Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lessons in Longevity - Failed Strategies

In this week's reading, Lessons in Longevity from I.B.M., the author Steve Lohr, had a common theme throughout his writing. Company's, like I.B.M. in the mid 1990's, shouldn't walk away from the market when facing becoming antiquated / irrelevant. Rather, Lohr says to build on the organization's past. The crucial building blocks are skills, technology and marketing assets that can be transferred or modified to pursue new opportunities. These are the company's core assets, far more so than particular product or service (Lohr, 2011).

After reading the article, I found myself asking questions like:

  • What wiill happen to companies that once dominated their markets? Companies like BlackBerry, Netscape, Yahoo, Blockbuster,  Kodak, etc... 
  • Why do they deflate while organizations like Apple and Nike continue to succeed?
  • Other firms are more susceptible than RIM, so how have they created strategies for continued development and RIM has not?

From the outside looking in, though their strategies were clearly flawed, I suspect that these failed / failing organizations began to focus on the wrong angles of strategy, viewing it as a function / logic that had a definitive answer instead of an open book, a green field, and a perpetually dynamic process.  These companies became focused on the next iterative, the next quarter, the next product. 

Strategy, at its core, is the making of choices, not just once, but over a sustained continuum. These decisions pivot off of a long-term vision and ideal (years in advance), not a narrow slice of time (the immediate few months or years). Strategies leverage the organization as a whole, their body of work, their talent, and  requires imagination, defined purpose / ideal, and a deep understanding and relationship with the organization's target market.

As Lohr referenced, organizations like Microsoft have had similar pitfalls like I.B.M. throughout their tenure, but have been able to evaluate, reset, and execute new strategies that allowed them to maintain relevancy and a competitive advantage. Microsoft never neglected their "core company assets", and continued to focus on their long-term strategy (not their immediate needs).

I'll be looking forward with strong curiosity as RIM tries to compete with the new heavy hitters in the mobile space. How do you think they'll adjust, if at all?

Works Cited:
Lohr, S. (2011. June 18). Lessons in Longevity, from I.B.M.. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/19/technology/19unboxed.html?pagewanted=all

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