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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Commander's Intent

Why is Commander's Intent So Hard to Implement in Business?

This is a snippet that I am plagiarizing from the book: Repeatablility.
How can it be that hard to align the front line around the core ideas of the business? the same as the management team? Here are some key obstacles that seem to get in the way of shortening the effective distance between management and the front line that is serving the customer:
  • "The customer is a number, not a person." Insulated by phone menu options and distant call centers, senior management can easily spend less and less time interacting with customers, and especially ultimate end users.
  • "The thin blue line of customer care." When customer care and after-service is viewed as an expense to be managed down you have a problem.
  • "Sales are the other guys." Some businesses have cultures that devaluate the sales and service roles, as opposed to exalting it as the eyes and ears on the ground, as the intelligence function about customer needs and competitive offerings.
  • "Tyranny of fuctions." In some companies, internal functions become service centers for other internal customers, creating an entire internal ecosystem with a life of its own independent of the customer and the value that these functions actually create that the customer would pay for. If you are having too many internal meetings, and if this accounts for more than 10 percent of your time, then you might have this problem
  • "Myth of stakeholder priorities." When customers become one of a long list of stakeholders in the queue of competing company priorities, customers can become undervalued, and the gap between senior management's mentality and the market reality at the front line increases.
  • "Layered organizational complexity." Organizations add complexity when they grow, especially in absence of repeatable formula. Addressing complexity with complexity has effect over time of disconnecting top management from the front line and turning major decisions into a fuzz ball of committees where no one really knows who decides. This is how complexity kills speed, responsiveness and ultimately growth.


I have always been a great proponent of repeatable processes. In my previous jobs have worked at companies which have well thought out processes and no so well though out processes. I always thought that having clearly defined and documented processes are always important and that takes care of repeatability. I just finished reading a book called Repeatability written by Chris Zook and James Allen and turns out that repeatablity is something that needs to be in the DNA of the organization as opposed to just blindly documenting day to day activities in the business. Also, repeatability is about having an organization on the front line which knows how to clone the management thinking and map that to their individual tasks.

Some of the notes I took from the book are documented here. The book does a really good job at establishing the thought process and thus my notes cannot possibly help in replacing the reading.

Core principles of repeatability

  1. Principle 1: A strong, well differentiated core
  2. Principle 2: Clear non-negotiable
  3. Principle 3: System for close loop learning
As I said in the preamble of this blog entry, its easy to misconstrue what repeatability:
  • It is not the performance of a repetitive task like a robot. We are talking about the essence of a business requiring constant judgment, but needing some consistency in order to drive learning[Repeat things]
  • It is not mechanical replication everywhere of a business concept[Repeat things globally across geographies]
  • It is not an endless to-do list handed down to every frontline employee. This form of repeatability suppresses feedback and is demotivating and soulless.[dumb workforce]
  • It is not the repeatability of nonstrategic functions. Every company has critical functions in finance, tax, real estate - essential enablers.

The reason any business looks for great repeatable models is to deliver enduring advantage, some of the high level principles to deliver sustainable advantage are:
  • By compressing the distance between management and the front line
  • By deciding better and faster
  • By mastering the art of continuous improvement

Strong differentiated core

Three components of a well differentiated core:
  1. The source of differentiation and the activity system that supports it
  2. A well-defined method to repeat success in new situations
  3. A set of target markets and segments in which to reapply your model

Some questions that senior executives can ask themselves about the business:
  • What are your primary sources of differentiation?
  • Are the differentiators gaining in strength or waning in strength?
  • How do you know about the performance of differentiators?
  • Does the full management team agree on the differentiators? Would frontline employees have the same list? If not why?
  • What is the success rate from extending your repeatable model to new markets and situations? What explains the success and failures?
  • What will be the key differentiators of the future? Are you building world-class capabilities in areas where you perceive gaps?
  • How do all the relevant differentiations reinforce one another?
  • How do they work together to define a business model that can be replicated?
  • What are the assets and capabilities at the heart of this differentiation?
  • What is the full potential of the differentiation and the repeatable model that expoits it? Where can it be best extended? How do you decide?

The non-negotiatbles

Good principles to find non-negotiatbles in the core:
  • Connect to frontline actions
  • Affect trade-offs with real economic consequences
  • Reinforce the strongest competitive advantage
  • Can be reapplied in new markets
  • Link to rewards and deeper sources of motivation
  • Are mutually reinforcing
  • Liberate positive energy

Some questions that senior executives can ask themselves about the business:
  • Can the strategy be stated in a small number of principles?
  • Does the senior team agree with them? Are they shared broadly?
  • Are they translated into operating nonnegotiables and routines that drive frontline execution and aid in making difficult decisions?
  • What is the distance from the management team to the front line?
  • Are you happy with the speed and consistency of the organization?
  • What are three most important non-financial measures of the health of your business model? Do you all agree?

Its evident that it its not just important to outline the non-negotiables but also to convey them to the frontline workforce as this enables creative thinking and boundaries that guide the creative thinking. Good read explaining why this isnt anything new would be reading the commander's intent excerpt in the book. Commanders Intent

Closed Loop Learning

Repeatability also demands constantly learning from the best performing differentiators and adapting according to the changing environment.
Sources for learning
  • Learning from core customer
  • Learning from key operations
  • Learning from frontline employees

Some questions that senior executives can ask themselves about the business:
  • Does this change strengthen and reinforce our core model?
  • What is our future differentiation and how does each opportunity add?
  • Can this create a repeatable model for roll-out across the world?
  • Does each opportunity add to critical capabilities for the future?
  • Do we have the capacity to implement and will it distract from our core business?
  • How do the opportunities and threats relate to each other? How do we rank them?
  • Is speed of reaction a competitive advantage for you? How do you know?
  • How are you set up to react to major threats to part of your business model?
  • Are you investing enough in the next-generation business model, in testing and experimenting in search of it?
  • Do you track over time the rate of productivity improvement in the core processes across the company? Should you?
  • What are your most important types of decisions regarding change and adaptation? Is the process informed, clear and simple? what are inhibitors?

Friday, May 4, 2012

14 lessons from Benjamin Franklin

I usually take notes, but this blog entry was so good that I couldnt help but plagiarize. Thank you! Thea Easterby!!
Original article: Business Insider Article
Benjamin Franklin was clearly a man who knew how to get things done.

Here are 14 action-inducing lessons from him:

  1. Less Talk, More Action

    “Well done is better than well said.” Talk is cheap. Talking about a project won't get it completed. We all know people who constantly talk about the things they are going to do but rarely ever take that first step. Eventually people begin to question their credibility. Taking action and seeing the task through to completion is the only way to get the job done.

  2. Don’t Procrastinate

    “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” This is probably one of the first quotes I remember hearing as a teenager. With an impressive list of achievements to his credit, Benjamin Franklin was not a man hung up on procrastination. He was a man with clear measurable goals who worked hard to turn his vision into reality. What are you putting off till tomorrow that could make a difference in your life today?

  3. Be Prepared

    “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” You need a plan to accomplish your goals. Charging in without giving any thought to the end result and how to achieve it, is a sure way to fall flat on your face. Think like a boy scout. Have a realistic plan of attack and a systematic approach for getting where you need to be.

  4. Don’t Fight Change

    “When you're finished changing, you're finished.” Whilst many of us don’t like change, others thrive on it. Either way change is inevitable. The stronger we fight against it, the more time and energy it consumes. Give up the fight. Focus on proactively making positive changes, instead of having change merely thrust upon you. Wherever possible, try to view change as a positive instead of a negative.

  5. Get Moving

    “All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” There’s a reason we use the expression, movers and shakers. Movers are the ones who take action, the people who get things done, while the immovable are sitting around scratching their heads wondering how others could possibly be so successful. Which group do you want to belong to?

  6. Avoid Busywork

    “Never confuse motion with action.” We are always running around doing things. We rush from one meeting or event to the next, sometimes without achieving a great deal. At the end of the day, how much of our busywork are we proud of? How much of that running around improves anyone’s life (including ours) for the better? Make your motion mean something.

  7. Give Yourself Permission to Make Mistakes

    “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” If we fear making mistakes, we become scared to try new things. Fear leaves us nestled in our comfort zone. Staying in your comfort zone rarely leads to greatness. Taking risks and giving yourself permission to make mistakes, will ultimately lead you to whatever your version of success may be.

  8. Act Quickly on Opportunities

    “To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” Opportunities are everywhere. The trick is being quick enough and smart enough to seize them when they arise. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that something won’t work or can’t be done, allow yourself the freedom to ask what if?

  9. Continue to Grow

    “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” We all have vices of some description. The key is to keep them under control or preferably eradicate them entirely. Be kind to those around you, whether they are neighbors, family, co-workers or friends. Never accept that you have finished growing as a person.

  10. Keep Going

    “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” Have you ever looked at a successful entrepreneur or business person and thought how lucky they are? Most of the time, luck has nothing to do with it. Hard work and sacrifice on the other hand have everything to do with it. Successful people deal with failure. They tackle their demons head on. They pick themselves up and keep going.

  11. Know Yourself

    “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self.” Understanding ourselves is not easy. Sometimes we just don’t want to see ourselves for who we really are. It’s much easier to hold onto a romanticized version of ourselves or to simply view ourselves through other people’s eyes. Start by being brutally honest with yourself. Follow through with understanding, compassion and acceptance.

  12. Don’t Self-Sabotage

    “Who had deceived thee so often as thyself?” We spend so much time worrying about other people hurting us, yet fail to comprehend the damage we inflict on ourselves. If you are using negative self-talk, lying to yourself or indulging in addictive behavior you are self-sabotaging. Life can dish up enough challenges without us adding to the mix. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself like you would a best friend.

  13. Don’t Give Up

    “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Achieving our goals can be downright exhausting. There will be days when you want to give up. There will be times when your energy levels flatline and you wonder why you bother getting out of bed. Yet you push forward, day after day because you believe in yourself and you have the determination and strength to back up that belief.

  14. Wise Up

    “Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” Benjamin was definitely onto something with this one. Who hasn’t had the thought - I wish I could know then, what I know now? Unfortunately there is no time machine; there is no going back. The key is to wise up as early as you can to start forging a life of purpose, achievement and happiness.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Challenge Sales Model: Taking Control of the Sale

Challengers create momentum. Their deals don't get stuck nearly as often in "no-decision land" the way typical core reps deals tend to. This is because a Challenger will push things along, always thinking ahead to the next step.

Three misconceptions about taking control

  1. Taking control is synonymous with negotiation

    Challengers take control across the entirety of the sales process, not just at the end. In fact, one of the prime opportunities for taking control is actually right at the beginning of the sale.

    If the contact hems and haws or gives an unclear answer, the rep pushes and explains that if they can't guarantee time with those key leaders, they'll be unable to check that everybody is aligned on the value of the solution, and therefore it doesn't make sense to continue engaging in further discussions.

    Customer invites a sales person to come in, analyze a problem, and generate creative solutions. Many sales organizations will spend well into the six figures to pursue a complex opportunity. All too often, though, the customer engages this free consulting work until the best solution becomes clear, at which point they go shopping for cheapest supplier.

    Complexity in buying process has less to do with bureaucratic hurdles suppliers put in the way of customers - though that surely is an issue in many companies - but with the fact that customers often don't know how to buy. Of course, customers don't lack the basic know-how of buying a complex solution from a supplier, but standard purchasing processes and protocols break down when every solution is unique, touching different parts of the organization. Challengers rather than assuming that customer knows how to execute the purchase of a complex solution - which can be a faulty assumption when it comes to solution selling - they teach the customers how to buy the solution.

    All of this is telling us that Challengers dont wait for price negotiation they take control of the sales process right from the beginning.

  2. Reps take control regarding only matters of money:

    Challengers push the customer in terms of how they think about their world and their challenges - as well as the solution to those challenges.

    Commercial Teaching puts the Challenger in a position to take control by bringing new ideas to the table - ideas the customer hadn't thought of before. But customers are savvy and conventional wisdom didn't get to be conventional by being east to topple. There will be pushback, even if the Challenger is armed with compelling insights and supporting data. The Challenger's response when confronted with this pushback, however, is to take control of the debate.

    But taking control of the debate around ideas is critical not just because it shows that the sales rep isn't going to be a pushover, but also because those ideas the Challenger brings to the table are directly connected to the solutions that the supplier can offer to the customer. If the rep isn't willing to convince the customer that the problem is urgent, then he won't be able to convince the customer it's worth solving.

  3. Reps who take control are aggressiveL

    People also confuse taking control - that is, the Challenger's tendency to be assertive during the sale - with aggressiveness. But these are actually two very different things. This is the last, but arguably most critical, misconception to address.

    If we think about sales rep behavior along a spectrum, we can array it with "passive" behavior on one end and "aggressive" behavior on the other.

    • Passive:
      • Subverts goals to the needs of others
      • Allows personal boundaries to be breached
      • Use indirect, accommodating language
    • Assertive
      • Direct pursues goals in constructive way
      • Defends own personal boundaries
      • Uses direct language
    • Aggressive
      • Pursues goals at the expense of professionalism
      • Attacks others personal boundaries
      • Uses antagonistic language

    There is a fine line between being assertive and aggressive/arrogant. A challenger rep will always be able to defend their position in assertive fashion.

  4. Challenges thrive in ambiguity. They know how to navigate it and understand how it can be leveraged to their advantage. They display a remarkable level of comfort with silence during the customer conversation, as well as with keeping negotiation points and customer objections open and on the table longer than one normally would. It might be a bit of an overstatement to say they "like" tension, but probably isn't that far from the truth.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Challenger Sales Model: Tailoring For Resonance

  • What Decision Makers Really Want?

    Split out decision makers from influencers and end users in order to understand what makes these two different types of stakeholders loyal to a certain supplier. Sales experience for decision makers are nearly twice as important as individual influencers. Decision makers think of themselves as buying from organizations, not from individuals.

    The decision maker's sales experience can be greatly influenced by working on the following factors:

    1. Widespread support for the supplier across the prospect's organization: Senior decision makers simply aren't willing to go out on a limb for a supplier on a big purchase - at least not on their own.
    2. Does the vendor's organization provide easy accessibility to their resources?
    3. Is the vendor organization easy to buy from?
    4. How flexible is the vendor in collaborating with other vendors?
    5. Does the vendor provide best value for the best price?
    6. Is the vendor flexible in adjusting to unique product needs?
  • Sales rep need to take path to earn decision maker's support one that lays the groundwork with the customer's team - identifying, nurturing, and encouraging key customer stakeholders across the organization.
  • Senior execs place higher value on sales representatives knowledge, and procurement places greater value on reps not overstating the value of their product, but that's about it.
  • Key to generate "Widespread Support": Influencing those individuals who play a key role in a purchase but don't ultimately sign the check. These influences don't think of themselves as buying from organizations; they buy from people. The key questions these people evaluate sales rep on are:
    1. Do the sales rep demonstrate high level of professionalism?
    2. Are the sales rep able to offer unique, valuable perspective?
    3. Does the sales rep overstate value or understate difficulties of the purchase?
    4. Does the sales rep have knowledge of my business and do they help me avoid landmines?
    5. Does the sales rep frequently educates me on issues and outcomes?
    6. Does the sales rep advocates for me within the supplier organizations?
    7. Does the sales rep improve my professional standing?
    8. Does the sales rep provide credible and compelling data?
    9. Is the rep readily accessible?
    10. Does the rep have understanding of my business? - Helps in shortening the buying cycle.
    11. Does the rep excel in diagnosing my specific needs?
    12. Does the sales rep provide clear guidance on how to evaluate my alternatives?
    13. Does the sales rep exerts pressure to productively accelerate decision making?
  • A sales rep should layer the tailored solution in order to make sure that the message is consistent but the solution is tailored. The hierarchy is: Individual -> Role -> Company -> Industry.
  • When speaking with various players in a prospects organization sales reps should be able to identify 4 key areas for the person with whom they are talking:
    1. Decision Criteria
    2. Focus
    3. Concerns
    4. Potential Values