Category Archives: Strategy
At the start of every new year, most organizations are abuzz with this word called “strategy”. Every one is talking strategy, reviewing strategy, attending strategy presentations, drafting strategies or finalizing strategies.. Sigh! I wonder how strategically successful all these people / companies are?
Don’t get me wrong here. Having been in the corporate world for several years now, I do understand and appreciate the importance of strategy, and how it can be critical in your growth, differentiation or success. But once in a way I also think it is important to step-back, go back to the basics and see what others have to say.
Sharing some words on strategy from the wise
“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” (Winston Churchill)
“Strategy formulation, then, is an ongoing requirement of good management. It is, to quote Michael Porter, ‘a process of perceiving new positions that woo customers from established positions or draw new customers into the market.’ This is a process you must permanently embed in your organization.”
(Harvard Business Review Blog Network)
“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” (Michael Porter)
“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” (Michael LeBoeuf)
“A strategy is something like, an innovative new product; globalization, taking your products around the world; be the low-cost producer. A strategy is something you can touch; you can motivate people with; be number one and number two in every business. You can energize people around the message.” (Jack Welch)
“There’s only one growth strategy: work hard.” (William Hague)
“The best CEOs I know are teachers, and at the core of what they teach is strategy.” (Michael Porter)
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” (Sun Tzu)
“In marketing I’ve seen only one strategy that can’t miss – and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last.” (John Romero)
“What business strategy is all about-what distinguishes it from all other kinds of business planning-is, in a word, competitive advantage. Without competitors there would be no need for strategy, for the sole purpose of strategic planning is to enable the company to gain, as efficiently as possible, a sustainable edge over its competitors.” (Kenichi Ohmae)
“In McKinsey’s world, all of life is one of two things: strategy or organization.” (Tom Peters)
“The real challenge in crafting strategy lies in detecting subtle discontinuities that may undermine a business in the future. And for that there is no technique, no program, just a sharp mind in touch with the situation.” (Henry Mintzberg)
“Strategy is not the consequence of planning, but the opposite: its starting point.” (Henry Mintzberg)
“In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.” ( Jack Welch)
More than a year and half ago (23 May 2012), an article in New York Times titled “An Open Letter to India’s Graduating Class” went viral. The post was written from a prospective employer; and was addressed to Graduates and Post-Graduates. When I first read the article, I nodded at every single point listed.
In the past 1+ year, I have had the opportunity to interact with several fresh graduates / post-graduates (unemployed / employed and waiting to start off their careers / employed with organizations for less than 2 years). And as a part of these interactions, I acknowledged and learned their side of the story.
In this post, I present the collective views and sentiments of this group.
Dear Prospective IT Employer,
This is your potential employee. We are a graduate / post-graduate looking for employment. We are potentially the future assets of your organization (assuming you consider employees as assets), the key contributors to your top-line and bottom-line growth in the years to come (assuming you continue to charge your customers for employee services, i.e., Billing Rate / Hour) and the keepers of your “brand name” (assuming you have a brand name). All of these will influence and shape your organization growth, your competitive differentiation and your longevity in the times of come.
Millions of us have recently graduated or will graduate in the near future. We are filled with a sense of excitement and eagerness as we complete our formal education, and start a new phase of our lives as “working professionals” and “officially” become part of the corporate workforce. Some of us have already landed our first job, and are ready to contribute.
In theory, life appears to be good – except that it’s probably not all-so-good. We look, speak and interact with our seniors and friends who are currently employed in IT jobs, and are filled with apprehensions and questions on how the future will turn out when we start working for you!
So why this letter, and why should you read on? Well, because based on collective “sentiments and opinions” of fresh graduates or post-graduates / newly hired employees, some truths have become apparent. Read on to understand what your future employees really want and how we can work together to create a “Win-Win” situation.
Before we get into specifics, we humbly acknowledge the following:
(1) In your assessment, we are “spoiled” because of the “India growth story”. We agree that we may be “spoiled” in your eyes. So let us just ask you a few questions:
“Who is to blame for the times / era one is born to?” – We? Did any of us specifically write a wish 100 years back that we’d like to graduate in 2011 / 2012 / 2013?
“Who is to blame for the kind of upbringing that we’ve had?” – We? Many of you must be having children, cousins, nephews, niece and other relatives who are in the same phase as us. What did you do as responsible adults to influence our upbringing?
(2) In your assessment, our “English Language” skills are sub-standard. Again,
“Who is to blame for the quality of English education that we received?” We?
“Who is to take responsibility for the English proficiency of the teachers who taught us in different schools and colleges across India?” We?
(3) There is a gap between what we learn at college; and what we are expected to deliver at the workplace
We are cognizant of the fact that there is a “great divide” on what we learn at school / college (however much / little this is!) and what you expect us to deliver at work
“Who is to take responsibility for this “GAP”?” We? OR “The systems, people and processes who run these educational institutes and who run these corporate organizations?”
So, without any further ado – We’d like to share with you our side of the coin, and what we’d like as prospective employees in your organization:
(1) You accept us for what we are
The first and most important point for us to be productive and you to get the best of us is for you to “ACCEPT” us for what we are. Yes, we are not perfect. Yes, we have limitations. Yes, we are not the “ideal employees”. Yes, we want things to be easy. Yes, We are the iPad / iPhone / Twitter / FaceBook generation. And we cannot change overnight just to “fit-in” to your view of the ideal employees
So for a start, would it not be EASIER if you ACCEPTED us for what we ARE?
(2) You give us work to do
The second point is that we’ve seen and heard so many of our seniors and friends join your organizations to “work”. Sadly on joining, they find that there is NO WORK to do. And many of us spend weeks / months / years (in some instances) on the “bench / beach” – As you call it. We did not join your companies to sit on “benches / beaches” – though we’d like to vacation and party in benches and on beaches!
So please give us WORK. Only if we work, can we learn and grow. Please give us these work opportunities
(3) You answer our questions, even the most basic ones
We agree that we may not have the “average intelligence” of your generation. So we request you to provide basic guidance as we make our first steps into the big BAD corporate world.
Yes! We acknowledge that we need to learn (a LOT), and are willing to learn. Provided your employees with all their “intelligence and industry experience” make the time and effort to answer our questions, even the basic ones.
In many instances, you’re employees don’t like being asked questions. And in several cases the ground reality is that they don’t know the answers to our questions!
So please give answers our questions. And if you don’t know the answers, please find them out! But, please provide basic guidance
(4) You collaborate with us to build our English language skills
There’s a lot of hue and cry on our sub-standard English language skills. Agreed, that our English skills are sub-standard. But did you not check that when you interviewed us? And if you did still hire us (because of the demand as you call it), then that’s the choice you made.
And the reality is that every choice comes with a price. In this case, the price is probably that we work together to build and enhance our “English language” skills.
So let’s collaborate on enhancing our English Skills
(5) You give us problems to solve; and let us “solve them”
We admit that our “problem solving” skills may be limited, and probably not in par with yours. Part of the reason could be that most of the important problems (of the world or country) were “solved” by the time it was our turn; Thanks to the collective genius of your generation, and the previous generations. So we got limited “hands-on” problem solving experience, as you’d call it.
Now, the way we see it – You are expecting us to “solve problems” – be it business, technology, process or customer experience. And we are willing to give it a try. So please let us try. We will probably struggle, and solve problems in the way “we know”; and not the way “you want”. So please be open to new ways of solving problems. After all with your expansive wisdom, we are sure you will agree that every problem can be solved in umpteen different ways!
So, give us problems to solve; and let us “solve them”
(6) You show us the long-term picture
As a group, we like to have a long term view of things. We are curious, inquisitive and futuristic, though we personally like everything “instantly”; in the here and now. So do share a view of where you’re headed, what you’re plans are and how the strategy will fall into place.
Unfortunately, most of the people we interact with in your organizations don’t seem to have a clue on the long term view of things. Agreed that they know their technologies and their projects, but there’s more to the IT world than that one customer project, right?
So please show us the long term picture!
(7) You lead by example – Especially on “being professional and ethical”
Our grandparents often said “When you point one finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back to you.” May be there is some wisdom in this statement.
When we join your organizations, we are at a fairly impressionable phase of our careers and lives. “Professionalism, Ethics and Values” are words which seem ‘high and lofty’ and many of us don’t really get what it translates to; in theory.
But we observe, and we see, and we speak, and we hear! – From the environment. So if you’ve already built an organization culture which is strong on “professionalism, values and ethics” – We’d be sure to follow!
But if you’re expecting us to build and create that environment for you, then maybe we need more guidance, mentoring, role models, some expectation management or you need a reality check!
So do lead by example. And we’re more likely to follow!
That’s the initial list. Hope it’s given you some food for thought, as you start on-boarding your new employees (or fresher’s) into your world!!
You’re prospective Employee
Its the close of another year 2013. And looking back, I can definitely say that Marketing is increasingly becoming a very important function across the globe – Be it books, schools, services, organizations, individuals, social media, e-commerce, consumer goods, etc etc etc – You name it , and there are ample examples of how marketing made all the DIFFERENCE! And organizations are cognizant of it! And with that, the role of the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) is increasingly becoming more important and powerful!
But then there’s the other side of the coin. The one in which as a marketing professional – I can’t help but rant about the constant pressures, advice and suggestions on cutting marketing costs year-on-year!
Don’t get me wrong! Let me make my point with a few examples of situations which most marketing professionals typically face:
Scenario 1 – Its start of the year. The time when everyone in an organization does a grand budgeting exercise. And most marketing teams work on their plans and budgets for the year. In most instances, only a partial marketing budget approval in received ; And that too 1 – 2 months into the year (So precious time is lost!). After all, time is money; and since most marketing teams are lean – This “lost time” significantly adds up to “loss of productive and tangible output”
And then when any marketing expense is to be accounted, it needs “management approval” – which involves putting up a business case, and providing explanation of Why? – What? – How?. And then comes the “approval” / “questions” / “rejection” – Again, usually delayed (So precious time lost again). All the precious time lost in waiting for approvals is completely unaccounted!
Scenario 2 – Everyone wants to go Social. Everyone wants to have a grand social media presence. Everyone wants to drive customer engagement on Social media. And they expect the current marketing teams (In most cases – who have limited / no knowledge on Social Media) to make Social a success, with limited / no additional budgets at all. Does the math add up? Of course, NOT!
Social Media is a different “Beauty and Beast” – As you want to call it! And the beauty needs to be enhanced, and the beast needs to be tamed. And that’s not the core skill of every marketer – especially if what you do on Social is “real-time” and has “global reach and impact”. So the best way to do Social is to hire consultants to guide you on how to do it OR hire experts to do it for you OR Go slow on the Social strategy. Expecting current marketing teams who don’t understand Social to define a “brilliant Social Media strategy” for your organization may not in your organization’s best interests! And then, investing in the right Social Media tools also come at a price.
Whatever you pick – It comes with good & bad – Be cognizant of this!
So coming back to why I started this post - The point is increasingly a significant majority of individuals and enterprises want to “cut down” on “marketing costs“. Some of the most common explanation is – “Go online“, “Go social“, “Go lean“
yes Sir, yes Madam -
We can look at cutting costs,
We can go online,
We can go social,
We can go lean,
But they will still cost us – in terms of minds and time (people) and tools and technology (hardware and software)
And they will come at a price – in terms of gains and losses – of customers and brand-value
Are you willing to pick up the costs?
Are you willing to pay the price?
And yeah! Till then Do you want to consider calling your CMO – Cheap Marketing Officer instead?