Vantage Blog

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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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15
Oct
2016

Can it fit on one page?

It seems to me that many business consultants and so called strategy experts try to make things complex. This really comes to the fore when the challenge of planning is on the agenda.

SWOT, PESTLE, 5 Forces, etc. Lots of acronyms, not much clarity.

Don’t get me wrong these are all good tools that can be used to uncover insights and develop strategy. However without a clear framework they can end up making things more complex – lots of data not much information.

I have found the most sensible approach is the idea around one page planning. Yes one page.


The one page planning approach is based on the tried and true Now-Where-How framework.

Being clear on where you are NOW as a business (across all the key factors that drive value). Determining WHERE you want to be and then finally starting to develop strategies on HOW you are going to get there.

The beauty is that using this simple framework and then consolidating onto one page can be provide real focus.

But more importantly it enables you to cascade your plans throughout the organisation as per below. 


One of the biggest failures in strategic planning is not the qualities of the strategies developed but the lack of effective implementation.

One page planning enables a line of sight to be developed from the overall business strategic plan though to teams, projects and individuals. All aligned and easily verified that you are on track.

Add to this regular reviews and updates on progress and you have a simple process that can engage your teams and be easily monitored.

And the gold – you can run this internally without the need for expensive annual strategic offsites – yes it becomes part of how you do business!

And what if it’s more than one page? It’s a concept not a rule. Though focusing on a smaller number of strategies will mean increased likelihood of successful implementation – both organisationally and individually.


by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing


This article is linked to James' Google+ profile

It seems to me that many business consultants and so called strategy experts try to make things complex. This really comes to the fore when the challenge of planning is on the agenda.

SWOT, PESTLE, 5 Forces, etc. Lots of acronyms, not much clarity.

Don’t get me wrong these are all good tools that can be used to uncover insights and develop strategy. However without a clear framework they can end up making things more complex – lots of data not much information.

I have found the most sensible approach is the idea around one page planning. Yes one page. ..

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21
Sep
2016

Speed up the pace of implementation in your business

The pace of doing business is speeding up not slowing down. Each year the pressure grows on all areas of a business including its people, cash-flow, leadership, innovation, business models, technologies and ability to implement strategies successfully. This pressure can lead to issues arising across the business that ultimately impact its overall growth and profit potential.


Standing back from all the specific issues stemming from this 'high pace' of doing business most can quickly be related back to the in-ability to implement 'change' successfully.


So what does a business leader or owner do? What are the strategies that should be implemented to 'adjust' the business and its people to this NEW normal environment for doing business?

Here are three strategies that can assist businesses and teams cope with the high pace of doing business:

Strategy 1 - Focus on Micro tasks

Think back to the last planning session you had or project team you were involved in. What was the nature of the strategies / actions that were set? Were they quite broad or were they very specific outlining the steps that need to be taken. Too often planning sessions lead to broad statements such as: 'Do a marketing plan', 'Refine our sales process' or 'Fix that problem' but rarely outline HOW to achieve those outcomes or the micro steps / tasks required. This leads to teams either heading down the wrong paths or not starting to change at all. The simple solution when you see this occurring is to keep breaking down the broad task into micro tasks that highlight the HOW and the steps required to reach the desired outcome. Try this simple strategy in your next planning session and you instantly see the benefits.

Strategy 2 - Provide just-in-time learning

Sending teams to two day residential training sessions to learn new skills are slowly becoming a thing of the past. There is certainly still a need to hold these types of events in specific situations but 5-7 years ago every training event was a two day off-site with little accountability to the new learning acquired or how it would be implemented. The retention of new learning was thus very low and too often forgotten (until a need arose and the learning had to be acquired again!).

To obtain the skills to address specific issues in this fast paced business world you need to shift the thinking of your people to 'just-in-time' learning. This means that as a need arises to address a specific issue (such as understanding the strengths / weakness’ of your competitors as part of a marketing strategy) the focus should be on putting time in your schedule to learn that skill in 30-60 minutes via an online learning platform or quick internal training session and then applying it in the field quickly. The retained learning is much higher with this approach as there is immediate application of the learning. Best of all a solution to the issue is provided straight away to allow momentum to continue with the desired 'change' or 'new strategy'.

Strategy 3 - Capture and track your strategies / actions using innovative technologies

How often have you gone to reflect on a strategy you developed months ago and then had to spend hours searching through your emails, journals, files or go and follow-up a team member to get yourself up to speed again with the discussions that occurred and actions that were confirmed. Even if you have a good discipline of having 'One Page Plans' operating in your business (and even pasted to your office wall) it can still waste many hours in your day searching for the detailed plans you have developed or putting yourself back in the same 'head-space' you were in to reflect on the next steps you should take.

To assist this process and speed up your pace of implementation it’s critical in any modern business to be using the latest cloud technologies / applications to help you track projects and tasks. What are you currently using in your business? Nothing? There are a lot of great, cost-effective options available. The time savings and productivity gains will be felt immediately and free you up to be focusing on the growth and profit of your business.

While these three strategies are not a magic bullet they do help you adapt both yourself and your teams approach to allow you to implement change much more effectively in this fast-paced business environment.

To assist this process we provide all our clients’ access to Mindshop Online. Mindshop Online allows you to capture and track in one location all your strategies, actions and professional development that are only visible by you and your advisor. We can then provide confidential support and solutions drawn from hundreds of tools, courses and resources within Mindshop Online.

Mindshop Online is a fantastic way to help leaders speed up their pace of implementation to give them back valuable time to focus on the growth and profit of their business.

If you would like to discuss how we could assist you implement change more effectively in your business please email us to arrange a call or meeting.

by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing

Powered by Mindshop

This article is linked to James' Google+ profile




The pace of doing business is speeding up not slowing down. Each year the pressure grows on all areas of a business including its people, cash-flow, leadership, innovation, business models, technologies and ability to implement strategies successfully. This pressure can lead to issues arising across the business that ultimately impact its overall growth and profit potential. ..

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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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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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