Vantage Blog

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23
Aug
2018

Connecting the Dots…making sense of disruption

Agility is without doubt the management buzz word of the moment. Great Leaders are agile; organisations must reorganise to be agile; your products and services, and how you go to market, must have agility at its core…or so we are all told.



But why?

It is increasingly clear to me that the pace of change, and in particular the impact of digital technology on competition and our organisations, is the reason.

The accelerators of change including artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud computing, big data, augmented and virtual reality, and even Blockchain (ignoring the smoke and mirrors of Bitcoin!) will, I believe, enable new products, services and business formats to develop and scale at a pace currently only just starting to be seen.

However, there is too much emphasis on the specifics of the individual technologies themselves, and not enough on how these technologies can be used together and applied to real customer problems. The ability to remove customer friction by the smart application of technology is a clear differentiator for many already. Think Uber, contactless cards, Netflix to name a few. This will be what differentiates winners in the future.

It is the role of business leaders to figure out how to ‘connect the dots’ – the nexus of technologies, models, concepts and ideas.

We are moving from a relatively linear trajectory to one of exponential change. Some sectors and industries will move faster than others, so the need to respond will be different. The opportunity, though, is available to all.

And it’s not just about start-ups – though their adoption and application of new ways of working and digital technologies are a sign of things to come and should act as a cue and/or wake up call.

Agile organisations that are able to transform their culture and think about how they can partner and work in alternative ways will be the success stories of the future. Impenetrable moats around our businesses are no longer assured.

The unbundling and re-bundling of integrated value propositions – just look at what has already happened in financial services – enables new customer offers to be designed and delivered for customers in different and exciting ways. As a result, we are already seeing industry definitions change, with some sectors effectively disappearing.

A key consideration is a shift in many companies from offering products to overseeing, participating in or facilitating ecosystems. Nespresso was an early example where the offering was a combination of components that only worked together - an espresso machine, pods, milk frother and the physical coffee making experience - in a closed fully controlled (via patents) loop.

Apple is another early ecosystem participant. They effectively embedded their ‘hardware’ (iPhone, iPad, Mac etc.), all operating of a single platform, as the core with complementary products and services creating value for customers – the sum being greater than the parts. Not ‘closed’, like Nespresso, but orchestrated or controlled by Apple with app developers, musicians etc embedding their offer in the wider ecosystem.

Newer ones worth having a look, at that are leveraging new digital technologies, include Babylon and Nest.

Ecosystems are modular (re-bundling), and rely on mutual interdependencies, two-way value flow and shared data, held together with a variable level of hierarchical control specific to each one. As a result, the various players in these ecosystems are able to embed their offers in a broader set of customer needs.

This can be challenging. It requires business leaders to think beyond a traditional ‘value chain’ that their business model has been built on. We need to consider what could be the core of an ecosystem and its (typically) digital platform – the one or two features that drive customer take up and use. What can complement that core and ensures a broader set of needs are met – not just for customers but business partners and suppliers?

Will ecosystems be the business model of the future? Will thinking about how you could embed your product or service into a broader set of needs be a key strategic question to consider? Building, catalysing or joining an ecosystem (or ecosystems) could well become a core strategy for future growth. The legacy of an organisations cost base, structure and offering could be key barriers to overcome if you want to not just ‘connect the dots’ but work out how to win by being agile in a fast-changing world.

James Atkins
Vantage Strategy & Marketing

I recently attended the London Business School’s course on Exploiting Disruption in A Digital World where these, and many other such concepts were covered. The August Vantage Leaders Forum spent half a day exploring these issues and how they could be applied to their organisations.

If you would like to discuss running a workshop, or presenting a keynote, exploring the opportunities that these new ways of thinking open up, or how these models or technologies could be applied in your organisation, please feel free to contact me on 0419 516 655 or at jatkins@vantagemarketing.com.au

WEBINAR: To view a complimentary 45 minute webinar on Connecting the Dots click here



Agility is without doubt the management buzz word of the moment. Great Leaders are agile; organisations must reorganise to be agile; your products and services, and how you go to market, must have agility at its core…or so we are all told. ..

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13
Apr
2017

Uncovering your Why

Simon Sinek is one of those thought leaders who has had amazing cut through in the world of business strategy, including recently in relation to millennials in the workforce (if you haven't looked at this video yet, it is worth 15 minutes of your time).


I was therefore keen to see what he had to say when he presented to a packed house at The Growth Faculty forum in Melbourne recently.


Sinek was the morning attraction and for me reinforced much of the value in his 'Start with Why' model (click here for an overview of the model). He also spent a lot of time around leadership. One quote that had real resonance related to how you build and engage your team as a leader.


We are all familiar with the concept of "getting the right people on the bus" and its various variants. He had a different spin to it. As he said, "it’s not about the right people, it’s about the right bus!". And, of course, that's the leader’s role - both in ensuring the bus is 'safe' and 'sound', but also as leader being a great driver!





















The afternoon session was presented by his colleague Peter Docker whose focus was on how do you harness the "Power of Why". That is, how do you uncover your Why? 

This is something that has not always been clear to me, and I have had varying degrees of success in working with clients on this very issue. It is, in part, an iterative process. A process that Sinek identified as being about the origin of the business and why it exists. For some companies this may or may not still be relevant. 

Docker outlined 4 steps to help with the Why discovery process; less scientific, more reductive:
  1. Identify the Human Connection. To do that ask your team to identify specific stories about the organisation when it is at its best, when it makes them feel proud. Not about $ and cents per se - but what you have given, less so received.
  2. Isolate the Contribution - in those stories what was the specific contribution the organisations made in the lives of others. Collate and cluster these stories into themes - describe them as verbs, not nouns.
  3. Find the Impact - determine what that contribution enabled others to go on to do, or to be. How were their lives different because of this contribution - however small or large it may be.
  4. You can then start to draft potential WHY statements. A simple structure for a WHY statement is: To (what your organisation does - its contribution) so that (the effect you want to have in the world - the impact)


From there you will have some clarity on your WHY. You can iterate or road test to ensure it has resonance and, of course, relevance to who you are, and what you want to be as an organisation.


During the day, I sat next to a leader from one of the big 4 banks. She told me an amazing WHY story. It related to a client who had superannuation with them and had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The client rang the personal banker to inquire about their insurance only to find that the super account didn't include appropriate cover. Rather than leaving it at that the bank manager took it upon herself to look for so called 'lost' super with other organisations. Subsequently she identified one super account that did include insurance cover that would be of real value to her client. No direct value to the bank. Not an additional product sold. But a true human connection and contribution that would have real impact and benefit for that customer. Inspirational! 


You can see how that story would be a strong foundation around which to build the bank's WHY. A WHY in action - helping their clients have a secure, stronger financial foundation that supports them throughout their life - no matter what it throws at them. 

A day well spent - equal doses of inspiration and practical application!

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

Simon Sinek is one of those thought leaders who has had amazing cut through in the world of business strategy, including recently in relation to millennials in the workforce (if you haven't looked at this video yet, it is worth 15 minutes of your time). ..

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10
Jun
2016

STRATEGY IS ALL ABOUT CHOICE – 5 QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU MAKE THOSE CHOICES

Strategy is the most overused word in business. It is often applied in describing tactics, less so in making clear how a business intends to grow in its market.


I recently re-read “Playing to Win – how strategy really works” by A.G. Lafley (ex CEO of Proctor & Gamble) and Roger L. Martin (Academic and Strategy Consultant). Lafley and Martin have a long standing relationship working on strategy at P&G. Built off the strategic thinking of Michael Porter they paint a compelling picture of how they made strategy come alive and deliver real growth for P&G.

At a high level they describe strategy as the need to win; and to win you need to make clear choices across five key areas – a strategic choice cascade:

  1. What is our winning aspiration?
  2. Where will we play?
  3. How will we win?
  4. What capabilities must be in place?
  5. What management systems are required?

In their framework, your strategy is the choices you make across these five questions; and the core is in the answers to question 2 and 3 – the where and the how. It is also a highly iterative process with continual loop back and refinement.





 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The book almost solely uses their experience at P&G which, on the face of it, has been very successful in driving profit and growth well above market over the first decade of this century. The hard metrics outlined in the appendix certainly back this up. 

I wondered though how it would apply outside of P&G. Over the last six months we have used these ‘strategy choice’ questions with several clients – both in the development of strategy, but also as a challenge to their current strategic thinking. It has worked well wherever I have applied it (B2B, services and retail markets for instance) because it has forced people to decide what they do and, importantly, what they don’t do. 

In addition to the choices framework, the authors outline a number of valuable approaches in thinking about the where and how options – because there is obviously more than one set of strategic choices that can win. They have what they call a strategy logic flow. This flow enables you to understand across four dimensions (industry, customers, relative position and competition) the context, challenges and opportunities to help you develop strategic options to debate and analyse.

In analysing different strategic “where to play” and “how to win” options they take a reverse engineering approach. Rather than setting up participants to advocate from their point of view they pose a question against each scenario: what would have to be true across each of the strategy logic flow elements for us to pursue this possibility? This enables even the most ardent sceptic to engage and sets the bar as to what is critical for success. From that point, you can decide the most important factors and start to undertake a deeper analysis of those aspects that will determine what is truly worth pursuing. This reverse engineering approach not only does away a with a lot of the angst in what I would call strategic advocacy by individuals, it also enables you to not spend wasted time up front overanalyzing; you only focus on those aspects you really need to know to make strategic choices.

So despite its P&G focus there are a number of elements in Martin and Lafley’s approach that can be of real value in developing strategy. It forces you to focus on making the critical choices to define “winning” for your business. Well worth a read but also as a framework or challenge to your next strategic planning session. 

if you would like to discuss how you could use this in your business please contact me by clicking here.

by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing


This article is linked to James' Google+ profile 






Strategy is the most overused word in business. It is often applied in describing tactics, less so in making clear how a business intends to grow in its market. ..

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01
Dec
2015

Are you caught in the planning trap?

An inordinate amount of time in business is spent planning, reviewing what did and didn't happen, and then planning again. A vicious cycle and, obviously, a waste of time. Strange you may say from someone who spends much time helping organisations clarify their strategy and planning a way forward!


So what's the problem? From where I sit it's the approach many take to developing strategy and then setting a path forward. Many organisations literally try to "boil the ocean" looking at all options, analysing all aspects of their business without first, at a higher level, determining where they are heading and why?

In my view, time should be spent thinking through why an organisations exists - what problem is it trying to solve for it’s customers - and then determining the choices they need to make to bring that purpose or aspiration alive. In short their strategy - the choices they need to make in terms of "where they will play" and "how they will win". Lafley and Martin's simple strategy model based on asking 5 key questions is a great way to focus the mind and make real choices as the foundation of your business strategy. For more information on that approach click here 
 
You then need to stress test your choices including "what has to be true" for these choices to be the right ones. This takes thoughtful consideration and is refined over time as you analyse and learn in a focussed way - the opposite of boiling the ocean.

From that point, set clear objectives and goals for the next year. Utilising a balanced scorecard linking to your strategic choices is an effective approach.

So at this point do you embark on detailed business planning – pages and pages of analysis and plans out three or more years? I think this is a trap. 
 
In a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world you need to be adaptive or nimble within the framework of your strategic choices. Some initiatives have longer timeframes (especially in the case of product or market development) but setting milestones in more manageable chunks enables you to plot a more appropriate path. 
 
For instance, one way that I have seen work is to decide on a set of business priorities for the next 90 days - a top 3 or 5 that are going to be the core focus for the business. Priorities that move you towards achieving your goals, and delivering on your strategy, but enabling you to be nimble and adapt to changing circumstances and opportunities as they arise. This is what great businesses do. Put simply what's the use of detailed planning for the next 3 years when, in reality, the future never ends up looking anything like what you foresaw.

So I recommend three things

1) Utilise a simple strategy framework that starts with a clear view of potential future(s) and then stress test them through focused analysis and testing. This approach will only be successful if you have a clear view of the market and the segments that you operate in before you set off. This includes insight to the core needs of customers. Do not pass go until you have this foundation knowledge otherwise you will go in circles. 

2) Set clear goals and objectives over a 12 month period clearly linked to your strategic choices and following a balanced scorecard approach, and

3) Be nimble in how you approach planning the way forward. Create a core set of priorities that you regularly review (e.g. every 90 days) so you are responsive to the market and build on what you achieve and learn - a truly adaptive system. These priorities can be captured in a one-page plan so all of the organisation are clear on what you are focussing on, what you will achieve and who will do it.

The benefit - a clear path forward for all, less wasted time or "analysis by paralysis", and a focus on getting things done.

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



An inordinate amount of time in business is spent planning, reviewing what did and didn't happen, and then planning again. A vicious cycle and, obviously, a waste of time. Strange you may say from someone who spends much time helping organisations clarify their strategy and planning a way forward! ..

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10
Dec
2014

What will be your game changing strategy for 2015?

Have you developed or refined your strategic plans for 2015 as yet? Is the direction clear? What will be the three key focuses / strategies?  What has to change?


The December/January period can be a time when many businesses are slowing down after a hectic year and other businesses (such as retail) are ramping up for the busy holiday period. Regardless of whether you ramping up or slowing down traditionally this is the time of year when many business sit back, reflect on the previous 12 months, look at what has worked and what hasn’t before refreshing their plans for the year ahead.


To help you challenge your plans for 2015 and implement a game changing strategy we have provided the below 10 questions:


  1. Do you have a clear competitive advantage? Will it stand up in the 2015 market?
  2. Has your current year’s strategy delivered the results you are seeking? If so what are the lessons? If not what will you need to change?
  3. Is your vision for 2015 clear and documented?
  4. What are your top 3 focuses for 2015?
  5. What will be your overall theme for the business in 2015? i.e. profit, growth, quality?
  6. How will you hold your team accountable and guarantee that the implementation of new strategies occurs?
  7. Have you addressed in your plans the blockages that will prevent you achieving your goals?
  8. What will be your new innovations in 2015 for your products / services?
  9. Where are the bright spots within your business to focus on, learn from and leverage? (what is an area of the business that has worked very well) 
  10. How will you ‘evolve’ your products / services to address the 2015 issues being faced by your target market? What are their needs in 2015?

Here are some further resources to assist you with your planning:

  1. Complete our Growth and Profit Solutions Diagnostic to pin-point your Top 3 business and personal issues / opportunities to focus on for 2015. Click here
  2. Use our One Page Plan template for use in documenting your plans with a clear NOW, WHERE and HOW you will get there. Click here

Don’t miss this window of opportunity in your business to plan for 2015 in order to hit the ground running in the New Year.


James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing
This article is linked to James' Google+ profile
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Have you developed or refined your strategic plans for 2015 as yet? Is the direction clear? What will be the three key focuses / strategies?  What has to change? ..


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