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Methods

Tools and techniques used in decision making

  • Decision Trees
  • Six Thinking Hats
  • Grid Analysis
  • Pareto Analysis
  • Cost/Benefit Analysis
  • Matched Pairs
  • Brainstorming
  • Weighted Tables
  • Delphi Technique
  • Force Field Analysis
  • Nominal Group Ranking Technique
  • One Half Plus One
  • Weighted Multivoting

How to get your idea accepted?

posted Jan 13, 2019, 12:25 PM by Jageshwar Tripathi   [ updated Jan 14, 2019, 9:14 AM ]

Often people think about many innovative ideas but they are not able to further work on their ideas due lack of sponsorship. If you get sponsor for your idea no one except you can stop you developing that idea.

Who can be your sponsor?

  • There are many investors, venture capitalists who can fund your project if they see your idea will give them return.
  • There are forums through which you can get public finding. Public fund raising has been effective for many important projects. 
  • You can go to a bank to get loan for your business but there are certain banking procedures and credit policy which will be applied.
  • In many countries there are government institutions which help new entrepreneurs as well as small to medium businesses.
  • If your idea is really going to give returns even your friends, your boss and your family can fund your project. 
 The biggest question is if your idea looks good to your investor. If they like it. 

Why sponsors will support your idea?

There are many factors which can be listed down but most important is will it give the return? If you are able to convince your investors that your idea has good return on investment they will look at it seriously. Often people think that a new idea, an invention, something which was not done before will attract the investors. This is not completely true. If idea is entirely new but not feasible, if it is not going to be useful in real life beyond laboratory and if it can't be converted in to a business there is no use of such idea to the sponsors. Even if idea is new and unique, it is feasible to implement it but there is no buyer of it it is useless. Even if there are buyers but cost of delivering the product or service is higher compared to acceptable price in the market it is going to be a loss making business, why sponsors will support your project. Here are some points which will convince your sponsors to support your project:
  • Good return on investment
  • It is feasible to convert the idea in to successful business
  • Market size (good number of buyers of the product or services)
  • Shorter break-even period (the time from where the business will become profitable)
  • If it solves a problem and there is something unique (why your product will be hit not other products)
Basically you will have to do some homework, your research about the idea, business planning and then you should present your idea. My suggestion is that always you prepare a business plan and if you realize that the business/idea you were thinking about is not looking good on business plan, you take-up another idea and prepare business plan. Often I have seen many people who don't succeed in their ideas are those who don't prepare business plan. Before investors, business plan helps you checking your idea if it is good or not. 

What do you need to do?

You will have to collect some data, you will have to conduct some research and some analysis. You can get some stuff from online, organizations and consulting organizations. 

Market research

Who you are going to sell this product or services to? Really go to the market and see what is already available and even not available. Do people really need something else? How many buyers are for this kind of product (not only yours but all in total). Why people buy it?

Investor research

Who will be interested to invest in your project? Which option do you want to explore? What are your specific needs and expectations regarding investors?

Competition research

Who else is selling what you are planning? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What is the feedback of customers of competitors? Will you be able to provide any value addition to the customers better than or more than current competition? What is that value addition? Did you check if customers will value the value add you are considering? What is the possibility of other competitors coming to the market? Why customers will keep buying your product or services even if new competition will arrive? 

Estimation

I am intentionally not writing the word "financial planning" here because it is a huge task but to shortlist your idea yourself you need to do some initial work to estimate what will be the cost of your product after all the expenditures. You need to understand little seriously about capital investment, running cost (may be cost of producing, raw material, cost of staff in production), cost of marketing and sales and cost of delivering product or services to the customer (literally transportation cost + something else) . Now see what will be the cost to the customer after all the unit cost +taxes + profit margin (targeted). If your market research says your customers will buy your product or services at a higher cost than this cost to customer you have a good idea but you need to further detail your idea, research, financial planning to come to better estimates. Always keep in mind investors are looking out for better returns. If return from your business is less than the interest from a bank why some one invest in your business. 
Educated people call it revenue or business model :)

There are other stuff to prepare but I am keeping that our from here to keep in brief. Please refer to next section for those subjects.

Business plan

Once you have done your research and calculations make a business plan. It should be prepared in three sets: One full blown with all the detail, another in a presentation which is short form of the detailed one and a two slider executive summary.
Normally following topics should be covered in a business plan: executive summary, business description, SWOT analysis, competitor analysis, market analysis, go-to-market strategy and financial summary.

While presenting to the audience keep in short but effective. You can organize your presentation as follows: 
(support your points with facts and data you have obtained during research)
Problem statement
The solution
What is the target market and size
SWOT Analysis
Competition
How will you make money (revenue model)
Marketing and sales strategy
Team (organization)
Operation plan
Financial projections
Funding requirements

Even if you are doing a innovation project within your organization where you work, you should prepare a business plan with bold items given above to get approval of your management and to get support to implement that idea. 

Interesting resources

1. https://articles.bplans.com/what-is-a-business-model-business-models-explained/
2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/mattsymonds/2013/10/24/7-tips-for-pitching-your-entrepreneurial-idea-whether-to-angels-or-sharks/#550cb6d235a2

Parallel thinking: Six Thinking Hats

posted Sep 13, 2014, 3:21 PM by Jageshwar Tripathi   [ updated Sep 14, 2014, 12:25 AM ]

Edward de Bono wrote a book titled "Six Thinking Hats ®" in which he described a method for brainstorming and individual thinking. When it is used in a group every one should wear the same colour hat (means should look in to one perspective) at a time. It considers different perspectives of views too look at a problem or solution. Bono defined different view points during thinking through six coloured hats: While, Green, Yellow, Black, Red, Blue. Each of these colours represent different perspectives.
Six thinking hats

During discussion on a topic (for example selection of a product or adopting a business strategy) team members focus on specific perspective (wearing different hats: thinking from different views). 

What is the meaning of these six hats?

White hat: 

When team has to take a decision on something first step is to look into information. Check what information do you have about it? What information do you need? Collect that information. In this perspective you collect the facts.

Green hat:

Green hat represents creativity. Team members think about alternatives, how differently something can be done, how different options are available. New thoughts and ways of doing things. Alternates are identified. Innovation is the focus on this aspect.

Yellow hat:

Yellow hat represents optimist or positive. Team members identify positives or benefits of a solution/method/product (what ever is the topic of discussion). What value can it bring?
Black hat: Negatives means critical thinking. Judgement/identifying problems/possible issues etc. Something which may fail or go wrong with it.

Red hat:

Red hat represents only feelings. What your intuition says without considering any formal method or logic. What are immolation reaction of team members on the subject. Fears/feelings/love/hate on the topic.

Blue hat:

Blue hat represents process or control part of thinking process. Some one has to wear this hat to control thinking process to make sure it works as per "Six Thinking Hats" philosophy and rules or not. If there are risks the thinking should be directed to black hat to identify issues or problems. If discussion lacks innovation or ideas it can be directed to green hat.

Benefits

This method brings discipline in thinking process. By covering different aspects and in a structured manner productivity of team involved in a brainstorming session becomes higher. It promotes creativity and supports in discovering alternate methods and solutions. By use of a structured and focused discussion, teams can save time in the meetings and produce outcomes which cover risks, new opportunities, individual gut-feel and innovation.

Where to use it?

Some of the applications of this method may be in 
  • Innovation
  • Decision making process
  • Transformation (organization, product or process)

Interesting resources

http://www.debonogroup.com/six_thinking_hats.php

Note: Six Thinking Hats® is a registered trademark of The de Bono Group, LLC or their associates.

Innovation & ideas

posted May 18, 2013, 2:06 PM by Jageshwar Tripathi   [ updated Aug 11, 2014, 12:19 PM ]

Innovation and idea generation can happen at individual level or sometimes organizations promote innovation and idea generation. At individual level you can follow certain best practices which can help you find out an idea and work on it to make it mature. Organizations need ways and means to promote innovation as well as give them a shape.

As an individual how to keep your idea factory running?

We as individuals get different ideas at different point of time but often we are not able to catch them up and sometimes even we catch them we don't work on them, we leave them and forget about them. Very basic question is are you willing to come up with some ideas and new ideas? There are many people who first see what are they going to gain from any thing, those people if look at short term gains can hardly become source of new ideas. If you are getting something from your routine work and your bent of mind is such that you look for immediate benefits why will you take any pain in thinking about an idea? So first things important is that you are a person who is interested in igniting his idea factory. Now comes a question where can I get an idea from and how can I get that idea?

Find out problems in daily life


You don't need to put lots of effort to find out problems in your day to day work, daily life, your customers business. Consider every situation as a problem and thing how can it be solved? Didn't get an idea? Just note down the problem first and wait till the time you see a solution?
Even if you see a solution to a problem, it should be considered a problem. Consider needs of people, industry, groups as a problem in this case. An activity or task, work and routine can be considered as a problem.

Try to find out the solution

If you have the problem, most probably there should be a solution already existing. don't worry, if you see the problem interesting and you also see a solution, question how differently it can be solved? Solution can be a better way of doing something or making existing solution better more efficient, cost effective and easy to use.

Don't get in to trap of originality

Thinking about whether what you are thinking is an original idea or not, whether it already exists should be avoided. There are chances that what you are thinking would have been already done by some one but stopping yourself and in the first step searching for same thing done by some one or not is a bad idea. Note down what comes to your mind and you may have many solutions, options in your mind withing few days. Filtering out the solutions and selection of a better idea can be done later.

Critical thinking

Looking at a problem and the way it is solved ask yourself why it is done this way only? Why not differently. Why to book a hotel or restaurant seat through phone only? Why a bank account holder can get his ATM or Debit CARD only after few days of filling out the registration form etc. These out of the way thoughts made banking different. Earlier routine way of working was entirely different.

Knowledge is important

Without knowledge of the related field it is difficult to generate effective and better ideas so coming up with idea without getting knowledge of the related field may not result in to great value. Study, read and get more knowledge of the field you are related to or willing to come up with ideas for.

Be informed of new trends and developments

Keep in touch with new trends in the industry, market, technology related to the field you are interested in. A new trend may generate another idea, a new technology may support a better way of doing something else for which the new technology was even not aimed at. Know the trends, read blogs, magazines and journals regularly. Don't just read them when you are thinking about an idea but make it a habit.

Listen what others are saying

Talk to the end users, customers, peers to get information how do they work, what are the challenges they face and how are they dealing with them. Do it regularly and you will come to know about many innovative ways your customers and users and using to deal with situations and this may inspire you to come up with an idea to handle those situations.

Research of the related field

When you have a problem and you want to solve it, you have got some ideas, start searching the related field. Research may include focused search of literature, work doe earlier in the field, past researches and talking to experts, users and related people. This research is different then what is said above about listening to other or getting the knowledge. Regular reading, study or communicating with the people provides you lots if information and ideas but when you have a problem and some ideas, research is focused on that topic and solution. 

As an organization how can you promote idea generation?

Are you really serious?

Ask yourself why do you want to promote idea generation? Is it only because you read somewhere that every organization should put some effort in innovation and come-up with new ideas for their products etc? Do you want ideas to come up free of cost? Do you consider people in your organization as labourer who you expect to be maximum utilized ( 9 to 6) and after that those machines should come-up with some ideas?  It may sound bad but many organizations expect innovation and ideas without knowing what are they looking for and what is the cost of (to invest in) it. If culture in your organization is: to some how get involved in a work, be allocated to some task, why people will contribute in innovation. They can do some paperwork to fulfil this requirement of the organization but only to save their jobs that is it. You know yourself, after years of running innovation drive what did you achieve and still you don't want to accept that, culture of your organization or your approach is not suitable for innovation. 

You have to decide if 
1. You want to be an organization who is a factory, producing number of items and treat employees as machines who produce those items or 
2. You really want to be an organization who is willing to invest (ready to pay for it) on people, using their minds, creating something. Account of their every minute and hour is not very important to you as an organization.
You should be first serious and know the reality of your organization.

Ready to invest?

As said above expecting people to work for 9 to 6 in their assignments and also come up with new ideas will not work. You will have to stop counting minutes and hours of atleast those who can innovate. Giving time  to those who are innovators means less routine work from them, means some investment of that time in innovation. There can be other types of investment too. You want your people to do some innovation on new technology areas but before that they don't have infrastructure or machines to test already existing things how can they think about something better.

Appointing a Vice President can not ensure innovation

Innovation should be in the genes of the organization, it should be in culture. How to make it possible read on...

Let your people know you are looking out for ideas

Communicate that organization is looking out for ideas, not only in a certain area but in any aspect of life.

Listen and consider

Listen to what people are saying. Acknowledge that their voice and idea has reached and is not going to be in dustbin.
People either don't come forward or stop from next time considering their idea or voice is going to be in dustbin.

Channel of communication and support

Email is not best way to capture and communicate. There should be a proper and easy way to share the idea. At the same time further assistance should be available/provided to those who come up with raw thoughts to make their thoughts polished and useful. Some kind of training to the people can help and these trainings should happen often.

Recognize and reward

If you consider it important, reward those who come up with great ideas. If you keep comparing routine work of innovators with average 9-6 workers why would they come up with ideas in future. Every one will keep focusing on 9-6 routine to save his job and increment.

Ideas should not only be a lip-service

Ideas should be given a good shape and should be implemented. If you have considered an idea as good to be implemented at first place decide about its success criteria, ROI and plan for its implementation. Without success criteria and ROI if ideas are selected, die their own death after few months or years and people stop believing on this concept or process and then slowly idea generation and innovation initiative itself dies-down in the organization.

Here are some techniques

  • Brain writing
  • Creative whack pack
  • Force field
  • Heuristic ideation
  • Hexagons of interest
  • Morphology (break and recombine)
  • Mind mapping
  • Role play
  • Wishful thinking

There are many others for which (and detail) look at the links bellow.

Interesting resources and references

http://www.mycoted.com/Category:Creativity_Techniques
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideation_%28idea_generation%29
http://www.thegraphicdesignschool.com/blog/graphic-design/idea-generation-techniques-mind-mapping-for-graphic-design/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2012/12/31/6-ideas-to-promote-innovation-in-your-workplace-this-year/

IT strategy

posted May 16, 2013, 12:34 PM by Jageshwar Tripathi   [ updated May 18, 2013, 2:48 PM ]

What is it?

Is it:
Business and IT alignment?
Reducing IT budget, cost of IT?
Improving return on investment?
Taking advantage of new development in IT?

When we see discussions or writings on strategy of IT strategy we often see some of these definitions. IT strategy can try to achieve some or all of these above objectives but it is not only to get one of them. IT strategy is to identify what should be the shape of IT and its activities to achieve long term future objectives which are aligned with business objectives. 

How to make IT strategy?

Process of making IT strategy starts with understanding the business context. Following points cover main activities of making IT strategy:

Business context

IT strategy should be aligned to business so know about business. It is important to know what are business priorities and what is business strategy to define right strategy for IT which can support business. Following things should be assessed: 
  • Corporate strategy
  • Mission, vision and values
  • Future goals
  • Corporate programs

As is versus to be analysis

Picture of "as is" state of IT is important to know where it is. This covers an inventory of IT infrastructure (hardware/network), applications and the business processes they support. Challenges faced by IT in fulfilling existing   business requirement is also important to know shortcomings in current IT environment. As is analysis  can be presented in the form of a SWOT:

Strengths- Existing capabilities, portfolio of applications and infrastructure.

Weakness - Shortcomings, weaknesses of existing IT setup. Problems in current IT environment.

Opportunities- Availability of new technology, new products which can make IT better cost effective and efficient

Threats or challenges (due to technology advancement in the market) - External factors either from competition or in the industry which  can impact the organization of IT is not prepared to tackle them. As an example if competition is using better and efficient online presence, organization have to come-up with better online presence to fight the competition. Another example- If mobile applications are technology of future, organization will have to come-up with mobile enabled applications and interfaces for its customers and IT should consider upgrade of existing applications and also will have to come up with new applications, change in infrastructure etc.

After having a correct picture of as is IT environment, to be state or future state of IT should be determined. This "to be" state is derived from existing challenges and how to overcome them as well as future business strategy and accordingly increasing or changing requirement from business to IT. As per future business plan an organization may be entering in to acquisition and merger, it may be going in to global production and manufacturing or may be many other countries to find its new customers, it may have plans to grow its business rapidly by opening new channels of sales, marketing, order, delivery and payment. In all these situations IT has to be prepared for new requirements and challenges. There can be more demand for IT resources or enabling new applications to cater to new requirements.

Gap analysis is to be done to find out what needs to be done to reach out to "to be" state of IT.

Set IT objectives and areas to focus upon

Based on as is/to be state identification and gap analysis, objectives (for IT) should be identified. Areas to focus upon to reach out to future state of IT should be determined.

Identify projects and programs

Objectives set for IT are achieved through identification, planning and implementation of some projects and programs. These projects may be implementation of a CRM system or refreshing hardware or may be enabling business processes through a new channels like mobile.

Estimate and plan

After identification of objectives, projects etc estimation of resources, effort and cost is to be determined. Execution planning for implementing IT strategy is to be done this must include major milestones and their reviews planned.

Tuning

One important point is optimization of IT resources. Even if there is a need to have new infrastructure, there is a need to have new application or new channels, IT strategy should consider how IT objectives can be achieved optimally. Taking an example, for infrastructure, it can be infrastructure on demand, visualization, services on cloud etc. For new applications it can be software as a service too.    

Governance

Governance process is to be defined and setup for review of the IT strategy periodically. This ensures IT strategy is on track to achieve objectives and the strategy is working/relevant. As part of governance process, review of following can be considered:
  • Risk
  • Projects and programs progress
  • Objectives
  • Effectiveness of strategy

Based on review, required changes, alignment can be done on strategy and objectives.

Communicate

For success of IT strategy it should be properly communicated to various stakeholders. Without stakeholders involvement and engagement no strategy can succeed. To engage and involve various stakeholders, they should be communicated and their concerns/feedback should be taken in to account.

Different type of audience may require different level of detail and different information so communication plan should consider this. Type of audience may have: Executive committee, IT management, IT team, Business community etc.

Medium of communication should be identified looking at type of audience. There can be communication to stakeholders in a meeting or it can be through a teleconference call and in some cases it can be a town-hall meeting.

Frequency of communication should also be identified. Some communications can be introduction communications but some communications may be periodic (monthly, quarterly or half yearly to different type of audience).

Elements of IT strategy

Following can be elements of IT strategy along with others:
  • Business objectives
  • IT objectives
  • Strategy to meet various objectives (what to do and how)
  • Program/programs
  • Advantages of a program
  • Plan for a program or project
  • As is, to be architecture: functional and physical
  • Resource plan
  • Organization model
  • Budget (capex/opex)
  • Governance model

Pitfalls

There are some common mistakes done while making or considering IT strategy due to which sometimes IT strategies fail, here are some of them:

1. IT strategy is made without considering long terms business strategy and vision

2. Planning is considered as strategy

3. Strategy is made only to make a strategy (paper work to present to management and other audience)

4. Unrealistic goals (due to lack of reality know to people who are responsible for making strategy)

5. Considering strategy (piece of paper) can solve all the problems (skills, culture, accountability etc)

6. Absence of proper time boxed planning and measurable success criteria.

7. Owners and their accountability is not identified.

8. Strategy is considered a final word or document (not updated and reviewed in changing environment)

Strategy (business vs IT)

posted May 15, 2013, 12:17 PM by Jageshwar Tripathi   [ updated May 16, 2013, 10:53 PM ]

IT strategy in other post but before IT strategy it is important to realize and accept relationship and difference between IT strategy and Business Strategy (this is the objective of this post, not to provide definition of strategy or repeat what is already said about strategy). To understand the difference or relationship we will have to first look at what is already said about strategy. Let us look at it first:
Word "Strategy" without any prefix or suffix is what?
  • A plan to achieve some goals?
  • Long term plan to achieve some very important goals?
  • Plan to achieve long term objectives?
  • Long term plan to achieve some long term goals?
 These terms are limiting and create confusion. If you consider following you will be able to understand why above statements limit the word strategy:
  • Strategy in games (chess or some other game of that nature)
  • Strategy in military
  • Strategy in business
  • IT strategy (IT is not a business here but a support function of business)

In many cases word long term is mentioned when defining strategy but strategy can be for anything, anywhere, at high level or at low level. One thing which can certainly be said about strategy is the goal or objective. Strategy is to achieve an objective (or some objectives). To achieve those objectives:

  • a plan,
  • some methods among many alternatives and
  • study about environment or opposition is applied/used

Here plan is not planning or even not strategic planning.

Who should make and use strategy and when?

Strategy can be at any level in an organization so considering it as something done by top management or organization leaders is also not true. Teams in an organization can have their strategies and an individual may have his strategies to achieve his objectives. If many people are working for an organization their objectives should be aligned with organization's objective and often they are part of organization level strategy but there can be strategies at every level to achieve goals of organization level strategies.

Why am I saying "many strategies at different levels" is because if you consider strategy to be defined at top level of the organization and not at individual level or team level, you are talking about a scenario where top leadership is creating strategy for all/everyone. If this is the case all others are going to follow it and hence we are considering there is brain at top level but rest others are just followers. Top leaders should define micro level strategies in that case, which doesn't happen and should not happen, otherwise the organization will be an organization of slaves commanded by a dictator.

How practically it happens? Many organizations only believe in making strategy at top level followed by lower level staff and in that case those organizations (strategies) fail and even if they succeed it is because of individual heroes at different levels who make their own strategies to achieve their objectives assigned by the organization. In many organizations either there is a total disconnect between strategies at different levels or lower level doesn't put its brain, just follows the order. There are many organizations where applying strategy happens at different levels and there is a culture to promote it. These organizations define the overall objectives, provide the direction and allow specific teams to define their strategies to achieve objectives assigned to them.

Coming to IT strategy and business strategy, we should understand that IT is to support business so IT should help in achieving business objectives, that's why it is often said IT strategy should be aligned with business. But business strategy can have strategy to deal with competition, IT doesn't have a competition in that scenario except helping or supporting business to compete. In such scenario business strategy is made to deal with the competition and IT can be used as a tool or weapon to deal with the competition in many cases.

Theories or principles related to strategy

To understand it better let us see what is already said about management strategies or business strategies and look at IT again, how those theories can be applied to IT too (or can not be):

Michael Porter's three principles

Michael Porter in his paper "What is strategy?" mentioned about three principles for setting strategy (also known as generic strategies):

  • Cost leadership strategy
  • Differentiation strategy
  • Segmentation or market focused strategy

Balanced score card

Strategy performance framework developed by Kaplan and Norton. It not only focuses on financial performance of an organization or individuals but also focuses of other perspectives. For an organization it is important to  invest in long-term capabilities and customer relationships which should also be considered as gain along with financial gains.

Here are perspectives covered in balanced scorecard approach:

  • Financial
  • People (learning and growth)
  • Customer
  • Process (internal business process)

6 P's

Six P's is used to analyze products in different markets. These six p's are:

  1. Product
  2. Place
  3. Pricing
  4. Promotion
  5. People
  6. Process
     

Competitive advantage theory

Michael Porter defined a model for competitive advantage strategy.  He defined "five forces that shape industry competition":  

  1. Bargaining power of buyers
  2. Bargaining power of suppliers
  3. Threat of new entrants
  4. Threats of substitute products or services
  5. Rivalry amongst existing competitors

Ansoff Matrix

Igor Ansoff suggested a matrix to show possible alternate growth strategies for  an an organization in the market.

He defined matrix on existing products, possible future products versus existing market (customers) and new market

  Existing product
 New product
 Existing market
 Market penetration
 New Product development
 New market
 Business development
 Diversification

Based on this matrix a company can decide on its strategy to focus on market penetration, product development, market development or diversification.

Choice of one of these strategy for business growth is based on core strength of a company. If there is enough scope for more business in existing market with existing products, company may focus on penetrating existing market to maximize business. Often after a certain point of time limit of an existing market reaches so company has to decide either it can focus on a new project development if core strength of the company is in its customer base but it can go for development of a new market if its core strength is in its existing product.

Strategic canvas

Kim and Mouborgne suggested this concept to check the performance against some key criteria. This can help knowing gap between how we are doing currently and what is expected.

  Performance criteria
 Current
 Desired
 Product Criteria1
Criteria2
Criteria3
etc
  
 Process Criteria1
Criteria2
Criteria3
etc
  
 People Criteria1
Criteria2
Criteria3
etc
  
Price
 Criteria1
Criteria2
Criteria3
etc
  

Interesting resources and references:

http://www.slideshare.net/dipalij07/porters-generic-strategies-with-examples

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_strategy

http://www.resourcenation.com/blog/the-6-ps-of-marketing/3964/

http://www.quickmba.com/strategy/generic.shtml

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porter%27s_generic_strategies

Strategic leadership

posted May 2, 2013, 12:50 PM by Jageshwar Tripathi   [ updated Jan 14, 2019, 10:37 AM ]

There are different models to define leadership, there are different aspects of leadership which are described by styles, type and more. There is a lot written and spoken about leadership so instead of writing much here, it is better to put links of references (please see at the end of this page. Summary of few important points here:

Leadership theories

  • Traits theory
  • Behavioral styles theory
  • Situational/contingency theories
  • Functional theories

Some models were defined which tried eliminating shortcomings of theories mentioned above:

Four Framework Approach by Bolman and Deal (1991)

Leadership style or behavior may succeed or fail based on a specific situation. Only one style is not always successful or right.

Following frameworks are described:

  • Structural
    • Focus: Strategy, implementation, structure etc
    • Effective leadership situation: seen as a social architect who focused of analysis and design
    • Ineffective leadership situation: seen as person looking at detail, a perry tyrant
  • Human resource
    • Focus: people, accessible, promote participation, motivate
    • Effective leadership situation: seen as a catalyst.
    • Ineffective leadership situation: seen as a pushover, whose style is abdication and fraud
  • Political
    • Focus: Building linkage, assess the distribution of power and interests. Use persuasion first then negotiation
    • Effective leadership situation: seen as an advocate, coalition and building
    • Ineffective leadership situation: seen as a manipulator
  • Symbolic
    • Focus: playing certain roles, use symbols to capture attention, discovering and communicating a vision
    • Effective leadership situation: seen as a prophet who inspires others
    • Ineffective leadership situation: seen as fanatic and fool

Three level of leadership model

  • Public leadership
  • Private leadership
  • Personal leadership

Leadership model described by John Adair, of University of Surrey & Sandhurst

  • Team leadership
  • Operational leadership
  • Strategic leadership

What is strategic leadership?

Definition of strategic leadership often confuses me. There are many conflicting explanations and theories which raise some questions:

  • Can we call (or is it necessary to call) a manager as a leader who merely  (or is supposed to only) manages day to day operational activities, manages a team and customer.?
  • Is is necessary for a manager to have leadership role and qualities of a leader?
  • Is it always possible to have a person with all the qualities: management skills, leadership skills, visionary, strategist, mentor, planner etc etc.?
  • Do we hire manager, "only if" they have all the qualities of a manager and a leader? If yes how do we test those qualities in an interview of one hour (most of the time over telephone)? 
  • Don't we only see a resume in which a person claims that he worked as a manager, and we see he has a PMP certification/Prince2 certification and  we ask about his assignments, what did he do? some questions about project management and all? Is it sufficient to certify a person as a leader?
  • Can methods and theories make some one a leader?

It is a difficult question and argument, lots of things come naturally rest you learn ( but only if you have that bent of mind by nature). Every manager may not be a leader and can not be a leader. Every person who is a good strategists may not be a successful manager. If you need a person to manage who should also have leadership qualities and specially strategic leadership qualities, you can find that rare combination but it is a rare combination that is why there are only few success stories (although everyone had been claiming as he was a leader and great manager, strategist etc) and very few (specially school dropouts) made fortunes (who actually didn't study these theories in business schools). 

Coming to definition of "strategic leadership", some derive it from definition of leadership i.e. leadership+ some other qualities.

Leader means who leads (not commands). Who leads means who takes first step, who shows to his team how to proceed, how to do something. Unfortunately you would have seen most of the people who wants to be in leadership role or who are in leadership role give orders to the people who they lead, they expect others to work for them as per their wish but don't know and don't show how this is done, they can't tell their teams, how it can be done better and effectively. Why am I putting it all here is to clarify the expectations and definitions and to expose the confusion, incorrect perceptions about a leader.

Either except that a leader is who he is at a higher post in an organization and orders others to fulfill his wishes,  expects others to work for a common goal. Sits in a room, decides something with some other similar people and expects that due to his speech others will be motivated. Further he expects from his sales team to work for the goals he has decided based on his long term vision but he never goes to the market with his sales person: "to show how it is sold to a customer, and feel the heat, how difficult it is to sell something in current market". He never goes to the floor (except once in a while floor visit when all the preparations are already done before his visit). He never and can not work as a common worker who produces things. He doesn't know what are ground realities at floor and what are the challenges of production. He never goes to stores and market to actually see how his product it taken by customers, how people are taking competitive products or services. He never speaks to his customers and never sits in interview process at lowest level to make sure actual workers who are producers, are hired correctly. Now consider this person as a leader and rely on him to make strategy of your product/ organization and keep believing he will motivate people in the organization.

There is an interesting post (by Josh Bersin) worth reading   http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2012/07/30/its-not-the-ceo-its-the-leadership-strategy-that-matters/

Or define leader as a person who sets examples for his team, who before setting goals for others is able to do that and can show the best way to do it, who knows the ground realities and based on that thinks holistic picture, should make long term vision to set and achieve goals.  

By this definition managers who can not code should not be considered as leaders for programmers. CEO who can not sell the products should not be considered as leader of sales team. CEO is a CEO.

Another thing, motivated and influenced are two different things. mislead and motivated are also two different things. Following orders because of slavery is not motivation.  Between master and slave, master is master not a leader. Master can get something done by his slave but it can not be called motivation.

A strategists must also be a leader? not necessary

Not sure. Depends on how do you want to hire a person. If you want your cow to give milk and eggs too, it is your requirement and you can find that cow, be happy. But qualities of a strategist are different and qualities of a leader are different. To be a good leader you don't need to be a strategist and to be a good strategist you don't need to be a leader. But in the market if all the companies want to hire a person who can play both the roles it is a different point.

Strategic leader (and strategic leadership as two roles) means a person who is a leader and also a strategist, further he has leadership qualities and strategist qualities. I believe, let strategists make the strategies and leaders lead the people in implementing those strategies. If one person has qualities of both and he can do justice with both the responsibilities nothing great like that.

Qualities of a leader

  • Ability to build team
  • Ability to motivate his team
  • Able to inspire
  • Should have courage to accept his mistakes and correct them (ability to say sorry)
  • Should accept success of his team/member and promote them
  • Should be able to give direction
  • Should be visionary
  • Communicate (honestly)
  • Take risk
  • Listen to others (specially team)
  • Should be able to demonstrate how it can be done (what you expect from others to do)
  • Positive attitude and creativity
  • Commitment and confidence
  • Ability to delegate

Qualities of a strategist

If you want to make a strategy (successful) to increase sales, to create skill pool/capability, if you are working on business strategy of your organization to make your organization a game changer in the market or you are working on a specific piece of work and going to formulate strategy, you are working on a problem to solve it. Problem may be a goal, vision or an issue and solution is how to achieve that goal, how(solution) to realize that vision, how to resolve that issue? 

Knowledge and experience in related field

First thing is you should have knowledge of that field and through knowledge of that field. Apart from knowledge you should have experience in that field. 

Know environment

Apart form knowledge of the field you should know competition, ground realities and facts. When coming to solution, it will be an average answer if it is formulated based on experience and environment only.

Out of the box & critical thinking

Looking at big picture, thinking beyond boundary and critical analysis is most important. If you go beyond normal boundaries and think about what is normally not possible and ask why not this, why not that you can find a new way? Unless you think and ask questions like this it will be an average solution within a boundary. Questioning routine solutions and ways of working is also important.

See in the future

If you can not see in the future and look at immediate problem only it can not make a strategy but a temporary resolution of a problem. You should be able to envision and anticipate what is going to happen and what can not work in future.

Learning attitude

You should be able to learn from all around and from your past mistakes and experience. You should be able to learn new things and ways.

Analytical skills

You should be good at analyzing facts, information and situation. Often people don't collect sufficient information and their decisions, solutions, strategies are not based on facts and analysis of information. These are bound to fail. Collection of information and facts and their analysis is important.

Decision ability

Based on analysis you should be able to come to a conclusion and decision. There can be many situations which are ambiguous, yes and no both can have almost equal possibilities and ability to choose one is important here.

Accept and adopt

You should be a good listener, be able to accept views of others if they are worth considering and be able to find correct suggestions and adopt them.

Interesting resources/references

http://www.wip.ddiworld.com/pdf/ddi_WhatSeniorLeadersDoTheNineRoles_wp.pdf

http://www.inc.com/paul-schoemaker/6-habits-of-strategic-thinkers.html

http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2012/07/30/its-not-the-ceo-its-the-leadership-strategy-that-matters/

Global strategy

posted Apr 25, 2013, 1:04 PM by Jageshwar Tripathi

What is global strategy?

In the age of globalization companies found their customers and markets around the world. Global economy provided ways to optimize cost of production and scale of economy. Companies could reach to customers across the globe but companies could not have succeeded without giving a thought to how will they reach to their global customers, how will they produce cost effectively and how can they maximize their advantage over other companies. Strategy to analyze global market, global customers, global competition and production at global destinations, is part of global strategy formulation. 

Why global strategy?

Global markets, customers and global economy presents different challenges and opportunities in contrast to domestic business. To deal with different kinds of opportunities and challenges, organizations need to formulate strategies suitable for global presence and that is why global strategy is required to maximize benefits from opportunities in a global business and minimize challenges or their impacts through strategic decisions and planning

Opportunities

Economy of scale

Due to multiple new markets and  big customer base same product can be sold at less price which can maximize revenue. Large scale production, common marketing and return of expenditure in research (expenditure recovery through large customer base) are advantages of big scale. To achieve these advantages, company should consider these factors in its strategy.

New customers

New location. geographies presents opportunity to sale products and services to new customers. How new customers can be handled, requires strategy planning to handle globally spread new customers.

Low cost of production (due to low cost labor)

There are some locations which may have cost advantage over other locations. Organization should identify and prioritize which location it will consider as low cost production location. It is not only low cost of production but many other factors to consider before making any such decision. Consideration of low cost advantage and how to get it, should be part of companies global strategy.

Government subsidies in a location as compared to other locations

There may be subsidies offered by a local government or number of governments to setup business in their location. Choice of location to best utilize this benefit considering other factors like distance of production location to other location, political stability and  factors can influence decision of going for such subsidies and investing in that location. Decision of it should be part of global strategy.

Tax benefits in a location (country)

Tax benefits may be another attraction in a new location, this opportunity requires formulating strategy keeping this in mind to decide which location to select to the operation to maximize the benefits keeping in mind other factors.

Talent

New destination in the globe may provide better talent, better possibilities of research and quality skilled workers. Strategy formulation should consider this advantage of a new location for long term benefits or the organization.

Challenges

Cultural differences

Same product may be hit in one location but not in other because customers in new location may have different taste and liking due to cultural differences.  To deal with cultural differences organization may have to create strategy to deal with it, may be different way of marketing, branding, packaging or some other way.
Competition with local brands

Brand recognition

The brand in an new location ma not be well known so company will have to struggle to make brand image in the customer as it may already have in domestic market or other location.

Local branding and marketing requirements

The way a product is marketed and branded in a location may not be the best way for a new location. Country specific culture and taste of customers may require change in branding and marketing policy. New brand ambassadors are required but this is very small part of the story. New locations and markets may require to put same product differently in that environment. Customers may buy a cola drink for different reasons and at different occasion in  US as compared to India.

Advantages of global strategy

Advantages of global strategy comes from opportunities mentioned above. Opportunities in global market can benefit a business with global strategy:
  • Synergy across organization due to shared business activities and services
  • Volume production reduces unit cost.
  • Recognition as a global brand provides more effective marketing opportunities.
  • Low production cost due to lower cost resources can be chosen from different locations
  • Risks are reduced or diversified due to global business.
  • Opportunity to have best talent from various locations

Things to consider

Choice of location

All locations may not be suitable for the type of business an organization is doing. Every location may not have same cost advantage.

Model of operation in a location

There can be different mode of operation in various countries.
  • A company may operate in a country in on of the different ways:
  • Companies independent presence
  • Partnership with local companies
  • Direct investment in to local company/project (FDI)
  • Franchising
Choice of mode of operation can be based on type of business, type of customers, product and local social, economic and political environment and conditions.

Marketing and branding

Organization and product it wants to launch in a global market may have to make customization in the the way product is presented to the local market. Brand image and marketing strategy may be different in different locations. Product may be same.

Choice of product & customization

Every product can not be sold in all locations. All products of a company may not be equal hit in all the countries. some of the products may require customization of the product or its delivery itself as per market and users.

Consideration of cost versus other factors

In one of the location cost of labor may be less but other expenditure like raw material and other things may be costly. Demand of the product or service in a market, expectations of quality and services as compared to buying power of customers can influence decision of operation in a location only based on labor cost savings. Political stability, quality of skill and other resources etc ate many factors which should be considered.

Market demand and potential

Demand of a product in a market and business potential should be considered. Sometimes perceived potential may not be true in reality, some of the markets may have potential but they can take time to provide opportunities from that potential.  A potential may be a potential of future and that future may be too far

Competition

Consideration of competition is important before deciding on launching a product or service in a global market. In some cases cost of local brand may be unbeatable because of customer choice and taste along with buying capacity. In one market cheap products may be the first criteria for customers putting quality or branded product at second priority. In such situation a company may not be able to compete.


Strategic Planning

posted Apr 21, 2013, 1:07 AM by Jageshwar Tripathi

Strategic planning is an activity which identifies path to achieve organizations vision. In this process, current state of the organization, its long term objectives and path to reach long term objectives are few things which are considered.
In detail, it considers following:-

1. Mission:

The basic reason of organizations existence, why it exists? For example: " to work in advanced research for development of pharmaceutical and healthcare products, services and solutions affordable to common individuals"

2. Vision:

Where an organization wants to go or what it wants to become. Time bound target or goal to achieve. Often vision is a long term objective not year end or half yearly target. For example: "By 2020 we want to be one of the top 5 drug manufacturers in the area of advance treatment of cancer"

3. Strategy:

Is a path to reach to the end goal from current situation. 

Steps in strategic planning

Define/identify mission/vision

Identifying mission of the business/organization is the first step towards strategic planning which gives the basis for looking at future in specific space.

Development of vision which is realistic (based on company's mission and strength is key to successful strategic plan. It doesn't mean that a small size organization should think small and set small goals but it does mean that an organization in gas and natural gas wants to go in to shoe making business should not consider its experience in oil and natural gas, as its experience in shoe making company. It should consider itself a new player in that area and then can define its vision and strategy to become a leader in that area from zero to top.

Define objectives

Based on vision, leaders should define quantifiable financial, strategic objectives of the organization which should be measurable. Examples of measurable targets can be: sales targets, earnings growth, net profit, market share etc.

Collect information from environment

Collection of current situation of the organization from within the organization and its position in the market, its partners and competition is important to formulate future strategy to take the organization to the level where it wants to be.

Internal analysis includes listing of company products, services, specialties, strengths, weaknesses etc. This information becomes input for doing SWOT analysis.

External environment (its industry)  analysis includes competition, partners (suppliers, customers), similar products in the market etc. Porter's five force analysis can be used in this.

PETS (political, economical, technological and social) method can help analysis of external macro environment. Some times referred to as STEP.

Define strategy

Strategy is formulated based on information gathered from environment internal and external. Strategy formulation focuses on strengths to win opportunities and identifies ways to overcome weaknesses to handle threats.  

Implement strategy

Evaluate success of plan

It is important to measure success of any plan. To measure success of  strategy plan evaluation of objectives is important but final objective/goal achievement may be realized very late any at that point of time making any corrections to keep on track may not be possible because it would be too late. To evaluate success, success criteria should be identified and evaluation at regular interval should be performed. It is important to identify:

  • What should be measured (criteria)?
  • What should be the value of parameter to be considered as success or failure?
  • When should it be measured?

At the end of every milestone identified for evaluation, measurement should be done.

Make corrections using feedback

After getting the results of measurement, areas of improvement or best practices should be identified as a feedback for the next cycle so that best practices should be applied further to repeat the success and mistakes should be corrected to avoid failures.

Strategic planning tools, techniques and approaches

SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats)

PEST Analysis (Political, Economical, Technological and Social)

Scenario Planning

EPISTEL (Environment, Political, Informatic, Social, Technological, Economic and Legal)

ATM (Antecedent Conditions, Target Strategies, Measure Progress and Impact)

Strategic planning models

There are various models and approaches to strategic planning, choice of one may depend upon organization culture (how organization functions), its current status (internal and external environment) , organization size but most importantly its leadership (how they function, what is their approach to deal with different things etc).

Vision bases (e.g. Goal based)

Subtypes may be known as: Six rings model, Outcome based model, Goal based model, Purpose driven model

Vision based models are focused on vision of the organization, one example of vision based model is goal based model which is described bellow.

Focus of goal based planning are objectives or goals. This can be suitable for smaller organizations to start with on strategic planning. Organization performs few steps initially and then go for more rigorous, defined steps in subsequent years. Initially for small period (for example one year) the organization can follow following steps:

  • Draft a mission statement
  • Identify and define vision
  • Define objectives or goals as per mission and vision
  • Identify strategy to achieve goals
  • Action plan to implement strategy
  • Execute the plan
  • Monitor and evaluate (review) the progress

Issue based

Some times organizations are struggling with issues like not achieving their targets, lack of resources and less time to think and implement about a formal strategic planning method. Focus on those organizations is handling their issues first. This approach is based on same thing, focus on issues to define strategy. Following steps can help adopting strategy planning in these cases:

  • List and prioritize the issues (to select most important and impacting few)
  • Identify approach to handle these issues (which can help in achieving some goals)
  • Document issue versus handling approaches (this document may become strategy document for the time being)
  • Execute (implement) the approaches to handle issues
  • Monitor and evaluate (review) the progress

Organic

Instead of a formal documented strategic planing process, self organized and evolving process to define and execute strategy can be adopted by organizations. Important part of this approach is dialog based, story boarding and learning based instead of method based evolving strategy. Following may be the some of the steps:

  • Using story board discuss culture of the organization and its mission
  • Using story boarding and dialog define vision of the organization
  • Evolve strategies, approaches and processes to achieve vision of the organization
  • This evolution can happen through regular meetings at frequent intervals
  • Keep learning from past and incorporate feedback from previous cycle

Alignment based

This model helps in aligning organization's resources with its vision/mission. It is suitable when organization is struggling with success of its strategies and wants to know and overcome difficulties. This is a topic of great discussion and debate, here are some important points:

  • Assessment and analysis of the organization.
  • Identify mission, vision, processes.
  • Identify which processes and programs are aligned towards mission of the organization and with each other.
  • Sort out processes not aligned.
  • Find out ways to align the processes and programs
  • Define methods and strategy to alignment in the organization 

There are two other techniques real-time planning and scenario planning

Interesting resources:

http://www.sba.oakland.edu/faculty/lauer/downloads/MIS625/Readings/strategic%20alignment.pdf


Planning budgeting and forecasting

posted Apr 18, 2013, 11:08 PM by Jageshwar Tripathi   [ updated Apr 19, 2013, 9:39 AM ]

Planning, budgeting and forecasting if considered together is a finance function but when planning alone is considered it may be for many areas and functions, often planning is considered to be management function. First let us look at planning alone:

Planning

Based on level and time span

Focus of planning may be at different level and it can cover different time span. Each with different level of detail and objective.

Strategic plan

To set direction of the organization and path to achieve its objectives as per its vision, organizations make strategic plans. It is based on analysis of where we are right now?, where we want to go/what we want to be? and How to achieve it? There are may approaches to strategic planning: Objective based or vision based, Issue based etc.

Strategic planning process
  • Define/identify mission
  • Define objectives
  • Collect information from environment
  • Define strategy
  • Implement strategy
  • Evaluate success of plan
  • Make corrections using feedback

Long term plan

Long term plan can provide target and actions for 3 to 7 years, even the target span of time may be closer but idea is to look in to near future to achieve strategic goals as mentioned in strategy plan.  Long term financial plan sets financial targets for 3 to 7 years.

Yearly plan

Yearly plan is definition of financial targets for next one year and activities to achieve specific milestones derived from long term plan.

 Areas of application

  • Financial planning
  • Operational planning
  • Enterprise Architecture planning
  • Project planning
  • Town planning
  • and many more

Planning process

  • Fact collection
  • Analysis of facts
  • Identification of Objectives
  • Identify various options
  • Evaluate options
  • Select best options
  • How to achieve objectives & chosen options
  • Define evaluation criteria
  • Define milestones
  • Define execution steps (plan)
  • Execute the plan
  • Evaluate the plan

Benefits of planning

  • Sets the direction
  • Sets objectives
  • Organize activities
  • Helps managing risks
  • Helps controlling the process and activities
  • Helps in decision process

Budgeting

Budgeting provides base of yearly plan to make sure it should be achieved. It defines what should be the outcome of the plan.
Following are main areas of focus:

  • Sales & Gross Margin Budgets
  • Capital Expenditure Budgets
  • Headcount Budgets
  • Operating Expense Budgets

Forecasting

Forecasting provides projected performance based on current information on perofrmance. Forecasting in financial planning, look at revenue and income.

Approaches

Top-Down

Analysis of current demand and operations based on which projection of revenue in future is defined (next one year or so)

Bottom-Up

Based on current line items details as per revenue budget.

Hybrid

Top-down focus combined with a bottoms-up allocation.

EVA - earned value analysis

posted Apr 13, 2013, 1:36 PM by Jageshwar Tripathi   [ updated Apr 17, 2013, 12:31 PM ]

Important terms

Planned value (PV)

Budgeted cost of work scheduled  (BCWS) is total budget given to perform a task within certain period of time.

Actual COST  (AC)

Actual Cost of Work Performed (ACWP) is the cost spent on work till date. (at a given point of time)

Earned Value (EV)

Budgeted Cost of Work Performed (BCWP) is the cost which is budgeted for the work performed till now (at a given point of time)

Rate of performance (RP)

Percentage of work which is completed with respect to work scheduled.

Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB)

Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled (BCWS) for each time period, considered for complete duration of project.
PMB provides a plan of budgets according to the phases, project work is scheduled.

Calculations

 
Earned value EV = PVxRP

Schedule variance SV = EV - PV

Cost variance CV = EV - AC

Cost performance index CPI = EV/AC

Schedule performance index SPI = EV/PV

Budget at completion BAC = Total of PV at the end of project

Estimate at completion EAC = projection of total cost at completion
EAC = AC + (BAC - EV)/CPI =  BAC/CPI

Estimate to completion ETC = estimate of work to be completed
ETC = EAC - AC

Variance at completion (VAC)
VAC = BAC - EAC

Interpretation

Negative value of CV = actual cost is more that planned for the work done.
Negative value of SV = work took more time than planned
CPI = 1 means actual cost and planned cost for the work are same.
CPI<1 means actual cost is more than planned cost: overbudget
CPI>1 means actual cost is less than planned cost: underbudget
SPI =1 means project on schedule
SPI <1 means project is behind the schedule
SPI>1 means project is ahead of schedule
Note: a zip file is attached bellow containing two templates of EVA (one origial made in open office and another converrted from open office to MS Excel).

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