Strategy Hunt

strategyStrategy never happens in a straight line. It’s a journey filled with zigs and zags and fateful decisions. If it’s easy or fast, or is magically generated from a template, it’s probably not strategy.

Leaders who take this work seriously understand the existential nature of strategy. It sets the trajectory of a firm and propels every subsequent decision.

Most management teams struggle with strategy work. They dance around the subject and play with a few of the tools, but never actually do the hard work necessary to create power and value in their markets. They dance with strategy as an exercise in current state resource allocation between competing powers. In reality, they should be stripping away their preconceived notions and rethinking everything about their business, the audiences they serve and the methods they choose to compete and serve with.

As I said, it is work that calls into question the very existence of the firm.

Some teams get it right. When I’ve worked with those teams, what you see and hear and observe feels like trust, diligence, passion, respect, tenacity and commitment.

They trust each other enough to let down their political defenses and focus on what’s right for the firm.

They understand that diligence is required to accurately assess their situation. They do the work before they espouse their positions.

They argue passionately for their perspectives. Sometimes passion sounds a bit like fighting.

The respect for each other is reflected in the fighting over the ideas, not over the people bearing the ideas.

They are tenacious and keep plowing through the fog of strategy because they know they must.

And finally, when the choices are made and the dust settles, regardless of prior opinions, they go forth with arms linked and do what they committed to doing.

It’s never a straight line. It’s always an adventure.

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Practical Lessons in Leadership

book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

Art Petty is a coachspeaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

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Reorganization B.S.

chessboardI once worked for a firm that reorganized every April. You could set your watch by it.

Nothing important or innovative happened from January to June.

Even at my young age, it was clear after a couple of cycles that the reorganization was a political chess game that had no basis in strategy or operational effectiveness. It was an ego battle of the most powerful players. The employees were the pawns. Customers and shareholders were the victims.

Most restructuring efforts are little more than a real life business version of Game of Thrones. That’s too bad, because “structure” is a powerful tool for creating value. Not the lines and boxes, but the alignment of superpowers with opportunities.

I had a habit of futzing with my structure. I apologize to those I drove crazy on occasion. I didn’t always get it right the first or second time. However, good, patient and motivated people always helped us get it right eventually. And when superpowers aligned with opportunities, the world was ours for a few moments in time.

If your restructuring efforts don’t focus on bringing superpowers to opportunities, it is mostly b.s.

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Practical Lessons in Leadership

book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

Art Petty is a coachspeaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

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Why We All Need to Get Good at “Next”

whatsnextNext…it’s the sign of the times.

Seeking next is the new state of normal for most of us in our careers and almost all of us in our businesses.

We all need to get good at next.

No business can afford to run in place. Yesterday’s great strategy is tomorrow’s business school case on what went wrong or how management missed a market shift.

News flash, every market is shifting.

Every business should be pursuing next. Most business struggle with this. It’s hard to change old ways and old thinking. Nonetheless, we need to help our firms succeed at next.

The pursuit of next in your career is a bit more challenging. It’s personal and it is emotional.

Too many people jump to next for the wrong reasons. A bad boss might be a reason to leave a firm, but a bad boss in an otherwise good company merits a pause and a strategy rethink.

If you must move, moving to a competitor is in my opinion a lousy next in your career. It debases what you worked for at the last firm. If you believe in the industry’s prospects, think about looking in the supply chain or broader ecosystem. You retain some industry equity and you broaden your view to the customers and players.

My own next has involved changing industries multiple times. It’s hard the first time. Once you crack the code that all firms and all industries have the same set of problems—just in different proportion, it becomes easier to navigate. I would not trade this approach for anything—I’ve lived multiple careers and am richer in experience and maybe a little wisdom for it.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Getting good at next involves a bit of cognitive rewiring. We don’t naturally like change. We interpret it as danger and it triggers our fight or flight responses. The necessary response is to view change as challenge and opportunity. You will win at next when it is less of a threat and more of an adventure. And yes, a great career is indeed an adventure waiting to be experienced.

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Related Post: When It Pays to Invest in Yourself

Practical Lessons in Leadership

book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

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Art Petty is a coachspeaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

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Give Yourself Permission

whatifA good number of my professional coaching discussions are much about helping individuals recognize they have the power and the permission to put their ideas to work.

Many people have a solid sense of what needs to be done but lack the self-confidence to turn their ideas into actions. They stall, waiting for the perfect answer to emerge and for all of the obstacles to dissolve and be replaced by perfect certainty. And they remain waiting while the world spins by offering little added evidence to support their decision.

Where We Hesitate:

  • Top leaders struggle with strategy paralysis induced by rapid external change. The old ways no longer work like they used to and the new ways are foreign and filled with risk. Of course, doing nothing is the riskiest of choices.
  • Individuals hesitate to share their ideas for fear of being viewed negatively or found to be wrong at some point.
  • Managers struggle to do what they know is right and purge the toxic members from their teams. The system is set up to avoid these moments and protect against liabilities and they fear reprisal.
  • Others strive to do too many things for fear of having to make a decision that excludes something that might be right.
  • Senior leaders fail to stop their own failed initiatives and continue to pour good money after bad rather than letting the world know they were wrong.

Starting Today, Give Yourself Permission To:

  • Take an action knowing that the outcome is uncertain.
  • Make a decision to focus in spite of the temptation and pressure to do the opposite.
  • Admit you made a mistake.
  • Initiate a course of action on a principled issue in spite of the forces standing in your way.
  • Learn by doing.
  • Avoid being drawn into the black hole of negativity that swirls around so many of us.
  • Learn from others.
  • Stop fearing.
  • Laugh at yourself.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Life is a series of actions and experiments in pursuit of wisdom. But first, you’ve got to give yourself permission to experience it.

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Related Post: 

Great Leadership Remains in the Moment

Practical Lessons in Leadership

book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

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Art Petty is a coachspeaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

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Why Unilever Buying Dollar Shave Club is Relevant for Your Firm

tunnelvisionOr, Why You Might Lose Your Business If You Don’t Change the View:

Michael Dubin just sold his startup for a cool billion $ to European consumer products behemoth, Unilever. His four-year young firm is reportedly not profitable, although it has signed up 3.2 million paying subscribers.

In case you are not familiar with Mr. Dubin, his business, Dollar Shave Club is effectively a mail-order firm for shaving and other personal grooming products. Old tech, but Dubin threw a twist at it. (Remember, Zappos changed the tired shoe retailing industry with a low-tech twist on the business model.)

The idea, which turned out to be brilliant, went straight at the heart of a really annoying problem for men who shave dailythe cost of razor blades at your local retailer fits somewhere between the average monthly car payment and two tickets to the hit Broadway play, Hamilton. The darned things are outrageously expensive and the traditional razor blade manufacturers have been minting profits at the expense of men’s beards and household budgets for decades. Until Dollar Shave Club rewrote the rules.

For a low monthly fee, the firm ships you your blades (you choose from 3 options as of this writing), and they keep them coming. The offerings have expanded to include shaving cream, hair gels, body washes and yes, even “One Wipe Charlies” (flushable wipes).

Michael and Dollar Shave Club found a way to take burden, cost and annoyance out of an everyday problem for a big chunk of the population. Taking burden away from people is a great starting point for a strategy.

The traditional players: Unilever and P&G had no reason to ever think of this business idea. After all, they had a stranglehold on an allegedly highly profitable category.

Unilever solved their innovation problem by buying Dollar Shave Club. P&G, the other consumer products giant has been playing catch-up with its response via their Gillette brand. P&G’s market share has steadily declined, mostly at the expense of Dollar Shave Club.

When asked about this strategic miss, someone described by the WSJ as “familiar with the company’s (P&G) thinking,” offered, “It was probably on the radar but we weren’t necessarily having the right conversation around what might disrupt us.”

At Least 5 Big Lessons from Unilever Buying Dollar Shave Club:

  • Not having the right conversations is potentially fatal to your business in this fast changing world.
  • Assuming your cash machine of a business model will continue to dispense money indefinitely is naïve.
  • Someone is looking at your customers and wondering how to remove burden and remove you from the equation.
  • It’s critical to fire up the right conversations and move beyond the myopic view to how you’ve always done things. The first step involves changing your view.
  • If all you do is look out the window from the conference room to your parking lot, the view never changes.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

It’s time to challenge your team to change the view.

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Related Posts:

Art of Managing: Change Your Field of View

The Painful Process of Pivoting to New Markets

Practical Lessons in Leadership

book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

artspeakingadv2

 

 

 

 

Art Petty is a coachspeaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

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