Monday, August 30, 2004

Boards spend 3 hours a month discussing S.

Top management spends less than three hours a month discussing S. issues (and that includes mergers and acquisitions) or making strategic decisions. Michael C. Mankins, managing partner of Marakon Associates, in the September 2004 HBR issue, once more measured what everybody already knows: typical company’s senior executives spend less than three days each month working together as a team, and in that time they devote less than three hours to strategic issues. Moreover, these three hours are seldom well spent. S. discussions tend to be diffuse and unstructured, only rarely designed to reach good decisions quickly.

One global firm spent more time each year selecting the company’s holiday card than debating its vital Africa S.

However at a number of Marakon clients — ABN AMRO, Alcan, Barclays, Boeing, Cadbury Schweppes, Cardinal Health, Gillette, Lloyds TSB, and Roche — executives have found ways to improve teamwork at the top. Leaders spend their time together addressing the issues that have the greatest impact on the company’s long-term value creation.

Based on the experiences at these companies, Mankins provides 7 techniques for exploiting valuable time of executive boards:

  1. Deal with operations separately from S.
  2. Focus on decisions, not on discussions
  3. Measure the real value of every item on the agenda
  4. Get issues off the agenda as quickly as possible
  5. Put real choices on the table
  6. Adopt common decision-making processes and standards
  7. Make decisions stick

Mankins' article ("Stop Wasting Valuable Time") fits well in the Value Based Management tradition of Marakon Associates. My time reading this article was certainly not a waste of time and I recommend reading it to any topmanager and MBA student.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

BS for SMEs

In a new book 'The Keystone Advantage: What the New Dynamics of B. Ecosystems Mean for S., Innovation, and Sustainability' - Marco Iansiti and Roy Levien argue niche players should think of their B. environment as a series of ecosystems.

These ecosystems feature "keystone" companies such as Microsoft and WalMart, providing for the health of all who do B. with them.
Iansiti and Levien recommend small companies in such ecosystems should follow a specialization BS by taking explicit advantage of the opportunities provided by the ecosystem, while avoiding the traps that challenge firms in such environments.

Amongst the many tips the writers have for small companies in these ecosystems around leaders such as Microsoft or Walmart are:
  • Specialize in unique capabilities.
  • Leverage other capabilities from keystones
  • Sustain innovation
  • Tight coupling: Manage risk and dependencies
  • Loose coupling: Embrace mobility and flexibility
  • Niche leverage: Power over keystones
The HBS article and book are recommended readings for 'small fish in big ponds' considering a niche specialization BS in an ecosystem dominated by a big fish.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Creating Customer Value

Much has been written about customer orientation, customer relationship management (CRM), Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) metrics, Customer Centric organization models, customer retention, customer care…add any high sounding word with ‘customer’ preceding or succeeding that word and you have a new model, a new theory. Headline hitting books, celebrity author seminars and training till another theory comes along.

And we see the poor customer is still the most dissatisfied lot (that includes all of us specialists too, as customers).

What a manufacturer or service provider often thinks as a market or value proposition, customers respond in a diametrically different fashion. Why does this happen?

While business thinks in terms of products and derived values, customer is looking at satisfaction. The key question is whether all the strategy, product features, add-ons and value creation lead to ultimate customer satisfaction.