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Want A Better Strategy? Don’t Talk To The Same People.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article |Strategy|Want A Better Strategy? Don’t Talk To The Same People.Alan Gozdalski has taken care of the landscaping on my property for over 20 years. He treats my property like his own. When a devastating fall storm hit Buffalo, NY in October of 2006, Al was one of the first people who called me to check on how his (my) yard fared. I am pretty sure that we both had tears in our eyes when we walked the property and found ourselves shoulder-high in a sea of broken trees.

Al is one of the most creative entrepreneurs I know. He pioneered residential ponds in Western New York, and since 1997, he has installed over 1,000 ponds in the area, including one in my yard. Every year I host a holiday party at my house. I invite clients, friends, students and interesting people who have become friends. Al comes to the party.

I was at Al’s store recently, and he introduced me to another customer. He made a point of telling them about my parties. “I met a plethora of interesting people at Roger’s party. In five minutes, I talked to five different people with different ethnic and work backgrounds. I met a nun, a cardiologist, a rock musician who is in the Buffalo music hall of fame, a Pilates instructor, farmers, branding experts, website designers, entrepreneurs, corporate presidents, college professors and some of Roger’s graduate students who are different ages and nationalities.”

Al loves my party. Why? Because at the party, he is exposed to people who don’t think the same way he does.

One of the most effective ways to get creative is to interact with people from varying backgrounds who have a variety of interests. This isn’t always easy to do, for most of us find it more comfortable to spend time with people familiar to us. To our own detriment, we often don’t make the time or effort to meet new people.

I am pretty sure that we violate the fire code by packing so many people into the house at the holiday party. You can’t help but meet new people when you come. And, if I know two people who would enjoy talking with one another, I make a point to pull them aside to make an introduction.

Research conducted on communication networks determined that the best source of new information is NOT from the people you see regularly. Why? Those people usually have the same information that you do.

The best source of new information is from other networks — people who run in circles different from your own. In technical terms, this is known as non-homogeneous groups. To stimulate your creativity, it is important to tap into groups of people with whom you usually don’t interact.

I offer a program called Breakthroughs Lab, designed to help clients work through tough problems. When I’m hired for these projects, my clients are stuck and facing an obstacle that even their most competent people can’t solve. They often tell me, “We need to have all of the technical experts on this.” I ask them this — “If the technical experts haven’t been able to solve the problem, then why would we have more technical experts work on the problem??

Instead, a Breakthroughs Lab consists of a client and five to seven “creative catalysts” — industry experts who are also highly trained in Creative Problem-Solving. I find people who know very little or nothing about the client’s problem. By nature of being new to the problem, they will have new information that the client does not have. It’s sort of like coming to my holiday party, but the focus is on creating a breakthrough.

The same is true for developing strategy. You will get a much richer result if you include people who are NOT working the business all of the time. They bring the fresh perspective that can set you apart from your competition.

Seek out those people who you might not usually connect with. Talk to them. Learn from them. And if you are in Buffalo, NY in December, give me a call. There might be a party brewing.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article |Strategy|Want A Better Strategy? Don’t Talk To The Same People.Dr. Roger Firestien has taught more people to lead the creative process than anyone else in the world. He is senior faculty and an associate professor at the Center for Creativity and Change Leadership at SUNY Buffalo, author of Create in A Flash: A Leader’s Recipe For Breakthrough Innovation and President of Innovation Resources, Inc.
For more information please visit: https://rogerfirestien.com/

The Disconnect that Keeps Your Company from Performing at its Peak

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article | THE SUCCESS CADENCE: Unleash Your Organization’s Rapid Growth CultureOver the years, I’ve worked with a number of founders, CEOs, and presidents of companies. Often, these executives are a part of my network. I have noticed that their story consistently repeats itself: their organizations are underperforming, and they want to discuss ways to optimize, share ideas and collaborate on experience that could help set up a plan to turn that situation around. These executives tell me frankly that they don’t have the revenue stream, the market share, or the margins their products and services deserve. They’re not sure what the problem or solution is. A common challenge is that they have not hired the level of skill necessary on the sales team. Very often, though, I find that there is another, related obstacle to their company achieving at its full potential, one that all too common goes unnoticed. I call this obstacle The Disconnect.

The Disconnect puts the sales team outside of the strategic conversation. Sales are considered an ending point, not a vital resource. Typically, Finance, Marketing, and Operations all have input, direct or indirect, on the creation and revision of the strategic plan. Sales often have no such contribution. The plan, and its revenue targets are dictated to Sales. The salespeople are expected to go out and execute it. There is zero conversation, zero back and forth, zero collaboration. The strategic communication with Sales can be translated roughly but accurately as: “Here’s your quarterly target. Go hit it.”

In early-stage and high growth scenarios, that’s a losing proposition because there’s no buy-in and no intimacy in the field with what the company is genuinely trying to accomplish. That Disconnect leads to a low-growth culture and a failure to execute the strategic plan adequately or effectively. It’s often impossible to recover from such a blow to communication, collaboration, and strategic alignment.

Changing this situation is not a simple fix. It requires the courage to change the operating culture that management has grown used to, and a parallel willingness to make and follow through on decisions that challenge the familiar ways of setting company strategy.  Specifically, there has to be a connecting line from the outset between the salespeople and leaders out in the field and the management team setting and funding corporate objectives – without it, slow growth is imminent.

Sales has to be the active, leading partner in the formation of the strategy that the company is trying to pursue. That’s a differentiator that most companies miss. Once you get it right, though, this way of doing business leads to a whole new organizational culture, one based on the full support of the principle of scalable, aggressive growth.

When the field organization,  both sales and technical sales have active roles in strategic planning, development of corporate initiatives, and specifically on the setting of their own monthly and quarterly targets, territory plans, etc. the dynamic changes, Everybody’s on the same page; everybody’s taking action to serve the same purposes; everyone is in alignment with senior executives.  A remarkable spirit of cohesion emerges when the sales team knows with deep certainty that their fingerprints and contribution are on the company’s objectives, initiatives and revenue targets, Unfortunately, this is the exception, rather than the rule. Usually, what happens is The Disconnect. That’s how companies are used to doing business. But that familiarity carries a steep cost: slow growth, missed targets, attrition, and unfulfilled potential.

The key takeaway for senior leaders here is a simple one. If for some reason you’re not including your sales leaders and front-line salespeople in your strategy discussions, your go-to-market planning sessions, and your discussions about monthly, quarterly, and annual revenue targets, you are missing out on the opportunity to turn your sales team into the battlefield defenders of your strategic vision. Start the conversation today!


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Bart FanelliBart Fanelli is co-author, with David Mattson and Tom Schodorf, of THE SUCCESS CADENCE: Unleash Your Organization’s Rapid Growth Culture. Bart is a sales leader, entrepreneur, executive advisor, and platform developer who specializes in team building, sales execution, sales leadership methodologies, and global operational efficiency. He has deep experience in building, leading, and scaling technology teams committed to rapid growth. The hypergrowth of one of the teams he led was the subject of a 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review. He is the recipient of the Technology Services Industry Association’s STAR award for “innovation in expand selling,” and the founder and lead designer of Skillibrium, a powerful sales success execution platform.

 

Strategy as a Problem Solving Process

StrategyDriven Decision Making Article |problem solving |Strategy as a Problem Solving Process“The old paradigm of strategy departments and planning cycles has been overthrown by agile and rapid team-based problem solving, providing better solutions and better organization alignment to implement.” These comments by Mehrdad Baghai, strategist and author, commend our book Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill that Changes Everything. But what does it mean to adopt agile and rapid team-based problem solving, where strategy becomes a problem solving process?

Teams and agile methodology have become the dominant form of organization for environments featuring high uncertainty and rapid change, where business models are challenged by disrupters. In these settings the most effective teams follow the 7 steps process for bulletproof problem solving, by asking themselves the following questions:

1. Are we working on the right problem? Defining a problem well is often said to take you more than halfway to the solution. This invariably leads to a clear problem statement of the challenges you have to address, the decision context, problem boundaries and success criteria.

2. Have we broken down the problem into key issues to address? Complex problems can rarely be solved without breaking the larger problem into parts. How you disaggregate or cleave a problem has a big impact on the insight you get into a problem. We show numerous examples from return on invested capital logic trees, to logic trees that help you decide whether to put solar panels on your roof.

3. Are our priorities for analysis the right ones? For efficient use of team resources you need to be working on the issues where the impact is high and you have a significant ability to influence the outcome. This may require a lot of debate in the team. That’s important too.

4. Have we brought outside perspectives and diversity of views to bear in the team? We urge teams to have hypotheses about the answer but open them to challenge in the team, by having diverse perspectives, role playing and actively tapping expertise outside the team. Really good teams porpoise frequently between the hypothesis and the data, sharpening the hypothesis along the way. The data comes in the form of facts and analysis. Yes facts and analysis still make a huge difference to problem solving outcomes.

5. Do we have the right analytic toolkit for the problem? Teams will, and should, make use of heuristics and rules of thumb to scope problems and knock out infeasible solutions. At times, to solve a problem involves understanding root causes or predicting an outcome. That’s when you have to bring out the analytic big guns such as regression, simulation, A/B experiments and machine learning. You can even crowdsource your solutions with Kaggle competitions.

6. Are we carefully synthesizing our findings? We like the way the successful investor Ray Dalio expresses it ‘The quality of your synthesis will determine the quality of your decision making.’ The process we follow is to draw together findings on the key issues into an overall picture, ideally with visualization to show linkages and highlight key drivers or root causes.

7. Have we presented our findings in a compelling narrative that is likely to lead to action? This final step is so often underdone and the source of team disappointment. Doing it the right way involves choosing a governing thought from the synthesis, accompanied by a logical argument structure that may be based on inductive or deductive reasoning.

When this process is complete, teams have reached the holy grail of strategy as a problem solving process as Richard Rumelt put it in Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Rumelt succinctly describes ‘a strategy is a coherent set of analyses, concepts, policies, arguments and actions that respond to a high stakes challenge.’ We agree and know that the way to get there is through a 7-step problem solving process.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Robert McLeanRobert McLean is co-author, with Charles Conn, of Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything (Wiley 2019). McLean is a Director Emeritus of McKinsey and Company and led the Australian and New Zealand McKinsey practice for eight years.

Master These Vital Aspects To Digital Marketing

StrategyDriven Online Marketing and Website Development Article | Master These Vital Aspects To Digital Marketing | Digital MarketingYou really can’t expect your business to get far at all without a good, strong focus on digital marketing. Any digital marketing campaign you have will need to have a lot of focus and drive behind it, and generally you will find that it is important to make sure you are putting whatever effort into it you are able to. Digital marketing will prove to be an essential aspect to running your business and ensuring that it remains popular and continues to grow. But what do you need to think about in order to make sure that you are approaching it in the right way? In this article, we will look at just a few of the essential things that you need to do as part of your digital marketing campaign. As long as you are focused on these, you will be moving in the right direction.

You really can’t expect to get anywhere at all without a decent website, and in fact it is worth putting a good amount of your energy into this before you do anything else for your marketing efforts. The website is where it all comes back to, and as long as you are happy with that you will find that you are going to have much more success with your marketing overall. A good website needs professional designers to ensure that it is operating properly and working as well as possible. Fortunately, these days it is easy enough to find affordable web design which is going to work out well for you, so you should be able to do just that. With a website which you are happy with, you can then start to look at some of the other vital elements to digital marketing.

StrategyDriven Online Marketing and Website Development Article |Digital Marketing |Master These Vital Aspects To Digital MarketingSocial Media

You will find it is essential to have a good grasp of social media if you are to market your business online successfully, so make sure that you are looking into this as early on as you can. You will want to start building a following on Twitter, Facebook and the rest as soon as possible, and it’s important in particular to focus on actually having decent conversations with people on those platforms. If you do that, and develop a branded voice in doing so, you will find that people are much more likely to respond positively, and this will have the kind of effect that you are hoping to have for your digital marketing. Social media is incredibly powerful, so make sure that you are thinking about this.

PPC

Finally, it’s important to remember too that there are some ways of approaching digital marketing which have a more traditional advertising feel to them, and one in particular you might want to focus on is Pay-Per-Click advertising. This is essentially where you have a banner on websites which people click on to get through to your website or a particular call to action, and it is amazing how effective this kind of method can be. Be sure to make use of it, and you will find that your business has much more chance of success.

The top 10 business promotional tools

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article |Marketing Strategy |The top 10 business promotional tools Every business should have a carefully-selected arsenal of promotional tools at their disposal. Investigating and researching each one is just one way of creating a smart and savvy marketing strategy that is tailored around their business’s needs. Some might be suitable for one business, whereas others may be completely redundant – and might even form a bit of stumbling block in their overall marketing strategy. With this is in mind, here are the best promotional tools to consider for your company.

SEO

Now infamously used to boost web pages up Google’s rankings, SEO is a technique that prioritizes relevant words (keywords) and links to similar pages (link building) to promote a website’s credibility. However, the playing field has gotten a little tougher over the years as Google has clamped down on pages that misuse these techniques. Using a company with expertise, such as this SEO provider will help you to avoid being penalized for overusing common SEO techniques.

Twitter

Twitter is a great middle-ground for businesses of all types: it’s a little bit creative, a little bit topical and its use of hashtags makes it ideal for promotion. If you’re looking to create a specific tone of voice for your business, using emojis and GIFs are a great way of adding humor and color to your page. It’s also a great way to conduct polls and interact with clients and customers to show a little bit of customer service.

Instagram

If you have physical products to offer or create eye-catching campaigns or designs, then you should absolutely be advertising your business on Instagram. In fact, the site claims that 60% of people discover a brand new product using their platform. Be sure to bring your A-game when it comes to high-resolution images: low-quality content will not get your business noticed for the right reasons.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is built for businesses and online networking, and so it really is worth putting your business on there to connect with other people in your industry. Not only that, but if you have job vacancies, you can use this platform to promote the job advert from in-house, so it will be seen by potential enthusiastic employees. However, just because it’s a business social media site doesn’t mean that your page should be uniform and basic. Make sure you fill your profile with videos, blogs, relevant content and update your picture and banner to branded imagery.

Facebook

If you have a physical shop of premises with opening hours, then you would be missing out on a trick by not using Facebook’s business page tools. Not only does it showcase your opening hours, but it also uses a messenger function to pre-empt frequently asked questions. It’s worth also noting that the Facebook algorithm prioritizes posts with numerous likes and comments – so encourage your visitors and followers to like and share.

Word of mouth

Never forget the old methods of promotion: good word of mouth. Your business should aim to be the ‘have you seen’ or ‘have you heard of’ on everyone’s lips. Offering customers a ‘recommend to a friend’ discount is just one way to encourage word of mouth, on top of delivering an excellent quality of service.

Networking

Yet another traditional method of promotion, networking works by offering a genuine personal touch. In the same way that many people would prefer to be called or visited rather than emailed, going out to trade fairs or out into the community to chat to like-minded customers or professionals adds a personal touch to your company’s name, stopping you from being just a faceless brand.

Customer service

Customer service should be in every business’s promotional armory, and yet it’s so often neglected. There’s nothing that damages a business’s credibility more than the knowledge that they handle customer queries and complaints poorly. Training your customer service team and anyone who might be answering phone calls to interact with customers efficiently and with a friendly manor will do wonders for the aforementioned positive word of mouth. At the very least, perhaps installing a chatbot to your website will give the illusion of a full customer service team, as it will answer any queries that visitors may have.

A good website

Having a website that’s poorly maintained or clunky to use is like inviting a visitor into a messy building. Nowadays people exist more virtually than ever, which means that your website should uphold your business’s image and branding just as much as your premises would. Investing in a web designer to create aesthetically pleasing page furniture, a site map and an appealing and helpful ‘about’ section will be brilliant for visitors who want to know a little bit more about what you have to offer. As with any social media page, it should be full of eye-catching imagery and interesting content about what you have to offer. If you have the capacity to do so, it might be wise to upload a video about your business, and maybe introduce the team who are behind it.

Also be sure to make sure your website is optimized for mobile use. Most online users browse the web using their smartphones, which means a clunky and PC-only website will make your business look out of date, as well as inaccessible.

A blog

If you want to show your expertise and passion as a business, then a blog is a great place to start. Writing regular industry posts will showcase your knowledge as a brand, and prove your ability to deliver accurate information about your profession. Not only that, but high-quality content is far more likely to get shared by online users, which means your company will get a big promotion in the process.

Not all of these promotional tools will be suitable for your business – after all, if you are starting up an accountancy firm, why would you use Instagram? Being selective and doing your research on your industry will ensure that any platforms or methods you take full advantage of will be used to the best of their ability.