October 13, 2004

Excerpts: Hardball - Part IV

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 2:47 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

It is managements job to drive the process. They must create the forum. They must persist in asking why? until they gain genuine insight. Business unit personnel may be closest to the details of the anomaly in question, but they are usually too caught up in the day-to-day demands of their jobs to recognize the strategic significance of unusual patterns and practices. It often takes someone who is one step removed to notice and act on anomalies. It also takes an appreciation of differences, a lively sense of curiosity, and a willingness to play with the taken-for-granted rules of the business.
Once an anomaly with likely potential for building strategic advantage has been identified, the work begins. The anomaly must be thoroughly tested and explored before the strategy can be implemented. You must, to start with, understand the economics of the anomaly; the potential sources of growth and increased profitability need to be made explicit.
Before you exploit the anomaly more widely across your system, it may be necessary to change or improve your business systems. You may also need to adjust or refine your organization structure, in order to remove functional barriers and change dysfunctional behaviors that could blunt or prevent the successful exploitation of the anomaly.
You must consider how your customers and competitors will view your strategy and how they might react. To understand your customers views, you should test the concept with a subset of customers to prove the viability and value of the strategy.
It will be necessary to prepare a marketing plan. It should include a press and public information strategy that will bring your current customers into the new system by convincing them of its benefits. Your communication activities should keep your competitors guessing or cause them to take inappropriate action and give you as big a lead as possible. Your marketing plan should also include activities that will help you identify and target potential customers, particularly anomalous customers of your competitors.
Anomaly hunting is best done at certain times of the year. The worst time to look for anomalies is during a budget review, when everyone is worried about control numbers. A much better time is in a strategic review, when everyone should be prepared to think creatively about the future. Often, by reflecting on their pastincluding strategies and business resultscompanies can find opportunities they can exploit in a systematic way.
Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business School Press. Excerpted from Hardball by George Stalk and Rob Lachenauer. Copyright (c) 2004 by The Boston Consulting Group; All Rights Reserved.