Executive Coaching – Another Growth Strategy for Singapore Companies?

Not too long ago, I read a series of discussions on social media among Singapore business owners on the benefits, or the lack of benefits, of executive coaching.  The discussion seemed to be more on the lack of benefits, with some Singapore entrepreneurs even likening executive coaches to frauds at worst, or at best, only skilled in ‘theory’.  As an executive coach representing a business strategy coaching organisation that has helped more than 40 000 companies across the world, I found this discussion very interesting and of course, insightful into the mindset of the Singapore business owner.

Is it true that executive coaching yields no benefit to the Singaporean entrepreneur?

As I followed the discussion, I began to see certain misconceptions held by the business community here, and how these misunderstanding could actually prevent Singapore businesses from unleashing their full potential.

Let me explain why.

Imagine asking an Olympian or a top athlete whether he or she needs a coach? What do you think his or her answer would be? Would he or she say that a coach is only for those who ‘haven’t made it to the top’?

Andre Agassi, a world tennis champion supposedly said that no one ever achieves peak performance without a coach. Sports stars like Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps all have coaches.

What about business champions? Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt all have a coach.  An article in Forbes reported that executive coaching grew from a little known industry to a US$1B one over the last twenty years with the majority of the bill being foot by giants like General Electric, Google, Goldman Sachs and other world beaters. In the past, these organisations considered coaching as a performance enhancement measure for failing employees, but now, coaching is the key to helping key executives to lead and win in a world that is increasingly competitive and complex.

And the benefits are evident – a study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Association Resource Center puts the ROI on executive coaching at an average of 7x, with 25% of respondents saying that the returns could go as high as 10-45x the investment.

The main reason given why executive coaching has risen in prominence among the world beaters is this – the world has become increasingly competitive and complex. And leaders need to change in order to succeed in the ‘new world’. If executive coaching is a key driver of business growth among the commercial giants of the world, could this also be the key to help Singaporean companies breakthrough and scale?

To quote one of my clients from the Philippines, a CEO of a company that I am working with to push through the $1B mark: she said that if we had met 5 years ago, she probably would not have seen the importance of engaging an executive coach for her and the management team, but much has changed in the last 5 years in the Philippines. They no longer compete against local companies but also international ones. And to beat the competition and grow, she thinks it is time to call in the help of a coach to effect lasting change down the ranks, flowing from the top.

So do the changes that affect these countries affect Singapore too? If the answer is yes, then perhaps executive coaching might be an effective tool to help Singapore companies to thrive in this complex environment.

So what is stopping this?

From my experience working with companies in Singapore and SEA, the main obstacle to engaging a coach is the misunderstanding of what a coach does. There are two main misconceptions. The first one is similar to the view held in the west twenty years ago – the coach is like a ‘tutor’.

And in and Asian society, who goes for tuition?

Thus this view tends to limit the role of a coach to one of a trainer. Everybody in Asia wants to learn, that is why they have no qualms going for courses, or hiring a coach to ‘teach’. But few like to be coached towards changing. This is because it implies that they are doing something wrong, and need a coach to correct them and the way they run their business. To illustrate this difference in mindset, two companies I worked with, an Australian and a British, both based in Singapore, were upfront that they want to be coached, not trained. They want continuous engagement e.g. monthly or quarterly follow-ups to make sure the executive team is following the process. They even gave the coach permission to ask direct and harsh questions. But the converse is usually true for Asian companies – they want to be trained, taught the latest techniques but not held accountable over a period of time. Also, the C suites in Asian companies tend to see coaching as something beneath them – it’s for their managers. Thus, change is usually not driven from the top. Whereas there is no such stigma attached with western companies. Usually, it will be the CEO that is at the forefront of the work with the coach and it flows down from there.

This difference in perceiving coaching is why Asian companies usually do not engage a coach to coach, but to do the job of a trainer.

That’s why several of my clients short change themselves by putting a lot of emphasis on what I can teach their teams, but fall short on the coaching process.  In fact, it is the coaching that will bring lasting results to the team, not the initial teaching. After all, only 10% of learning takes place during training, 20% through interacting, but 70% happens through doing. And a coach’s highest effect is when he holds the team accountable for what they do.

What could be the cause of this mindset? One, it could be a misunderstanding between what   training and coaching is? Or a cultural confusion that blurs a tutor’s role with that of a coach.

Or worse, it could be a case of ego. Verne Harnish, world famous guru on business growth, observed after more than 30 years of helping companies to scale, says that the biggest obstacle to scaling up a business is a leader’s ego.

Another possible reason why coaching is not making its maximum impact here could be due to another misconception – Coaching is often confused with consulting. The fundamental difference is a consultant is an industry expert who provides you with an answer that you do not know while a coach is one who helps to uncover issues that hinder growth and co-develop a process with the executive to solve the problem.

In short, a consultant gives answers, a coach asks questions. A consultant finds the answers for you, while a coach walks you towards the answers. The first focuses on the end result only – the answers, while the second focuses on the process you take to find the answers.

Both have their uses for different circumstances. One is about finding answers to complex questions; the other is about growing towards results.

Thus, it is common to hear business leaders say ‘what can the coach tell me about my business since I have more years, more achievements than anyone in the industry’? And this is not an idle boast, since many business leaders are deserving of their success. But that was never the coach’s intention or role in the first place. The coach’s role is to help the executive and his team to go through a process of change to become more effective in scaling, rather than to answer industry specific problems.

One of my clients understood this. Despite being the third generation leader of a hundred year old business that yields billions of dollars in revenue, he initiated a process of change from top down because he knew that the previous ways of running the business, of developing strategy and developing people had to change.  His family business spans seven industries, and I worked with the management teams across these seven industries to implement a process of growth and change, of re-looking at their businesses in a new way for a new phase of growth. As coach, I help to drive a process across the company. I don’t provide industry specific answers.

So how can Singapore company leaders benefit from coaching?

The important thing is to find the right coach.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of coaches that can be found through Google. So the first thing is to know what you want to achieve through coaching. Is it personal leadership change, business strategy change, business processes change, people development change etc?

Every coach may be good in their respective areas, but they won’t be good in everything. The first step is to know what you want to deal with; it will make it easier for your coach and you to lay out expectations.

Next is to see what the coach brings to the table. Here, another common misconception interferes. A lot of people I spoke to do not know the difference between a coach and a mentor. In a nutshell, a mentor has experience, a coach has a method. If you are looking for a guide who has been there, and done that to guide you, you are looking for a mentor. If you are looking for a system or a process that will bring results through various levels in your organisation, then you are looking for a coach.

So the next step after knowing what you want, is to ask if a coach or a mentor serves your needs better. If it is a coach you need, then what methodology does the coach use? Is it proven? Has the method been used successfully across different industries, different countries, different cultures to bring change and results? For example, the 4 Decisions Framework coaching process developed by Verne Harnish has helped more than 40 000 companies across the world in 6 continents. This is what I mean by a system or methodology that stands the test of circumstances and culture.

And the last, but most important question is – how willing are you to change? Coaching is a process of change, not a one-off impartation of knowledge. Find a coach that you are comfortable to work with, with a program you are willing to commit to. A coach’s job is to ask the uncomfortable questions and hold you accountable to implement change. The extent of your success, and the coach’s, is dependent on the degree one is willing to work at change.

As Singapore’s businesses face increasing competition in an increasingly complex environment, perhaps executive coaching could be the answer to their growth woes. After all if it helped the world beaters like General Electric and Goldman Sachs maintain their edge, it should help our business leaders become world beaters too.PG Presskit NOV FLA 2013

How to Identify a Company that Has Potential to Scale?

In Feb 2016, MIT released a report on the state of entrepreneurship and its impact on the US economy. The report is titled A New View of the Skew: A Quantitative Assessment of the Quality of American Entrepreneurship. In a nutshell, the study raised a very important point for policy makers to note:

Quantitative measurement of entrepreneurship (no of start-ups per country) tells us nothing about the future of an economy because it is not start-ups but scale ups that matter.

Start-ups are too diverse in nature, and hence hard to pin ‘how to help’ whereas scale ups have certain characteristics that can be identified and to indicate potential.

Thus, the key question shifts to this – how to identify ‘potential’ in a company?

I believe potential can be spotted in two areas. One is in the mindset of the owners, and the other is in the ‘framework’ of the company.

Mindset

I will address this question with a point raised in this report as well as from my view as a business coach with Gazelles International, an organisation at the forefront of working with Scale Ups across the world. Gazelles International is founded by Verne Harnish, one of the best minds on how to scale a business. Harnish is also the best-selling author of the books Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up, two award winning business books that are the culmination of his 34 years of experience helping businesses to scale.

The first point I want to address is the mindset of the business owner and the management team. Harnish teaches in his masterclasses that in his years working with Scale Ups (companies who grow 20-30% a year, and who double their growth every 5 years approximately), he observed that the name of the company tells a lot about the intention of the founders. In other words, it reflects the mindset. This point is also brought up in the report by MIT as an indicator of potential – the name counts because there is more to a name than just words.

It signals intention.

One of my personal observations working with companies across Southeast Asia is this – to scale a company requires a business owner to think differently about his business – different from competitors, from culture, from industry. He or she will want to do something differently.

One key difference is how they approach the question of change. To scale up, businesses have to make changes. How disciplined are they in implementing changes is the key? How open are they to change? Most people will say they welcome change, citing clichés like ‘Change is the only constant’, but their approach to strategy and their implementation of things that are different from their usual practices tell us if they have the right mindset to scale. Maybe business leaders are willing to learn, but few are willing to change. Change means to adapt and implement.

In short, to manage change effectively requires discipline. Discipline in thinking and focus as well as in execution.

Framework

A way to determine this is to use the 4 Decisions Framework developed by Gazelles International as an indicator. Gazelles International has helped more than 2000 companies around the world to scale. The 4 Decisions Framework identifies 4 areas a company must do well in in order to scale. While not all companies will use the term ‘The 4 Decisions’, the characteristics identified in the 4 Decisions serves as a good indicator of whether a company has the right foundation for higher growth.

The 4 areas are:

Strategy – All businesses not only need a clear strategy that differentiates, but it must also be positioned to break industry bottlenecks to develop an overwhelming advantage over its competition. As Harnish puts it, a company who has the potential to scale is a company who deals with a ‘big-ass’ problem with a ‘kick-ass’ solution, with people who are ‘smart-ass’.  In other words, Scale Ups have people who think where the competition doesn’t think.

As John Rockefeller said, ‘Competition is a sin.’

The foundation of a good strategy is the right mindset – to not accept industry constraints but to constantly find those problems that competition neglects or resign themselves to accept, and solve them. Besides having this mindset to find the bottleneck, does the company have the tools and skills to find and solve these problems? If they do, the company does not get stuck in the traffic jam of competition and be resigned to accept marginal growth.

I call this the difference between a Keep-Up and a Scale-Up. Scale-Ups run towards the industry’s constraints while Keep-Ups run away from them.

Thus, to identify if a company can be a scale up, one needs to examine this company’s mindset towards strategy – is strategy to differentiate from competition or merely to keep up?

The next question is whether they invest time in delivering their strategic differentiation. Strategy can be simple, but the execution of strategy is time consuming and requires discipline.

What will they do when they find a constraint in the industry? Do they have the time, patience and skills to break it?

Whether a company is prepared to invest time and resources into strategy will tell if it has the potential to be a long-term, sustainable Scale-Up.

In a nutshell: Scale Up potentials see industry problems differently from their competitors.

People – No company ever scales without good people.

Every business should examine if they are held under the tyranny of the organisational chart. We do this by applying what Jim Collins teaches: asking if we have the right people, on the right seats, doing the right things.

What does this mean?

It means that everybody is clearly aligned to an outcome that is significant to the business, with the right action KPIs assigned, and that person is clearly the best person to fulfil those actions and deliver those results; in other words, fit people to actions that can be taken rather than fit people into roles. Companies traditionally fit CVs to roles, but we need to move beyond that to fit people i.e. unique strengths, talents and interests to critical actions and outcomes.

Most businesses I know do not have the patience, or more importantly, the mindset to ask themselves honestly if everyone they have is that ‘right’ person on that ‘right’ seat doing that ‘right’ thing? A person who fulfils these 3 criteria is an ‘A’ player; someone who is a natural in creating value in that given capacity.

This process is tedious and requires a different way of looking at staffing and recruitment. But companies who invest in this process to find ‘A’ players gain 3 times the value of a person who is merely ‘staffing’ the role.

Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store believes that only ‘A’ players should be hired. Everyone in his company from the store assistant to the management team is carefully selected through a rigorous process. For example, even if you are a junior front line staff, you go through as many as 9 interviews. The Container Store, as Kip says, “sells empty spaces in boxes”. Yet it is has grown huge enough to be listed in the NYSE. For sixteen years, The Container Store was consistently voted in the Fortune’s List of ‘100 Best Places to Work in the USA.

Their secret, according to the company’s president – hire only ‘A’ players. The Right Person, on the Right Seat, doing the Right Thing.

Another aspect of having the right people in the business is to have people who are continuously learning. Here, Harnish starts at the top; he observed that Scale Ups usually have a leadership team that never stops learning. He calls them ‘Rabid learners’. The leaders are not only industry experts in their own right, but they learn and learn, and in doing so, encourage their colleagues to grow and learn. This is even more critical in the 21st Century where things are changing faster than before. Businesses can be made obsolete overnight, so learning is the only way to keep scaling.

Are you intentionally building a system with the 4 ‘Rs’ – Right People, Right Seats, Right things and Rabid Learners?

A company that has the right people policy is poised to scale up.

In a nutshell: Scale Ups are not afraid to invest a lot of time in finding the right people to put on the right seats, to do the right things.

Cash –  Cash flow is the oxygen of all businesses. Cut it and a business, no matter how good, dies.

Do you have a strategy to ensure that cash flow is smooth? Most businesses I know accept the payment terms of their industry as something cast in stone.

They often complain, ‘But the industry is like that.’

Do you have to accept that?

Can you be intentional about getting a better cash flow than your competition? Business strategy, by definition, is the intention to achieve differentiation. So we need to be intentional about getting better payment terms than the industry standard if we want an advantage over our competitors in this area. One way to do this to understand and shorten your Cash Conversion Cycle. Which part of the cycle can you work on to shorten it?

Besides a cash flow strategy, it is also important to have a money value strategy. What this means is to understand whether you are getting the best value out of your business model. Is your business model building company value, or is it merely creating profits? If there is a hierarchy of revenue, is your revenue stream giving your company it’s the highest valuation? Thus, for a business to scale, it must have a smooth cash flow, as well as a money value strategy to ensure that the business can grow smoothly and achieve its highest value.

In a nutshell: Scale Ups constantly find ways to improve cash flow, and constantly question and improve their business model.

Execution – The last, but not the least, is how a company executes its strategy. Be it business strategy, people strategy or cash strategy, it all hinges on Execution to get things done systematically. Hence I consider this the most important decision amongst the Four Decisions.

In Gazelles, we put in place three things that help keep a company on track. They are Priorities, Metrics and the Rhythm. These three things form the ‘Execution Culture’. Do you have a great execution culture? Or is execution haphazard and frantic? Are meetings more a waste of time or a time when things get done?

The first step to develop a great execution culture is to understand the differences between a task and a priority in order to develop focus.

Tasks are often mistaken for priorities. What are priorities? Priorities differ from tasks by having a direct leverage on results. Which action has the biggest impact on results? Which action needs to be completed before other actions can take place? When we fire-fight, we are focusing on tasks. When tasks are not differentiated from priorities, businesses become stuck on a treadmill – they work very hard to keep up but they don’t scale.

The Rhythm is like the heartbeat of the company. Irregular heartbeat can cause death in humans, so it is the same for companies. The Rhythm keeps the organisation focused on priorities that will drive the strategy of the company. Without a rhythm, most companies get lost in the day-to-day fire fighting.

How do you set a Rhythm in your business that ensures that strategic priorities are executed and accounted for?

Do you have a system to warn you in advance if things are not going well so that you can take corrective action?

There are some companies who have outstanding strategy, the result of a lot of time and effort put in, only to fail because it was not executed well.

Coming back to the point that strategy is differentiation, if we want to achieve a different result from our competitors, then we need to do things differently. We need to look at Execution differently.

How a company executes strategy is a sign of whether it will scale up.

In a nutshell: Scale Ups invest time to set Rhythms in the business. They don’t allow things to happen by chance. Nor do they miss opportunities because they got too busy with day-to-day things.

Conclusion

There are many ways to determine a company’s potential. Some people look at market size, demographics, macroeconomics and trends etc, but all these are meaningless unless a company is poised to seize the opportunity. There is only so far a business can grow by being at the right place at the right time, or by the entrepreneurial guts of the founders. A business’s potential should be determined by whether the company has the right mindset and skill set towards growth.

In other words, do they have the right approach to scaling up? Their mindset and actions will tell. While they might not have everything laid out in a nice package as explained in this article because business is always messy, but intention is always seen in actions. Thus, as long as a business owner or leader demonstrates an intention to build the characteristics of a scale up in his business, there will be potential for higher growth.

 

 

 

Promises are Meant to be Kept – And Here is how Businesses can Do It!

Singtel_new_logo

Source: Mothership.sg

This week Singapore Telco Singtel announces the launch of a new logo. The new logo is part of a re-branding exercise, which includes a new Brand Promise:

Let’s make everyday better

According to their CEO, the re-branding exercise was launched to counter unhappy customers, with some even calling the telco ‘Stinktel’ to highlight their unhappiness over poor customer service. The new Brand Promise promises better service and more caring attention to the little things that conveys to the customer that Singtel cares.

Readers can read the details of the change in this article: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/singtel-just-unveiled-logo-looks-023544688.html

What however intrigues me is the use of the term ‘Brand Promise’ instead of ‘Branding’. And if Singtel is truly intent on fulfilling a Brand Promise rather than just build brand equity or create brand awareness, I applaud them. From the view of a business coach, Brand Promises are one of the most important ways to build raving fans and loyal customers. It is one of the first few things I help my clients build to gain a strategic advantage over their competitors.

So What is a Brand Promise?

It is a promise – A promise meant to be kept. Every time a transaction takes place, it is an exchange of money for the promise of something. That ‘something’ is expected. In today’s world. where transactions go beyond the simple barter trade, what we implicitly promise in the transaction involves the tangible product you sell, and the experience that comes from dealing with you, as well as the experience of using your product after the transaction. It does not end when the service concludes or when the product is consumed. People blog and write about their experience long after they finish their deal with you.

While Branding gives association and awareness, a Brand Promise is a bond that is established firmly between you and the customer. It is a bond that you must honor. It is a commitment that your brand, representing your company and all who are associated with it, will deliver what was paid for in both tangible and intangible ways.

For example, one of the premier airlines I take for business trips and the rare holiday messed up its luggage loading badly during a family vacation. More than fifty people did not get their luggage. While the flight was great e.g. flying comfort, food, cabin crew service, the way they handled the troubled customers was horrendous! They simply did not care. Emails took as long as a month to get a reply. Compensation was paltry for the inconvenience caused. And the worst experience I had was to deal with the automated, templated email replies to queries. By the end of the experience, I could memorize their standard reply word for word. It was as though this award winning airline is run by robots!

They wanted very much to tell me they DID NOT CARE! Remember, a contract with the customer is no longer restricted to the moment the product is consumed or the service is used. The whole experience, including post-service, is equally important!

While this airline has great branding involving winning several awards and international rankings, it broke its Brand Promise. Period.  I’m not impressed with its ranking when I’ve discovered they don’t care at all when they made a mistake that affected me. I’m not expecting perfect service; things happen especially when transporting a few hundred people. But a broken promise, even if its an intangible one, is something never forgotten. In fact, it is the intangible promises that are more critical than the tangible ones.  A Brand Promise, whether official or not, is equally real to the customer. And it left a sour taste in me for a long time as a customer.

Every Company Needs to Formulate and Track its Brand Promise

Your Brand Promise, whether you have strategically worked out one or not, is taken seriously by your customers. Even if you do not have one, your customers expects it. If you don’t have one, they will create one for you. When you have a Brand Promise that works, it will give you tremendous advantage because it essentially becomes an emotional bond tying your customer to you every time the Brand Promise is kept. And when you have one, you can strategically manage it and use it to your advantage.

Creating a Brand Promise

From the customer’s perspective, they demand it whether you have it or not. A Brand Promise can therefore be a strategic, calculated move to win you loyal customers.

How do we create a Brand Promise? Firstly, do you know your WHO? You need to define your Core Customer, and the clearer you can articulate your Core Customer, the better.

Who is your Core Customer? Is your business, and your Brand Promise targeting a want, a need or a fear? What is your customer really buying from you? For the case of Singtel’s customers, are they buying a phone and a line or are they buying convenience, lifestyle, status and connection with friends and family?

Next will be to break down the Brand Promise into supporting metrics and KPIs. This step is extremely important, because it tells you whether your company is delivering on its Brand Promise or not. In developing metrics, keep it to a few critical ones. As a rule of thumb, your metrics for Brand Promises should focus on a few areas ONLY:

Productivity, frequency and customer satisfaction are common ways to set the Brand Promise KPIs on.

Too many and you lose track of what is important. In my course of work, I notice some companies love to have complex metrics – too complicated to tell them what is really happening!

When setting Brand Promise KPIs – KISS (Keep it short and sweet)

And the presence of KPIs and measurables will differentiate your Brand Promise from a slogan. Slogans are meaningless, but Brand Promises are powerful. They are powerful because they are promises, and a promise kept is a bond made between the buyer and the seller. You want to establish more of such bonds and strengthen them, because it is always easier to sell to your fan than to a stranger.

I am excited to see businesses move from using Branding to win customers to using a Brand Promise. As a customer, I am most definitely thrilled when a promise is fulfilled.

I applaud Singtel in their move from branding towards Brand Promises. I look forward to the day when more companies build great brand promises.

And if you want to know how to build a great Brand Promise to take your business further, help is just an email away!

Tis the Season for Strategic Planning…and Why It Might Fail

With the end of 2014 coming, I have been busy working with companies to plan for 2015. Working with them closely and observing how they craft their strategies to move forward and put execution plans in place, I admire their grit to survive and excel in their industries. I applaud their efforts and I am committed to help them succeed. Yet as I observe more and more companies, I would also like to highlight the common problems faced by companies in crafting their strategies, so that we can avoid them altogether.

Bad Habits

some bad habits masquerade as good practices, and this inhabits strategic thinking. Strategic thinking is first and foremost about how to differentiate your business from others. It is about identifying your core customer and then asking what can you do to meet the needs and the fears of this core customer, and then aligning every resource you have, and developing new ones, to meet these needs better than your competitors are able to. But inevitably, this runs counter to a lot of old practices like trying to satisfy your customer’s every wants. Like chasing fads and not focusing on your core strengths.

What got you here, won’t get you where you want to go – because as businesses grow, it becomes complex. Competitors notice you. Others see you succeed and think they can join in the bandwagon. Organisational complexities increase. You need systems and processes, a new way of thinking, a fresh understanding of who your client really is, and build new processes and competencies to take your company to the next level.

Yet, while leaders know all these, they invariably fall to practices they are used too. Leaders do not act on strategy, but do what they are used to do. For example, even though a company I work with had identified three core competencies to develop for 2015, it invariably forgot about its commitment to develop these competencies and focused on doing what it used to do – try to be good in everything! However, one may be forgiven if strategy is made into something too complex to follow, which makes it therefore easier to fall back to old habits of running the business.

What you can do to avoid falling into the trap of old habits:

1. Find a simpler way to formulate your strategic plan.

I am unreservedly for the One-page strategic plan developed by Gazelles International. The plan is simple enough to follow once it has been crafted together with a certified coach. Business operations are already complex, we don’t want to add to it with a plan that nobody understands. Some of my clients, before they implemented the Rockefeller Habits and the One-Page Plan could spend 10-12 hours on management meetings, which are inevitably ineffective and confusing. Simplify the whole process!

2. Revisit your plan regularly

I find myself reminding the business leaders who I work with what was the strategy they had decided on. i also asked them to commit to one particular aspect of strategy they want to see come through in the following year, and to constantly work on that one aspect. if not, it is easy to forget, or to feel overwhelmed by their strategic plan and revert to old habits. If business leaders can focus on one strategy every year and do it well, the impact on the business would be great. Having a coach in this aspect helps, because having a third party to remind you of what needs to be done, and not what you feel like doing will keep you away from bad habits.

Wrong Understanding of Strategy

This is a common problem for most business leaders. They fail to understand that strategy is about trade-offs. They also don’t understand that strategy is about alignment. And most importantly, they think that strategy is a magic bullet. Strategy requires discipline, discipline, and more discipline. I recall a scene from the movie Braveheart, where the Scots had laid an ambush for the English cavalry. They had long pikes that could stop the English charge, but for the plan to work, they had to hold off revealing their weapons until the last minute. A break in discipline would have resulted in either the collapse of their formation, which would lead to being slaughtered by the English cavalry, or the enemy not taking the bait and falling into the trap. The Scots held on to the last minute against the pressure to do what was natural – to run or to fight in ways they were familiar with. But they stuck on to their strategy – and won.

Key points:

1. Strategy cannot be formulated without an understanding of core customer, and what your competitors can or cannot do, what they hate to do and love to do.

2. You can’t have it all, so you need to focus. Focus requires discipline.

3. Strategy is only as good as its execution. And execution is again about discipline.

4. Smart strategy is about trade-offs because we don’t have infinite amount of resources and time. Trade-offs require discipline in thought and action. If not, it is easy to try and have it all, which is the fastest way to lose the game.

 

Wrong Practices

Every company has a system of meeting – the only problem is that meetings tend to take on a life of its own and meander like a river to nowhere. As a result, meetings do not result in clarity, focus and accountability. Every meeting should have these 3 words in mind:

1. Clarity – does the meeting help to clarify what the targets are, and what everyone must do?

2. Focus – does the meeting align everyone to do the right thing for that week/month/quarter, and lead to action being taken?

3. Accountability – does the meeting help everyone be accountable for actions and results?

To develop a new understanding of meetings that work, master the Rockefeller Habits. The habits include a system of meetings called the rhythm, and it helps keep everyone on track. the rhythm helps maintain execution discipline. But what is most important is the agenda of the rhythm: it does not allow the meeting to go off-course, but focuses on Clarity, Focus and Accountability.

Too often, i see companies embark on the journey of developing strategy only to give up, writing it off as a waste of time because they go back to old habits. They claim that strategy is too abstract to work, or it is too academic etc etc, and the result is they get jaded by it. The problem does not lie in strategy, but it lies in the way companies execute it. It is important to keep in mind that strategy is only as good as its execution, and pay attention to its execution, that strategy will work.

And when it works, it will make all the hard work worth it!

Have a fruitful strategy for 2015!

PS: If you need help, it is just a message away.