Category Archives: Strategy

Will the iPhone rule?

The Peter Burrows’s BusinessWeek article, How big will the iPhone be? discusses the potential impact that the iPhone may have on Apple.  Burrows projects that the iPhone could translate into a $10 billion business for Apple – even in a crowded and competitive market.  No one questions Apple’s brand strength and the fact that there is currently a large existing iPod customer base who will be lining up to purchase this phone, but the fact remains that the cell phone industry is crowded and highly competitive.

 

Two initial questions that popped into my mind were: (1) wouldn’t it have made more sense to offer this phone as an undocked phone – one that anyone can buy and add it to their carrier of choice.  That way you don’t limit your potential customer base to those willing to go with the AT&T network.  (2) Given the need for bandwidth for some of the phones services, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus the initial push for this phone in Asia and Western Europe?  These two regions currently employ 3G networks, whereas in the U.S. 3G networks are not nearly as widespread.

 

While the early months of the launch will most likely contain some bumps and bruises, overall it will be very successful.  But, whether the iPhone dominates the market will be determined by, in part, how successful this product is with corporate users.  Currently, it is suggested that the iPhone will not support Outlook very cleanly out of the box.  This will negatively impact the iPhone’s numbers – as potential buyers stick with their Blackberry’s and other smart phones due to the lack of Outlook support.  In the end, Apple will go from having no presence in the cell phone market to being a major player in this space virtually over night.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 3G, Apple, AT&T, BusinessWeek, iPhone, Peter Burrow, Product Launch, Strategy, Technology

Promise-Based Management

Promise

 

Most of the vexing challenges leaders face – improperly executed strategy, lack of organizational agility, disengaged employees, and so on – stem from broken or poorly crafted commitments.  Executives can overcome some of their thorniest problems in the short term and foster productive, reliable workforces for the long term by practicing what we call ‘promise-based management’: cultivating and coordinating commitments in a systematic way.

 

I came across this article written by Sull and Spinosa, Promise-Based Management: The Essence of Execution, in the April edition of the HBR and was fascinated by its title.  As I read the article I began to reflect on my own personal experiences with the organizations that I have worked for, and with my own staff.  I agree that one of the quickest ways to take the wind out of a person’s sails is to break a commitment – especially one that was made publicly.  Most employees realize that in business, as in life, that change is one of the few constants.  With that said, it is hard to justify breaking a promise that was made without adequately considering the impact.  I am suggesting that there are those around us who are “serial committers” – they always say yes and rarely say no, even when they should.  These individuals become so engulfed by the shear number of commitments that they have made that it becomes impossible for them to execute on any of them, at least not effectively.

 

I found Sull and Spinosa’s five characteristics of good promises particularly interesting.  They define good promises as those that individuals are committed to keeping.  And point out that they are:

  1. Public – promises that are made, monitored, and completed in public are more binding.
  2. Active – negotiating a commitment should be an active, collaborative process.
  3. Voluntary – effective promises are not coerced.
  4. Explicit – requests must be clear from the start.
  5. Mission based – explanation of why the commitment matters.

In conclusion, it is time for us to retrain our staff, colleagues and senior executives that it is completely appropriate – if not valuable to the organization – to say no.  Or looking at it a different way, to put the commitment on hold until there is ample time to evaluate the entirety of what is being requested, and its impact on the organization.  It would provide us all with the requisite time to evaluate what the impact would be if the promise is not acted upon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Charles Spinosa, Corporate Culture, Donald N. Sull, Harvard Business Review, Management, Strategy

Perfecting product launches

HBR

 

The April 2007 edition of the Harvard Business Review contained the article “Preparing for the perfect product launch” by James P. Hackett, President and CEO of Steelcase.  Hackett does a wonderful job of explaining the troubles that many organizations face when developing and launching new products and services – failing to adequately think out and plan their strategies.  He points out that in one of his organization’s less successful product launches, that their “concept was a breakthrough, but the development process” broke down.  He attributes this in large part to the fact that they did not fully think through and test the entire process – every one was focused on “doing” and had not rigorously scouted out “the territory before we sprinted down the execution path.”

 

This is very common in most organizations.  We often notice a trend or base our opinions on a finite number of facts and – in our goal to introduce a new product to the market first – we mobilize resources to develop and launch that new product.  While not realizing, until it is too late, that our facts were flawed, because we did not do the proper due diligence in advance.  Often we subjectively find facts that support our business plans, rather than letting the facts determine what the correct decision should be.

 

Employing complexity theory and critical thinking skills, Hackett developed the following four phase process for new product development that he and his team implemented at Steelchase:

1.      Think – deeply consider the problem or opportunity

a.       Have every member of the team consider the problem independently.

b.      Ask the correct questions about the problem. 

c.       Divide the topic among the team members, read and research as much as possible. 

d.      Employ your team’s network to talk to the smartest people that you know about this topic. 

e.       Document all of your discoveries.

2.      Set the point of view – Develop a specific approach to the problem

a.       Have the team collegially and open-mindedly discuss all of the options generated.

b.      As a team, define the mission and what constitutes success

c.       Assign a member of the team to “own the point of view.”

d.      Once the point of view is set, stay the course.

3.      Plan implementation – develop the launch strategy and test it

a.       Make sure that the mission is understandable to non-team members.

b.      Determine the role that stakeholders will play in the implementation.

c.       Practice the plan so implementation runs smoothly.

4.      Implement – they implement the strategy

a.       Elect a spokesperson to be the voice of the company.

b.      Stay true to your measures of success.

c.       Give credit liberally and where it is due.

 

Now I can all ready hear most people saying that they do this currently.  It is important to point out that in this process, Steelchase does not cut corners, they provide employees with the time to fully think out and research new ideas.  They fully engulf themselves in any and all data available on the issue.  Once they are done with the thinking phase, then they move on to develop their solution to the problem.  Another key difference is that Steelcase has made this part of their company’s culture.  Hackett feels so passionately about this process that he personally teaches it to his employees.  He believes that it is more effective coming from him than a trainer or consultant that he could hire.

As busy as we all are it is much too easy to “go-go-go” and “do-do-do.”  It is much more difficult to stop, and consider all of the facts.  Test out your theories.  Create your plan and practice it.  And then implement your plan.  This is an enormous culture shift to the “reactionaries” who love to shoot from the hip.  But the long-term benefits to the organization are tremendous.

1 Comment

Filed under Business Plans, Corporate Culture, Harvard Business Review, Innovation, Marketing, Product Development, Product Launch, Product Management, Steelchase, Strategy

Do companies need a second in command?

Second in Command  Recently I read an article written by Nathan Bennett and Stephen Miles which was published in the May 2006 issue of Harvard Business Review entitled, “Second in Command” which discusses the relationship between CEOs and COOs.  The authors point out that no two COOs have the same job description – not even two that have been employed by the same organization.  This, they argue, is a result of the fact that position is determined largely by the needs (and strengths and weaknesses) of the CEO.  They quote statistics that show the gradual decline in the number of COOs who are currently employed.  More interestingly they point out that 17% of COOs, who are promoted to CEO, elect not to hire a replacement COO.  I am surprised by this statistic, because I would imagine that a former COO would understand the benefit that a COO brings to an organization.

 

Many would agree that, among many other things, the CEO needs to be focused on the long-term direction and strategy of the organization.  The COO should be focused on the day-to-day operations of the business and implementing the CEOs vision.  A mistake that some organizations make is by having a CEO who is too tactically focused.  If we view those companies over a 5, 10 or 15 year period, I am willing to bet that those organizations – with tactically focused CEOs (and no COO) – will be much less successful than those with a CEO and COO.

Companies do need a second in command.  The CEO can not effectively be both strategically and tactically focused.  They need a trusted employee to focus their attention on the daily operations of the business and on executing on the CEOs strategy.

Leave a comment

Filed under CEO, COO, Harvard Business Review, Leadership, Nathan Bennett, Stephen Miles, Strategy, Uncategorized