Business practices and concepts come and go. But many new business ideas that are introduced through the business press, consulting firms, etc. really aren’t new at all. They’re just new to the latest generation of business managers. An article in the New York Times caught my eye the other day. It was déjà vu all over again.
It was a report about a seismic change taking place at Walmart. The short story is this: Faced with declining same store sales, declining customer satisfaction scores, and increasing employee disenfranchisement, management decided to embark on a bold experiment in early 2015 –- pay their employees more. In fact, pay them at market rate. Early results are promising, as Walmart is now seeing gains in productivity, same store sales and customer satisfaction.
Dispatches From the Strategy Trenches: When companies get blindsided
“What are you telling me? Your strategy just isn’t going to fly with either me or my Board. Our situation isn’t as bad as you’re making it out to be.”
Boy, these are not the words you want to hear as a newly promoted Partner in a consulting firm. My team had just presented a well-researched, logical, fact-based argument which we firmly believed would persuade our client that a change of strategy was imperative.
Pablo Picasso, Three Musicians (1921), Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Change within any organization is really hard, so you’d think that it would be a no-brainer to avoid adding self-inflicted wounds to the process. Unfortunately, and too often, this is exactly what happens. I’ve come across senior managers – and CEOs – who play the Blame Game, actually making change more difficult and even impossible.
Image thanks to David Levine
One of my favorite business quotes is from an old B-school professor of mine: “Strategy is the art of foreseeing the inevitable and hastening its occurrence.” It’s a paraphrase of a quote on the art of statesmanship by the legendary French diplomat Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand.
And he should know … de Tallyrand, who lived from 1754 to 1838, survived – in fact, prospered – as France went through a long period of cataclysmic change. He served in the regime of Louis XVI through the French Revolution, then on to become the Foreign Minister for Napoleon I. He continued to serve during the reigns of Louis XVIII, Charles X and Louis-Phillippe.
Jos Vorst, The Marble Quarry, From the Feldacker Collection, St. Louis Mercantile Library.
Strategy is sexy stuff. Deep thinking, insightful analytics and creativity required.
When I interviewed MBAs looking to join my former consulting firm, the majority said that what they really wanted to do was strategy consulting. What they meant was, they wanted to the front end of strategy: the competitive and market analysis, the customer segmentation, the C-suite and Board discussion of options and the finalization of a bold recommendation.
While this formed the foundation of the strategy work for our clients, we really prided ourselves on our ability to help clients actually implement and execute their strategies. This emphasis on strategy execution was a tough sell to many of the promising candidates we saw. But those who had been in business and had to actually put plans into action liked what they heard and were perfect fits for our firm.