What is your dream?

We attend numerous meetings to figure out a vision/ mission statement for the organisation we work. Have we ever thought what is our personal vision?


Strategy of Making ‘Transparent Strategy’

In the context of communicating strategy to employees and other stake holders, I believe that the best method is to make organisation strategy absolutely transparent to all employees and stake holders. Some people may argue that a select group should drive strategy and transfer same in the form of activities down the line. Though advantages and disadvantages of both of these methods can be debated for long, I would like to present my point of view in favor of making strategy transparent. In fact in my views making strategy transparent is a kind of strategy in itself.

To make a strategy transparent needs a lot of courage and conviction. And this starts from conviction in the strategy itself. Is my strategy a real differentiator? Are our products, services or offerings differentiated enough to attract target audience? Is my workforce capable enough to implement and deliver the outcome of my strategy? If I have to make my strategy known to everyone, I would have to compel myself first to answer above questions. The advantage is the outcome; my strategy would address real capability of organisation to deliver, my strategy would address the desired solution my product or service going to deliver to the target audience, my strategy would be guiding principle for HR managers and functional heads to build capabilities of work force exactly in line with the strategy. Most important the outcome this method results in is ‘a single focused strategy’ for the organisation

However, it would not be a secret for the world outside organisation to know about such transparent plans. Very soon competitors would discover this and could react in advance. My argument is; is it a real risk? In fact this could work in our favor  The competitions, if react, along with addressing their capabilities, have to alter their original strategy. Finally it would result in modification or change in organisational strengths, products, services etc. In most of the cases it would end up in multiple strategies focusing excessively on competition which is a definite recipe for disaster. A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin mention six common strategic errors in “Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, Harvard Business Review Press

1. There is the Do-It-All strategy, shorthand for failing to make real choices about priorities.

2. The Don Quixote strategy unwisely attacks the company’s strongest competitor first.

3. The Waterloo strategy pursues war on too many fronts at once.

4. The Something-For-Everyone tries to capture every sort of customer at once, rather than prioritizing.

5. The Programme-Of-The-Month eschews distinctiveness for whatever strategy is currently fashionable in an industry.

6. The Dreams-That-Never-Come-True strategy never translates ambitious mission statements into clear choices about which markets to compete in and how to win in them.

In one of the survey by Booz and Company more than two third of executives who responded to the survey from various companies agreed that their biggest frustration is ‘having too many conflicting priorities’ (As published in HBR blog “Making your strategy more relevant” by by Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi). It seems more relevant to have focused transparent strategy, but it is not easy. In a competitive environment the easiest strategy is to play safe and in such situation most of the companies end up working on multiple strategies.

Michael Porter explaining his five forces model in one of the interviews says competitive rivalry is not a zero sum game. Everyone in an industry can work on product and services to create a differentiated value and collectively can increase the pie in the first place. Still there would be a fair competition. However, customers would have an option to choose between products based on their merits and not merely based on competitive pricing. This would uplift industry profitability. And that is the biggest incentive for investment in research and development. A win- win recipe for both the consumer and company.

Some Gyan

I saw this in an old movie. There is a ranger, sitting in shooting position on a woolen loft, furiously waiting for a wild tiger to come to his target. The ranger is well dressed up, in military like uniform with khaki look. He is belted with adequate bullets and with a riffle filled for one shot at a time. He sets this in time around mid day, when tiger starts its search for food. He also sets this in nearby lake location, which tiger and other animals use in thirst. The wooden loft is cushioned with crop leftovers and covered with green leaves to create illusion. He sets his own direction of target which he has discovered in good research. In all probability the tiger must come from that anticipated point only. And then there is a sheep tied in a peg to attract tiger that is looking for a food. What do think the accuracy of this ranger if tiger actually comes?

Then I saw this in discovery channel. A tiger searches a flock of deer. The tiger uses his unique skills to find a place to hide himself before attack. He targets one in the flock. Not random one. The gifted tool he uses is his teeth, power of jaw and nails in his paw. What do you think the accuracy of this tiger when he actually attacks the flock?

I thought of two simple strategies derived from above settings. To get an opportunity converted into our favor we have two options. 1) If opportunity comes, we would be able to hit only if we are fully prepared for it. Even luck favors preparedness. 2) Develop natural skills like tiger and find your target.

“Nishkam Karma”, action without attachment

The concept of “Nishkama Karma”, action without attachment to both action/work and fruits expected there after, as mentioned in Hindu holy book Bhagwad Gita, can solve many of the management problems and can confuse few too.
One of the most popular saying of Bhagwad Gita is always misunderstood. The following stanza is always misunderstood as ” Do your work/duty without expecting any fruit/result”. Actually it is slightly different and can be explained with some more concepts mentioned in the very beginning lessons of Bhagwad Gita. I have interpreted in some different ways and tried to think it from the management perspective.
The Gita limits our domain of influence to our “Karma” only and not thereafter (ref; chapter 2, 47). So results of “Karma” are not in our hand. But if the definition of word “Karma” is analyzed closely it will confuse the above interpretation. Karma is not merely work but it is work for duty. Karma is not only activity but also it is activity with a positive purpose. When there is duty or activity with a purpose, Karma becomes Dharma. “Dharma” can be correlated with the ultimate goal of the life. So, though you should not be instrumental in making your actions bear fruit (chapter 2, 47), you may design your actions for your ultimate goal, the “Dharma”. When we talk about fruits, it is actually outcomes of your sequence of actions in the way to ultimate goal. Good or bad, there should not be any attachment to these outcomes. And so these outcomes should not divert you from your ultimate goal.
What are the benefits of detachment from fruits? As per the Gita, in advance stage of attaining yoga, there should be detachment from “Karma” too. This also have very interesting interpretation but I will try to discuss it in some other post. All these attachments creates aggression, fear and anger. Carrying forward from the conclusion in above paragraph, aggression, fear and anger have all the potential to divert you from your ultimate goal by changing your course of actions in search of pleasurable fruits. So to make your goal and your actions intact we must have stable mind. The Gita defines it as “Samatva”, evenness of mind. (chapter 2, 48).
From management perspective, replace Karma with strategy and Dharma or ultimate goal with vision or mission of the organization and all the above interpretations will hold true.
Your comments carry significant value
References from Gita
Chapter2,47; Your right is to work only and never to fruit thereof. Be not instrumental in making your actions bear fruit, nor let your attachment be to inaction.
Chapter2, 48; “Samatva”, evenness of mind is called “Yoga”.
Chapter2, 56; The sage, whose mind remains unperturbed amid sorrows, whose thirst for pleasures has altogether disappeared, and who is free from passion, fear and anger, is called stable of mind.
Chapter2,57; He who is unattached to everything, and when meeting with good and evil, neither rejoices nor recoils, his mind is stable.

Brand Managers! What are you building, a category or a brand?

One distribution channel is setting up the rules of game in today’s environment is multi franchise organized retail. Now a days the only distribution channel is prominent for the most of the consumer durable and FMCG product is organized retail. This multi franchise model is redefining challenges of branding and product management.
The older brand building activities now become category building activity. For example, imagine a manufacturer of refrigerator who successfully builds a brand and in turn customers turn up to the retail store. But inside the store, story is different. The need trigger or decision to have a refrigerator could have been augmented by the said manufacturer, but inside the store customer is open to buy any brand. For a walk in customer inside a store there are lot of variables available to take a purchase decision. It may or may not be dependent on the branding of the company which prompted the customer to consider the product.
This case implies that the older way of advertising and branding are basically building more of a category than a brand. At this point positioning of product plays a key role. The brand managers should think of which gap or problem they are solving by making a positioning of a product. Because a slight differentiation if exploited properly could play a major role in making purchase decision. These gaps or points of differentiation are available everywhere. It could be price point, product features, point of entry in customer home, geography, channel or even variables like buying need of customer, perceived value of product by the customers etc.
While positioning a product one should be very clear on competitive strategy. As in multi franchise sales network a wrong strategy will give opportunity to competition to win and set the direction of game. It’s a zero sum game. Its like a game of cards where you keep guessing of available cards with the opponents. You check your strong and weak cards along with setting trump card. You make a plan with a sequence of moves. And if your sequence of moves are ideal you can even win with your weaker cards, because you are setting the direction and opponents have to react to your move. But there is one flaw. The whole strategy is based on few real things ( strong and weak cards, trump etc) and more guess work like who are the opponents having cards stronger than your weaker cards. And an assumption that all the best cards are not in one opponents basket. So it is risky. And so it is challenging. When you put a wrong move someone else wins and then he starts setting directions to the game. Since guess work and risk are still on the table, you’ll have to wait for next opportunity to win a move and take the commands of the game back in your folds. Strong and weak cards can be replaced by competitive strengths and weaknesses of any organization.