Thursday, April 28, 2011

PTV©’s Purpose Seed – the Passover Lamb of Strategic Planning?

With the past week being observed as the Passover/Easter/New Year week, respectively in Judaic-Islamic/Christian/Indian traditions, we started our inquisitive journey of learning more about the significance of this week, within the scriptures of both east and the west alike. While the “Passover Lamb” is being portrayed as the symbol of “freedom” in Judaic and Islamic traditions, Christians have taken that symbolism, a notch above, and have equated it with Jesus’ death, as a means of unleashing grace to free mankind from the transgressions of this world, once for all.

As it turns out, Hinduism also has a similar perspective of their Avatars descending into this world, in the form of a Messiah unleashing the mukti experience, barring some subtle differences within the karma and grace dimensions. Nevertheless, the Sanskrit word Avatar, has an interesting origin - the term Av’ part means ‘down and ‘tr’ part means ’Passover’ – meaning, God passing over the earth in a human vessel. Yet another interesting similarity is the word ‘Mesh’ within the word ‘Messiah’, as per the zodiac tradition, also happen to signify the Lamb, depicting the entry of the Sun into Aries during this New Year week – as further reiterated by both Chinese and Indian Siddhas.

While these are all interesting tidbits of information, I hear someone asking, what this “Passover Lamb” has got to do with strategic planning. Well, with our blog being known for deriving its insights from the scriptures, we thought of connecting the dots within those insights and expound PTV© in an all together different dimension!

The IGR Challenge comes to a newer life within this Passover Lamp metaphor!

Those of us, who have been following our blogs closely, might recall an earlier insight regarding – one of the important challenges facing most corporations today –

  • IDENTIFYING, GUARDING and RESURRECTING (The IGR Challenge) those hidden value accelerators that are being buried deep within the pull side of the value chain in the form of a positive cash flow (i.e. value) generating growth opportunities.

While we had covered this IGR challenge, in detail, using our Experience Pool Portfolio (EPP©) Framework as part of that earlier blog, we thought of reframing the IGR challenge today, using a Funnel Metaphor, and bring this IGR challenge to a newer life, in a holistic manner – along with a TRIO concept called PTV+ that is being derived from, few scriptural insights –

  • E-GRACE (Experience Pool’s Greatness & Riches (or insights) At Capability Pools’ Expense), that is being represented as the upper opening of the funnel - resembling grace in the form of manna/body/unleavened bread.

  • P-GRATE (Purpose driven Portfolio’s Greatness & Riches (or insights) At Thread’s Expense), that is being represented as both sides of the funnel (5 Portfolio Principles and 5 Thread Principles) – acting as the gravity, pushing the E-GRACE down the funnel in to the radial framework for it to be grated/filtered - resembling the law or the 10 commandments.

  • C-GRAPE (Capability Pool’s Greatness & Riches At Purpose Seed’s Expense), that is being represented as the lower opening of the funnel, transforming E-GRACE into stakeholder value - resembling faith in the form of grape vine/rod/blood.

In other words, the experience pools (or growth opportunities) that passover the funnel in the form of the Lamb, first transforms itself into E-GRACE, and then, gets grated/filtered by P-GRATE (using the 10P driven radial framework), before transforming itself into stakeholder value using C-GRAPE– as depicted in the picture on top of the page. Coincidentally enough, this TRIO concept also has a greater resemblance to another one of our earlier article PTV as the Ark of your businesses as well.

The PTV+ TRIO and its supporting insights

As part of forming this PTV+ TRIO concept (E-GRACE, P-GRATE & P-GRAPE), we specifically coined the acronym E-GRACE, resembling the word GRACE (God’s Riches At Christ Expense), to help us comprehend the following insight –

  • While the Purpose (Seed) driven growth opportunities (or experience pools) are freely available to everyone (including the competitors), the phrase “Capability Pool’s Expense” within E-GRACE, is the one that helps us to understand, the extent of capability price (or the C-GRAPE), that needs to be paid, before one can transform, those experience pools into stakeholder value.

Similarly, we have coined the acronym P-GRATE resembling the word GRATE (or filter/purify), to help us comprehend the following insight –

  • While there are plenty of experience pools (or growth opportunities) freely available, the phrase “Thread’s Expense” within P-GRATE, is the one that reminds us the importance of applying the Thread Principles, in filtering the best out of the Portfolios, using the radial framework (with its three sub frameworks called EPP© , CPP© & PIP©).

Similarly, we have coined the acronym C-GRAPE resembling the word GRAPE (or juice/blood) to help us comprehend another insight –

  • While the capability pools are definitely constrained with an upper limit, the phrase “Purpose Seed’s Expense” within E-GRAPE is the one that reminds us the fact that the Purpose Seed has the unique ability to continuously renew/recycle/recharge/reenergize/refresh the stakeholder value (and hence, renew C-GRAPE continuously as well).

PTV’s Purpose seed, the corner stone of the SCA mix

As we look at these three insights – one can clearly recognize the fact that the common denominator across all of them is the purpose seed, and rightfully so, purpose seed is the cornerstone of our PTV© - and hence, it is important that corporations, to get their purpose seed (with its five part instructions listed below) correctly identified, for the PTV+ TRIO to function effectively, within their growth and/or turnaround journey.

  1. Vision (what the firm aspires to be)

  2. Mission (why does the firm exist/what does it stand for)

  3. Values (what drives us)

  4. Codes (what guides us)


In other words, this purpose driven PTV+ and its TRIO (E-GRACE, P-GRATE and G-GRAPE), must flow in an optimal fashion within this Funnel Metaphor, for corporations, to produce the so called sustainable competitive advantage (SCA) driven value! Simply put, the primary objective of PTV is to arrive at the SCA producing TRIO mix – which means, the funnel must have all of its three passages (top opening, the middle tapering/filtering passage and the lower opening) opened in an optimal manner, for the value to flow efficiently, producing the SCA mix.

PTV+ TRIO , the Manna/Amrit flavored Dessert?

The fact that these three TRIO’s are the ingredients of the optimal SCA mix , also reminds us, yet another heavenly food called Manna/Amrit – where, the manna/amrit, symbolizing E-GRACE, first gets grated/filtered/purified using P-GRATE, and then gets mixed with the five fruit flavored C-GRAPE (i.e. five capability pools within CPP© framework) – resulting in a tasty dessert called Manna/Amrit+. What an insightful way to comprehend PTV+ and its TRIO concepts, using this powerful manna/amrit+ inspiration from the scriptures!


Finally, in closing, we would like to highlight, yet another important point, that the Passover event happened on the Easter week, 2000 years ago, is the event that divided history into two eras - B.C and A.D - similarly, PTV©, is being reframed, today, with a potential to transform the strategic planning engagements from the B.C era of “passive ceremonial impression” type of effort (i.e. historical data based, expected events driven, left brain thinking enabled, analytics driven planning) into the A.D era of “active gracious expression” type of effort (i.e. historical/survey/word-of-mouth/consumer content based, expected/unexpected events driven, left/right brain thinking enabled, analytics/synthesis balanced planning) - and so, it is time that corporations to embrace our PTV©, very much like how, history embraced the Passover Lamb 2000 years ago!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Portfolio-Thread View (PTV©) , the armor of strategy warfare - Dealing with both expected and unexpected events?

With the fact that the word strategy has been defined in a variety of different ways, we traced back to its original definition, with a curiosity to understand, what our forefathers really meant, when they coined the word strategy. Interestingly enough, the word “strategy” is being derived from the Greek word stratçgos; which again comes from two other words -

  • "stratos" – meaning army.

  • "ago" –meaning leading/guiding/moving.

In that respect, the term “strategy” just means the General’s plan to win the war – as reiterated by Sun Tzu, in his Chinese military treatise called the art of war. In other words, the original intent of strategy was to deal with the competitive environment that is filled with both expected and unexpected events. On the surface, it might sound, as if strategy is all about, just defeating the competitors, as we go beneath it, one can clearly recognize the fact that it is, more about the way of dealing with the “expected and unexpected events” - and less, about defeating the competitors (although that is part of it)!

Strategy, as practiced today is mostly dealing with the expected events only!

With that insight, we fast forwarded ourselves into the 21st century and did a quick scan of the strategy landscape, to see whether strategy’s original intent is still being practiced within the real world strategic planning engagements. To our credit – we found quite a few strategic planning views available within the market place, emphasizing one or more dimensions of strategy (i.e. strategic positioning, capabilities/resources, execution, design etc) - however, most views seem to be using only the historical data (with the traditional segmentation techniques) as their premise, for solving their impending strategic problems. Put another way, over the years, most strategy practitioners, seem to have slowly moved away from our forefather’s original intent - and settled themselves into the comfortable zone of dealing with just the expected (or easily predictable) events. In other words, in most companies today, strategy has become a ceremonial exercise of planning for an environment that is filled with, just the “expected events” - as opposed to planning for an environment that is filled with both “expected and unexpected events”.

With that said, one of the key business questions facing the senior leaders today, in our opinion is - do we want our strategies to deal with just expected events or unexpected events or both? - which compelled us to step back and introspect our own PTV, in terms of, how it stacks up against other popular views, within the context of this key question.

Strategic planning is a warfare?

If the original intent of the word strategy is all about dealing with both expected and unexpected events – then, is it not fair to say that strategic planning is a warfare? If the answer is yes, then, it is time that we reframe the key strategic planning question of -“How do we win?” - as - “How do we win within this warfare? – which brings up yet another encouraging insight that “we might lose few battles along the way, but the war isn’t over till it is over -and so, it is critical that we equip themselves with a warfare type armor (& marathon mindset), and not just a battle type armor (or sprint mindset), as strategy is more about dealing with the expected and unexpected events- and less about defeating the competitors”!

Put another way – to prepare for this type of warfare, it is important that we put the whole armor (e.g. PTV©’s 10 box model and its EPP©, CPP© & PIP© frameworks) with a warfare mindset, as the strategic planning under PTV, is not just a onetime effort of dealing with the expected events anymore, rather, it is about dealing with multiple unexpected events from multiple competitors, regulators, and above all, dealing with the powers of the emerging economies within the global realms.

PTV as the armor of strategy warfare with its 10 box SWOTC model

Rightfully so, we have developed our 10 box SWOTC model with a warfare mindset, as outlined in the picture on the top of the page. To comprehend our model to its fullest sense, it is important that we go back in history with an empathetic mindset, and put ourselves into the shoes of an ancient soldier who is decorated with his whole armors (i.e. the sword, shield, darts, breast plate etc) – given the fact, the word strategy was coined during an era, when those armors were widely used for warfare.

For example, the sword and dart were the primary offensive armors used in that era, and rightfully so, our model proposes two offensive strategies (DIFFERENTIATION and EXPLOITATION) symbolizing both sword and dart respectively, to help position ourselves effectively within the battle field. Similarly shield and breastplate were the primary defensive armors used in that era, and accordingly, our model, also proposes two defensive strategies (PREVENTION and MITIGATION) to protect our positions in the battle field – as further echoed by our fellow strategists Gerald Nanninga in his position-protect paradigm article and Ali Anani in his forming a team article - both stressing the need for the balanced combination of offensive and defensive strategies.

  • Differentiation strategies are the offensive “edgy” disruptive innovation growth strategies leveraging company’s strengths, as symbolized by the sword.

  • Exploitation strategies are the offensive growth strategies to exploit competitor’s weaknesses/constraints, as symbolized by the darts.

  • Prevention strategies are the defensive/preventive strategies to overcome company’s weaknesses/constraints, as symbolized by the shield.

  • Mitigation strategies are the defensive/risk mitigation strategies to reduce company’s vulnerability from competitor’s threats, as symbolized by the breastplate.

The unspoken power of defensive strategies

As it turns out, this type of all-inclusive well guarded game plan - not only, helps us to guard our strongholds, but also, helps us to go on the offensive, by hiding behind our strongholds (a popular warfare time tactics, practiced in the ancient world)! The insight here is that, just because a firm is operating in a high growth industry with a well differentiated strategy, it does not mean, that it is guaranteed to succeed. To succeed, rather, it must also establish the strongholds (i.e. defensive strategies in the right order) - thus creating a barrier, so that competitors cannot enter into their spaces that easily, and steal their profits.

PTV’s portfolio mindset and its alignment with Warren Buffett’s tactics and McKinsey’s findings!

In other words, on some occasions, we might be better of executing a sound defensive strategy (e.g. prevention) as the winning growth path, as opposed to a half-baked offensive (e.g. differentiation) strategy. The classic example is the M&A tactics practiced by Warren Buffett – as he often selects his acquisition targets (e.g. recent Lubrizol acquisition) in an industry (or a category) where there is a high barrier for entry (i.e. a defensive/prevention strategy) – and pays a high premium for it, and thereby, locks the growth path for his portfolio for many more years to come- which by the way, also brings up, yet another important point of taking a portfolio mindset in our strategic planning efforts. In other words, the right combination of offensive and defensive strategies, within a portfolio mindset, that is appropriate for the moment, is the one that is going to give us the winning growth path - as further reiterated by one of the recent McKinsey articles.

More specifically, in that article, McKinsey had disaggregated the growth paths of over 700 Fortune 500 firms into three drivers: portfolio momentum or the market growth of the segments in a company’s portfolio; M&A; and market share gains –and interestingly enough, if we look at these three drivers holistically - the portfolio mindset, seem to be the common thread across all of them. Rightfully so, the foundational design construct of our PTV is a portfolio mindset – as it naturally lends itself, to dissect these growth drivers into multiple dimensions, with various “what-if analysis” planning scenarios, using its 10+ interlinked portfolio constructs (i.e. schema and/or sheet tabs in excel terminology) that is part of its foundational analysis/synthesis layer.

Strategy warfare and Spiritual warfare

On a side note – interestingly enough, these portfolio enabled warfare inspirations seem to be one of the foundational fabrics of most scriptures of both east and the west alike. Few notable ones being – Bible & Torah expounds the walk with God as a spiritual warfare- and encourages the believers to “put on the whole (or portfolio) armor of God, to stand against the wiles of the evil”. Similarly, if we look at the true meaning of Diwali within Ramayana, it is a celebration commemorating the portfolio of battles within a larger warfare, where the good triumphing over the evil. Along the similar lines, Qur'an, also has a similar warfare theme – “And we did raise among every people a Messenger, preaching; `Worship Him and shun the Evil one”.

Competition vs. collaboration dilemma

With that said - it brings up an interesting dilemma – does that mean that we must try to shun our competitors by all means? Definitely not – the answer lies in the balanced middle ground - where we can both “compete and collaborate” with a “DOING BOTH” mindset, as business is not always a zero sum game –and so, one can always come up with creative ways, and make it as a win-win value proposition - as promoted by our trademarked purpose innovation concept. Having said that, we would like to reiterate yet another important point to our readers here as well– that the emphasis we have given to the warfare metaphor, within this article must be interpreted accordingly within its context – as the intent of warfare metaphor, is not to crush the competitors, rather, it is meant to help us understand the unique set of “expected and unexpected events” that are commonly present within a warfare environment!


In closing, we are reminded of an interesting question that was asked by Rick Warren, to the then presidential candidates – Barack Obama and John McCain, during one of the 2008 presidential debates. “Does evil exist?” – Rick Warren asked. The answer perhaps was, one of the few things, both the candidates agreed on the whole debate, and we are paraphrasing here – “Yes, evil exist in the world and so, we must learn to deal with it (overcome with goodness?)”. The key take away for us from that answer was – goodness (or for that matter evil) is neither a republican thing nor a democrat thing, rather it is a universal thing – which brings up to our closing point - whether we like it or not, competition is a real thing in the business world, and so, taking a balanced/neutral stand with a goodness mindset (i.e. competitive mindset augmented by collaboration) is critical for us to create the win: win value propositions – in perfect alignment with the original intent of our forefathers, when they coined the word strategy!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Portfolio Thread View (PTV©) – The Ark of Your Businesses?

Sounds like the story of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark? Surely, I hear someone saying – here goes Charles again – with yet another twist on Strategy. Well…with our blogs, being known for its artistic and scientific insights from the scriptures of east and the west alike, that are presented in a fair and balanced manner, we decided to derive today’s insights from the Ark of the Covenant.

By the by, what is this Ark? For some, the Ark is a mystical object providing supernatural powers to overcome life's challenging situations. For others, it is the vessel (or Eight mouth glyph in Chinese traditions) that saved Noah and his family from the flood. For the “millennials”, it perhaps is the treasure sought after by the fearless Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, for the “faithfuls” from the Judaic-Muslim-Christian roots, it is an ancient artifact that is coveted for its "spiritual" significance, similar to the "holy grail", whereas for the “faithfuls” from the eastern (Vedic/Hindu) roots, the Ark Vivaah is a ritual that is performed to remove the inauspicious situations of one’s life to move-on into the marriage ceremony in a normal way.

Regardless of these minor philosophical differences, the most common and consistent theme across all of these perceptions is that- the Ark is a symbol of wise counselor/helper, especially, when a individual, nation or a business is going through difficult seasons - which compelled us to learn more about it - and come up with few insightful similarities between PTV© and the Ark. As you might recall – in our article last week– we had stressed a key message –“under PTV© construct, the invisible instruction that is hidden within the purpose seed is the cornerstone of PTV©, which then, transforms itself into a healthy plant called the systemic organization”.

Similarly, “under the Ark construct, the hidden manna that is stored within the golden pot (or purpose seed) is the cornerstone of the Ark – which then, transforms itself into a plant called systemic organization (i.e. the rod that is budded/blossomed producing the fruit)”. Extending the metaphor little further - very much like how one is expected to practice the 10 commandments to be fruitful in their lives, organizations are expected to practice PTV©’s 10 principles within their strategic planning processes to reap the value as promised by PTV© - as further summarized in the three content dimension similarities (or strategy dimension of PTV©) below, and in the picture on the top of the page–

  • Ark’s manna that is hidden in the golden pot ->PTV©’s purpose instruction that is hidden in the “purpose seed” with its invisible instruction set.

  • Ark’s rod that is budded/blossomed in the form of a plant-> PTV©’s systemic organization that is blossomed in the form of a plant.

  • Ark’s 10 commandments to help creating/increasing the fruitful life-> PTV©’s 10 principles to help creating/increasing the value within the systemic organization.

As it turns out, the similarity between PTV© and the Ark do not just stop at the content (or strategy) dimension either –rather, it is also extended into the structure dimension – and interestingly enough, the structure dimension similarities are all the more intriguing, as outlined below, and in the picture on the top of the page as well -

  • Ark foreshadows the coming Messiah -> PTV© foreshadows the futuristic experiences (or growth opportunities) using our EPP© framework.

  • Ark provides a means (or a method) of reaching eternity –> PTV© provides a means (or capabilities) of realizing that growth using our CPP© framework.

  • Ark’s 10 commandments are concealed as laws, but are revealed as grace –> PTV© ’s Experience Pools are concealed as Capability pools, but, Capability Pools on the other hand are revealed as Experience Pools, but, manifested in the form of purpose innovation portfolio or PIP© framework.

While we were so impressed by these striking similarities of PTV© and the Ark (in both the strategy and structure dimensions), the thing that amazed us the most was, its perfect alignment with Chandler’s “STRUCTURE FOLLOWS STRATEGY” conclusion. Rightfully so, the strategy dimension of PTV© (i.e. Purpose seed, the Plant and the 10 principles) were covered within our SPF metaphor last week, whereas, the structure part (with its three frameworks EPP©, CPP© & PIP©) were covered in detail, in the weeks before that as well– yet, all of them, just happen to be coherently fitting together beautifully, as envisioned by Chandler.

Speaking of PTV’s coherent alignment with Chandler’s conclusion, yet another question that immediately came to our mind was– which one comes first – Strategy or Purpose? In other words, where does the Purpose part fit in? within Strategy or Structure? Interestingly enough, we took a holistic view while formulating the CAPABILITY POOL PORTFOLIO STRUCTURE with its five sub-components -

  • Organization structure (mostly driven by People and Process with IQ+EQ+CQ driven culture, behaviors, interactions, interventions, Gifts, Talents and Skills etc. In a way it has both tangible and intangible components)

  • Asset structure (tangible)

  • Investment capital structure (tangible)

  • Identity structure (intangible glue like brand identity/equity etc.)

  • Purpose structure (intangible glue).

Out of this five, the purpose part of the CAPABILITY STRUCTURE is the one that has always been debated in terms of - does purpose belong here as part of the capability portfolio? Rightfully so, the experts are still divided - but that is beside the point here. In our opinion, purpose belongs to both strategy and structure dimensions. This is yet another reason, we named our blog as STRATEGY WITH PURPOSE – which means, we kept it open ended, and so the readers can interpret it in both ways, with a DOING BOTH mindset!