Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Strategist of the Year 2010 – CKP

Happy New Year to our readers, both from the west and the east alike!

With us all getting ready to welcome the year 2011, I see quite a few news clips from various organizations bestowing the “person of the year/decade” awards to those individuals who have influenced certain fields in an outstanding way. More specifically, some of the professional awards include, but not limited to are – artist of the year, scientist of the year, engineer of the year, architect of the year, physician of the year and so on and so forth.

As I was looking at this list, I was surprised to see that there is no award called – “strategist of the year” – and so, wondered if it makes sense to propose a “STRATEGIST OF THE YEAR” award as part of our 2010 year-end blog. As I tossed this idea to my wife – she chuckled –“You aren’t creating an award for yourself? Are you?” Well… although I never meant it that way, it sounded like a good idea as well – given the 2010 career slogan being ”if you do not get the job you wanted – go and create the one for yourself”.

With all the pun aside, we decided to propose the “strategist of the year” idea to our fellow readers – with a noble goal of honoring the legendary strategists who have helped to shape the strategy agenda in the last few decades. As it turned out, developing the selection process to choose the top strategist from the list of 50+ legendary pearls – is not an easy task at all. But, then we remembered the song “no turning back” and so, created a mini panel (with me and my wife as members) and quickly scanned through the profiles of the top 50 legendary strategists from various sources (we have listed few links at the bottom of the page for your perusal as well) within the last 10+ years or so.The only key criteria we used was to honor those strategists whose thinking have helped to shape the world’s purpose agenda - given the theme of our blog being “ strategy with purpose” promoting the “collaboration driven purpose innovation”( http://strategywithapurpose.blogspot.com/2010/10/transforming-so-what-opposites-in-to-so.html).

To our surprise, we quickly learned that the list of renowned strategists who have been repeatedly being ranked in the top 50 list, year after year – by and large remained the same, except for few who have changed their positions relative to others depending upon the criteria in which they have been evaluated in those years.The question however is how to trickle down to the finalist - and that indeed turned out to be even more daunting task than agreeing on the process itself!

This is where we applied our intuition and decided to make the process simple – i.e. decided to honor C.K.Prahalad, who was called home in the year 2010. Although he might qualify to be the “strategist of the year” on his own merits- we decided to bestow the award – primarily based on the fact that he was the only one in the top 50 list who happen to be called home in the year 2010. And so, the Grammy goes to... Oops! the “Strategist of the year 2010” award goes to C.K. Prahalad. I hope you all agree with our intuition as well.

As part of showing our respect to CKP, we decided to re-publish the tribute I had published in Harvard Business Review blog earlier this year, with some minor tweaks. May I request you to observe a minute of silence and recite this poem in the honor of the legendary strategist CKP, the strategist of the year 2010.

Twas the day of a solemn note!

‘Twas the Sunday morning like any other day, (April 18, 2010)
There stuck a solemn note in my heart as the news reverberated far and wide,
Stilling the clatter and traffic of the business world – and made them to pause and look around,
A new sense of new world order, at least for the time being- a new world without CKP,
In its sorrow - yet with its splendor, in its moment of loss -yet with its fortitude.

The light is gone, yet I whispered to myself - I wish I was wrong,
For the strategic light that shone the world was no ordinary light,
That strategy light that illumined this world for these many years,
Will continue to illumine this world for many more years to come,
And hundred years from now, I am sure, that
light will still be seen around the world.

Not an ordinary one, the light that
redefined the word strategy...
The praja that made strategy relevant for the
bottom of the pyramid,
That gravitas that drew us away from the conventional thinking,
That compassionate heart that reminded us to do the right thing,
That simple soul that took the strategic thinking altogether to the new level –
strategy with purpose!

The strategy Guru with his spectacled charm and of happy nature,
The champion of the once alien concept “
core competencies” along with Gary Hamel
Among his virtues, sense of duty still stands out tall –
as teacher and a servant
His courage to go against the odds with
stronger conviction,
That is the character that won the glint of admiration.

That innovator who planted the resource based view (RBV) seed for the swallow-tails
And the milkweed plants where strategists of yester years would lay,
To make this April meadow grass green and the next round of
caterpillar generation to grow
Beckoning the world
to watch the mystery unfold
The metamorphosis of translucent prodigies (us?) giving our golden service for the needy.

The immigrant star smiling with his trademark embed spectacled eyes (from his place of resting)
Like a
immortal who refused to be a mortal,
Realizing how quickly his insights are going to be consumed (for the betterment of the world)
Resting in peace with the assurance of
his prodigies fulfilling his purpose,
Yet, rolling over from his grave once in a while (reminding us that purpose) with his spectacled smile indeed!

PS: The inspiration for this poetry tribute came from the scripture verse– “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do we light a candle, and put it under a bushel”



Friday, December 10, 2010

A compelling case for our Purpose-Profit balanced "Portfolio-Thread View"

For those of us who have been following our blogs closely for the last few months would have definitely noticed a key message - that our purpose driven strategy is based on the collaborative “Portfolio-Thread View" (PTV) that is being derived from the nature’s principle of “balancing opposites”. I hear someone surely asking a follow-on question - how is it different from the other predominant views such as - Strategic Positioning view (SPV), Strategy Execution/Operations View (SEV), Resource Based View (RBV) and Design Thinking View (DTV)? Before answering that question, let us refresh our memories with a strategy history refresher.

As practitioners, those of us who have practiced one or more of these dominant views as part of our strategic planning engagements would definitely agree with our observation – that these views, in most situations, end up creating conflicts with one another – thus, resulting in a tension, between the two key opposing business realities of “competitive advantages and aspiration structures”. Interestingly enough – we had depicted this tension with a funny cartoon with a tug- of-war metaphor in one of our earlier blogs (http://strategywithapurpose.blogspot.com/2010/09/what-in-world-is-strategy-pitch.html).

By advantage - we mean the ease in which companies can sustain their competitive advantage for an extended period of time in spite of the emerging challenges like disruptive innovations, globalization, and reverse capital flows etc. By aspiration structure, we mean, how flexible are company’s system (including system wide processes, culture, relationships, and distinctive capabilities that are knitted together uniquely creating their brand identity) structures to help sustain those competitive advantages.

Sustaining competitive advantage for an extended period of time- though sounds easy – in reality, is one of the most challenging things to do- especially within old economy companies - partly because of their rigid system-wide aspiration structures. Trying to change those rigid system-wide aspiration structures (especially after it has been set in stone for 50+ years or so) invariably results in a tension – which has made the business leaders to experiment different strategic views with a hope to arrive at that magical “advantage/aspiration” mix - producing , just the right amount of optimal tension needed to win the game. Nevertheless, most leaders have not been 100% successful yet on that mission – partly because of the fact, these dominant views inherently do not help them to balance these opposites effectively and to arrive at that magical “advantage/aspiration” mix.

Hence, the need of the hour is to develop a fifth strategic view (or framework) called Portfolio-Thread View (PTV) – that inherently helps leaders to balance these opposites (advantage/ aspiration mix and its sub variables) and help them to answer the key strategy question of “How do you win?” along with its three sub-part questions -
  • How do you win or increase the value for your key stakeholders (shareholders, customers, consumers, partners and suppliers alike)?
  • What is the optimal advantage/aspiration mix that uniquely creates the DNA of your brand/firm (or the so called “sustainable competitive advantage/aspiration” mix) that is difficult to be emulated by your competitors?
  • How do you align that DNA with your Portfolio-Thread elements?

PTV is a blended “collaboration driven, purpose-profit balanced, boundary-less based, pull value chain driven, portfolio-theme view” – and, in a way, it is unique, because of its ability to answer these three questions effectively with a set of “what if scenario” based “balancing opposites” type dashboards - that is built on top of the set of interlinked purpose-profit balanced, boundary-less based, pull value chain driven, portfolio structures/ schema (i.e. product, services, experiences, market, investment, process, competency, sustainability, risk etc) that are further knitted together by key strategic themes (i.e. differentiation, low price, globalization, disruptive innovation etc) as outlined in our earlier blog (http://strategywithapurpose.blogspot.com/2010/06/purpose-driven-systemic-strategic.html). This dashboard driven model not only helps leaders to balance these portfolio variables within the context of their advantage/aspiration mix simultaneously, but also help them to arrive at the magical “advantage/aspiration mix” that is custom tailored to their specific set of market, resource, operation and creative needs –so that they can win with an absolute certainty.

Within that winning spirit – we then did a deeper dive analysis using an Advantage Aspiration Portfolio (AAP) Framework (as outlined in the top of the page) - to gauge where all of these dominant strategy views stand viz-a-viz to our PT strategic view - to help develop a compelling case for PTV. Before going too much further with our analysis, let us reiterate an important fact- that all of these four dominant strategy views are not only being widely practiced within various quarters today, but also have proven to be effective for most companies.

With that said, let us first recap the compelling cases behind each and every one of these strategic views to get a perspective of how the strategy landscape has evolved in the last 50+ years – before building a case for PTV. The Strategic Positioning View (SPV) was developed in the 70’s with a compelling case for choosing the right market entry options (while market conditions are stable) and was heavily promoted by leading thinkers like Michel Porter, whereas the Strategic Execution View (SEV) was developed as a compelling case to answer the criticism of the execution practitioners - who argued that relying too much on market share and financial algorithms have started slowing their productivity and so, they stressed the need for an execution view – with an emphasis on optimization, continuous improvement, quality and process reengineering -and, promoted heavily by leading thinkers like Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy.

While SPV and OTV were still widely practiced within various quarters during the 70’s and 80’s –an economic shift silently happened in the 90’s in terms of the capital moving from the developed economies in to the developing economies as part of the globalization phenomena -and so companies quickly realized the need to scale their expertise and resources for the global market -and hence the Resource Based View (RBV) became the new mantra (promoted heavily by C.K.Prahalad and Garry Hamel) with a compelling case that “effective companies must have set of core competencies” to win with an absolute certainty.

While all of these three views were being practiced in different quarters in the nineties- the dot com era slowly came along - and so did, the compelling case from the “design thinking” promoters – and they argued that all of these analytics driven views (SPV, OEV and RBV) try to put strategy in a box and so they do not necessarily guarantee competitive advantage for an extended period of time - and hence, they proposed a synthesis focused Design Thinking View (DTV) with a mantra – “let out-of-the- box strategic visions and creative ideas bloom with an innovation focus using right- brain based design thinking insights, before we start deciding the patterns of strategic choices” – and most recently, this view has been promoted by Roger Martin and Roberta Verganti.

Interesting history – isn’t it? What does these 50+ years worth of strategy history tell us? - None of these four views seem to meet all the needs, at all the time, for all the markets/industries. In other words, while all of these strategic views definitely have helped companies to devise effective strategic plans, not all of them have equally balanced the “advantage/aspiration” mix effectively – the key prerequisite for winning with an absolute certainty. With this renewed insight and finding – we placed all of these strategic views within the AAP framework – with “degree of aspirations” on X axis and “degree of advantages” in Y axis as outlined below and on the top of the page.
  • SPV – addressing the market centric view – wherein companies can win by selecting the niche market entry options - with a key assumption - that those niche markets eventually can become their stronghold - and pretty much make competition irrelevant for them – which kind of gives a perception that this view can work well regardless of how flexible (or less flexible) their aspiration structures are – and hence, at times, is being misinterpreted to be creating class differences among various markets and industries.

  • SEV – addressing the execution centric view – wherein companies can win by optimizing their processes, practices and eliminating waste/idle capacity with a leading edge analytics/statistics (Six sigma, lean, regression etc) tools and techniques with a value engineering focus – but at times, is being misinterpreted to be resulting in an over engineered initiatives in certain markets/industries that do not produce sufficient returns to justify those initiatives.

  • RBV – addressing the core concentration view - wherein companies can win by focusing on their core businesses i.e. by finding creative ways to unleash the untapped value from their core, with a set of core competencies – but at times is being misinterpreted to be promoting too much cost containment mindset stifling the edge focused disruptive innovation.

  • DTV – addressing the design thinking view – wherein companies can win by “trial and error” based innovation culture and willingness to experiment with “out of the box” ideas and directions, and adjust the efforts based on the experimental learning every step of the way – but at times, is being misinterpreted to be lacking focus, discipline and coherence.

  • PTV – addressing some combination of the above four categories – wherein companies can win by balancing their opposites to their best – i.e. advantage/aspiration mix –that is further custom tailored to suit to their individual market, resource, operation and creative needs with a set of analytics/synthesis focused (left and right brain focused) interlinked purpose-profit balanced, boundary-less based, pull value chain driven portfolio structures and themes – to help face the challenges of 21st century and to win with an absolute certainty (http://strategywithapurpose.blogspot.com/2010/10/transforming-so-what-opposites-in-to-so.html) – but at times, can potentially be misinterpreted as - “being all things, to meet all needs, for all industries”.

As we recognize from these “advantage/aspiration” mix driven strategic view placement analysis- interestingly enough, four of these strategic view categories fell perfectly in to those four quadrants of the framework with an exception of our PTV – which got placed in the centre of the framework covering all the four quadrants. What does this tell us? There is a need for a fifth view with a flexible set of “collaboration driven, purpose-profit balanced, boundary-less based, pull value chain driven, portfolio structures and themes”- to effectively balance these opposites and help answer these three key questions – with an absolute certainty to win at all times. And so, it is time for companies to accept this new reality (i.e. PTV strategic view) and start using them in their strategic planning engagements to help answer these three winning questions effectively - to meet the emerging ever changing challenges of the 21st century and to win with an absolute certainty. However, by no means – we are suggesting that other views have lost its relevance – I guess “doing both” is the way to go in the words of Inder Sidhu and Roger Martin and as summarized in the poem below.

Realizing the need to weed the strategic creed’s advantage-aspiration clutter, (then)
Rebranding that creed with nature’s “balancing opposites’ principle breeder, (by)
Renewing that aspiration fixture (of SPV) with a flexible structure,
Re-energizing that engineering overture (of SEV) with a good-enough engineering culture,
Rejuvenating those core competencies culture (of RBV) with an edge competencies glitter,
Refreshing that free thinking sculptor (of DTV) with a process rigging stature, (by)
Reinvigorating them all with a fifth venture, with an optimal advantage-aspiration mixture, (and delivered by)
Rendering them all with a “collaboration driven, purpose-profit balanced, boundary-less based, pull value chain driven, portfolio-theme structure”, (that is)
Reverberating the corridors of the world’s elite’s strategy theatre,
Raising the bar to a newer glitter with a startling strategy whisper– purpose driven strategy is the new clatter to rattle!