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Archive for the ‘High Performance Companies’ Category

Times | Flickr - Photo Sharing!It can be argued that businesses were traditionally built to be predictable, consistent and stable. Processes were designed to ensure consistent output and to control employee behavior to produce efficient outcomes. I would argue that in recent years the great recession, technological change and other factors have transformed business as we used to know it, into a more dynamic environment characterized by a faster speed of change than ever seen before.

Here are my 5 success strategies organizations can leverage to survive and thrive in today’s dynamic business environment:

1. Accept that Constant and Fast Change is the New Normal

In recent years the business environment has under gone a transformative shift where a heightened pace of change has become the new normal. As David Burstein author of the Fast Future argues:

The future is coming at us faster and faster, the rate of change is increasing and the amount of change that takes place in a given year is skyrocketing as well. So much change has taken place so fast that our governments, businesses, and other large institutions haven’t always had enough time to fully catch up.”

We are living in a time where anyone has the potential to make an impact. Start-ups can transform technology capabilities and anyone can share a message with the world through social platforms. While change can be daunting, executives need to embrace change and accept that the future is harder to predict than ever before.

2. Leverage the Possibilities of Big Data

Most organizations sit on a mountain of data. Today large, complex data sets can be analyzed to obtain greater business intelligence and statistical information than ever before. This data can be leveraged to improve the customer experience, product/service, logistics, customer segmentation, pricing, customer retention, inventory management and many other factors. David Court, McKinsey Director argues that regardless of whether or not you are a data based company, all businesses can leverage data and analytics to make stronger data-supported predictions and optimize performance by obtaining a broader view of operations. It is important organizations ensure data doesn’t become siloed, so they can fully optimize and take advantage of advanced analytics. Information may not be valuable for long so it’s important businesses exploit it and get utility out of it, to strengthen their competitive position.

3. Constant Innovation

Given the dynamic environment a constant focus on innovation is fundamental. It is important executives recognize that innovations can come from anywhere in the organization. Communication channels need to be open to allow for the free flow of information throughout all levels of the hierarchy. Employees need to be empowered to innovate everyday and share knowledge. To facilitate this change in organizational thinking, employee performance systems will need to be adapted to award innovative thinking as opposed to following corporate created guidelines.

4. Agility

Traditional bureaucratic organizational structures are slow to change and thus not adaptable enough for today’s innovative business environment. Organizations need to be redesigned to be more agile; to adjust in real-time as change occurs.

5. Face Disruption Head On

Almost 50% of the companies in 1999’s FT 500 were no longer in the FT 500 by 2009. It can be argued that while businesses are focused on constant improvement, they don’t always change in the right ways. If we take the case of Tower Records, the former music store peaked and had their most success year ever in 1999. In the years that followed Tower Records continued to improve their operations and efficiency, however they failed to recognize that customer demand could be met better in a new way: through online music; to the detriment of the survival of their business. It is important that companies continually scan the environment in which they operate and constantly research new ways in which they can better meet their customers’ needs.

What other strategies do you think organizations can leverage to survive and thrive in today’s dynamic business environment? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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As anyone who has read my blog may have gathered, I love businesses that continually pursue new ideas and believe organizations need to embrace change in order to remain competitive in the long run. A few days ago I got e-mail from Bain Insights on a subtle approach to business change called Repeatability. Bain and Company have set up a website containing articles and research on this topic in support of a new book by two of their partners Chris Zook and James Allen called ‘Repeatability: Building Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change.’

The Idea:

The authors recognize that while 80% of high performing companies have differentiation at the heart of their corporate strategy, such differentiation can become excessively complex. As a company becomes more complex they may lose a sense of who they are and what they are good at, as they continually pursue radical change in order to stay ahead of the competition. Such an approach Zook and Allen’s strategic research suggests may not be sustainable in the long run.

The Concept:

Zook and Allen advocate a simple repeatable business model that can be applied to new products and changing markets. The concept requires an organization to constantly adapt over time building on their differentiation in a way that reinforces their strategic advantages and keeps everyone on the same page. Under this concept all employees should know what the company’s key success factors are and change is constant rather than radical and disruptive. This quote from the authors’ Harvard Business Review article sums up the repeatable business model concept:

‘Really successful companies build their strategies on a few vivid and hardy forms of differentiation that act as a system and reinforce one another. They grow in ways that exploit their core differentiators by replicating them in new contexts. And they turn the sources of differentiation into routines, behaviors and activity systems that everyone in the organization can understand and follow.’

In addition, learning systems are put in place to ensure continuous improvement can occur constantly.

Repeatability in Practice:

Organizations with repeatable business models do three things:

  1. They understand what their customers want.
  2. They translate their strategy into clear business principles that can be easily understand and adopted by employees and leaders from all levels of the hierarchy.
  3. They are wired to connect and respond to feedback, adapting accordingly to keep learning.

Lego is an example of a company with a repeatable business model in place. After years of strategic errors Lego developed clear principles and metrics in order to replicate and improve on past successes, while adapting to new markets and the changing business environment. Using their repeatable business model Lego were able to increase their profit margins by 40% creating additional value for the company, which they hope to sustain.

For more information on the repeatable business model check out Chris Zook and James Allen’s book: Repeatability: Build Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change.

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My first blog post illustrated the importance of daring to change in order to avoid organizational inertia. In that first post I highlighted a retailer I had grown up with in the UK: Woolworth’s. Once a household name, Woolworth’s failed to reinvent itself until it was too late. In this blog post I wanted to share 5 ways high performance companies rethink and reinvent their strategies before revenues from their current strategies start to decline.

  1. They invest in new capabilities: High performance organizations start developing new capabilities, before they lose their competitive advantage from their current ones. Apple is a great example of this.
  2. They focus on talent acquisition and retention: In this economy many companies have become complacent and lazy assuming that their employees can’t go anywhere. While this may be true for your mediocre employees, talent always has options and sooner or later may be gone. High performance companies continually focus on retaining and developing surplus talent that can help drive the business forward in the long-term.
  3. They continually scan the market: High performers don’t rest on their laurels, continually scanning the environment for new ideas in order to identify untapped consumer needs and improve their economic outlook.  Like Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers says, (shameless plug for husband’s hometown team), you are either getting better or you are getting worse, you never stay the same.
  4. They Innovate: High performance companies are risk takers who are not afraid of change. Successful managers recognize that the real risk is in not innovating, becoming stagnant and collapsing.  These businesses have an internal environment that fosters creative thinking, and executives in these companies recognize that new progressive ideas can come from anywhere in the organization not just the C-suite.  As a result employees are empowered by knowing that they have a role to play in shaping the company’s future success.
  5. They are agile: Today’s high performing businesses have agile organizational structures in order to be able to adapt fast to the increasingly unpredictable ever-changing business environment and take advantage of sudden market opportunities.

What do you think? Feel free to add to my list of characteristics of high performance companies in the comments section below. 

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