could improve credit bureaus for real – here’s how, on LinkedIn.
Jason George shares a post that explores the Harvard Business School’s case method of teaching; and how this experimental approach in the construction of their classrooms became a model for many industries to follow.
Harvard Business School’s campus is an extreme outlier, even when compared to those of peer institutions with similar histories. Situated on the Charles River across from the main buildings of its parent university, the self-contained layout was originally conceived in the 1920s. At the time of construction, funding constraints scuttled plans for a dedicated classroom building. Burgeoning enrollments plus the favorable economics of the post-World War II years brought this need back to the foreground.
HBS was a pioneer of the case method of teaching, which involves continuous interaction between faculty and students, so the traditional classroom design with a grid of desks would not suffice. Architects tasked with creating an alternative experimented with a tiered seating arrangement curving around a central space, from which the professor could guide the discussion as a conductor directing a symphony. This allowed students to more easily see and engage with both their teacher and each other.
The new configuration was piloted with a full-scale working mockup before blueprints were finalized. Nevertheless, builders realized their approach was somewhat experimental and might need modification as pedagogy changed. They found an unusual way to accommodate this. When assembling the steel framing they employed I-beams that were longer than usual, minimizing the number of internal load-bearing walls. Although it was more expensive and difficult to install up front, this choice meant that if teaching requirements or student needs changed, classrooms could be torn down or reconfigured without the expense of knocking down the main structure.
Key points include:
- Airport design
- Building with flexibility or future-proofing in mind
- An overhaul of Britain’s National Health Service
Read the full article, Flexibility and fragility: Bend or Break, on JasonGeorge.net.
Ian Tidswell shares pricing information on creating and capturing value in an informative infographic.
Success in the Medical Technology industry requires constant innovation. However, capturing a fair share of the value (pricing) from that innovation throughout the product life cycle is especially challenging given multiple market access hurdles, constrained healthcare budgets, and diverse stakeholders.
The infographic below outlines the 6 steps to creating and capturing value in MedTech, from offering design through market access and reimbursement approval to new product transitions. Each step highlights some of the key concepts and tools.
These steps will be discussed in detail during the EPP Virtual Live MedTech Pricing training March 25-26 2021. Covering both industry-wide challenges and your specific improvement opportunities, you’ll leave with an understanding of how leading companies are achieving success with pricing, and the confidence to tackle all your pricing challenges.
Key points identified include:
- Market access with value recognised
- Value delivered and captured
- Segment and target buyers
- Gain effective market access
Read the full article and access the infographic, 6 Key Steps to create & capture value in MedTech: Infographic and Online Training March 25-26 2021, on Eenconsulting.com.
If you have difficulty describing what it is you do to clients, Anna Engstromer’s post will help clarify and communicate the value and benefits of your services.
Much value of consulting can be decoded and applied in organizations, limiting the need to actually hire them and – hopefully – rendering work more challenging and rewarding.
I’ve served perhaps four dozen clients on almost the same number of topics, over a dozen years, across a dozen countries. Apart from a few basic trainings, I wasn’t really taught how to do it, but instead learned on the job, from and with colleagues and clients. Accenture Partners and client staff helped me pick up on value generation, developing people and effective and efficient ways of working. McKinsey colleagues and client executives helped me sharpen the expression of problems, findings and results. The people working on either side aren’t, in my mind, much different.
I’ve worked in organizations too, in different roles and always with a great degree of change. I’ve engaged, worked with, evaluated, extended and stopped consulting engagements. I see patterns of what consultants do well in organizations and how organizations can engage consultants better. There is waste in hiring consultants in poorly fitting ways, and there is lost opportunity in not expecting “consulting-like action” from employees.
I think much of the value of consulting comes from the situation of having new people come in and purposefully address a problem. The dynamic of that situation creates a momentum and an expectation that consultant-client teams deliver on, not just because they can but because they have to. What happens after a project sometimes disappoints, for a number of reasons, one being the loss of that momentum and specific expectation.
I believe much of the value of consulting can be decoded and applied in organizations, limiting the need to actually hire them and – hopefully – rendering work more challenging and rewarding.
Key points include:
- Defining the problem
- Fitting activities onto their purpose
- Sharpening communication
Read the full article, De-mystifying Consulting, on Engstromer.com.
Sean McCoy identifies key steps a business may take to alter the operation model and improve productivity.
We are in the initial stages of a productivity mega-trend. Forced by wage growth and enabled by technology, leading companies are already redesigning their operating models to make their people more productive.
The forces creating the productivity mega-trend
Wages are rising and look set to continue rising. Labor’s share of GDP is at a 90-year low, and we are seeing a reversion to long-run historical averages. 20 states raised their minimum wages in 2018, impacting 17M workers, over 10% of the country’s workforce. New technologies are radically re-shaping the processing of data and the interacting with prospects, leads, and customers. Repetitive work is being automated, and customer engagement is going digital. Extend the evolution of these two trends, wage growth and new technologies, and a firm can expect to experience one of two outcomes over the next business cycle: margin dilution or productivity growth.
How to join the productivity mega-trend
The first step to participate in the productivity mega-trend is to understand which of your business functions will be impacted. Functions with large spans of control and a large share of entry-level positions will be affected the most by wage growth. Functions where “data shuffling” is a common activity will be affected by automation technologies. Customer-facing functions will be impacted by the new customer-experience technologies. When listing functions that meet two or three of those criteria, at the top are functions such as inside sales, customer care, and customer service, and corporate functions such as Accounting, Finance, and HR.
Key points include:
- Wage increases
- How leads and customers interact with business
- Shifts from strategy to execution
Read the full article, The Productivity Mega-trend You Can’t Ignore, on McCoyConsultingGroup.com.
From his company website, Andrew Hone offers a guide on how to conduct a rapid strategic review and identify new value-creating opportunities for your business.
A strategic review is a structured process to identify new value-creating opportunities within a business. This could be about improving the performance of an existing division, or taking advantage of a new market adjacency opportunity. Many companies undertake strategic reviews on an annual basis as part of their strategic planning process. Other businesses will undertake them on a more ad hoc basis when presented with a specific opportunity or problem within the business. A change of ownership or appointment of a new CEO can often trigger the need for a strategic review of the business as a way to clarify the key areas of opportunity and challenges within the existing portfolio.
Whatever its origins, a strategic review should be a clear fact-based analysis of the business opportunity or issue. It provides an opportunity to step back from day-to-day operations to assess the strategic foundations on which a business is built. The outcome of a strategic review should be a clear set of strategic recommendations and a future roadmap for the business that charts its course and enables increased and sustained performance now and for the future.
Benefits of a strategic review
When conducted well, a strategic review can deliver significant benefits to a business. In addition to the direct financial benefits of improving performance and targeting new growth opportunities, the process itself can improve alignment between employees, senior management teams and other key stakeholders, helping to drive a high performance culture and clarity on the future direction of the business.
Key points include:
- Benefits of a structured approach to strategy development
- Typical scope of a strategic review
- Key principles to follow when undertaking a strategic review
- Indicative timeline and workplan for completing a strategic review in 4 weeks
Access the full guide, The four week strategic review, on the ZenithStrategy.com website.
Ian Tidswell provides insight into the strange pricing practices fueled by loyalty programs, credit card programs, fees, and customer perception of value.
Utpal Dholakia always has interesting posts on pricing. This one got me thinking about the strange way that buying a coffee can result in wealth transfer to an airline.
Airlines make a lot of money off of their loyalty programs (often all of their profit). 71% of those miles are purchased, many by banks for their credit card programs. This is strange.
Credit card payment processing is not a very economically efficient market: there’s close to a duopoly with MasterCard and Visa (80% market share). That, along with the scale efficiencies, consumer switching costs, and merchant risk aversion (more on this below) mean they can charge high fees to merchants, capturing huge value. (Capturing rather than creating IMHO, since this is rent-seeking behavior. It’s a high-margin, commodity business. MasterCard net profit margin is 50%!)
MasterCard and Visa member banks then compete with each other in a profitable but near-commodity market. One way they compete is on price: sharing some of the fees they earn via the processing companies with consumers. They could do this with a simple cash-back scheme or other reward programs, but it turns out that airline loyalty points work well since many people value them higher than their actual worth. It’s basically a parallel currency with a highly variable exchange rate to valuable services. An exchange rate the airline controls.
Key points include:
- The true value of reward programs
- The true cost of reward points
- The rentier economy
Read the full post, The strange case of a Cup of Coffee, Credit Cards and Costa Rica vacations, and access links on the subject on eenconsulting.com.
Set sail with Chris Rooney as he explains what a bosun is and why your business needs one.
The Bosun is the deck boss of a ship, also known as the “Chief of the Boat.” The most experienced and trustworthy operator, they have charted the world and mastered every role. They are the human conduit through which the vision of the Captain becomes realized action and the patient teacher by which an inexperienced crew can become an exceptional, effective team. And often, they are the wizened thought partner who helps enable the Captain to mature from being visionary to becoming a visionary leader.
CEO’s and business owners have similar challenges to Ship Captains: they have a bigger vision of what is over the horizon, and what world-changing bounty is to be gained from the journey there and back. But without a very experienced Bosun — a partner who has seen it all, can build and elevate teams, can weather unexpected storms and lack of resources, and inspire others during hardships they have endured before — a successful journey can be exponentially harder. Most importantly, Bosuns have the experience and foresight to see problems before they arise, recognize opportunities and execute them more quickly, and re-imagine solutions with the confidence of someone who has done it before.
In today’s specialist-oriented business world, true Bosuns are hard to find. Most executives (including CEO’s) are deeply functional in their experience, domain, and resulting world-view.
Key points include:
- The problem with the CEO silo
- The limitations of investors and board members
- Skills needed to navigate unpredictable business environments
Read the full article, What is “Bosun”? And why do you need one?, on LinkedIn.
Dan Markovitz shares a free workbook to accompany his latest book.
Response to my latest book, The Conclusion Trap, has been strong, but I’ve heard from some readers that they’d like a workbook to accompany it.
You can download the Conclusion Trap Workbook here. For free. Gratis. No charge. $0.00 dollars.
In it, you’ll find a recap of each of the four steps, along with questions, and recommendations you can use to experiment with the approach in your work (or personal!) lives.
Access the link to the workbook through the post, The Conclusion Trap Workbook Is Out (And It’s Free), on MarkovitzConsulting.com.
Sean McCoy shares an article that explains why most post-merger integrations fail.
Most mergers and acquisitions fail to achieve their intended synergies and deal rationale, because most post-merger integrations (PMIs) fail. Most post-merger integrations fail because they did not beat The 4 Clocks. There are 4 clocks counting down in PMI, a clock each of the four major stakeholders in a PMI: employees, vendors, owners, and customers. The clocks also largely parallel areas of synergies. The name of the game in PMIs is to complete the integration and achieve the synergies before the clocks hit zero.
The Employee Clock
The Employee Clock measures the opportunity for two key synergies, internal synergies through consolidating excess capacity and external synergies via retaining top performers. Human capital and physical capital are under the microscope of the Employee Clock. Integrations often create excess physical capacity, e.g., plants, locations, and a common source of synergies is consolidation of physical plant.
The human capital element is a race against a brain drain. Top performers from both companies will typically stay on board to see where they fit in the new company. But, they will not stick around forever. The Employee Clock hits zero when top performers decide to move on. Losing top performers is perhaps the most damaging impact to the long-term strength of the integrated company. The high stakes for talent retention are usually why most PMIs begin with determining everyone’s role in the new organization.
The Vendor Clock
The Vendor Clock counts down the opportunity to capture cost efficiencies. A common source of synergies is the consolidation of vendors and systems. The cost of two systems becomes the cost of one system, but beyond that obvious savings, the new company has greater bargaining power with vendors, due to the larger volume of the integrated company. The starting time on the Vendor Clock is usually higher than on the Employee Clock, but vendor and system integrations also take longer, leaving no time to delay.
Key points include:
- Source of funds
- Revenue synergies
- Customer churn
Red the full article, Post-merger integrations are racing against The 4 Clocks, on McCoy ConsultingGroup.com.
In this post, Bernie Heine identifies what the business community has learned from the Coronavirus pandemic.
We are all learning to live by the new rules in all aspects of our existence; we also realize what we can do.
For the past ten months, businesses all around the world have faced various challenges. Some have suffered terrible losses. However, others managed to emerge from the crisis more potent than ever – even without proper coaching. We continue to see how flexibility stands out as a prominent feature that often determines the fate of a company.
Many business lessons learned amid COVID-19 are here to stay, and that, it turns out, is a positive thing.
Agility Means SurvivalAs gamers will know, building a fighter’s agility is crucial in many fighting games. Strength, dexterity, and health are vital, but it’s agility that will determine whether you will beat or be beaten. It’s similar in business; flexibility will decide if you will sink or swim. During these turbulent times, it is of the utmost importance to have the ability to assess the situation instantaneously and have quick reflexes. Only then will you succeed in adapting to newly developed conditions and ensure survival.
The sudden explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic left many businesses with their back against the wall. They had to make the decision, and they had to make it fast. Were they going to try and adapt or close their door for the unforeseeable future? The rapidly changing business scene has forced many to get out of their comfort zones. In some cases, such actions have revealed the companies’ hidden weaknesses. The smart ones used the newly acquired information to their advantage, fixed the underlying issues, and got out of the gutter even stronger.
Key points include:
- Increasing the talent pool
- Fostering productivity
- The need for social interaction
Read the full post, 5 Business Lessons Learned amid COVID-19, on ProfessionalBusinessCoaches.com.
Priyanka Ghosh shares a case study on the strategic alignment of leadership teams.
In the course of driving a growth program for a family-owned European industrial manufacturer, it quickly became clear that the dysfunctional leadership team was a bottleneck to progress. Although the team was composed of capable individuals with impressive track records, the ten team members were unable to agree on a coherent strategy and continued to revisit the same issues. The various departments seemed poorly informed about business activities outside their siloes and they were particularly confused about how cross-functional decisions should be made. Gonzalo, the CEO, found himself in constantly firefighting to solve operational issues and placate disgruntled workers. Gonzalo approached ProMelior to bring order and efficiency to the leadership team before the growth program could go ahead.
ProMelior began by building a fact-base on how the leadership team was interacting. We explored three key questions:
How often did the team meet and what was the nature of the interaction?
The team was spread across several geographies and rarely met in person as a full group. In the scheduled twice-monthly meetings, there was frequently more than 30% absenteeism, even among phone participants. When the meetings did occur, they were mostly used to resolve operational issues that involved 2-3 groups but which were irrelevant to the majority of participants.
How were key decisions being made?
Important commercial decisions were usually made by Gonzalo, the CFO, and the Head of the largest Business Unit in ad hoc meetings that Gonzalo would typically convene. Decisions regarding operations, HR policies and other functional matters were usually made by the CEO and the relevant functional leader. Once decisions were made, they were rarely communicated in a structured manner across the leadership team, let alone across the organization.
How was strategy developed?
Most of the leadership team believed the company had no strategy. They understood a clear imperative from the top to growing existing revenues streams to achieve aggressive annual targets. However, there was no common understanding about how the organization was going to achieve these targets.
Access the case study, Strategic Alignment of Leadership Teams, on Promelier.co.uk.
Eric Hiller shares an article on the top mistakes made in product cost management and design to value.
Product cost management (PCM) and design-to-value (DtV) are two areas in companies capable of delivering the greatest of impact, but are sadly prone to the biggest blunders by leadership.
Eric A. Hiller, the managing partner of Hiller Associates and a specialist in product development and procurement, has unveiled some of the crucial errors that even the elite executives tend to commit in their PCM and DtV journeys.
Trying to save one’s way to growth
As great as product cost management and some of its sub disciplines like should-costing are at increasing your profit, but they will not grow your top line. To do that you’re going to need to focus on design-to-value. Make sure that you understand both the benefits and the limitations of these techniques.
Not understanding the massive leverage of COGS savings on margin
Cost of goods sold (COGS) is almost always the largest expense on the income statement of a product company. Often it is 70 to 90% of each dollar of revenue. People think of cost reductions in terms of big percentages (e.g. reducing product cost by 50%). That is one of the things that often scares people off from attempting such a transformation period, however you do not need to save massive percentages on cost of goods sold to meaningfully impact the bottom line People forget that margins at product companies are often thin, often less than 10%.
Key points covered include:
- Cost of goods sold (COGS)
- Cost avoidance
- Under investing
Read the full article, Eric A. Hiller Reviews Top Mistakes Made by Executive Champions in Product Cost Management and DtV, on Medium.
Jeremy Greenberg shares an article from his company’s website that examines the findings from a study on the challenges of the COVID-19 vaccine adoption.
- Half of participants say they are likely to take the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available
- Safety and minimizing side effects are the most important factors driving decisions
- Two thirds of those not likely to take the vaccine doubt its safety
- Women are more often the gatekeepers for households and are less likely to take the vaccine than men
- Over one third of doctors and nurses are not yet supportive of taking a COVID-19 vaccine
- Some do not consider their doctor’s recommendation important and are leery of new vaccines
- President-elect Joe Biden’s victory had a net positive impact on vaccination adoption
Several pharmaceutical companies have made significant progress in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, and are planning distribution for high priority segments of the U.S. population beginning in the next few weeks. While this is exciting news, it will take some time before a vaccine will be available for the general public – optimistically by April to June, 2021, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The findings reported include:
- Low expected adoption rates
- The confidence gap
- Women as the gatekeepers
Read the full article, New Study Identifies Challenges for COVID-19 Vaccine Adoption, on Avegroup.com.
Using the company Hoowaki as an example, David Summa shares an article that illustrates how business model innovations can drive new revenue streams.
In my last post, I wrote about business model innovations and how it can drive new revenue streams, especially in times of changing economic and cultural landscapes or declining performance. To help illustrate this point, I’d like to talk about a recent success with Hoowaki.
Hoowaki is a materials science company in South Carolina that for years has specialized in manipulating surface friction. They create novel surfaces that fall anywhere on the spectrum of slippery to grippy. Their business model generated revenue through paid R&D, followed by a promise of royalties once a product containing their technology reached market. However, many of their inventions, though remarkably better than what currently existed in the market, were not incorporated into a customer’s product. Only later did Hoowaki learn that they needed to help customers stand-up a supply chain in order to make their product, which may seem obvious today, but at the time wasn’t expected, nor did customers communicate this. As such, only half of the Hoowaki business model proved profitable.
In 2019, BMI began working with Ralph Hulseman and Hoowaki to upgrade its business model. We mined past work and identified application categories, mapped them on a value per square meter of material (high to low) and square meters per year (high to low). What emerged was an excellent roadmap for scaleup.
Key points in this article include:
- Incorporating inventions into a customer product
- Upgrading Hoowaki’s business model
- The success of flipping the business model
Read the full article, The Swab Opportunity: An Example of Business Model Innovation, on LinkedIn.
Caroline Taich shares a concise post and one key tip on how to improve your client services.
Are you getting ready to start a planning process?
I help my clients bring new ideas to life. To do this work well, I believe that it helps to know what it’s like to walk in client shoes. So when the arts organization where I am Board President was ready to write a strategic plan, I jumped at the chance to be the client. Here’s what I learned about how to make the most of your planning experience:
You must invest in it. Full stop. Your job as a leader on the strategic planning team is to listen; contribute; reflect; rinse & repeat. Unless you invest, you won’t get the full benefit. When I volunteer my perspective and say out loud what I value (e.g., “part of the purpose of a community arts organization should include making new friendships”) – I build ownership, pride and accountability for realizing it.
Write out your most important questions at the start, and make them as specific as possible. An ok question might be, “How can we have greater impact?” A better question is, “What are the three most important things we can offer our community that they can’t get anywhere else?”
You have to make the length of the planning process work for you. Planning can be done in as little as 1 day or as long as a year. Choose the timeline that allows you to wrestle with the data and your vision – but not so long that you get lost in the process.
Key points in this article include:
- Strategic planning tips
- Building ownership
- Question planning
Access the article, On Being a Client, on the Kirtland Consulting website.
Tobias Baer shares an article on the latest Google news and the regulation of Big Tech. He explores the impact of Google’s algorithms on e-commerce and the commercialization of the internet.
In spite of its limited scope, the DOJ’s antitrust complaint against Google already highlights three fundamental issues of e-commerce and the commercialization of the internet. The first is about industrial organization – how to create a digital market structure that isn’t monopolized through natural network and scale effects? The second issue is the bundling of services especially in areas where due to information asymmetry, consumers don’t see the true cost of their decisions (as they pay with their data) and hence are highly vulnerable to exploitation. The third issue is the important role of design as a key trigger of human behavior – an aspect where governments still are playing catch-up with the latest insights of psychology and behavioral economics.
Before offering two specific solutions to the problem, I want to briefly explain these three issues.
Monopolization of e-commerce
The DOJ’s allegations of anticompetitive behavior is the latest evidence that the internet, rather than democratizing seller and buyer relationships and giving more power to consumers by getting rid of the “middle man”, has enabled the creation of powerful new quasi-monopolies. Such creation of dominating platforms is driven not only by network effects (e.g., just as we benefit from everyone speaking the same language, it also benefits us to communicate through the same channel or app) but also because of an inherent need for risk management, as I’ve argued in an earlier article. I learned already in Industrial Organization 101 that in such situations regulations need to create a market structure protecting a balance of forces between sellers and buyers – sadly my teacher did not explain exactly how to do this for the internet (which back then was in its infancy)!
Key points include:
- The high cost of bundling
- The psychology of design
- A regulated code of conduct
Read the full article, What Google’s antitrust lawsuit means, on LinkedIn.
Daune Capuano shares a whitepaper on how to turn your technology and strategic goals into action.
Does your association struggle with data trapped in an outdated association management platform that does not interact with your current systems and restricts your organization’s ability to implement new software for new products and services ?
Are you concerned that your current Learning Management System (LMS) has become antiquated and cannot add new features such as webinars and classes using stream video technology ? Are you considering making some or all of the sessions from your conferences available online?
Sound familiar? It’s no secret that to stay relevant and grow revenue levels, associations must utilize new technologies that engage their key audiences and deliver information and services in new ways. Yet many associations suffer from an internal struggle to find the intersection between strategy and technology.
Points covered in this article include:
- Conduct vendor research
- Executing a request for proposal process
- Negotiating contracts
Download the full whitepaper, 8 Steps for Navigating Successful Technology Projects, from the Success Roads Consulting website.
In this article for Industry Week, Dan Markovitz explains how the current pandemic provides an opportunity to move forward with value stream mapping.
At some point, the COVID pandemic will pass, whether that’s due to a vaccine, a two-minute test, or herd immunity. But if you want to thrive in the post-COVID world, you’ve got to start working on operational improvements now. After all, if you’re walking to the starting line while your competitors are already settled into the blocks, you’ll never catch up. Value stream mapping is the tool that will help you become faster and more nimble—both now, and in the World 2.0.
What Is Value Stream Mapping?
Value stream maps (VSMs) show both the material and the information flow in any kind of end-to-end process such as order to cash, or new product introduction. By revealing the handoffs, the delays, and the defects within and between processes, they act as an X-ray into the otherwise invisible workings of your operations, enabling you to address long-hidden problems that make your organization slow and unresponsive.
Key points include:
- Selling and Merchandising
- Picking, Packing, and Shipping
- Key VSM Terms
Read the full article, COVID: A Golden Opportunity to Move Forward, on Industryweek.com.
Anna Engstromer shares an article on the management of external services, specifically, BPO transactions.
Consequences of poorly managed services are like chronic diseases: spreading its consequences little-at-a-time over vast areas – like customer service, availability, performance and speed of delivery – slowly building awareness for the problem but not considered as such until something breaks, or stops.
Much of any organization’s cost is external. How significant it is and how it breaks down by categories vary across sector and organization. Most organizations buy a significant volume of services through Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). The creation of such outsourcing usually gets proper resource allocation and management attention. The initial operating period typically gets it too, especially if much is at stake or if implementation success is part of managers objectives.
But what about the continued management of external services? Typical BPO transactions have a life of several years. The process to source services is so complex it is a tempting option to extend services through renewal rather than to launch a new strategic sourcing process. Many BPO contracts go on being poorly managed, from the client side, for several years. Who notices this and raises the flag? Consequences of poorly managed services are like chronic diseases: spreading its consequences little-at-a-time over vast areas – like customer service, availability, performance and speed of delivery – slowly building awareness for the problem but not considered as such until something breaks, or stops. Since there is rarely one single cause for problems, the work to un-nestle third party contract management is hard. The people who do it are not always prepared for it, nor are they consistently understood and rewarded.
Key points in this article include:
- Elements of good contract management
- Vendor-led Conversation
- Contract fatigue
Read the full article, Why an A-Team to Do BPO Vendor Management, on Engstromer.com.
Robyn M. Bolton shares why a business should always engage in customer research when innovating and explains why she doesn’t always follow her own advice.
If you’re innovating without involving your customers, you’re wasting time and money.
I believe this so deeply that I require all of my clients to spend time talking with and listening to their customers at least once during our work together. Investing in customer research, I explain, is the single smartest and best investment that any business can make. Just 5 or 10 customer conversations can dramatically alter the course of an initiative, positioning it for incredible success or killing it before too much time, energy, and money is wasted.
Understanding your customers, especially through Jobs to be Done, is the hill I will die on.
But I actively resist doing this for my business.
The idea of interviewing my customers, or investing to understand their Jobs to be Done, or altering aspects of my business based on their feedback triggers a cold sweat and a very real flight response.
So why is my business different? (It’s not)
Why am I such a customer research hypocrite?
Here are the thoughts that run through my head when I consider talking to my own customers:
I’m supposed to be the expert in this, what if they tell me something I haven’t thought of?
What if my customers say they don’t like or want what I’m doing and would like or want something I’m not?
What if I do try something new and it fails?
It is SO much easier, and it feels so much safer, to keep doing what I’m doing because it’s what I’ve always done and it’s what bigger and more “successful” firms do.
Key points in this article include:
- Why am I such a customer research hypocrite?
- How do we overcome these emotional barriers?
- How do we overcome the fear and take action?
Read the full article, Confessions of a Customer Research Hypocrite, on Milezero.com.
Barry Horwitz shares a post that explores how the pandemic has spurred accelerated decision-making and action-taking strategies in ecommerce.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience…
You call your doctor’s office for an appointment because the nagging pain in your foot, back, or some other body part, isn’t getting any better. They say, “Of course, how’s Tuesday at 10am?” The difference now, though, is that Tuesday’s appointment will be virtual — held via a secure video conferencing link.
Is it the same experience as going into the office? No. But, depending upon your particular ailment, it’s surprisingly effective, much more convenient, and less expensive for all concerned.
Interestingly, it took a worldwide pandemic for telehealth applications — long explored but little used — to increase from very limited to nearly 100% in some services.
This is just one example. Over the past six months, many long-evolving trends have suddenly accelerated. Indeed, McKinsey notes that we have accomplished ten years’ worth of ecommerce penetration growth in just three months.
Something else has accelerated in recent months: the pace of decision making within organizations. Apparel companies, seeing a sudden shift in the market, altered production from shirts to masks. Full-service restaurants that had never before offered takeout, were suddenly rolling out online ordering, delivery and curb-side pickup.
In industry after industry, things which would normally take months were being accomplished within weeks, or even days.
Key points in the post include:
- Ecommerce penetration growth
- Proctor and Gamble’s response to toilet paper shortage
- How homegrown methodologies can hamper growth
Read the full article, The Pandemic’s (Positive) Impact on Urgency, on Horwitzandco.com.
For all who are working with Microsoft Office 365, Hugo Bernier has provided a series of posts to help navigate the software. In this post, he explains how to work with rules in Microsoft Lists.
Over the last few years, Microsoft has done an amazing job at modernizing SharePoint.
It used to be that the first question my clients would ask me when I would start a new engagement was “How can we make SharePoint not look like SharePoint?”.
Now, most engagements start with “How can we make our old SharePoint sites look more like the new SharePoint sites?”.
That’s a testament to the hard work of folks at Microsoft. They’ve changed how you edit SharePoint pages and sites to make it easier for everyone to quickly design beautiful content.
But lists in SharePoint have not changed at the same pace. Sure, they got a slightly updated look and feel (well, some lists, anyway), but they were still not easily approachable for every user.
With Microsoft Lists, Microsoft seems to be doing to Lists what the SharePoint team did to pages. They are modernizing them and making them much easier to use for everyone.
They’re still lists behind the scenes, but they’re no longer relegated to being hidden in a site somewhere. They’re becoming first-class citizens in Microsoft 365, crossing the boundaries of SharePoint, Groups, and Teams.
I already covered the lists templates, but in today’s post, I’ll explain how you can easily build rules to notify someone, and how rules will continue to evolve to do a lot more.
Key points covered in this article include:
- Creating a rule
- Editing a rule
- Why put rules under automate?
Access the full article, Working with Rules in Microsoft Lists, on the Tahoe Ninjas website.
Access this resource from Gaelle Lamotte’s company on how to improve your ability to execute strategies by integrating development and planning, driving focus and alignment.
How often do you win with your strategy?
Strategy development is useful for defining ambitions and long term goals. A good strategy is only as good as the capability to implement it and how well it delivers the desired outcome.
Various research concludes:
Organisations on average realise only 50-63% of the financial performance promised by their strategies.
Others suggest that the figure is in fact less than 30%.
Regardless of the data reviewed, it is not good news!
Failure to execute is often a result of poor understanding, and disjointed planning and governance processes.
Key points include:
- Identification of weak governance processes
- Build in-house capability for aligning Operational Plans and Budget with the Strategy
- The dynamic strategy management approach
Access the full PDF, Improve your ability to execute your strategies, from the Strategy Management Partners’ website.
Sara Conte shares an article from the company archives that identified the increase in the use of expert networks with projections reaching into 2022.
Investors and others are increasingly utilizing expert networks like Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) and AlphaSites to instantly get answers to key questions. It’s like calling a friend in the business, but these calls are highly regulated to ensure compliance with confidentiality requirements. The results are quick and actionable – particularly when paired with analysis on trends and market data (SGC Ventures provides this service).
Bloomberg published this article, “Investors Are Paying $1,300 Per Hour for ‘Expert’ Chats (click here)” earlier in the year, describing the process and its growing popularity. A few excerpts are included below.
Experts On Demand
Research spending on expert networks to soar past $1 billion in coming years. Now that banks have stopped giving equity research for free under a new European Union law, some money managers are opting instead to spend their cash speaking with experts in fields as trendy as artificial intelligence or as niche as sausage packaging.
Included in this article:
- Projections graph
- Increasing fees
- Link to resource
Read the full article, Investors Are Utilizing Experts At Increasing Rates, on the SGC Ventures website.
Charity: water’s MZ Goodman joins Robbie Kellman Baxter to share how she is applying subscription model best practices to a nonprofit. They discuss how MZ leverages content marketing and digital community strategies developed in her work at The New York Times to build a donation-based subscription model, how they’ve leveraged a single 20-minute video to raise millions, and how to think about a Forever Promise in the context of engaging donors.
Welcome to the show. It’s your host, Robbie Kellman Baxter sharing subscription stories with you. Today’s guest is MZ Goodman. MZ is a true innovator, bringing the best practices of subscription, engagement, and brand from her work at The New York Times, Ralph Lauren, Glossier, and goop, to charity: water, a nonprofit that provides clean water to people in developing nations. The organization has been phenomenally successful by taking a different approach to fundraising. The 14 year old organization has raised over 450 million dollars. Join us as MZ shares the secrets of charity: water’s success and how to bring these principles to any organization. Welcome to the show, MZ.
‘Hi, Robbie, thanks so much for having me.’
‘Now your title at Charity: water, can you tell me what your title is?’
‘Sure. So I’m SVP of Subscription.’
‘That is not a title that I’m used to hearing at nonprofit.’
‘How did that happen? And what is a subscription to a nonprofit?’
‘I think it was, leadership was incredibly smart when they decided to pivot the business at the nonprofit in this direction, in that our COO, Lauren Letta, who’s incredibly visionary, she was already evaluating whether it made sense to create a subscriptions team focused on a North Star metric of predictive revenue so as to enable significant growth across the organization. And our model is very complicated. But it took a lot of moving parts. So it was a very intentional move on the part of leadership to create a cross-functional team focused on a North Star goal of building membership and growing recurring revenue.
Key points covered in this podcast include:
- Why a mission is the most important factor for attracting subscribers
- The importance of building a brand based on quality over charisma
- Ways for nonprofits to allow members to remain active without opening their checkbooks
- MZ’s advice for product leaders who want to transition to the nonprofit world
- The differences between building a community at a news company, a make-up company, and a nonprofit
Listen to the full conversation, Subscription Stories, Charity:Water, on RobbieKellmanBaxter.com.
Discover practical inventory management tips that can help your business grow in this post on Carlos Castelan’s company blog.
For any products-based business, it’s hard to overstate the importance of inventory management. Not only does effective inventory management help you to evaluate the state of your business and reveal various roadblocks to your success, but it also helps you to keep operations running smoothly and ensure that your customers stay happy. And when your business is growing quickly, it becomes even more vital. As we talk to customers of all sizes, we have heard several themes -that’s why we’ve provided these inventory management tips for flourishing businesses:
Use Up-to-Date Software
One common mistake made by many companies is that they continue to use inventory management methods and/or software long after it has become obsolete. And it usually comes down to costs.
But as The Houston Chronicle’s website Chron explains, using archaic inventory management contributes to a host of problems that end up costing your company much more money than the price of quality, up-to-date software. Digitized tracking allows better forecasting, reduces errors, improves customer service, and enhances efficiency. Research the market, and you will likely find a number of cost-effective options that can transform your inventory management practices.
Key tips in this article include:
- Improve your forecasting
- Stick to FIFO
- Audit your stock efficiently
- Check your products
Read the full article, Is Your Business Growing? Consider These Practical Inventory Management Tips, on the Navio Group website.
Barry Horwitz explains how confirmation bias hurts business and provides key tips on how to identify and avoid falling into the confirmation bias trap.
I’m often reminded of a line from Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, in which a character is asked how he went bankrupt. His answer: “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
When dealing with change (bankruptcy-related or otherwise), there are often warning signs along the way — gradual shifts that are easy to dismiss as temporary or not yet consequential, until one day, abruptly, they arrive.
The point is that sudden threats to organizations are rarely truly sudden. The signs were there, but they were missed.
We’ve all heard of the examples: The streetcar company that didn’t appreciate the advent of cars; Kodak sticking with film until it was much too late (despite the fact that it was a Kodak engineer who invented the digital camera); Blockbuster turning down the opportunity to buy a struggling Netflix for a mere $50 million in 2000.
And yet, it keeps happening. Partly because our view of the world is a function of what we believe to be important. Blockbuster, for example, assumed that “movie night” was its main offer – the ability to pop into a store and instantly have a movie whenever you felt like it. Waiting two days for the mail to arrive seemed like an inferior alternative. As it turned out, Netflix, not Blockbuster, was the one to anticipate streaming as the next, best iteration.
Whatever the specifics, the human tendency to embrace evidence that supports our pre-conceived notions and dismiss that which does not (“confirmation bias”), can lead us to ignore the weak signals of change until it’s far too late.
So, how do we avoid getting caught in this trap? There are a few ways…
Key points identified in this post include:
- Checking your assumptions
- Listening to your constituents
- Keeping an eye on trends and results
Read the full article, Is Confirmation Bias Hurting Your Business?, on the Horwitz and Company website.
Robyn M. Bolton takes a lesson learned from a fairy tale to illustrate truths.
I love stories. When I was a kid, my parents would literally give me a book and leave me places while they ran errands. They knew that, as long as I was reading, I wouldn’t be moved.
But there was one story I hated – The Emperor’s New Clothes
I hated it because it made absolutely no sense. It was a story of adults being stupid and a kid being smart, and, to a (reasonably) well-behaved kid, it was absolutely unbelievable.
No adult would try to sell something that doesn’t exist, like the clothiers did with the cloth. No adult would say they could see something they couldn’t, like the Emperor and the townspeople did. Adults, after all, don’t play at imagination.
As a kid, this story seemed completely wild and unrealistic.
As an adult, this story is so true that it hurts.
The truth of this story touches so many things and innovation is at the top of the list.
I’ve spent my career working in innovation working within large companies and as an advisor to them. I know what executives, like the emperor, request. I’ve said what the consultants say to sell their wares. I believed all of it.
Now I need to be the kid and point out some of the lies, as I see them.
Lies identified in this article include:
Lie #1: Companies can disrupt themselves
Lie #2: If companies act like VCs, they’ll successfully innovate
Lie #3: We can pivot our way to success
Read the full article, The Innovator has No Clothes: Innovation’s 3 Great Lies, on the Mile Zero website.
Ravi Rao was recently interviewed on the podcast The Why Word where he explains how businesses can become emotionally healthier places to work, and reap the benefits of a happier, motivated, and more productive workforce.
Humans survive because we care about each other, because we are connected to each other, because we are so aware of each other. The challenge with something like the COVID virus, and SARS, too, is that we have even diminished the, if you will, socially acceptable ways that touch occurs for adults; handshakes, hugs, pats on the back, high fives. These kinds of things now represent public health danger. Sometimes when someone says to me, ‘Hey, I’ve got a lot of great content. I can’t figure out how to put it in a presentation, that’s gripping.’ I always say, ‘How would you do it as a play? How would you tell that story if it was in the form of an anecdote?’
Points covered in this podcast include:
- How Ravi made the jump from neuroscience to acting to management consulting at McKinsey
- The scientific approach to emotion
- The emotional impact on business
Listen to the full podcast, Emotional Business, on YouTube.
Robbie Kellman Baxter shares a podcast from her new series, Subscription Stories – True Tales from the Trenches. This week, she is in conversation with Brad Handler, vacation entrepreneur. They discuss his affordable business model, the integration of membership and subscription into the luxury travel service, and more.
I’m Robbie Kellman Baxter. Today’s subscription story belongs to Brad Handler. He and his brother, Brent Handler, are vacation entrepreneurs who are incorporating membership and subscription in some really novel ways. Brad has done a lot of different things over his career, first as an engineer at Apple, then as an attorney at a top Silicon Valley law firm, then at eBay as their first in-house counsel from 1997 to 2001. But he is best known for his innovation in the world of destination travel clubs. The Handlers launched Exclusive Resorts in 2002. More recently, they have been building Inspirato, a membership model which also has introduced a subscription option.
‘I walked into a little dorm fridge and a tiny little bar sink and my wife turned to me and said: ‘shut up or solve this problem.’ So we spent the rest of that vacation week solving the problem.’- Brad Handler
We’ll talk about how to package value for subscriptions and determine the right price and features and what he learned as a Silicon Valley insider that has informed his work in rethinking the travel industry. And finally, we’ll discuss the unique benefits and challenges of working with your family.
Areas of interest include:
- Using technology to pull ahead of competitors
- Subscription vs membership business models
- Inspirato’s most important metrics
- How data collection can transform and improve customer experience
- How Inspirato is structured for profitability
Listen to the full podcast, Inspirato’s Brad Handler on Revamping a Thousand Year Old Industry, on robbiekellmanbaxter.com
Nils Boeffel explains what can go wrong with a digital strategy and shares tips on how to develop a successful digital strategy.
Everyone is talking about digitalization, but many people and organizations get it wrong. To them it means throwing technology at things, hoping that they will get better. What is it really, what does it mean, and how do you think about it and implement it?
Last year I led a digitalization workshop at a company where they were looking to increase their digitization efforts. They recognized the need to move ahead (mainly due to changing market demands and the competitive situation), had several topics already under way, and wanted to “speed things up.” During the workshop it turned out that many things were already being done in different parts of the organization, that there was no central digital strategy, that the digitization was not integrated with their overall corporate strategy, and that the initiatives were taking longer than planned, and not providing the expected benefits.
How could they do it better, and what would it take to successfully define a digital strategy and implement digitalization?
Points covered in this article include:
- Three key roles in digitalization
- Phases of digital strategy
- Questions to ask
Read the full article, Digital Strategy or Digital Disaster – how to develop a successful digital strategy, on his company website.
The power of writing a list should never be forgotten. Luiz Zorzella has compiled a six-point list of tools and approaches that improve efficiency.
If you ever thought:
‘Hmmm… wouldn’t it be nice if I had a one-pager list of the tools that people use to improve process efficiency?’
Then today is your lucky day!
I have listed below my compilation of the main tools and approaches I found which other executives and consultants use to directly or indirectly process efficiency.
And, even though this list is not exhaustive, I have never found anything more useful than it to make sure you are not overlooking anything important.
By the way: if you see anything missing, please send me a note and I will be happy to include it in the next edition of this list.
The six areas of efficiency on this list include:
- Managing demand
- Organization alignment
- Value creation
Read the full article, 6 ITEMS FOR YOUR EFFICIENCY LAUNDRY LIST, on the Amquant website.
Eli Diament’s company has recently released a comprehensive report on how the current pandemic has affected business, including a summary of findings from their national survey of Americans, executives, business owners and business decision makers.
Azurite Consulting recently surveyed 3,500 Americans , in partnership with PeakProsperity.com – to capture a unique view of COVID-19’s impact on spending, hiring and business decision making. This is the second survey in a longitudinal study, capturing the granular impacts of Covid-19 and paths forward. We plan to continue the study, with the next ‘data point’ survey in Q3, 2020. The original research is available here.
This article highlights a subset of the major research findings, but is only a portion of the total findings.
The contents of the report include:
- Business Outlook: Slow L-Shaped recovery
- Permanent Layoffs: Fewer Employees Will be Hired Back
- Business Cutting Expense: Projected to Continue Through 2020
- Digital Tools: Their Impact on Jobs and Work-Life Balance
- Working From Home: Is it Permanent?
- People & Business Geographic Migration
- Returning to the Office and School
- Daily Activities: How Long Will People Wait to Return?
- Changes in Spending & Time: Millennials Driving Spend
- Returning to Daily Activities: Broken Out by Activity Type
Download the full report, Impact of Covid-19 On Business Decision Making, Spending & Recovery – JULY 2020, from the Azurite Consulting website.
Geoff Wilson asks the questions that make you think about your business strategy post COVID-19, identifies what you should focus on, and explains how you should move forward.
Hey, you there…the guy or gal with the life you always wanted. How does it feel?
You are working from home. Your computer screen has become your window into the world. And, you have realized that it is, in fact, possible to pack more meetings into a day if you just sit still and do everything by videoconference.
But, how’s your business? I mean, really, how is your BUSINESS?
I don’t mean how many COVID-19 cases do you have. I don’t mean how many furloughs, shutdowns, or capacity reductions do you have. I don’t mean how much stimulus cash you were able (or not able) to borrow. And, I certainly don’t mean how much sales have decreased (or, if you are lucky, increased) over the past couple of months. Those are interesting, good coffee chat items.
But they are the items in the spotlight. And, the spotlight in this case is searing. Everything–and I mean everything–is being cast in terms of the effects of COVID-19. Media coverage grasps at straws for something new after months of exhausting coverage and in doing so pulls ever more anecdotal evidence onto center stage. Statistics that we never knew existed (well, ok, some of us knew what an R0 was, but only kind of) are now part of the national discourse. And, yes, your employee base is focused on these same things.
But what about what’s happening with your business outside of the spotlight? How are you thinking about that? Because that’s really what you need to focus on.
Points covered in this article include:
- Shocks in the system
- Second-order effects
- The Uber example
Read the full article, The great strategic “wreck-oning”, on the Wilson Growth Partners website.
Lin Giralt shares findings from a Evalusys and Lambda study of over 600 small and medium sized enterprises in the U.S., covering ten categories, including results on: human resource management, business exit readiness, innovation processes and capabilities, and quality of business processes.
What Evalusys and Lambda have learned about US Small and Medium Sized Enterprises [SME’s]
Summary of Results from over 600 Business Evaluations indicates that improvements in Sales Management [98%] and Strategic Business Planning [94%] are the Categories that lead top managers’ and owners’ areas of action. In terms of specific points of action, the Innovation Category had the top three most important actions mentioned: “Company does not have the right metrics and incentives to support a culture of innovation,” [72%]; “Management is not satisfied with their ability to leverage open innovation,” [66%]; and “Management is not satisfied with the rate of new product development,” [64%].
On the other hand, most SME’s were content with their Overall Business Processes, Supervisory Practices and Human Resources Management.
In addition to metrics, this article includes:
- Topline conclusions
- Discussion of results
- Examination of the data
- Conclusions and further considerations
Read the full article, What Evalusys and Lambda have learned about US Small and Medium Sized Enterprises [SME’s], on LinkedIn.
As more consultants rely on video conferencing to connect with clients, David A. Fields shares timely, tractable, and tongue-in-cheek tips on how to avoid common mistakes that are all too often made.
Are there video call-specific rules of etiquette? Of course.
Remember the old days, when people left their houses? Consultants would frequently travel thousands of miles, sardined next to strangers (crazy, right?).
Even then, your consulting firm’s best, everyday outreach tool was your telephone.
However, in the modern, no-travel era, video calls have become totally acceptable and quite common.
Video calls are far more effective than the phone for building relationships with your consulting firm’s clients, prospects, influencers and partners.
As noted in this article, you’ll benefit from quickly moving email and phone conversations to video.
However, video calls do come with some risks and behavior changes.
For instance, when you were on a phone call and the other person was talking, you could sneak in a quick bite of your lunch (or one, entire Krispy Kreme donut).
On a video call, you tell your contact that you see a tarantula dangling behind them, then quickly scarf your box of donuts while you’re watching the other person shriek and flail. (Later in the conversation you can mention how much you like their pajama bottoms.)
Obviously, a quick review of avoidable video call faux pas is in order.
- Visual disconnection
- Audio fails
- Hot mic/camera
- Unhappy endings
Read the full article, “10 Common, Avoidable Mistakes Consultant’s Make on Video Calls,” on David’s website.
During times of crises leaders must make the tough decisions, but choosing the right way to go is not always clear cut. Zaheera Soomar identifies three practical approaches to serve as guidelines for ethical decision-making.
During a recent conversation with a senior executive, she expressed a sentiment that many of us share: “When the pandemic has passed, I want to be able to say that, at the hardest of times, I did my best to do the right thing”. During this pandemic, leaders are expected to make difficult decisions with far-reaching consequences.
Ethical decision-making becomes even more important in times of crisis.
Leaders are constantly faced with ethical decisions, with all of the challenges associated with meeting the expectations of various stakeholders – investors, employees, customers, partners, regulators, local communities, and society at large. These decisions are rarely simple, bringing together financial considerations with deep-rooted beliefs about the right thing to do: Costco’s raising of its minimum wage, Woolworths’ decision to get out of liquor and gambling and Salesforce’s decision to bar certain firearms companies from using its services all represent tough decisions informed by ethics and values. Leaders must make decisions with limited knowledge, predicting their impact, and have confidence and trust that the compromises and trade-offs are the right ones.
Included in this article:
- Align your decisions with your purpose
- Follow agreed and actionable principles
- Prioritise and plan your decisions and actions
Read the full article, Making Good Decisions in times of Crisis, on the Principia website.
David A. Fields identifies benefits consulting firms should focus on during this time of crisis.
There are so many voices fixated on the disaster unfolding around us, that you could easily be swept into a torrent of anxiety, fear and panic.
In truth, there is real reason for concern and you absolutely should heed the direction of medical leaders. At the same time, you and your consulting firm will benefit from a healthy dose of positive perspective.
If you ferociously cling to positive thought patterns while chaos is swirling around you, you and your consulting firm can maintain a clear head and promote forward progress.
Fortunately, there are many realistic, reliable reasons for you to feel upbeat.
Eight thought-starters are listed below, and I’ve left two spots open for you to fill in—one more than usual, because I know the entire consulting community will benefit from your inspiring thoughts.
Read the full article, 10 Positive Facts Your Consulting Firm Should Obsess over During this Crisis, on David’s blog.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Richard Cho with Growing Abundance Mindsets. Through his time at Gartner, Bridgewater, and McKinsey Richard developed a set of tools, frameworks and practices that have been adapted from leading business thinkers and applied across multiple Fortune 500 company teams to successfully drive new initiatives.
Often times technology problems are usually business engagement problems, and he has a track record of getting these initiatives on track. Richard is passionate about building world-class cross-functional digital teams that go after big goals by developing a culture of meaningful trust-based relationships and continuous learning.