In formulated strategy we use a lot of words like innovative, based on core competencies, market driven, customer centric, operational excellence, best-in-class, top quality, leveraging existing brand, etc…. You named it and of course business model and business model innovation are now part of these buzz words. Are they still meaningful or did we forget the deeper concepts behind the words? Do we use the technocratic jargon to signal others that we are the experts?
As I have argued in my last post, I think we use in strategy and in management in general too many generic and meaningless words. And I think we use also too many meaningless graphs and pictures to say nothing as a matter of fact. Visualization does not help you if your strategy is bad. Sorry, Alex for this 😉 .
Every decent firm claims in restructuring that it is concentrating on its core competencies when divesting or closing parts of its firm. Well, and often it is the same firm that argued some time ago that it was necessary to buy this now divested firm since it wanted to offer full service to its customers. We have so many words for “Sorry, it did not work. We just could not make it work”. Why are we so afraid about the truth?
In management we have invented Newspeak. Original, Newspeak is a fictional language in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. The basic idea behind Newspeak is to remove all shades of meaning from language. While in Orwell’s novel the government tries to introduce Newspeak to the people in order to make the people more compliant to its will, in the case of management it is our own fault. We managers use our own Newspeak and we have taken all meaning out of it. Continue reading Let’s commit a thoughtcrime
The question what a good strategy is is difficult to answer. With hindsight it is easy: A good strategy is one that works. But in foresight? Many formulated, intended strategies are plain boring, generic and not customer centric, but focused on investors. Many business model innovators on the other hand have clear strategies that are focused on customers and on the value proposition.
“We earn a premium on our cost of capital”
“We form the best team in industry”
“We help our customer to be more successful”
“We ensure sustainable development”
Have you found out which company has these pillars for its strategy?
Probably not. The strategy is so generic and interchangeable that it fits for almost any large company.
Are you attracted as a customer to this company?
Probably not, since so many companies claim to help customers to be more successful.
Does this spur emotions in you?
Definitely not! It is just plain boring!
How about this company: It claims that it is driven by “passion of success” that rests on “four cornerstones”: “superior brands”, “superior supply chain”, “superior talent in lean organizations”.
Do you know which company it is?
No, since it is so generic. It could stand for many companies in many industries. It is boring. It does not give the company any real purpose to exit.
Thinking in business models helps you in change projects, particularly in the unlearning of unwanted tacit assumptions and knowledge of the past. Forgetting what made you successful in the past is the key challenge in any change project, learning new things actually the easy part.
I am currently involved in a large change project. The company involved was living in a cozy environment. Demand was stable, predictable; project cycles were measured in years to decades and due to high entry barriers the firm was sure to “win” all business from its customers. Quality was so defined that the products lasted for eternity, most of the time longer than they had to last. Due to the heavy duty nature of its customers’ business everything was engineered to customers standards and very little of the components were bought off the shelf. Cost was not a major issue as long it was in budget.
And now the world has changed. Their customers had to change due to pressure from their clients. So the world of my firm will never be the same but since the change is coming slowly, there is time to adapt. The question is now: How can the firm change? How can it forget the habits that made it successful in the past but impede the future?
I teamed up with a coach that has a background in social psychology and constructivism. We had long discussion together but also with the customer’s management that was new on board. The question was where to start the change process.
Should we just have McKinsey, BCG or any other top consultancy fly in to have them develop a new market oriented strategy and then implement it? Our question was: Can you just implement a strategy into the heads of people that were not involved in the process? I think you can in certain cultures but not in nordic cultures. The danger is that you lose the strength any company has and particularly lose the commitment of the employees that make up the difference between a mediocre and a good to great company. You just losethe soul of the business and get mercenaries as employees. So that was not an option.
The other approach often used in change management is soft, typical HR driven. Management does some seminars on change, culture and innovation; and, what a miricale, people then will understand the need for change and then they will change. Unfortunately this is an illusion but big business for trainers and coaches. The problem here is that it sounds so right but people will consume not engage.
The problem and also the chance for our client was that they still have cash and time to change. Some units are in trouble others still earn money with the traditional way of doing business. So there is little sense of urgency (bad) but also time for a deeper change (good).
Understand your business model as a start, Understand what business are you in
The typical answer from managers to the question “What is the purpose of your business?” is: “to make money”. Well, that is to some point right but the money comes from customers and therefore the purpose of a business is to find profitable customers. And financing your sales to your customers is only sustainable when you see the cash in your pockets in the end. That basic purpose got lost over the last years of shareholder value thinking.
I gave last week a workshop on business model innovation for a large Swiss technology firm. The firm is well entrenched with its customers, you can almost call the firm a purveyor to the court for some customers. But times are changing and therefore did the new management arrange a workshop on customer centric business model innovations.
That is of course right but: Where is the money coming from? How can you earn money for your shareholders without somebody who pays you? Where is your salary coming from? Is it really the company or where is the cash coming from?
It’s the customer, stupid!
It is amazing how few say it is to create and keep profitable customers.
It is simple, it is a hard fact:
“It is the customer where all the money comes from.”
It is the customer who helps you to pay your salary. It is the customer who finally pays the dividends to your shareholders. Without a customer you can not have the top line (revenue) in your profit & loss statement to pay for all other items that come under the revenue line. Continue reading It is the customer!
This video shows extremely well why companies just not need to do more of the same (MOTS) since it leads to more clutter. More clutter in features, more clutter in products, more clutter in advertising, more clutter in PR messages, more clutter of everything.
In this strange world of more of everything simplicity and clarity in your business model helps to find real differentiation, not just little differentiation but radical. Differentiation in the image, the message and the product helps but business model innovation where you create a fresh business model that is based on fresh customer insights is one key to reach this needed radical differentiation.
I was asked lately, when it is time for a disruptive innovation or a business model innovation? When should a company try to steer away from sustaining innovations toward a blue ocean of less competition.
Well, I would like to open this question to all of you. Please, tell me when you think it is time for change. Do we need a crisis or can we do it deliberately?
Please use the comment function for the discussion.
Beginning of the week, I had a long discussion with Dr. oec. Susan Müller and Prof. Dr. Thierry Volery, two researchers at the University of St. Gallen. They want to figure out how high the excess return is earned by business model innovators. They want to know which kind of business innovation like value innovation or architectural innovation leads to what kind of über return or excess return.
Very interesting question in particular since most researchers including myself are still using case studies to make our point.
What made the discussion even more interesting was that we discussed what a business model is. There are several technical definitions like mine but for us more interesting was why the term became so prominent in the last years. With the term business model the word business returned to prominence in the conversation on strategy. Continue reading What is the purpose of your business?