The Strategy Misunderstanding

Welcome to our inaugural guest blogger post. Periodically we will be featuring members and friends of the KaizenBiz community. For this post, we are featuring John Richard Bell, a KaizenBiz community member, retired CEO of Jacobs Suchard’s North American coffee/confectionary business and former strategy and branding consultant to several of the globe’s most respected blue-chip consumer goods companies.

            Let’s start a conversation…

Strategy has to be one of the most misused words in strategy, misunderstood, tactics Continue reading


Adapting Strategy to Circumstance

Strategic planning is a crucial exercise for any business. It is a guide for what the company intends to accomplish over a long period of time. There is often a recognition of what is special or an advantage that is possessed by that particular organization.

How static is strategy?

It is tempting to simply write a nice document that contains high minded and audacious goals. In the current business environment, there is a lot of talk about the need to be innovative, disruptive and customer-centric. Yet, the strategic plan does contains how the business will be both stable and ever-changing. Add in how quickly technology is changing and being adopted, this may be a moment when the creators of a strategic plan have to consider adapting to circumstances in real-time rather than at a once-a-year strategic planning session.

When it is not working

If you have followed US business news over the past year, you probably have run across the saga of JC Penney. JC Penney is a department store that has been struggling for some time. They brought on Ron Johnson, formerly the Senior Vice President of Retail Operations for Apple, in 2011 and he set forth a different concept for shoppers. Rather than offering sales and coupons, JC Penney’s lowered their prices so customers could shop any day of the week and save money. They changed the marketing to be more colorful and fresh to attract a younger shopping demographic. They have also included shops within the stores (e.g. Sephora) featuring specific designers and more trendy fashions as well as pop up stores and such.

It isn’t working all that well. US shoppers are accustomed to shopping slaes, even when it means early or late hours, special days or using a coupon. JC Penney’s customers have complained and sales have dropped.

Do you adapt or stay the course?

While you could analyze what is specifically wrong with JC Penney’s strategy, a more interesting question is about adaptation or continuing with the strategic plan. There is the possibility that the strategic plan is not in tune with the current marketplace and using outmoded thinking. Another possibility is that the plan is unfocused so it doesn’t really provide a clear direction. Finally, the strategic plan may be fine but the tactics and execution are mismatched with how customers interact with the company’s products and/or services.

Ken Favaro asks in his post, How Leaders Mistake Execution For Strategy, 5 questions:

1. What business should you be in?

2. How do you add value to your business?

3. Who are the target customers for your business?

4. What are your value propositions for your target customers?

5. What capabilities are essential to adding value to your businesses and differentiating their value propositions?

Necessary vs unnecessary adaptation

In JC Penney’s case, there may be flawed thinking in the strategic plan. But it also may be flawed implementation. Decision-makers are tasked with managing the balance of innovation, disruptive technologies and competitors and customer-centric trends when designing the strategic plan. The challenge lies in knowing when to adapt to circumstances.

How do you differentiate between strategy and execution?

Given the turbulence and rapid changes in technology, how relevant is it to create a 5 year strategic plan?

What happens to the focus of a strategic plan if you are adapting it to current circumstances?

How do the results of business goals influence the use of a strategic plan?

What’s the next new thing in strategy?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth and small business coach/trainer, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding in your own backyard or into another country, Ability Success Growth guides established small business owners to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.




How this Social Era Affects Strategy Execution

Social networks have always existed, even when put under pressure by technological advances and societal events. The connection has always been that people have conversations with other people. As companies grew, some of the personalized socialization was removed. A significant change was noticed in 1999 about how people markets and businesses are socialized.

Maybe aspects of this always existed but  The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End Of Business As Usual, written by Christopher Locke, Richard Levine, Doc Searles and David Weinberger, identified that how organizations communicated internally and externally changed with the Internet.  Right on the front of their book, it states “markets are conversations, talk is cheap, silence is fatal.” But even ancient markets were places where conversations happened and ideas were exchanged.

*Please join us Friday, October 12th at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT for the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz as we discuss “Creating Workable Solutions To Encourage Genuine Productivity”. Not sure how to participate? Please click here for tips and advice.

So, what is different about the current “social era” and how businesses engage strategically with the market? Continue reading


The Perspective Of Business Operations In Strategy

On the face of it, you might think that business operations would be only focusing on the actions that will be taken to implement the strategic plan. And that is true…well, partly true. Sure, the business operations team is certainly responsible for how goals get accomplished. For this discussion, think of business operations as the nitty-gritty of the business. This means the systems, processes, product/service performance, customer satisfaction, managing logistics, inventory, manufacturing, increases efficiency in organization and other recurring activities that increase value.

Could they also bring a different perspective to the strateBusiness Operations guiding strategygic discussion?

Suchitra Mishra, a member of the Kaizen Biz community, wrote a post that elucidates the value of including business operations in where and why the business pursues a particular direction. It is easy to forget there is treasure to behold in the details.

Visions evolve…due to reality

The CEO has the job of envisioning where the company will go over time. It seems counterintuitive but business visions evolve. Conversations with their team members, participating in mastermind groups or reading material are all common ways that new ideas or techniques are discovered. Even experiences in one’s personal life can affect one’s business vision. Getting the vision realized in real life needs effective strategies.

Data is reality

As more experience adds nuances to the business vision, it evolves. Adding more nuances are numbers. This is where business operations shines. They provide the necessary grounding for strategies to flourish in real life. As Slack, Chambers and Johnston write in Operations Management, 4th Edition,

The role of the operations function means something beyond its obvious responsibilities and tasks – it means the underlying rationale of the function, the very reason that the function exists.”

The details in the data illuminate how the vision can be realized

In business, the data is reality. Having records of the customers’ experience, the performance of revenue streams, line workers’ input, leading indicators, the effects ofchange on the organization and other types of information are a start but being able to articulate them in a strategic planning session makes them more useful in the evolution of the business strategy.

Mishra sums it up best,

No one knows the inter-dependencies between people, process and opportunities better than the business operations team in an organization. So why not leverage this team for fool-proof strategies?”

What role should operations play in strategic planning?

Who is responsible for coordinating or connecting the disparate departments/groups for strategic planning?

How could business operations be the “voice” for the stakeholders?

What could prevent the integration of the business operations’ perspective?

What are the internal and external benefits of using the business operations’ perspective to drive innovation and growth?

*Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz for this discussion on Friday, March 16th at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT