Vantage Blog

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29
Jul
2015

Choicelessness – the scourge of business today

Insights and Tips from Roger Martin’s Sydney Playing to Win Seminar...Effective and successful strategy is all about making choices – what are you choosing to do and what are you explicitly deciding not to do. Based on Roger Martin and AG Lafley’s “Playing to Win” strategy framework, first developed within Proctor & Gamble, I have written before how effective this simple set of 5 questions is in developing and challenging strategy. Click here for an overview of the framework. Click here to download image of model.


On Friday July 23, together with 200 other business people, I was really pleased to be able to spend the day with Roger Martin. Roger has been ranked as one of the top 3 business thinkers of our time on the Thinkers50 list, a biannual ranking of the most influential global business thinkers. During the workshop he expanded on his framework and some of his thinking. His approach to the workshop, and how he interacts as a presenter, is a great example of Playing to Win in action – clear, concise and incredibly insightful.

I took away a number of ideas, insights and tips to help us all deliver more effective strategy…here’s a few of them:

  1. Be Truly Distinctive. I notice that often people really battle to make truly distinctive choices on where and how they will play. It’s hard to argue that, say, being ‘customer focussed’ is not a good thing, but is it a powerful choice? Roger’s suggestion was to challenge each of your choices with questions such as “what would be the opposite of that choice?” and “ if someone else chose the opposite could it be effective and make money?”. For instance in the ‘customer focussed’ example what does not being customer focussed look like? It’s surely a hygiene factor today given successful strategy builds from deep customer insight.

  2. Make Real Choices. I often refer to the saying that there is no such thing as commodity products, just commodity marketers! The workshop gave me another angle on this one. To Roger, choicelessness is the scourge of modern business. For many companies their lack of making real choices has aggregated at an industry level and resulted in commoditisation. As a result the key driver becomes price. Benchmarking and offer matching ramps this up further. Real innovation is needed by forward thinking companies to break out of such a cycle.

  3. Shrink the Where. Instead of trying to cover multiple sectors, as part of your where to play choices, be deep and narrow. For instance target a dominant market share in a smaller group of sectors (and get the value benefit of being the leader). The need in some industries for scale or throughput may make that a challenge. However can that be achieved by having a two tier approach – i.e. sectors where you really play to win and gain competitive advantage, plus others where you just ‘play to play’, structuring your offer and costs to fit.

  4. Low Cost or Cost Equivalent. As Michael Porter’s seminal work identified you have to pick one. But which one? If you think you are low cost are you really? To Martin the real challenge was are you really not much more than just cost equivalent not low cost? That is, in his experience, the case in the majority of cases. He did point to P&G who, for instance, do have a scale benefit in the laundry detergent category but their investment decisions are based on maintaining differentiation as their core competitive advantage.

  5. The Innovation Challenge. Roger outlined a compelling view that the lack of real innovation in business is, in large part, due to the dominance of analytical thinking (e.g. making decisions, or not, based on an over reliance on numbers, analysis of lag data etc.) as the prime paradigm in business today. As analysis is invariably based on what has happened in the past, any performance improvement is incremental at best. In fact in some instances I believe this results in ‘paralysis by analysis’ and no innovation. His view is that this needs to be balanced with a focus on intuitive thinking (e.g. exploring what might be true, using judgement and EQ). To do that you need to accept and value 'judgement' as a critical business discipline because you can’t always access ‘proof’ via analysis. This balancing of analytical and intuitive thinking is the foundation of ‘Design Thinking’. This is expanded on in his book “Design of Business”; next on my reading list and suggest it should be on yours too.

  6. The Execution Trap. In his view the delineation between strategy and execution is a false one and, in fact, quite damaging. Every well functioning and successful organisation should be making choices at every level in what they do to deliver for their customers (internal and external). For instance, if you are a retailer where style and fashion are key to your strategic position the ‘choices’ sales staff make every day in serving customers will reflect how they interact – their level of advice on styling, their ability to proactively make outfit recommendations, how they themselves dress and present etc. Of course different levels of the organisation will be responsible for making appropriate strategy choices aligned to their level of insight and span of control. Strategy and execution are thus one and the same.

  7. Leadership Balance. He was asked about leadership in the context of strategy and choices and, whilst he certainly didn’t position himself as an expert, he had an interesting view. For him, great leaders are able to balance advocacy and inquiry. Advocacy is all about prosecuting your point of view, attempting to persuade others to your path. Inquiry comes from a different perspective – its based on genuine curiosity to find another way and to understand other’s perspective. It’s in the interplay that great strategic choices can be made. I think it is also heavily linked to the innovation challenge referred to above. Here’s a simple test: challenge yourself – what’s your ratio of advocating for a position versus inquiring to better understand (and advocating by questioning is just a wolf in sheep’s clothing!)? I think he probably has quite compelling views on leadership but that wasn't the focus for the day.

  8. Making Time for Thinking. We have more information and data than we know what to do with (in a meaningful way) but spend less time thinking than ever. I agree! And being ‘busy’ has become the new currency for many executives. This has created a viscous cycle as busyness becomes the excuse for not having time to think…and so it continues.

He also gave an insight to his current research project “Talent and the Future of Democratic Capitalism”; he is two years into a five-year journey. Fascinating and will keenly watch as it unfolds -but that’s a story for another day!

As you can see lots of thought provoking insights and ideas – and simple to apply in the strategy choices we all make in our businesses.

by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing.
This article is linked to James' Google+ profile

Insights and Tips from Roger Martin’s Sydney Playing to Win Seminar...Effective and successful strategy is all about making choices – what are you choosing to do and what are you explicitly deciding not to do. Based on Roger Martin and AG Lafley’s “Playing to Win” strategy framework, first developed within Proctor & Gamble, I have written before how effective this simple set of 5 questions is in developing and challenging strategy. Click here for an overview of the framework. Click here to download image of model. ..

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27
May
2015

Vantage May 2015 Newsletter Out Now

A new model for determining the probability of change success in a business was released recently. The model was developed based on extensive research and identifies ten factors, grouped into 3 major categories, that drive successful change in businesses - Change Readiness, Capability and Beliefs.


This is a breakthrough model in helping organisations boost their probability of change success from a default 30% to a much higher rate. This obviously will then flow through to savings in cost, time, people and lost opportunities.

To view the model and watch a short video click here.

Also in this edition:

We hope you find something of interest. Please feel free to contact us to discuss how any of these issues may impact your business.

A new model for determining the probability of change success in a business was released recently. The model was developed based on extensive research and identifies ten factors, grouped into 3 major categories, that drive successful change in businesses - Change Readiness, Capability and Beliefs. ..

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12
May
2015

How will these 5 Global Megatrends Trends impact your business?

Simon McKeon, the CSIRO Chair, recently spoke about five megatrends impacting the world over the next few decades. 

The five megatrends he spoke about were
  1. The aging population
  2. The economic shift from east to west
  3. Declining biodiversity
  4. Technological connectivity, and
  5. The rising demand for experiences over goods

These megatrends are great reference points for every organisation to consider in its strategic planning. They can help stretch your thinking beyond the challenges and demands of today.

The question to ask is - how well placed is your organisation to leverage and/or de-risk your future based on these megatrends?

From a business perspective here are some thought starters:

The aging population - In McKeon’s view the trend with the biggest relevance to Australia is the change in demographics given our fast aging population. We are clearly seeing some sectors – health, aged care, housing – already tailoring offers to make the most of this shift. It’s worth considering how could you target this increasing segment? Are there variations or new versions of your products or services that could better meet their needs?

Also, how are you delivering today to an older segment? At a very tactical level I do wonder about some marketers who insist on 8 point font in their material for products that clearly are targeted at the over 50’s! Is this the result of Gen Y’s marketing to themselves (in error)?

The economic shift from east to west – Being situated in the same time zone and proximity to Asia is clearly a big opportunity and challenge both economically and socially. If not already exposed to this shift the first stage for most organisations, in my view, is to start by gaining greater cultural awareness, not jumping to ‘what can I sell’. Whilst that is the end game, just as in any type of market segmentation, the first phase is to understand the needs and drivers of the segment. Yes it’s a huge opportunity but what segments or groups are you going to be able to best target and why would they value your offer? The road to the east is already littered by failures large and small – more haste, less speed!

Declining biodiversity – Clearly this a broad societal challenge that we all as individuals need to consider. If you would like to know more about how an organisation I am involved with – Greening Australia - is working in practical ways to reverse this trend click here.

Nevertheless there are biodiversity and environmental issues all organisations need to be clear on in terms of their sustainability and footprint, now and into the future. And of course there are niche commercial opportunities to deliver value to organisations that are at the pointy end of having to manage and adjust to this challenge.

Technological connectivity

– The key outcome of increasing technological connectivity, is in my view, the digital disruption to many business models. Deloitte have developed a really useful model (Big Bang, Short Fuse) that classifies many industries on impact and timeframe. Click here to read more.


Digital disruption is the area many businesses ignore when in fact they just need to look back only ten years to see the impact. No longer do ‘rivers of gold’ flow from print media classified advertising. Book retailing is now dominated by online ordering or digital downloads. A good way to think about this is to look at each part of the value chain your business operates in and challenge yourself – how would you respond if it was digitally redesigned. What could you do now to innovate or protect your position? Who are the potential new players that could disrupt your industry – and what would you do about it?

The rising demand for experiences over goods – Clearly this is in part a response to the to the tussle around work – life balance and the desire for greater connectedness – with environment and with loved ones. Great examples include the adventure tourism boom, including historically based walking expeditions, culinary tours and festivals; high end activities such the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb; and bespoke gift experiences as packaged by Red Balloon.

It is also a wonderful opportunity to clearly differentiate what you do today – how do you add a compelling ‘experience’ to the customer journey? It should have real resonance for retailers – providing a sense of theatre to the shopping experience is pretty limited in Australia but not so much overseas. Burberry’s flagship store in London is an amazing experience designed as a physical manifestation of its website with significant investment in technology, staging and audiovisual wizardry. They don’t want their customer to be ‘bored’ (their words) and orchestrate music and visuals to stimulate and entertain. What could you do to make your store more exciting and engaging? It sure could help put price in its place!


Finally it’s worth remembering Bill Gates’ view on the future…“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction”

by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing.
This article is linked to James' Google+ profile
Simon McKeon, the CSIRO Chair, recently spoke about five megatrends impacting the world over the next few decades. 
 ..
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23
Apr
2015

Discover your Probability of Change Success

A new model for determining the probability of change success in a business was released recently. The model was developed based on extensive research as part of Mindshop founder Chris Mason’s doctorate.


This model highlighted 3 major factors that drive successful change in businesses - Change Readiness, Capability and Beliefs. Under those major factors a further 10 sub-factors were identified.

This is a breakthrough model in helping organisations boost their probability of change success from a default 30% to a much higher rate. This obviously will then flow through to savings in cost, time, people and lost opportunities.



A compact version of the model has been released (see above video) to help businesses quickly determine their probability of change success and to determine the areas they need to focus on to improve. Once you have identified the key gaps you can review the full Change Success model, incorporating all ten factors, to help determine an action plan to improve your probability of change success.

Interestingly the research indicated the biggest gap in most businesses is in Change Readiness, as opposed to Capability or Beliefs so that may well be where you need to start before you kick off a change initiative.

If you would like to apply the model to your business and your changes initiatives please feel free to contact us at Vantage. We will be happy to explain the model in more detail and see how it can be applied to your challenges and opportunities.

by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing
Powered by Mindshop
This article is linked to James' Google+ profile 

A new model for determining the probability of change success in a business was released recently. The model was developed based on extensive research as part of Mindshop founder Chris Mason’s doctorate. ..

blog date arrow
12
Mar
2015

Vantage March 2015 Newsletter Out Now

Growth is once again the key theme for most businesses in 2015.

However survey results show that many businesses lack the change readiness, skills and strategy implementation ability to achieve them.

How will you adapt in 2015? What are the top trends and strategies you need to implement for success?

To receive a complimentary copy of the 2015 Business Leaders Insights and Trends report click here.

Also in this edition:
We hope you find something of interest. Please feel free to contact us to discuss how any of these issues may impact your business.

Growth is once again the key theme for most businesses in 2015.

However survey results show that many businesses lack the change readiness, skills and strategy implementation ability to achieve them.

How will you adapt in 2015? What are the top trends and strategies you need to implement for success?  ..


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