Friday, June 28, 2013

Strategy As Simple Rules - A case in action

Under Kishore Biyani's leadership, the Future Group has led the retail revolution in India. In a country of more than 200 Billion people, retail offers one of the most lucrative opportunities. From Pantaloons, the first store offering ready-made garments to the chain of Wal-Mart style shops Big Bazaar and the Shoping Malls like Central, it has changed the way India shops.

An interesting fact about this journey is the simple rules and principles followed to reach the target. Big Bazaar and Central are two chains offering multibrand retail across every major city in the country. The "How-to rules" and the "priority rules" revolve around the consumer. What the consumer wants? What's his expectations ? What format is he most comfortable while shopping? These are the rules that define their strategy.

India offers diversity in terms of religion, climate, geographies, culture and hence, the products they buy, their shopping patterns etc is a lot influenced by these and varies by region. Big Bazaar has focused on concentrating on these patterns making the customer feel at home. In certain parts people prefer to buy unpackaged cooking oil, grains etc. as they have been doing it for years in this way. Similarly in some parts men primarily wear shirts and T- shirts while in others they wear traditional "Kurta". You may find a bakery in Big Bazar in the metros while in the small cities, vendors may be selling fresh vegetables outside the main A/C, glittering shop. Also, the goods change according to seasons and festivals. The location of items after deep studying has been adjusted such that the consumers tend to buy much much more. My mother usually ends up with a bill twice the size of what she expected. Similarly, Central was built with a concept that if a customer enters in, he should go out only after buying atleast something.
More over, both Central and Big Bazar have added attractions for kids, street food etc, to convert these places into family destinations. People not necessarily go to these places to shop but to have a good time. Their stores are heavily staffed and Managers and sales staff trained to gather feedback from the users.

This has helped an easy transition for users from the local grocery stores to Big Bazaar. After having established the name in multi-brand retail, their focus has been on analyzing the changing trends and consumer behavior and all the latest stuff is made available in the stores. Having established a huge consumer base, they can now leverage the economies of scale, buying directly from manufacturers thus selling at lowest prices possible. They also leverage their position by buying from local manufacturers and farmers and hence, selling the local produce at low costs and also helping these people. Another simple rule is their store location. With a view of it being a family hangout place, all stores are on central, easily accessible locations with big flashy windows and stuff : Places where you would probably expect a fancy store !! This has again drawn people to these stores. Another attempt at customer satisfaction is free huge parking provided at all locations (this is a huge issue in major cities in India).

Thus they have had a simple strategy of identifying and focusing on the customer's roots and providing what they want. They haven't gone overboard with things like home delivery, exquisite stuff etc. They understand the regional needs to the simple Indian consumer and stick to it.


Microsoft's move away from standardization



WINDOWS 8 - Start(led)


Microsoft has been a truly multinational company and has been focusing on the desktop markets earlier (which might be already dead, or who knows, it might still be alive)  and now they are are focusing on the laptop markets and the mobile Operating system market.

We have been used to the look of Windows ever since we've first started using Windows where the start button is on the left hand corner, Microsoft had standardized the look in such a way that every of their releases from then on had the Start button in the left corner. So, even if there was a completely different language which we were using Windows in, we would be accustomed to the usual look and feel everywhere and it would just be fine. This was a look and feel that Microsoft consciously decided to standardize and their actual development process actually revolved around this strategy.

Now, with the release of Windows 8, they have completely made haphazard the strategy of standardization around look and feel around the Start button. As a new user of Windows 8, it looks way different from their original product where the look and feel focused mostly on the Start button and now, weirdly, there is no Start button. I would say it has just startled me to look at a company as established as Microsoft going in this route where they actually decided to move away from the very strategy they've had right from their beginnings. It might have been a move to truly unify the mobile OS, desktop OS and laptop OS and might have been a brilliant strategy if it had not done what it has done now

Bowing to pressure from the users, it has actually brought back the Start button in it's latest update. I'm sure there were thousands of brainy minds were behind both the decisions, but what Microsoft has done with it's latest update of Windows 8.1 is undermine itself and its strategy.

XBOX DEBACLE
In the gaming industry, the launch of both PS4 and latest XBox was announced during E3 2013. Microsoft announced that it would not allow game sharing and that it would allow people to play only when they are connected to the Internet. PS4 came out with all guns and gave this simple video




This was Sony's nail in the coffin ad for Microsoft in the gaming industry. I would say that Microsoft had dug it's own grave but now again, they have actually gone back on their decision that they would allow only connected people to play.
Now, they say "Everyone can play"

Is Microsoft consciously creating strategies and then debunking them to get more publicity? Or is it just a mistake from the strategic teams in Microsoft? YOU DECIDE!

King's Ascent: Newgrounds Release Feedback





The last time I wrote a blog for King's Ascent, we had nearly completed the game. As I write this blog, the game has been released upon the world. It was successful, far beyond my personal expectations.

  • Over 25,000 plays in under a week.
  • 3.87/5 stars based on 1,190 votes
  • 22 pages of player reviews, as well as a handful of professional reviews

Now that the world has had a chance to react to our creation, we're able to take much better stock of features people enjoyed, and features people disliked.

The Good

  • Gameplay: For the most part the difficulty and difficulty curve were well-received. My intention in crafting the difficulty was that any platformer gamer who could run and jump simultaneously would eventually be able to win by learning a path through the levels, and it seems by the lack of complaints that most players were able to eventually win. We seemed to hit a sweet spot with the difficulty as well. It could have been more even, as the varying gameplay meant that different gamers found different levels more or less difficult, but overall 
  • Overarching Story: In general, people loved the fact that there was a story behind the game. They found this to be a novel break from other flash games, and they started heated arguments over the plot. The game involves a king who makes difficult decisions, such as saving his kingdom by sending a diversionary army off to die. His advisors plot to overthrow him and replace him with a more just ruler. We perhaps underestimated a player's tendency to empathize with the main character, because far more players to took the side of the King than we had expected. Some players even thought that we, the developers, were foolish for thinking that the King's decisions were wrong (even though it was the advisor characters who believed this, not us!)


The Bad

  • Clashing Art-styles: The beautiful work of our 3 artists didn't get the praise it deserved, as people spent their energy complaining about the lack of artistic unity rather than appreciating the work. 2D characters, 3D monsters, painterly backgrounds, and stained glass portraits of past events was just too many different styles for players.
  • Uninspired Dialog and Delivery: As much as people enjoyed the novelty of the detailed story, the actual dialog and voicework was less well-received. In production, I rushed us towards completing the voice work because I was worried that our actors would lose interest if we didn't record right away. However, it's clear that the game would have benefited greatly by a second look at the script dialog and better voice direction.


Takeaways:

  • Integration is Important: Most of the problems with King's Ascent stem from the Frankenstein-like stitching together of elements in the game. The story was mashed into the gameplay, the artstyles stitched together, the dialog widgeted in. This created a whole that was less than it could have been. Spending more time to carefully integrate all of these elements would have made a more whole and complete vision of a game.
  • Playtest with Your Exact Audience: The class of gamer we had at Newgrounds was very savvy about avoiding lag by using the right browser and hardware. They also didn't have nearly as much trouble beating the game as we expected. Compared to the off-the-street gamers we had playtested with in-person, they were very different. Had we known this, we might have made some different choices in development.
  • Don't Playtest on Your Own Hardware: Another mistake we made was not playtesting on the internet sooner. By playtesting on our own machines in our development environment, we got good feedback about gameplay but missed out on seeing how different types of computer and browser environments affected performance.
  • The Best Advertising is Releasing the Game: We spent countless hours making Facebook groups, placing ads on webcomic sites, and promoting our game on forums. From all that work, we received maybe 100 plays. By releasing the game on Newgrounds, we had over 10,000 plays in less than a day.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Can Meaninfulness Be a Strategy? - Social Media Strategy

Young customers have been notoriously difficult more and more for marketers to reach. If I look myself, I really don't spend time on watching TV commercials but on engaging my phone or logging on emails and social networks.That's why most company initiated social network marketing and more than half plan to devote as much as 25% of budgets to eMarketings such as mobile and social marketing. It seems obvious that the company should develop some sort of social media strategy to capture its customers particularly the young and women.


Then the question is the company really harness its power and network correctly and efficiently. Or are company's facebook updates opted out and spammed from their Followers or Fans? Then how the company can creat fans and maintian them. How to make their post viral by not overusing 'discount promotion' tactics. In the long run, I believe they should convey some meaningful messages all along the way. For instance, it can be about more meaningful work, economics, politics, society, and organization. It can be promises radically more meaningful: to make stuff matter like Levi's Water Less Jean my team would present in the class.

However currently, most "social media" strategies have one or more of three goals: to "push product," "build buzz," or "engage consumers." They're just slightly cleverer ways to sell more of the same old junk. But the great challenge of the 21st century is making stuff radically better in the first place — stuff that creates what I've been calling thicker value. In other words, none of these lives up to the Internet's promise of "meaning".

Decades ago, people actually didn't need "meangfulness" when to buy something. Industrial era business was "meaningless". It fits most organizations to a T — from Wall Street to Detroit to Big Pharma to Big Food to Big Energy. Some research suggest that 95% of organizations are unable to offer socially useful stuff that creates meaningful value for people, communities, and tomorrow's generations. Simply put, they didn't need to. Given the social media is changing not only marketing channels but also customers' mind enoromusly, companies now need that- a meaningful message.

Then how to do that? Here are couple of social strategies to create meaniful messages for the orgnizations by Umair Haque at Havard Business Review.

Character. Most organizations have no character, in the traditional sense of the word. They'll never stand up for what's right, noble, or true.The character strategy utilizes social tools to help an organizations develop a moral compass, often via ethical accelerators. For example, Gwilym Davies' disloyalty card, which rewards coffee-drinkers for trying out other local caf├ęs. Now that's a coffeeshop with character.

Control. Most organizations are run by bosses. By contrast, an organization with a social control strategy radically decentralizes decision-making, giving the control that was formerly vested in echelons upon echelons of managers directly to people, communities, and society. Think Threadless, whose corporate anarchy is upsetting the tired, increasingly profitless clothes market.

Creativity. Most organizations are, from an economic perspective, brain-dead: they are unable to come up with newer, better ideas consistently and reliably. The result is that they defend old ones tooth and nail: a formidable source of antisocial behavior. The creativity strategy hinges on utilizing social tools to explode how imaginative organizations are. Lego's social approach to toy production and consumption — textbook awesomeness — has turned the table on its rivals, by giving Lego the capacity to be more imaginative than they can be.

Culture. Culture is how an organization makes sense of the world, a set of assumptions internalized by all its members. Most organizations are the cultural equivalent of stone age tribes: focused on "the hunt," "the kill," and what's for dinner today. Like stone age tribes, they're fractious, unproductive, and easily broken. In the culture strategy, social tools are used to help an organization make better sense of the world. Accountability, roles, tasks, processes, incentives — that's what shapes culture, and in the culture strategy, social tools are utilized to reconceive them. Wal-Mart's Sustainability Index is a radical example of a culture-changer, altering all of the above, helping Wal-Mart's entire ecosystem make sense of the world anew.

Clarity. The clarity strategy is perhaps the simplest. Most organizations are flying blind: they have limited visibility about changes in the marketplace. Social tools are a powerful way to gain clarity: better, faster information about what's happening not just in the boardroom, but in the real world. Good example of clarity is Google's rapid, frequent, consistent experimentation. Because of it, Google always has more clarity about what really creates meaningful value — and what really doesn't — than rivals. Here's a tiny example of Google helping searchers gain clarity on hotel pricing using Google Maps.

Cohesion. Relationship inflation is the most visible sign of social media decay. The cohesion strategy says: in relationships, seek quality, not quantity. One of my favorite recent examples of cohesion is "Tummling" — the art of social engagement. It's a form of moderation pioneered by Heather Gold, Deb Schultz, and Kevin Marks. The Tummler's job, Kevin says, is "setting the tone and establishing the norm," deciding who speaks where and when, summarizing, and synthesizing. The goal of Tummling is to help dialogue happen — and make relationships not merely inflate, but cohere, thicken, blossom, and mature.

Choreography. Most organizations seek "high performance." Today, performance is no longer enough: excelling in yesterday's terms is excelling at the wrong things. Today's radical innovators aren't merely mute performers, precisely executing the empty steps of a meaningless dance: they're more like choreographers. Choreographers define the steps of a better dance — they lay down better rules for interactions between supply and demand to take place. Yelp's getting its choreography wrong, failing to build a better dialogue between buyers and sellers (instead of just isolated, drive-by "reviews"). Etsy's still on the brink of greatness, pioneering highly productive relationships between buyers and sellers. Another example is M-Pesa, which lays down a new choreography for finance: from person to person, instead of bank to bank.

As described, social media strategy fits inside a marketing (business, corporate) strategy, and is shaped by it. Social strategy fits outside business and corporate strategies, and shapes them. Social strategies are about rewriting the logic of the industrial era entirely, shifting gears in how we think, envisioning a broader, more powerful, more challenging use of social tools. They are about developing the capacity to understand an organization's role in society, and how to play a more constructive one, wielding sociality as a source of advantage.

All in all, some sense of meanigfulness should be something wraping up strategies and tactics especially when it comes to harnessing power of social media. Hopefully, it may work for Levi's too as acting radically more meaningfully than its harsh rivals, because the company seems to have character and culture already!


Reference:
From Social Media to Social Strategy
http://blogs.hbr.org/haque/2010/04/from_social_media_to_social_strategy.html

Venkatesh Shankar and Sridhar Balasubramanian (2009), “Mobile Marketing: ASynthesis and Prognosis”,Journal of Interactive Marketing, 23 (2): 118





Yahoo!'s Journey

The article, “Lessons in Longevity, from IBM” by Steve Lohr of the New York Times, spoke about the journey of IBM from being the dominating leader in the business, to losing out to the point of struggling to survive, to re-creating themselves back to a thriving company.

Some of the key points highlighted by IBM’s story are  -
1. Re-create yourself, evolve beyond past success
2. Don’t walk away from your past, build on it
3. Collaborate with multiple partners to forge in a new direction
4. Acting before the crisis occurs
5. Keep up with trends and changing market environment and needs
6. Reacting to changing competition

The 100 year evolution of IBM provides a cautionary lesson to companies from various industrial sector today, especially those in the technology sector. Although still on a much shorter timeline, a potentially similar challenge is found in the story of Yahoo!.

What is ‘Yahoo!’?

Yahoo! is an internet corporation known for its web portal, search engine, and other services such as mail, news, social gaming, video sharing, online mapping, advertising, etc. Founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo in 1994, Yahoo! sites are visited by roughly 600 million users each month. However it is no secret that Yahoo! is in trouble and has been so for a while since the early 2000s.

Yahoo’s journey.

Up until about 2000, Yahoo! rode a high wave buying its way through several companies such as OddPost, Flickr, HotJobs, etc and ended 2000 with an all time high stock price. From then on, there have been several kinks along the road leading to a slow but sure breakdown of the company. The journey since 2000 includes a failed attempt to acquire Google, overlooking opportunities to acquire Facebook and Youtube, and a failed attempt at a hostile bid by Microsoft.

Yahoo! is still huge but despite being one of the biggest draws on the web, Yahoo! is still very difficult to position as a company. It may never beat Google’s search engine or Facebook’s social network; it still gets ads because its sheer size but these are no longer as relevant, their quality and price paid are sure to keep dropping as Google and Facebook keep taking an increasing share of their display ad business. Consequently, Yahoo! runs the risk of going the same way as its previous competition, AOL, becoming largely irrelevant.

Yahoo’s new plan.

The Harvard Business Review spotlight on ‘Strategy as Simple Rules’ highlights the underlying phenomenon in the success of a company like Yahoo. Managers recognise the need for a simple set of guidelines and strategic processes to help make decisions and navigate through the chaotic landscape of such industries. Autodesk illustrates strategy as simple rules. This was reflected in Yahoo!’s new strategies when Carol Bartz was brought in as CEO when the company was headed towards a crisis.

A notable shift in the streamlining of targets and goals, both strategic and financial can be seen in the period before 2009 and after. Focus was shifted to more concrete, specific solutions for immediate revenue generation and ad sales boost along with continuous collaborations and acquisitions in keeping with the company’s interests.

1. Microsoft deal and the following multi-year plan - After resisting Microsoft’s hostile bid in 2008, Microsoft issued a three-year financial plan and strategic initiative to its investors. The plan offered targeted benchmarks for 2010. Specifically, it proposed to increase the net revenue from 5.1 to 8.8 billion dollars from 2007 to 2010. It also included scaling up Yahoo’s core search and display advertising businesses by 10% and 12% respectively. Yahoo!’s projections generated a price of about 40$ per share, while analysts thought a target of a low to mid 30’s would have been more appropriate. Additionally, analysts believed that Yahoo! had overestimated the growth in its search and display business.

2. Arrival of Carol Bartz and a new Microsoft deal - In 2009, Yahoo! hired yet another new CEO, Carol Bartz. Yahoo! was attracted to her proven abilities to cut spending and make operations more efficient and streamlined. Her tenure at Yahoo! was marked by a ten year deal with Microsoft to place Bing as Yahoo!’s search engine. Yahoo continued to sell its own ad space and keep 88% of the revenue, while Microsoft kept all the data needed to drive ad placement and ensure profitability. Microsoft became the undisputed #2 search engine behind Google while Yahoo! achieved its goals of streamlining operations, cutting down on the development budget, and maintaining its ad revenues. The leadership hoped this would allow them to focus on selling ads on its owned and operated pages and email. This deal was further expanded into a pact between Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL to simplify the process of buying ad space and competing with Google’s dominance.

3. Latest deals - Acquiring Tumblr and revamping Flickr marked 2013 for Yahoo!, along with a yet undecided deal for Hulu’s acquisition. Although the purchase of Tumblr may have been an attempt to gain relevance once again and buy the ‘cool’ factor, it can definitely be used to get the boost that is much needed by Yahoo! at this point. One way could be a passive approach by letting Tumblr be so as to not kill it or ‘screw it up’ and just make money off it. Or instead, and more preferably, Yahoo! could use Tumblr as a ‘reverse mentor’ to welcome Tumblr and David Carp in to reinvent and transform the rest of their operations.On the other hand, the revamping of Yahoo!’s photo sharing site, Flickr, seems to have some positive impacts. The number of daily active users for the Flickr photo app has jumped 50 percent since it was redesigned in May, while use of mobile email has climbed 70 percent since an overhaul in April.Yahoo! simplified the interface, gave users the feeling of abundance, and most importantly embraced the mobile platform. Also keeping up with competition, Yahoo! is making a bid for Hulu, a free subscription based video sharing site. An acquisition like this would bring Yahoo! right into the thick of the video streaming service. This could help Yahoo! to compete with rival Google , which bought video-sharing site YouTube in 2006.

Conclusion:

It is still too early to predict the end of Yahoo!. With just under two decades of history, there is still a lot of opportunity. But if it can't redefine itself, it could be well on it’s way to dissolving into irrelevance. Ultimately, Yahoo runs the risk of going the same way as AOL. On the other hand, Yahoo is still one of the most visited sites on the Internet, and if it determines the next steps in planning its future, it could easily find its way back to profitability. The future of Yahoo depends on its ability to redefine itself in a quickly changing Internet landscape.


REFERENCES:

Implementing Strategies and Developing Ideas

For this week the main topic is "Taking Strategy From Development to Implementation". Just as mentioned in the title, only has great strategy on paper can't not assure the success of the company. As showed on the research paper many company employees or even their senior managers can't illustrate their strategies clearly so we could know it is not easy to implement strategies. 

Before I'm reading the article from MIT sloan "Should we develop strategy like building software", I have already come up with the idea of implementing strategy is similar with making your products from your idea. For this topic, I would like to bring a quote from Steve Jobs, who is pretty good at this topic:

"There is a huge gap between great idea and great products. When you are implementing your ideas, things could change a lot. Because when you thinker deeper, you would find new stuff. You have to make trade-offs, concessions and adjustments. There are alway situations that electronics can't solve, or plastics & glass can't make, or robots and factory can't manufacture. When designing a product, you have to put thousands of questions in your head, think logically and try many combinations, then you might find your ideal results. Everyday you would come up with new questions and new inspirations. This process is very important, no matter how great ideas you have at first."

Then how to make the product from your initial idea? Because I'm working on a project now so can share some tips here (stealth mode now):

1 Use case
The first level top down could be the use cases. So I would use cases to explain the main steps of idea, just like telling a story. The use cases should be complete, high level but flexible. The use cases are not once and for all work so should be similar with the code that to be flexible.

2 Product backlog - burn down chart to map all the functions to be implemented
Use the idea of the scrum's burn down backlog to control the progression of the whole project which will give a very good high level control.

3 Frontend - UI & UX
For consumer internet product, the UI & UX is very important. So I would go to ensure every details of the appearance including color of each button, how the information would be shown etc.

4 Backend - smooth transition and support
Backend is the invisible backbone. Because we haven't met really large number of visitors, (which I hope so ;-)) but we would focus on the structure at the very first to provide future scalability.

5 Iteration of the previous 4

On the strategy execution. Every great strategy must be executed by complex combination of activities. I hope the dedication, execution and communication to the detail will help us fully address our idea.

The questions i'm thinking of now is what would be the difference of executing strategies and developing ideas?


Quote:
1 [HBR] Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?
2 [HBR] Simple Rules for a Complex World
3 MIT sloan "Should we develop strategy like building software"

4 Steve Jobs, the lost interview

More Reasons for Why Companies Should Give Back

When looking online for the companies that are giving a lot to their communities, I stumbled upon the “American Companies that Give Back the Most” article in Forbes.  I wasn’t surprised to see among the list of top 10 companies, big names like Wal-Mart, Exxon, GE, Target and Bank of America. Seeing such successful, fortune 100 companies amongst the list made me wonder whether their altruism is a result of their success or whether some of their altruism has actually had an impact on the amount of success they have seen.  In addition to the benefits mentioned in the “Creating shared Value” article, I wanted to look into more reasons for why giving back has such a prominent impact on companies.
In “Do Good Do Well-The Four Business Benefits of Strategic Giving,” I was able to find some additional explanations for the correlation between service and success. The article explains that no matter how small or large a company, they can still see the following benefits through committing to service:
-Giving makes a difference in how you’re viewed: 92% of Americans have a more positive image of a company that supports a cause they care about.
-Giving can increase your sales: Over 75% of people consider a company’s commitment to social issues when deciding what to buy or where to shop
-Employees want to work for companies that give: It helps build morale and pride in the company amongst the workforce.
-Giving attracts money to grow: 26% of investors say that a company’s social responsibility was “extremely important” in making investment decisions.

If all of these benefits have been proven to help corporations in their business…why aren’t more companies giving back? It seems that the key is that companies should be more forward thinking, and plan out the ways in which giving back will be able to help them in tangible ways. As a start-up, most companies are caught up in staying afloat. As their company progresses, its not hard to see how giving back can be overlooked.  As part of business strategy, at the start of a company, it should be a strategic focus to include some level of “shared value” service within the company.                   

Strategy Thinking?

How can we plan for a future that is so undetermined? Well, according to (Mace, 2003), start with an intimate and realistic understanding of your company’s overall position and abilities. As we have learned throughout this course, that the analysis of the company’s strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats (S.W.O.T) should be consider in how well an organization is doing today, and for tomorrow.

Having read (Jung, 2013)blogger post on Ideas to Strategies-Hypothesis Driven Approach, she puts together the frame work for solving a problem using the Hypothesis Driven Approach. First, begin understanding the “customer’s discovery” which can be used to better evaluate the problem within the given group. Next, she points out that through forecasts, based on current operations and existing plans can be used to improving operations, will become an important factor in planning out a solid program plan.

In a recent busy strategy in creating a program for honorable discharged veteran’s leaving prison, it was extremely important to set the goals of the program. One of many sets of problems was getting over the hurdle, “Just how do I go about creating a new program with so many parts?” In my investigation, and countless numbers of interviews, I’ve begun to see that many of the other companies I've studied have used the approaches that many of the other organizations are relatively  doing the same.  

The key component in all this is creating a well-fitting staff group.  Jung blog mentions several concepts, but to better understand the job requirement – qualification, we turn to (Mace) who mentioned eight key qualifications, but for this report, I’ll focus on only one key aspect of planning and strategy: “Analytical Capacity.”

Analytical Capacity, why is this so important? For starters, it can forecast the proper and specific project.  To be successful than you’ll have to align yourself in joint collaboration with those in partnerships, to work out or come to conclusions to market forecast. 

Works Cited

Jung, H. (2013). Ideas to Strategies-Hypothesis Driven Approach. Pittsburgh: Blogger: Strategy development.
Mace, M. L. (2003). The President and Corporate Planning. Harvard Business Review.

                                                                                                    

The Secrets to a Successful Strategy Execution: Team

Team Work from the Diamond to the Board Room

The article I choose to review for my last blog is The Secrets to a Successful Strategy Execution.  The article does a nice job of applying three simple principles to the flow of information.  The first being everyone has a good idea of the actions or decisions of which he or she is responsible.  The second being important information about the competitive environment gets to headquarters quickly.  The final is once made, decisions are rarely second guessed.  These are the first three, but the most important when evaluating the seventeen traits.  Most notable these three translate from my experience of playing baseball to working in the political/governmental sector.

First to have a successful baseball team you have to know what you are responsible for on the team.  From little league to college baseball we were always taught to ask ourselves the question, "what am I going to do if the ball is hit to me?"  On offense we were always taught to be aware of the situation of each inning, of each game.  Did we have to get a runner over to second base with no outs.  Would we have to hit the ball to the right side of the field to ensure we could achieve the purpose of the team.  Comparable speaking this is not a different principle working for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.  Every week we have a senior staff meeting.  Our boss is going to grill us on our responsibilities for different projects that are going on.  Instead of hitting the ball to the right side, or knowing what to do when the ball comes our way, we need to know what were are going to do on a specific relay project.  The question has to be prepared for that meeting how do we fit into the teams objective.     

Second to have a successful baseball team you have to know what the other teams tendencies are to compete against them.  In the baseball world we call this having an effective scout.  Information that would be helpful to the managers and the leaders of the team would be information such as, does the pitcher we are facing throw a curve ball when he is ahead in the count.  Furthermore does the team we are facing like to bunt, do they like to steal bases, do they pitch inside.  There is so much information in baseball, and every game and day is different.  The same holds true in my current position.  You want to know about competing water companies, are they looking to expand, do they enough money invested in their capital, are they looking to fold, etc.  This information whether on the baseball diamond or at PWSA is vital to the successful implementation strategy by management.

Finally, once decisions are made, they are rarely second guessed.  If you are in a game that is tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the ninth, and you have your clean up hitter to bat.  You give them signal by the third base coach to bunt the runner to third to ensure victory, and he decides to swing away.  This is an example of second guessing the decisions of management.  The same could happen at PWSA.  If a direction is made my our Executive Director on a interconnection project, and he directs senior staff what our walk away point for negotiations.  Say our senior staff doesn't "bunt" but decides to swing away.  That is a lack of discipline that could hurt the effective strategy that was put in place.      

In close, you can have an effective strategy, but without buy-in on these three critical points you will not have successful implementation.  My experience from baseball, to politics, to government administration has put me on winning and loosing teams.  The good ones share, help each other, and are disciplined to their role on the team.  You have to take these things one pitch, one inning, and one game at a time.  Most notable it can be a baseball game, a project at PWSA, or something in a different organization; but without these three elements your "team" will not be moving forward together for a common purpose and goal.         

Adapting to Change is Inevitable in Business: IBM


In the article entitled, Lessons in Longevity, it made me think of being too comfortable for change. History has always shown us that dominance only reigns, but for so long. How do we adapt to change when we are leaders in a particular industry? Even the Romans were conquered, but how you strategically make decisions will improve your likelihood. This question can only be answer by the companies today that find themselves, clawing for safety as their business continues to fail.

Companies that once dominated the market now are in peril which include; American Airlines, MySpace, Saab, R.I.M blackberry, and Nokia. Many of these companies can learn a great deal from IBM because at some point they were extremely successful, however because at the peak of dominance they never made enough changes to adapt to the market.

In the Airlines industry American has dominated for ages. Today, American finds itself in direct competition with the likes of companies like Southwest which is the most efficient in the Airline Industry. Many of the industry leaders that once dominated with American are now merging. Delta and United merged with other Airline carriers; however American has remained in the same position. IBM has developed a blueprint for companies that have a great past; build, develop, research, and invest then you can be successful again.

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Many other companies find themselves in the same position as MySpace who at one point was the premiere leader in social networking. Today, they still exist but they have no substance. Saab at one point engineered exceptional vehicles today they aren’t even relevant. R.I.M Blackberry dominated the market for smartphones, but because they choose not to shift their business into a new direction they continued to lose market share in a daily changing industry. Nokia a company that developed and offered affordable cellar devices is in the same position as blackberry.
Change is necessary in business, Government and Non-for-Profits no matter how strong you are it can come to an end. So, prepare for change, adapt, and learn how to increase your strength regardless of how strong you maybe. Now after reading this article I have one question. How will you increase your strength moving forward?    

References:

Sunshine, James. "Five Major Companies In Danger Of Extinction: 24/7 Wall St." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 21 June 2012. Web. 27 June 2013.

Lohr, Steve. "Lessons in Longevity, From I.B.M." The NewYork Times. The NewYork Times, 18 June 2011. Web. 27 June 2013.