Posts Tagged ‘business’

By Richard Martin, Expert in Business Readiness and Exploiting Change

One of the most useful ideas for conceptualizing any kind of change process is the S-curve. Perhaps you’ve seen one of these before. It looks like this:

typical-s-curve

The S-curve is the way natural and human phenomena grow and develop over time. For instance, the plot of a growth of bacteria or yeast in a laboratory follows the exact S-curve. Technically, it’s known as a logistic function, and when we plot it as a rate of growth, rather than cumulative growth, it forms a bell curve, although it doesn’t follow a normal, Gaussian, distribution. In other words, when something starts growing or spreading, it first starts very slowly, then it speeds up until it hits it hits a maximum, after which the growth/spread rate slows down until it basically tends to zero.

The S-curve approximates the cumulative growth or spread of just about any natural or man-made phenomenon, such as:

  • Penetration of a new market segment
  • Growth of new product/service category
  • Learning stages
  • Interest in topics
  • Abilities (which tend to plateau after a time)
  • Etc.

One of the more relevant business applications is in strategy formulation and execution. Take a look at the following S-Curve application. It shows how we can map the different phases of a product or market life cycle onto the S-curve. This gives an intuitive understanding that all good things must come to an end or, as I imply in the title of this piece, “What goes up, must (eventually) come down (or at least level off).”

product-market-life-cycle-phases

New products or markets start as ideas, often as an external start up. I pluralize this because there should be a relatively high number of “experiments” and trials underway at any one time within a diversified company. Another strategy is to watch out for promising startups outside the business (or in an internal “skunkworks”) and then invest in them or simply acquire them once they start entering their rapid growth phase. Companies should have businesses (various combinations of product-market mix) in all stages of the life cycle in order to ensure a constant stream of growth generating ideas and strategic business units.

Another important phenomenon to note is the presence of a decline phase. Unless there is continuing investment in a business line or concept, it will eventually go into decline. We don’t necessarily know when, but we DO know it will happen at some point. This is another reason to be constantly replenishing the pipeline at the earlier life cycle stages of startup and rapid growth. The capital needed to invest in future ideas and growth will often come from the “milk cows” that are businesses in the maturity or plateau stage, although the latter can also provide a good source of financial capital through divestment.

© 2016 Richard Martin. Reproduction, forwarding, and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Military strategists and tacticians know that combining the characteristics and capabilities of different weapon systems and types of units has a synergistic effect in battle and operations.

This is mainly due to the force multiplier effect—a kind of leverage that results when combining different capabilities—and the dilemmas that result for the enemy. Infantry can hold ground and resist tanks to a certain extent, but enemy infantry can dislodge them and use artillery, engineers, and other capabilities to counter their strengths and exploit their vulnerabilities.

How can you combine your different capabilities to generate synergy and force multipliers? How can you combine your “arms” to create dilemmas for opponents or competitors, or otherwise exploit their weaknesses and vulnerabilities and counter their strengths?

© 2016 Richard Martin. Reproduction, forwarding and quotes permitted with proper attribution.

In the field of military strategy, it is well-known that the capacities to recognize changes in the environment and to react quickly thereto provide a considerable, if not essential advantage. The same capacities apply to business strategy.

I call these capacities strategic flexibility; they demand that one continually observe the environment in order make strategic corrections. Businesses that rest on their laurels or that ignore this need can be overtaken both by events and by their competitors.

This implies a quick, accurate method to make adjustments to strategy. Therefore, I propose a model of strategic flexibility I call the 7-M method. The method refers to the following: mission, market, mark targets, mass, manoeuvres, morale, and marketing. To these must be added the plan of action that successfully unites the efforts of stakeholders both upstream and downstream of the business in question.

  1. Mission is the distillation of what you offer the world and its value.  It’s what defines your unique competence and motivations and the needs you meet. A mission statement must communicate your intentions in a short, precise manner that can be understood by all concerned:  employees, customers, suppliers, and even competitors. The mission, therefore, serves as the guiding star for your business.
  2. Market represents the potential clients for your goods or services who might buy from you since you can meet their needs with good value in your products or services. Market include the target groups among your clients and their needs. Market also includes an analysis of current market suppliers and of the decision-making processes of potential customers in terms of their long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals. This permits opportunities to be exploited and possible risks to be minimized or avoided.
  3. Mark targets provide concrete objectives that can be measured as part of your action plan. The ultimate target for your business constitutes your vision of where you want to be, say, in a year- and-a-half or two years hence. From this vision one can identify a hierarchy of goals, tasks, and results to be obtained.
  4. Mass refers to the most economical and effective ways of concentrating resources in order to meet goals as quickly as possible. This requires an analysis of your key strengths and weaknesses in order to permit success in your market.
  5. Manoeuvre refers to the operations according to the elements of the action plan including ensuring that the necessary tools and resources are available to permit successful operations. This includes the delegation of responsibilities such that people have sufficient margin of manoeuvre so they can respond successfully to opportunities and threats in the environment.
  6. Morale refers to the willingness of people to persevere in order to reach goals. While the welfare and the happiness of employees is important, it is not the be-all-and end-all of your business. Clear vision, mission, and plans are the key to good morale. As well, clear-headed analyses of risks to the execution of strategy and action plans along with contingency plans permit the prevention and minimization of possible risks to success.
  7. Marketing is the last, but certainly not the least part of flexible strategy. It requires clear messages of internal and external communication. There are three elements to a good marketing plan: general marketing vis-à-vis the overall brand and image of the company; marketing campaigns designed to meet customer needs within given geographical territories; plans for business development and sales that will permit successful, long-term and repeated relationships with customers that also will lead to establishing a solid reputation and possible new clients.

The action plan is the key to success because a vision without the required resources and concrete actions is only a hallucination. The essential elements of a good action plan include: a description of the situation being addressed such that readers will understand the purpose of the plan; the mission statement; detailed activity and resource plans; support and administrative requirements; internal and external communication plans; and the assigning of responsibilities to key personnel.

Obviously, doing all the above without the aid of an experienced expert in strategic and operational planning and leadership will be difficult. I invite you to contact me with your questions and suggestion of businesses and people that might benefit from application of the 7-M method. In the meantime, start with a description of your mission statement and an analysis of your potential markets; performing these steps alone should provide you with immediate benefits.

© Alcera Consulting Inc. 2016. We encourage the sharing of this information and forwarding of this email with attribution. All other rights reserved.

  • There are three types of competence: knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
  • People want to follow leaders who are competent and able to lead them to victory and
    achievement.
  • The Leadership Competence Pyramid has three levels: management, inspiration, and change.
  • Management often gets short shrift or is seen in opposition to leadership, but it is an integral
    part of a leader’s competence toolkit.
  • The idea that you can be an effective leader while being a so-so manager is a myth. Leaders
    must be effective at planning, organizing, directing, executing, and controlling.
  • Knowledge is fairly easy to acquire, but what differentiates truly competent leaders is the
    ability to perform at and beyond expectations. This requires diligent and constant practice and
    skill development.
  • You need a growth mindset and a commitment to learning to lead and to develop your
    leadership competencies.
  • We can’t earn the respect and confidence of followers, peers, and superiors, unless we believe
    in ourselves and are truly committed to growth and improvement.
  • We need self-respect and self-efficacy to overcome the roadblocks to becoming truly effective
    leaders.
  • Confidence and respect are built over time by competent performance of our duties as leaders.

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

December is already upon us. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to make your plans for changes and new initiatives in the new year.

Here is a distilled version of the military planning and readiness process that you can apply to your own needs. I’ve been helping my business clients with this type of “battle preparation” for close to 10 years now.

This is a proven method to get through any challenging period and come out on the other side with outstanding results.

  1. Determine or confirm the problem to be solved or the change to be made. This leads to a clear and concrete statement of the end state or vision and its supporting objectives.
  2. Do a time estimate to determine how much time is available before launching the change/operation and the tasks that must be achieved before D-Day.
  3. Plan and execute reconnaissance in order to discover and assess the terrain (market), weather (economic, political, social conditions), objective (customers), and enemy (competition).
  4. Analyse your tasks and responsibilities as well as the overarching strategic framework to create a clear and concise mission statement for the change/operation.
  5. Give everyone brief overview of the mission and operation/change to come, including any preparatory tasks and work.
  6. Plan the change/operation.
  7. Communicate your plan in sufficient detail to give everyone involved to understand the overall context, intent, and their specific tasks, responsibilities, outcomes and resources. Leave sufficient time for subordinate elements and managers to conduct their own “battle readiness” procedure.
  8. Execute the plan while controlling progress.
  9. Evaluate interim results.
  10. Make adjustments and update plan as needed. Communicate and control changes.

Feel free to contact me at any time for the this or any other strategic, leadership, and performance improvement needs.  Ask me about my “Battle Procedure Briefing” for business, which is one of the means I use to bring powerful results to my clients. I also speak and facilitate sessions on leadership, initiative, morale, strategy and using military wisdom to win business battles.

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

12 techniques to boost your leadership competence:

  1. Set clear overarching objectives for you and your team.
  2. Analyze the internal and external environments, as well as the evolving situation.
  3. Consider multiple scenarios and courses of action before making a decision.
  4. Formulate a clear and direct mission and communicate it openly to your followers.
  5. Surround yourself with the right people and involve them as much as possible in analysis and decision-making.
  6. Ask for advice from followers, peers, and superiors and consider multiple perspectives in your analysis and decision-making.
  7. Break your plans into actionable steps and tasks and assign these to specific individuals on the basis of their competencies, talents, and developmental requirements.
  8. Ensure your subordinates have the resources needed to do their respective jobs and support them in their tasks.
  9. Communicate your plans and intentions clearly and directly.
  10. Question your followers frequently to know what they know, understand, and believe.
  11. Designate priorities and the focus of effort for all your plans and intentions.
  12. Follow up to ensure effective and efficient implementation of your guidance and direction.

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

There was a movie that came out about ten or fifteen years ago called Changing Lanes, starring Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson. The two main characters get in a feud over a silly thing that escalates into general mayhem for both, affecting their lives and their significant others. At one point, Jackson’s character is conferring with his AA sponsor (played by William Hurt), who tells him in no uncertain terms that he’s not just addicted to alcohol, he’s also addicted to chaos.

I’m not implying a link with alcohol or any other mind-altering substance, but I do think that many entrepreneurs and business owners are, quite frankly, addicted to chaos. This affects not only themselves, but also their relations with their families, friends, and business associates. It manifests as projects started and never finished, chasing too many rabbits at one time, inability to reach goals, failure to return calls, emails, text messages, jumping on the next management fad that will “fix” everything, etc., etc.

It’s comparable in many ways to well-known phenomenon of the “geographic cure,” to which addicts are prone. Wistfully: “If only (insert miracle cure), then everything will be perfect…”

Perhaps this comes from the fact that many entrepreneurs and business owners started out at the bottom, founded their companies, and had to learn to do everything themselves. Everything from ordering stationery to delivering products and services to clients. However, at some point, a growing company must “professionalize” and systematize processes and structures (not necessarily bureaucratizing though). Services and tasks that were originally done by passionate amateurs must be transferred to professionals who know what they’re doing so that the founder can concentrate on growing the business and expanding into new markets and activities.

Unfortunately, not all entrepreneurs and business owners seem capable of doing so. There are several factors at play, not the least of which is simple scarcity of capital to hire experts and invest in productivity. But, I also believe that the owner/entrepreneur has become so involved in the day-to-day minutia of running the business and working in it, that they don’t know, or don’t wish to, work on the business. They micro-manage and keep all the critical tasks and functions for themselves. In some instances, they actually become addicted to the adrenalin rush of constantly being in the front lines. They can’t let go and this quickly turns to chaotic management (or lack thereof).

I’ve noticed over the years that successful executives and owners who have made the transition to highly effective and efficient performance are extremely well organized. They know their strengths and limitations, focus on the former while compensating for the latter, usually by becoming associated in some way with experts who can take up the slack in vital areas that are not their best suit.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that the chaotic management style of micro-managing entrepreneurs and owners translates to a lack of basic savoir faire and savoir vivre. Unreturned phone calls, unreachability, missed appointments, last minute scheduling changes, etc. A few years back, I sent my book to several CEOs of very large companies. In all cases, I got personal letters or emails back from them thanking me for the gift. You can set up an appointment with a successful executive or entrepreneur several months ahead of time and be sure they will be there when you show up for the meeting. If they can’t, they have their assistant contact you to reschedule. Why can’t the chaos-addicted managers and entrepreneurs do the same? Because they’re disorganized and living from second to second, minute to minute.

If you’re one of these chaotic business people, you need to do something about it. You must get better organized, starting by respecting the people around you, especially your business associates. If you don’t know how to do this, find someone who can help you become, as Peter Drucker called it in his book of the same name, an “effective executive.” If you want to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible, you should contact me immediately!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.