Activist investors were busy in 2017. General Electric, AIG, Arconic, CSX, Pandora, and Buffalo Wild Wings are among the companies whose CEOs resigned under pressure from activist investors. Activist investors single out underperforming companies, then force changes, which may include giving the activist a seat on the board, replacing company leaders, divesting a division, or simply cutting costs.
If it’s a weekend and the forecast shows potential for good wind, my husband and I head to the beach. We aren’t always rewarded with enough wind for great kiteboarding, but if there is wind, we’re often the only ones there, set up and ready to take advantage of it.
Meanwhile, others who have waited for the wind to materialize before jumping in the car often arrive just as the wind is dying.
Just like the wind, most everything in business is subject to change, often when you least expect it. And change brings uncertainty, which often manifests as doubt, delay and paralysis. We don’t know what’s going to happen, so we wait. According to psychologists, we humans are hardwired to dislike uncertainty; it’s in our DNA. In a recent study, researchers discovered that uncertainty is more stressful to humans than knowing that something bad is definitely going to happen.
No matter what business you’re in, and whether the business outlook is bleak or robust, one thing is certain: the success or failure of your strategy hinges on what your competitors choose to do. Continue Reading →
With the fast pace of change in the world today, there is great uncertainty surrounding almost every decision we make. And, when there is uncertainty, there are going to be many different opinions about the best path forward.
Reaching a consensus is important because we need all functions and players in our organization to be aligned and moving in the same direction. Organizations can get stuck at a cross road, unable to pick a path forward, when they place too much emphasis on getting everyone on board with a controversial decision. This is a mistake. Continue Reading →
I recently worked with a large, successful company whose growth had slowed. They needed new ideas—and not just any ideas, but big ideas: new growth trajectories that would generate at least a billion dollars in revenue. Entirely new categories.
They were already one of the largest players in their industry, so taking market share was not easy for them. They needed to build new markets—creating and serving customer needs that had never before existed.
The problem was the ideas just weren’t flowing from the team. Continue Reading →
Do you think your own business is quick enough and agile enough to survive and thrive in today’s fast-moving business markets? Continue Reading →
Have you ever wished for more input, insights, and ideas from the employees on your team?
Especially when our businesses are not performing as well as we’d like, we really need our teammates’ creative ideas. But when we gather a group and ask for ideas—whether for new product features, cost reduction ideas, or ways to improve service—we often see the same, recycled thoughts. Or ones that are only a smidgen better than what’s currently being done.
It’s not the employees’ fault. Humans are wired to keep doing what they’ve been rewarded for in the past. We are wired to protect our allies, and to avoid risk. These tendencies tend to hold us back when it comes to thinking in new ways. We are shackled by what’s worked before and have a hard time imagining a new way of doing things.
Here are a few techniques for helping your team break free to develop new ways of thinking about your business. Continue Reading →
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:
Have you ever invested great time and expense in developing and launching a new product or service, only to see revenues fall far short of expectations?
We think we’re delivering exactly what the customer has asked for, but it turns out that we didn’t really understand what our customers were willing to buy.
We’ve all been there. McDonald’s introduced chicken wraps and other menu items to satisfy the demands of health-conscious diners, only to find that customers don’t actually want to eat healthy food at McDonalds. The fries are just too tempting.
Especially in fast-changing markets, companies often get so busy running the business, they fail to understand their customers’ experience and needs. They are blind to what actually goes on when customers use their products.
Let me suggest a few ways to break out of this cycle, so that you understand what your customers value and how they think. Continue Reading →
In the past few years, Cisco, Coca-Cola, GE, IBM, MasterCard and other large companies have begun to launch “internal startups”—teams of employees who are sheltered from corporate rules and bureaucracy – to stimulate entrepreneurship and creativity, and infuse agility.
I spoke recently with the leader of a business that existed – for a while – as an internal startup within a large corporation.
The thinking was that employees within this quasi-startup would be free to focus on their goals. Team spirit and collaboration would replace hierarchy. Innovation, risk-taking, and learning from failure would flourish. Time formerly spent on meetings and emails with other corporate groups would be spent focusing on the customer.
All those good things came true, as long as the team was left alone. Continue Reading →