Archive | strategy

Want to move fast on a strategic opportunity? Deploy a focused team, and get out of their way!

Jetpack manNo doubt about it: we live in a rapidly changing world. Disruptive technologies, shifting customer behaviors and emerging business models are shaking up nearly every industry. If you are going to survive and succeed amidst this change, you need to move in a fast and adaptable way. Yes…even if you’re a huge global organization with many layers of leadership.

To survive and succeed amidst change, move in a fast and adaptable way. Click To Tweet

For seasoned executives, the knowledge that they must compete with young, energetic upstarts who can switch speed and direction on a dime can be scary. And with good reason: It’s often very difficult for established organizations to move quickly and behave in an entrepreneurial fashion.

Here are just a few examples of what may be slowing your company down:

  1. The incentives you use to motivate your leaders may be misaligned with the direction you need to head. Mark, a leader in a financial services firm, found it hard to convince the firm’s sales people to invest their time in growing sales of new products, because their commissions were much higher on existing products. Unfortunately, those existing products were fast becoming obsolete.
  2. Your organizational structure may not match up with new priorities. Laura, business unit president at a software firm, sought to grow recurring revenues and reduce cost, by transitioning customers to software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings. Her business unit’s progress was very slow, however, because the professional services and customer support organizations were built to serve customers who were buying customized, on-premises solutions, not SaaS.
  3. There may be a gap in your employee’s skills and knowledge, which impedes their success in pursuing new business goals. Jose’s objective was to develop a new product line to serve customers who were expanding their e-commerce capability, yet his employees were ill-prepared to serve this market.

However, none of these harsh realities can become excuses. We must respond quickly, intelligently, and with courage when we face obstacles like these. One of best solutions is to create cross-functional teams and assign them to pursue particular growth opportunities.

When you create a small, focused team, you want to provide access to all the great things your company can provide—things such as customer relationships, company assets, funding, distribution channels, and the like—but you also want to protect them from having to ask permission too often. You need to protect the team from some of the big-company activities and policies that might slow them down.

Granting “special privileges” to these teams can accelerate their learning and progress, and enable fearless growth. Here are some approaches that I have seen work well:

• Faster processes for approving expenditures, and lenience on investment approval hurdles.

• Freedom to focus on “learning objectives” and other non-financial metrics, as opposed to strict financial targets.

• Explicit “permission to fail” on experiments or initiatives.

• Flexibility on legal requirements. For example, instead of having an iron-clad contract with customers, a simple handshake agreement might suffice, so the two companies can quickly try new things, collaborating together to learn.

• Permission to not attend quarterly business reviews, weekly staff meetings, routine training classes, or other events that are not directly aligned with the team’s mission.

• Permission to bypass internal processes that slow down action and learning.

• Access to outside experts.

• Lenient travel budgets.

• Greater latitude to hire (or terminate) team members.

• Different rules for how the team interacts with customers. For example, permission to call on existing accounts without having to ask the account manager’s permission.

• Leeway to use marketing materials that are not fully buttoned up and formalized.

• Time to explore industries, companies, technologies, and ideas that are not directly related to your business (seeing how things are done in a completely different industry does wonders for creative thinking).

Implementing even just a few of these measures will vastly improve your team’s speed and agility. They’ll have more freedom to pursue your strategic goals. They’ll feel motivated and empowered, which means they’ll take faster action, and you’ll improve retention. And, by working with others outside their function, team members gain new skills and perspectives. Innovation will flourish.

By working with others outside their function, team members can gain new skills and perspectives. Click To Tweet

Perhaps most important, they’ll build networks across your company, and with business partners, suppliers and customers outside your company. These networks mean that your team will know who to call—and who collaborate with—down the road, when they encounter a new opportunity or challenge. You’ll be able to pursue your goals more successfully, no matter what the future brings.

Click here for more ideas for how your team generate practical growth ideas, and pursue them quickly and effectively.

Think Like an Explorer

Businessman Walking Outdoors

When I was sixteen, I went on a 2-week horseback trip in the Bighorn mountains of Wyoming. Each morning, we were given the coordinates of the location where we would camp that night, then turned loose with a map and compass. It was satisfying to arrive at the destination each night, after navigating our way through the mountains on our own.

Heading a new strategic direction—entering a new market, innovating a new product line, or changing the way we go to market—can feel like heading out into the wilderness. If we think like an explorer would, however, we can find our way to new sources of profit and growth.

Here are four points to keep in mind when navigating new strategic territory:

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4 Questions Agile Companies Ask Themselves Every Day

Skier in mountains, prepared piste and sunny day

Do you wish your organization could move faster to take advantage of new opportunities in the market, or to avert emerging threats?

Do you feel that you are missing, or seeing but ignoring, important changes in your business environment?

Does it take longer than it should to make key strategic decisions, or to take action, once those decisions are made?

Today’s most agile organizations have learned how to respond more nimbly to changes in the marketplace. They ask themselves four key questions, every day: Continue Reading →

Six Obstacles That Stop Agility In Its Tracks

Professional sprinter jumping over a hurdle

Are you struggling to make your company more agile?

In my work with organizations in virtually every industry, I find that business agility – the ability to spot and capitalize on new business opportunities as they emerge – is a capability that many companies aspire to, but few achieve.

What makes agility so elusive?

I’ve observed six primary obstacles to achieving agility. Continue Reading →

Look Outside Your Industry for Breakthrough Ideas

Be Different

I recently met with the leaders of a highly successful company. Sales growth, which had been strong for years, was headed into negative territory. They were desperate to find the next “big idea” that would put their company on track for future growth.

As they discussed potential innovations, the same tired, incremental ideas that had been tossed around for years kept resurfacing.

What they needed was something to shake up their thinking.

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3 Mistakes in Managing Risk and Uncertainty

фотосессия во Вьетнаме

Not long ago, I stood on a pier near Cape Canaveral, Florida and watched a SpaceX rocket launch.

People were wearing SpaceX t-shirts and talking excitedly. SpaceX has brought the thrill back into space exploration.

Founder Elon Musk figured that by developing a way to reuse rockets, just like airplanes, he could reduce the cost of travel to space by a factor of a hundred.

He’s well on his way to achieving that. The company created the first commercial spacecraft in history to shuttle cargo to and from the International Space Station, and has already cut the cost of launching into space to less than a tenth of its prior level.

His ultimate goal, however, is to colonize Mars, making human life inter-planetary.

How’s that for a bold vision statement?

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