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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Part 4 - Tools for gauging industry competition

For audiences reading this post: please note that I am summarizing a book I am reading and this is not my work. All the content is owned by the author Vaughan Evans. The name of the book is: "Key Strategy Tools". As title of my blog makes it clear these are my cheat sheets so that I can revisit the contents of the book in an easy online format.

The five forces ( Porter)
The tool: Competitive intensity determines industry profitability. That is is the basic premise of Michael Porter's work. And he went on to describe in detail what the fundamental forces are which drive competitive intensity.

He set out to show that firms in any industry were constrained from maximizing profit not just by rivalry with their competitors but by four further competitive forces.  These five forces shape competitive intensity:
  1. Internal rivalry
  2. Threat of new entrants
  3. Ease of substitution
  4. Customer power
  5. Supplier power
How to use it
Internal rivalry: Internal rivalry is shaped by three main sub-forces:
  1. The number of players: The more numerous the players, the tougher typically the competition
  2. Market demand growth: The slower growing the market, the tougher typically the competition.
  3. External pressures: External bodies, in particular government and the trade unions, have great power to influence the nature of competition in many industries. Government regulation, taxation and subsidies can skew both market demand and the competitive landscape. Trade unions can influence competition in a number of ways.
There are other, lesser factors influencing internal rivalry. Barriers to exist are one such such. Season or irregular overcapacity is another factor.

Threat of new entrants: The lower the barriers to entry to a market, the tougher typically the competition. Barriers to entry can be technology, operations, people or cost related, where a new entrants has to:
  • develop or acquire a certain technology
  • develop or acquire a certain operational process
  • gain access to a limited distribution channel
  • train or engage scarce personnel
  • invest heavily in either capital assets or marketing to become a credible provider
Switching costs also influence entry barriers. The higher the cost to the customer of switching from one supplier to another, the higher are the entry barriers.

Ease of substitution: The easier it is for customer to use a substitute product or service, the tougher typically the competition.

Customer power: The more bargaining power customer possess, the tougher typically the competition. Often this is no more than a reflection of the number of providers in a marketplace, compared with number of customers. The more choice of provider the customer has, the tougher the competition.

Customer power is also influenced by switching costs. If its easy and relatively painless to switch supplier, competition is tougher. If switching costs are high, competition is less tough.

Supplier power: The more bargaining power suppliers possess, the tougher typically the competition. Best of the organizations learn how to duck, dive and survive.

Overall competitive intensity: Mentioned above are the five main forces shaping the degree of competition in marketplace. Put them all together, and you'll have a measure of how competitive your industry is.

When to use it: Always

When to be wary: Some believe that boundary definition - this activity is part of the industry you operate in, that activity is not - can itself place strategy development in straitjacket.
  • An indusrty consists of a set of unrelated buys, sellers, substitutes and competitors that interact at arm's length.
  • Wealth will accrue to companies that erect barriers against competitors and potential entrants.
  • Uncertainty is low, allowing the prediction of competitive response and contingency planning.

Assessing customer purchase criteria (CPC)
The tool: Discovering why customers buy is first of three tools on how to assess your firm's competitive position in each of your key product/market segments:
  • Identify and weight customer purchasing criteria (CPC) - what customers need from their suppliers in each segment - that is, from you and your competitors.
  • Derive and weight key success factors (KSFs) - what you and your competitors need to do to satisfy these customer needs and run a successful business.
  • Assess your firm's competitive position - how your firm rates against those key success factors relative to your competitors.

How to use it: Start by asking yourself these questions. What do customers in your business's main segments need fro you and your competitors? Are they looking for the lowest possible price for a given level of product or service? The highest-quality product or service irrespective of price? something in between?

Do customers have the same needs in your other business segments? Do customer groups place greater importance on certain needs?

What exactly do they want in terms of product or services? The higher specifications? fastest delivery? The most reliable? The best technical back-up? The most sympathetic customer service?

Customer needs from their suppliers are called customer purchasing criteria (CPC). CPCs can be usually grouped into six categories. They are customer needs relating to the:
  1. Effectiveness of the product or service: The first need of any customer from any product or service is that the job gets done. You the customer have specific requirement on the features, performance and reliability of the product. You want the job done. Not half-done, not over-done, just done. Depending on the nature of the product or service, your criteria may well include: Quality, Design, Features, Specifications, Functionality, Reliability. Some of these criteria will overlap. You should select two to four effectiveness criteria which are most pertinent to customer needs in your industry.
  2. Efficiency of the product: The second main customer purchasing criteria heading is efficient. The customer wants to receive the product or get the job done on time. All customer place some level of importance on efficiency for all types of service. Different customer groups may place different levels of importance on efficiency for the same service.
  3. Range of products provided: The range of products or services provided is an area customers can find important for some products or services, even most important, and for others of no importance at all.
  4. Relationship with the producer: Your supplier does the job and does it quickly. But do you like them? Is that important? The relationship component in providing a service should never be underestimated.
  5. Premises - only applicable if customer needs to visit the suppliers premises. Do you need a storefront for your business? What do customers expect of your premises?
  6. Price: Set your prices sky high and you won't have many customers. Set them too low and you won't stay in business. Think about the buying decisions you make regularly and the influence of price. For non-essential goods or services, we ten to be price sensitive.
Finding out CPCs: All this is very well in theory, you may ask, but how do you know what customers want? Simple. Ask them! It doesn't take long. You'd be surprised how after just a few discussions with any one customer group a predictable pattern begins to emerge. Some may consider one need 'very important' others just 'important'. But it's unlikely that another will say that it's 'unimportant'.

When to use it: Always

When to be wary: Some customers may have a hidden agenda. They see the meeting as an opportunity get you to nudge down your price. Or to improve your service offering, incurring extra cost, with no increase in pricing. They may rate price as a most important CPC even though they are primarily concerned with product quality.

Deriving Key Success Factors (KSFs)
The tool: Key Success Factors(KSFs) are what firms need to get right to satisfy the customer purchasing criteria (CPCs) of the previous tool and run a sound business. Typical KSFs are product or service quality, consistency, availability, range and product development (R&D). On the service side, KSFs can include distribution capability, sales and marketing effectiveness, customer service and post-sale technical support. Other KSFs relate to the cost side of things, such as location of premises, scale of operations, state-of-the-art, cost effective equipment and operational process efficiency.

How to use it: To identify which are the most important KSFs for each of your main business segments, you need to undertake these steps:
  • Convert CPCs into KSFs: 1) Differentiation-related 2) Cost-related: We need to work out what your business has to do to meet those CPCs. KSFs are often the flip side to CPC. Functionality may be CPC, so R&D becomes a KSF. Reliability may be a CPC, so quality control becomes a KSF. There's one CPC that needs special attention, and that's price. Customers of most services expect a keep price. Producers need to keep their costs down. Price is a CPC, cost competitiveness a KSF.
  • Assess two more KSFs: 1) Management 2) Market Share: There are two more sets to be considered: management and market share. How important is management in genera in your industry? Think on whether a well-managed company, the superb sales and marketing team reinforced by an efficient operations team, but with an average products, would outperform a poorly managed company with a super product in your industry. There's one final KSF - an important one - that we need to take into account that isn't directly derived from a CPC: market share. The larger the relative market share, the stronger should be the provider. A high market share can manifest itself in number of different competitive advents. Once such area is a lower unit cost, but we've already covered this under economies of scale in cost-related KSFs, so we must be careful not to double count.
  • Apply weights to the KSFs. You've worked out which are the most important KSFs in your business. Each one has been ranked in order of importance. Now you need to weigh them. A simple quantitative approach works best.
  • Identify any must-have KSFs. Are any of the KSFs in your industry must haves? Bear this in mind assessing your competitive position.
When to use it: Always

When to be wary: Don't end up with too many KSFs of you may lose the wood for the trees.
A systematic approach for deriving KSF weightings:
Here's  a step-by-step systematic approach to weighting KSFs:
  • Use judgment on the power of the incumbent to derive a weighting for market share of i per cent, typically in the range of 15 to 25 per cent.
  • Revisit the importance of price to the customer. If you judged the customer need of medium importance, give cost competitive ness a weighting of 20-25 per cent. If low, 15-20 per cent. If high, 35-plus per cent. If yours is a commodity business, it could be 40-45 per cent, with a correspondingly low weighting for market share. Settle on c per cent.
  • Think on the importance of management factors to the success of your business, especially marketing. Settle on m per cent, typically within a 0 to 10 per cent range.
  • You've now used up a total of (i+c+m)per cent of your available weighting.
  • The balance, namely 100 - (i+c+m) per cent, will be the total weighting for service factors.
  • Revisit the list of KSDs relating to service issues, excluding price, which has already been covered. Where you've judged a factor to be of low importance, give it a KSF score of 1. Where high, 5. Rate pro rata for in between.
  • Add up the total score for these service-related KSDs (excluding price)=S
  • Assign weighting to each service KSF as follows: weighting (per cent) = KSF Score * (1-[i+c+m])/S
  • Round each of them up or down to the nearest 5 per cent.
  • Adjust further if necessary so that the sum of all KSD weights is 100 per cent.
  • Eyeball them for sense, make the final adjustment.
  • Check that sum is still 100 percent.

Weighing economies of scale
The tool: Size is important. Qualification: Size is important in certain sectors, less so in others.
Another qualification: even in sectors where size is important, small players can survive - if they are nimble.

There are four main economies of scale across the value chain:
  1. Purchasing economies - the larger the producer, the more likely they will be able to drive a harder bargain with suppliers.
  2. Technical economies - the machinery needed to produce 20,000 widgets a day is unlikely to be 20 times as expensive as that needs to produce 1000 a day.
  3. Efficiency economies - the process for producing 20,000 widgets a day is likely to me more highly automated, from handling inputs through manufacturing to handling outputs, and with more advanced or streamlined business processes, for example in R&D, than for the smaller plant.
  4. Indivisibility exonomies -  some items are beyond the reach of the smaller producer to buy, whether state-of-the-art equipment.
Economies of scale apply as much to service businesses as in manufacturing and to small as much as to global businesses.

How to use it: How important are economies of scale in your sector? Are there purchasing, technical, efficiency or indivisibility economies?

When to use it: Use it when economies of scale are important in your sector and to your business.

When to be wary: Remember it represents only one of many key success factors. Differentiation may be the name of your game.

Corporate environment as a sixth force
The tool: Does government help or hinder your business? Does government, whether local, central or European, through taxation or regulation, greatly influence profitability in your industry.

How to use it: The corporate environment is defined as the combined influence of all external organizations, other than Porter's specified competitors, new entrants, substitutes, customers and suppliers, on the firm.

The corporate environment thus defined includes state and industry-wide bodies such as:
  • Central government, through taxation, subsidization, trade restrictions, regulation, employment law, health/safety/environment law, industrial restructuring and even the maintenance of political stability.
  • Local government, whether county, borough, region or providence
  • National regulatory bodies, such as Ofcom or Ofgem in the UK.
  • International regulatory directrives, such as the Basel accords on the capital adequacy of financial institutions.
  • Pressure groups, such as industry associations, trade unions, Greenpeace.
The influence of these bodies can greatly influence both market demand and industry competition.

When to use it: When the corporate environment is a determining influence on the profitability in your industry.

When to be wary: When the corporate environment in one of the many factors influencing internal rivalry, such as the number of players or market demand growth, and does not merit recognition as a sixth force.

Complements as a sixth force
The tool: Do complements influence profitability in your industry? The other major claimant to the positions of 'sixth force' in the industry competition is complements.

How to use it: Complements are more than just supplies to firm. The value of a assembled PC is intricately bound up with the value of its inter processor - a separate company and one which may extract more value from my purchase than the PC manufacturer itself. This would not be the case with an Apple Mac.

Complements are broader too than direct supplies. An airline depends its profitability not just on the five forces, but on the continuity of operations at its complements - airports, air traffic control, suppliers of aviation fuel, inclusive tour operators.

When to use it: When complements clearly play a major role in driving profitability in a particular industry - for example, agin, in airlines.

When to be wary: When complements play a relatively minor role and do not merit identification as a sixth force.

PESTEL analysis
The tool: PESTEL analysis offers a framework for identifying external, often government influenced issues affecting industry competition. It is an acronym of these six groups of issues: political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal.

How to use it: Examples of the issues covered in PESTEL analysis are:
  • Political  - government taxation, legal and regulatory intervention in the marketplace.
  • Economic - the macro-economic backdrop, including economic growth, inflation, interest rates and exchange rates.
  • Social -  the societal backdrop, including population trends, consumption patterns, age distribution.
  •  Technological  - trends in R&D and innovation, affecting both product and production, and the threat from substitute products
  • Environmental - trends in weather and climate, and the impact of climate change on your firms operations and customer preference.
  • Legal-  trends in laws which impact on a firms operations and decision making, including employment, health/safety/environment, antitrust, customer protection, capital adequacy and governance laws.
PESTEL analysis is sometimes used to throw up the range of opportunities and threats needed for SWOT analysis.

When to use it: PESTEL analysis is an aid to the brainstorming of industry issues. Use it if you are accustomed to it, but be aware of its limitations.

When to be wary: At best the analysis represents a rather unstructured, non-analytical, unranked identification of key industry issues will be as needles in a haystack.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Part 3 - Forecasting market demand

For audiences reading this post: please note that I am summarizing a book I am reading and this is not my work. All the content is owned by the author Vaughan Evans. The name of the book is: "Key Strategy Tools". As title of my blog makes it clear these are my cheat sheets so that I can revisit the contents of the book in an easy online format.

Only when you fully appreciate the microeconomic context in which your firm operates and with which it interacts will you have the depth of understanding one which to build a robust strategy. There are two distinct but interrelated aspects of microeconomic behavior to grasp: market demand and industry supply.  The latter deals with the forces driving industry competition and their impart on market share, pricing and profitability in your industry.

The following are a few tools to forecasting:

Sizing and Market-crafting (Evans):
The Tool: Size matters: Without market size you won't know market share. Without market share, you'll find it hard to judge competitive position. The larger your company, the easier it is to find data on market size.  Industry association proliferate and many either compute market share themselves or contract out the job to specialist market research firms.

How to use it: First you must decide what you are looking for: your addressed market or your addressable market. The difference can be huge:

  • Adressed market - those to whom you currently offer your goods or services and who may or may not purchase them.
  • Addressable (or available) market - all those whom you could serve should you extend your offering.
There are six main ways of sizing a market:
  • Top-down market research - start with a known, researched market size and chop out inapplicable sections, or make appropriate assumptions on relevant proportions, to drill down to the target market.
  • Bottom-up market research - take disaggregated data from a market research report and assemble the relevant bits that make up your target market.
  • Bottom-up customer sizing - estimate how much each major customer spends in the target market and make an allowance for other, minor customers.
  • Bottom-up competitor sizing/marketcrafiting - estimate the scale of your competitors in the target market.
  • Related market triangulation - use two, three or more known sizes of related markets to gauge a rough estimate on the target market.
  • Final triangulation - juggle the estimates from the above sources and subject them to sanity checks; consider giving each estimate a reliability rating, work out relative probabilities and compute a weighted average estimate of target market size.
Market-crafting is one of the approaches mentioned above. There are seven main steps in market crafting:
  1. Select your main competitors - those you pitch regularly against, those you exhibit alongside at trade shows - and don't forget the foreign competitors, especially those from lower-cost countries.
  2. Take competitor A: do you think you are selling more or less than you into this market? if less, by how much less, very roughly? are they selling half as much you? three-quarters? if they sell more than you , by how much more, very roughly? 10 percent more? A third more? Is there any publicly available information which can guide you on this? - competitor A's sales to this market are unlikely to be available if it is a private company, but employment data can be indicative. What do customers tell you? And suppliers?
  3. Taking your current sales level as an index number of 100, assign the appropriate index number to competitor A; if you think they sell less than you in this market, but not that much less, say 10 percent less, give them an index number of 90.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 each of the competitors named in step 1.
  5. Make an allowance for any other competitors you have not names, those who are small or those who only appear now and gain; this should also be an index number; if you think all these others together sell about half what you sell to the market, give this 'Other' category an index number of 50.
  6. Add up all the index numbers, divide the total by 100 and multiply by your level of sales - that is your preliminary estimate of market size. 
  7. Ask your staff and contacts to go talk to their friends and contacts who work with the competitors and get their input to refine your estimates.

When to use it Use market crafting or other maker sizing methods whenever you have no their party data source and need to create a market size from scratch.

When to be wary:  Treat the results with caution. Take another look at your numbers. Is there any way they may be right? Do they have access to information you don't? What would that imply for your share, or other competitors' shares?

The HOOF approach to demand forecasting
The Tool You have better chance of growing in a market that is prospering than in one thats shrinking. Market size is all very well, but what often matters more in strategy development is what the market is doing, where it is going - the dynamics, as opposed to the statics. Is market demand in your main business segments growing, shrinking, or flat-lining?

How to use it You need to apply these steps for each of your main business segments.
The four steps are:

  1. Historic growth - assess how market demand has grown in the past.
  2. Drivers past - identify what has been driving that past growth.
  3. Divers future - assess whether there will be any change in influence of these and other drivers in the future.
  4. Forecast growth - forecast market demand growth, based on the influence of future drivers.

Historic growth - This is where you need to get some facts and figures. If you have access to market research data, whether on a regular basis or with one-off purchase, all your needs should be in there. If not, you may have to do some marketcrafting. Get an average annual (compound) growth rate over a number of recent years, preferably the last three or four. If there have been ups and downs, you should smooth them out with three-year moving averages before calculating the percentage change.

One word of caution: market demand growth is generally measured, analyzed and forecast in real terms.
  • In nominal terms: with goods or services priced in the money of the day.
  • In real terms: the growth rate in nominal prices deflated by the growth rate in the average prices of goods in that market; as long as correct deflators are used, this growth rate should be a measure of volume growth.
Should you need to business planning and financial forecasting you must bring average price forecast back into mix. Then your revenue forecast, as well as the whole P&L, will be able to be compared directly with market growth-rate forecasts in nominal prices.

Drivers past - Once you have uncovered some information on recent market demand growth, find out what has been influencing that growth. Typical factors that influence demand in many markets are:

  • Per capita income growth
  • Population groth in general
  • Population growth specific to a market
  • Some aspect of government policy or purchasing
  • Changing awareness, perhaps from high levels of promotion by competing providers
  • Business structural shifts
  • Price change
  • Fashion, even a craze
  • Weather - seasonal variations, but maybe even the longer-term effects of climate change
Drivers future - Now you need to assess how each of these drivers is likely to develop over the next few years. Are things going to carry on more or less as before a driver? Or are things going to change significantly. What are the prospects for growth in vertical or complementary sectors? The most important driver is, of course, the economic cycle. If it seems the economy is poised for a nosedive, that could have a serious impact on demand in your business over the next year or two - assuming your business is relatively sensitive to the economic cycle or maybe is relatively inelastic.

Forecast growth - Make sure all drivers are taken into account, irrespective of whether hard data can be found on them. The HOOF process encourages you to seek out all relevant drivers and assess their influence in a structured, combined quantitative and qualitative context.

When to use it: Whenever you need to forecast market demand.

When to be wary: Take care to identify all relevant drivers. Use whatever evidence you can muster dashed by a strong dose of reasoned judgement, in assessing their influence on demand growth, past, present and future. And be wary when computing historic growth rates.

Smoothing the moving averages
The Tool:  Where markets have been up and down, showing no consistent trend, take care. Approach to demand forecasting. The best way to deal with the market volatility is to plot a graph on logarithmic paper and draw a line of best fit through the points. Plotting data on logarithmic scale can be challenging for some.

A simple non graphical alternative is to translate the data into moving averages. This enables annual fluctuations to be smoothed out, making it easier to decipher and calculate trend growth rates.

How to use it: Take the set of market data and apply these steps:

  • Observe the length of the cycle and select an appropriate time period for smoothing, often a three-year period.
  • Take the annual average of values during that time period around any given year.
  • Calculate compound growth rates between appropriate start and end points to establish the trend.
Or simply put, the sum of each year's plus the previous year's number plus the following year's number, divided by three.

When to use it: Use it when historic market size data show ups and downs or an irregular pattern.

When to be wary: Don't just compute the numbers blindly. Try to understand what was happening in each of the years to produce such irregular numbers. That will help you avoid the trap of selecting a boom year as the starting point and a bust year as the end-point. Taking boom to boom, bust to bust, average to average period should give you similar answers, but mixing them up can be severely misleading (and is much-loved reuse of the politician! :) )

Income elasticity of demand
The Tool: Income elasticity of demand ('IED'). It is a measure of how demand for good (or service) changes in relation to change in the income of customers. It is defined as the percentage change in demand divided by the percentage change in income.

If your business, or one of your product/market segments, addresses a market which is large and generic, you may be able to use IED in your market demand forecasting.

Different types of goods have different IEDs
  • Normal good have positive IED
  • If an IED is less than 1, the good is a necessity - demand doesn't rise much in good times, nor does it fall back too much in bad times; examples are fresh fruit and vegetables, even tobacco
  • If an IED is greater than 1, the good is a superior good - people buy it aplenty in good times, but cut back in bad times; examples are books, meals out.
  • If an IED is greater than 2, the good is a luxury - demand fluctuates widely between good and bad times; examples are sports cars, haute couture, holidays in Seychelles.
  • If an IED is around 0, the good is inelastic or sticky - demand doesn't change much in relation to changes in income; examples are bread, baked beans
  • If an IED is less than 0, the good is an inferior good - demand drops during the good times and returns in bad times: the classic examples are margarine and bus travel.

How to use it: If your market is a whole sector or sub-sector, you may well find an estimate of IED for that sector on the web. To forecast market demand you:

  • extract economic forecasts from a reputable source
  • multiply by the income elasticity of demand.

When to use it: Use it when your market (or segment) is sufficiently large and homogenous to merit the calculation by some public or academic institution of its income elasticity of demand.

When to be wary: Are you sure your from addresses that whole sector market? After the process of product/market segmentation. The resultant segments tend to emerge as rather specific, both to a product or product type and to customer/end-user group, not to a whole sector market. You may need to revisit your segmentation.

Survey methods of demand forecasting
The Tool: There are a number of survey based methods for forecasting demand which you may find pertinent to your strategy development process:

  • Survey of customers' intents
  • The salesforce estimation method
  • The Delphi method
  • Pilot test marketing

How to use it

  1. Survey of customers' intentions: This is where you chose a representative sample of customers from each major product/market segment and call them up. You ask them what volumes of product they are intending to buy over the next 12,24 months, not from you, but from all competitive suppliers. This can be part of the same survey you will be carrying out to colic it customer views on purchasing criteria and their rating of your firms performance and those of your rivals against those criteria.  But you should not expect spectacular results. Better to accept limited expectations from the outset and tack these questions on to your survey of purchasing people at your customers - which is a necessary, not an optional, component of your strategy development process.
  2. Salesforce estimation method: Arrange a debate of participants who are a group of key sales people and debate where they believe market demand is heading. You act as orchestrator and assemble the accumulated opinion of the group. Salespeople get close to their customers and can often be prescient in forecasting a sales stream from their customers. But find it difficult to step back and see the market as a whole - all customers to all suppliers. They spend so much of their lives with each of a handful of trees that wood can become a blur to some.
  3. The Delphi method: It is a structured analysis of independent, informed, 'Apollonian' opinion. You reach out to a bunch of reputable, even 'expert' industry observers and ask them a few carefully worded questions on market demand prospects. You collate the replies, but anonymously, and return a summary of the findings to the observers. They look at what others are saying and have the option of sticking to their initial answers or modifying them, with appropriate justification. You amend this summary accordingly and there is your demand forecast, a balanced assessment of the combined wisdom of a handful of Delphic oracles.
  4. This is most appropriate where you are introducing a new product or venturing into a new product/market segment. Yours may be a new product or service designed to convey a customer benefit not previously realizable. Write down the key segment needs or product solution that address the market needs in couple of bullet points. Imagine there were many suppliers of your product or service and that the whole country is aware of its existence. What would the market size be? How does that compare with the market size for products or services not a million miles different from what you'll be offering? Does your estimate make sense?

When to use it: Use them when you feel that canvassing of others' views would improve the ragout of demand forecasting.

When to be wary: All forecasting is based on quality of data collection and sources of data. Thus it cannot be relied on completely.

Statistical methods of demand forecasting
The Tool: 'There are lies, damned lies and statistics' where the famously damning words of Mark Twain. Perhaps, but basic statistical tools may be of help in your market demand forecasting. The main and simplest ones are:

  • Trend Projection
  • Regression analysis
  • Barometric method (complex to summarize - better look up a good source)

How to use it:
Trend Projection: This involves the placing of a line of best fit through points on a chart. The process is as follows:

  • Set out market demand data for each year.
  • Plot on logarithmic graph paper, with time on the x-axis and demand on the y-axis.
  • Visually place a line of best fit through the points.
  • Measure the gradient of the line and that will equate to the average annual rate of growth (percentage per annum).
Continuing the line and seeing where it crosses future years on the x-axis will give you a set of market demand numbers for future years, but they may well be meaningless as forecast. They assume that future demand will be subject to exactly the same influences as in the past.

Regression Analysis: This is a statistical tool which can help you understand how market demand, a dependent variable, will vary in relation to variation in an independent variables, such as GDP or engineering output. The process is as follows:
  • Set out market demand data for year.
  • Set out the independent variable: for example, GDP, for each year.
  • Plot on graph paper, with GSP on the x-axis and demand on the y-axis.
  • Visually place a line of best fit through the points (for linear regressions).
  • Measure the gradient of the line(m) and the intersect(c) with the y-axis when x=0 and the relationship between demand and GDP will be that of the standard equation, y=mx+c.
Again you need to take great care in using regression analysis for forecasting. The relationship that was evident in the past may not hold firm for the future. An other drivers may play a greater role n the future.

When to use it: Use statistical methods when you suspect that the market crafting approach to demand forecasting would benefit from greater rigor, especially in the computation of pas growth rates.

When to be wary: Take care not to assume, without specified justification, that the trends, regressions or barometers observed in the past will hold true in the future.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Part 2: Tools for setting goals and objectives

For audiences reading this post: please note that I am summarizing a book I am reading and this is not my work. All the content is owned by the author Vaughan Evans. The name of the book is: "Key Strategy Tools". As title of my blog makes it clear these are my cheat sheets so that I can revisit the contents of the book in an easy online format.

A goal is something your business aims to be, as described in words. An objective is a target that helps to measure whether that goal is achieved, and is typically set out in numbers. The following are the tools that help in building goals and objectives as part of your strategy.

1) Setting long-term goals
The Tool: Goal setting is the cornerstone of business strategy. Goals should underpin each of your company's main strategic initiatives over the next five years or so. Goal setting should also prove motivational. Goals can enhance employee performance in four ways:
  • They focus attention towards goal-relevant activities
  • They have an energizing effect
  • They encourage persistence
  • They help staff cope with task to hand.
How to use it: A goal is something your business aims to be, as described in words. An objective is a target that helps to measure whether that goal is achieved, and is typically set out in numbers. Second, think of short-term goals as what lies within and behind this year's budget. These may be important in short term. Third, there are various types of goal. Market - or customer-oriented goals are often the most motivational and easy enough to monitor. The fourth issue concerns financial goals. If the goals (or objectives) relate to segment prices or margins, whether gross margin or contribution they can be treated in the same way as market-related goals.

When to use it: Always

When to wary: Don't have too many goals.

2) Setting SMART objectives:

The Tool: Objectives are intimately linked to goals. Your firm aims towards a goal, a destination typically articulated in words. Objectives are targets, whether along the route or at the final destination, and are typically set out in numbers.

How to use it: You should set objectives that are:
  • Specific - a precise number against a particular parameter
  • Measureable - that parameter must be quantifiable - for example, a market-share percentage in a segment rather than a woolly target such as 'best supplier'
  • Attainable - there is no point in aiming for the improbable - disappointment will be the inevitable outcome.
  • Relevant - the objective should relate to the goal.
  • Time-limited - you should specify the deadline for the objective to be achieved.
When to use it: In strategy development. Objectives are also very important in strategy implementation. Gaining buy-in from key managers and staff can be the key to successful implementation of strategy.

When to wary: As with goal setting, keep it simple.

3) Maximizing shareholder value
The Tool: A firm's purpose is to maximize shareholder value and that, since only people can have social responsibilities, firms are responsible solely to their shareholders and not to society as a whole.

How to use it: This tool references shareholder value maximization and not profit. Value and profit are not the same thing. The value of an enterprise is defined strictly as the value of the equity plus the value of the long-term debt. Value is a measure not of profit but of cash. And its a measure of future cash flow.

The goal of shareholder value maximization, as opposed to profit maximization, forces the strategist to give priority to:
  • The medium to long term, rather than the short term.
  • The building of sustainable competitive position, rather than temporary profit.
  • Cash flow, rather than profit.
When to use it: Always

When to wary: There is an omnipresent trade-off between this goal and the next balancing stakeholder interest.

4) Balancing stakeholder interests
The Tool: The goal of balancing stakeholder interests need to be treated with care. If you give too much weight to the interests of those other than shareholders, you wont remain in business too long.

How to use it: The goal of balancing stakeholder interests has become more formalized in the past two decades through the promotion of corporate social responsibility, sometimes referred to as 'corporate conscience', and the advent of 'social accounting'

Three of the most common qualifier to a simple goal of maximizing shareholder value come in the areas of employment, sourcing and the environment.

When to use it: Always

When to wary: A firm's prime goal might be to maximizing shareholder value, albeit balanced, as appropriate to your firm's culture and circumstances, by the interests of specified stakeholders. But should the latter interests gain precedence over those of shareholders, your firm may be destined for trouble.

5) Creating shared value (Porter and Kramer)
The Tool: "The concept of shared value... recognizes the societal needs, not just conventional economic needs, define markets. It also recognizes that social harms or weaknesses frequently create internal cost for firms - such as wasted energy or raw materials, costly accidents, and the need for remedial training to compensate for inadequacies in education. And addressing societal harms and constraints does not necessarily raise costs for firms, because they can innovate through using new technologies, operating methods, and management approaches - and as a result, increase their productivity and expand their markets." - Porter and Kramer, 'Creating shared value', Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2011

How to use it: The companies have been aiming at maximizing shareholder value, albeit by cleverly targeting innovative niche opportunities which also happen to improve the public good.

When to use it: Consider using it as an alternative to the tools set out above maximizing shareholder value.

When to wary: Conflicts will arise and decisions will need to be taken on sharing the value created. Should the value accrue to the public, in social or environmental benefits, or to shareholders? Trade-offs will be no less difficult to resolve whether the goal is creating shared value or a blend of goals of maximizing shareholder value and balancing stakeholder interests.

6) Economic value added (Stern Stewart)
The Tool: Evaluating the health of the company based on return on capital depends on two factors:
  • The element of risk in investing in the company
  • The extent of long-term debt carried by the company.
Each company has its own cost of capital which reflects both those factors, called the weighted average cost of capital. The WACC consists of two parts: the cost of long-term debt times the share of debt in capital employed plus the cost of equity time share of equity in capital employed. The cost of long-term debt is easy enough to assess - it's the rate you need to pay the bank on. When an investor backs your firm, he expects a return equivalent to your WACC.

How to use it: A ranking based on EVA return is a better indicator. It tells you how companies are performing relative to the sector risk and financial risk each is exposed to. The top-ranking companies will be outperforming investor expectations and 'creating shareholder value'. The lowest, where EVA returns are negative, falling below WACC, are underperforming against investor expectations and are 'destroying shareholder value'

EVA is also useful in ranking divisional or business unit performance in your firm.

Detailed EVA:

When to use it: Us it when you feel comfortable about the theory and calculations and where you want to set a challenging objective for investor returns over and above the usual.

When to wary: Take care if you find the concept and mathematics difficult.

7) Balanced scorecard and strategy map (Kaplan and Norton)
The Tool: The balanced scorecard is a means of translating corporate goals and strategy into a series of define, measurable objectives, spanning key departmental functions, has become the most commonly used framework od management by objectives.

How to use it: It is essentially putting information about resources available and how to use them to reach to the goal. The following are few of the areas which generally used in building a balanced scorecard:
  • Financial perspective: revenues, gross and operating margins, return on capital employed, cash flow.
  • Customer perspective: market share, customer satisfaction, quality performance, delivery performance, customer retention
  • Internal business processes perspective: productivity, process measures such as bottlenecks.
  • Learning and growth perspective: job satisfaction, training as a share of operating costs, employee turnover.
The strategy maps, which can be taken as the second generation of the balanced scorecard, sets out to show how a firm can create value by connecting strategic objectives in cause and effect relationships, displayed by arrows in the map. It highlights the route needed to ensure organizational alignment with the strategy.

When to use it: When used effectively in strategy implementation, a balance scorecard should help in streamlining processes, information and motivating employees, begetting greater customer satisfaction and demonstrably improving financial results emanating from the strategy.

When to wary: The danger is self-evident: too many objectives with too little prioritization in the balanced scorecard, and too much information with too many boxes and arrows on one strategic mapping page, can blue the landscape and hinder coherent strategy development.

8) Core ideology (Collin and Porras)
The Tool: "Successful companies set 'big, hairy, audacious goals. They also possess a core ideology and create cult-like cultures" - Jim Collins.

How to use it: Break core ideology down into core purpose and core values. Core purpose is your firm's  'fundamental reason for being'.  Core values are your firm's 'essential and enduring tenets - timeless guiding principles that require no external justification.

Set highly challenging big, hairy, audacious goals ('BHAG') to align ambition and enhance team spirit. Besides the goals a focused leader is key to long-term success.

When to use it: The concept of BHAG is memorable, stimulating and can motivate the complete organization.

When to wary: Core ideology as the cornerstone of success may seem a stretch to many firms. They may see purpose and values as less crucial to successful strategy development than goals and objectives.

9) Business as a community (Handy)
The Tool: "I think many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money. While this is an important result of a company's existence, we have to go deeper and find the real reasons for our being. As we investigate this, we inevitably come to the conclusion that a group of people get together and exist as an institution that we call a company so that they are able to accomplish separately - they make a contribution to society, a phrase which sounds trite but its fundamental" - David Packard.

How to use it: You should see your business as a community. Neglecting the environment may drive away customer but neglecting your workforce may drive away employees. You should see yourself as a community, of people striving for the betterment of that community, including its wealth, welfare and the environment.

Companies become imperiled when managers focus too much on producing goods and services and forget that they are a community, a company of people. He shows that long-living companies possess that sense of community, as we as a distinct identity, a learning culture and an appreciation of the society and environment in which they operate.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Part 1: Tools for identifying key business segments

First, you need to know your business. You need to clarify the major business segments you compete in and which contribute most to the bottom line. Only when you have a clear perspective on which business segments are material to your firm's strategy should you proceed.

Then think about what are the main question you will need answers to during the process to arrive at a winning strategy. And to answer those main questions, what other questions need answering? And so on. Setting on a structured waterfall of questions will help guide you through the research and analysis needed to draw up your strategy - and hopefully  leave no major stones unturned.

Tools in this post are:
1) Identifying key segments
2) Issue analysis (Minto)
3) The 80/20 principle (Pareto)
4) The segmentation mincer (Koch)
5) 5C situation analysis
6) SWOT (Andrews)

1) Identifying key segments
The Tool:  Answer the following two questions:
1) Which business segments does your firm compete in - which products do you sell to which sets of customers? (Products or services, henceforth to be referred to in this section as just 'products')
2) Which of these segments delivers the most profit?

Only once this segmentation process is complete should you embark on developing your strategy. There is no point devoting hours of research, whether in analyzing competitor data or gathering customer feedback, in a segment which contributes to just 1 per cent of your operating profit - and which offers little prospect of growing that contribution over the next five years.

You need to devote your time and effort to strengthening your firm's presence in those segments that contribute, or will contribute, to 80 percent or more of your business.

How to use it:
In an established business -  1) Sales by product/market segment - that is, sales of a specific product line to a specific customer group. 2) That same information over time, say over three years.

The contribution of key segments to operating profit will differ from that for sales. Some segments will be more profitable than others. More profitable segments will have a higher share of operating profit than of sales.

But that doesn't mean that the breakdown by operating profit is necessary more useful than that by sales. The latter can be most useful in highlighting where profitability in certain segments is lagging behind others and potentially how that gap can be narrowed.

Both sets of data  are important. They may be structural factors influencing the disparity of profitability.

In a start-up venture -  Try categorizing your products. And your customers. Is further segmentation meaningful? If so, use it. If not, don't waste time just for the sake of seeming serious. Stick to the one product for the one customer group. i.e. one business segment.

But there is one big difference. No matter how you segment, no matter how many custome groups you identify, that are all, at present, gleams in the eye. You have no customers. Yet.

Your product must be couched in terms of its benefits to the customer. That is the business proposition.

Segmentation may lie at the very heart of your business proposition. It may have been in the very act of segmentation that you unearthed a niche where only your offering can yield the customer benefit. And you have since tailored your offering to address that very niche, that customer benefit.

An understanding of customer benefit will help you to clarify segmentation.

When to use it  - Use it always. Segmentation is critical to the strategy development process.

When to be wary -   Be careful of paralysis through analysis. Don't end up with dozens of segments. Concentrate on the half-dozen or so product/market segments that truly drive your firm's profit.

2) Issue analysis (Minto)
The Tool - What is the key question you are trying to answer in your strategy development process? And to answer that, what other questions need answering, especially those relating to certain rather worrying risks or exciting opportunities?

These risks and opportunities may be external to your firm or they may be internal to your firm. These issues need to be taken into account in drawing up your strategy.

How to use it - The issue analysis is work of Barbara Minto and her Pyramid Principle.

Her issue analysis always starts with the S-C-Q framework, adapted below for purposed of strategy development:

  • Situation - What is the situation of the firm, in a paragraph - which markets is it in, how well is it doing, now and in the recent past?
  • Complication - What are the major constraints on further profit growth for the firm, again in paragraph?
  • Key question - What is the key question this strategy development process should set out the address?
Once you have formulated the single key question, you draw up a set of 3,4,5 questions which need answering before you can answer that key question. Then you draw up a set of second-level question you need to answer before you can answer each of the first-level question. And so on, down to perhaps a third or fourth level in some cases.
  • Each question follows a logical order, arranged, for example, by time, structure or rank.
  • Each question should be independent and non-overlapping with others, but together exhaustive.
  • Each question can only have a yes or no answer; questions starting with 'why' or 'how' are not permissible.
  • The number of sub-issues under any issue should not exceed seven and should be more than one - otherwise the pyramid should be reformulated.

When to use it -  This tool serves three main purposes:

  • Brainstorming - your team will be stimulated to think about markets, industries, customers, competitors, price, trends, etc. at an early stage in the process.
  • Highlighting data gaps - the tool should make clear where further research and analysis is needed.
  • Structuring your thoughts - by building pyramid of questions, to be answered with a yes or no, but not too many questions, or too few, you will be converging on a strategy solution, not diverging into an unstructured array of ideas and observations.

When to be wary - Do not be too rigid with issue analysis. This is good for brainstorming, not everything is discovered in the first iteration and thus the exercise can be repeated after a certain time to discover new constraints.

3) The 80/20 principle (Pareto)
The Tool - The tool encourages people to think the 80/20 way', recognizing that there is an inbuilt imbalance in three broad areas of business and life:

  • 20 per cent of inputs lead to 80 per cents of outputs.
  • 20 per cent of causes lead to 80 percent of consequences.
  • 20 per cent of effort leads to 80 per cents of results.

How to use it -  The 80/20 principle can be especially useful in segmenting you business for purposes of strategy development. Here are two potentially revealing business applications of the principle:

  • 80 percent of your profits may come from 20 per cent of your product/market segments - so concentrate your research and analysis on the latter.
  • 80 per cent of the value created by your new strategy may come from 20 percent of the insights - the challenge is to identify those value-enhancing insights.
It is stimulating tool. On the one hand it is encouraging, since we know that we can gain 80 percent of the benefit by just putting in 20 per cent of the effort on the other hand which 20%!?

When to use it - Bear in mind when drawing up your business mix. Don't spend too much efforts research and analyzing those segments that contribute to just 20 percent of the value of your firm.

When to be wary - It is the lop-sidedness of effects and cause, outputs and inputs that is important, be it 80/20, 65/35 or 99/1. Be cognizant of the innate imbalance more than the numbers.

4) The segmentation mincer (Koch)
The Tool - This was developed by Richard Koch and colleagues at L.E.K. consulting in the 1980's. It asks a structured series of questions designed to discover if two segments are genuinely distinct or whether they should be treated for strategy development purposes as being one and the same.

How to use it - The questions shown below compare one product/market segment with another to investigate whether they are genuinely distinct segments.

After answering all these penetrating questions and totaling the scores, you should treat the two segments as distinct if the total emerges positive. If the score is native, the two are best treated as one and the same segment.

When to use it - Use it if you are uncertain of your segmentation and a structured approach will help you in solving the confusion.

When to be wary - Some questions are difficult to answer at the stage of market definition and its is recommended to try and attempt to answer it with the available knowledge.

5) 5C situation analysis
The Tool - Situation analysis is a tool used primarily in marketing strategy, but it overlaps with strategy in general. It is defined by marketers as the process of identifying the environment the firm is working in, and how the firm slots into that environment, to improve its capabilities and better meet customer needs. 5C is a common situation analysis and the 5 areas are as follows:

  • Company - your goals, culture, product line, strengths, weaknesses, unique selling point, price positioning, image in market.
  • Collaborations - suppliers, alliances, distributors
  • Customers - customer groups, mark size, growth, segments, benefits, channels, customer buying decisions, customer behavior.
  • Competitors - direct/indirect, new entrants, substitutes, market shares, barriers to entry, relative positioning, strengths, weaknesses.
  • Context - the political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal environment.

How to use it - Through a series of workshops.

When to use it - If you are familiar with tool, you may choose it instead of issue analysis.

When to be wary - The tool is rather unfocused and lacking in structure so its difficult to define the specific output unlike issue analysis.

6) SWOT (Andrews)
The Tool - It was designed by Kenneth R. Andrews of Harvard Business School to aid strategists in distinguishing between factors they could influence (the internal ones) and those they could not (the external ones).

It is popular because it is easy to understand and apply. And it encourages brainstorming of issues.

How to use it - SWOT analysis is a 2x2 matrix, with factors internal to the firms (Strengths and Weaknesses) along one row and external factors (Opportunities and Threats) along the other.

The optimal strategy is seen as one where there is strategic fit between the firm's internal resources or competences and the external market opportunities.

When to use it - SWOT analysis is combined with situation analysis. It helps in brainstorming over an issue.

When to be wary -

  • Internal observations on strengths and weakness gives little help to strategy formulation.
  • There is no assessment of the importance or relevance of the SWOT issues identified - no weighting of the SW issues and no ranking by probability or impact of the OT issues.
The main problem with SWOT analysis is this; great, but so what? What conclusion can be drawn from the matrix.

Most companies have people who can fill up W and T and can talk about their own S's but then only the optimistic, enthusiastic and can-do type of people can use the S using WT as constraints to capitalize on Os

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Notes on strategy building tools for managers

I am reading the book: "Key Strategy Tools: The 80+ tools for every manager to build a winning strategy" by Vaughan Evans

The following are notes that I made out of the book. Please keep in mind that my notes are not own content by a summarization of my understanding of the authors content. So I claim no rights to content, also my notes are not a replacement to the book in any which way.
 What is strategy? Strategy is how a company achieves its goals by deploying its scarce resources to gain a sustainable competitive advantage.

Important steps in building a strategy plan:
Lay the foundation: Know your business. Set strategy in a micro-economic context or a context of demand and supply. View strategy as the output of competitive analysis both as is and to be. Strategy has two components: business and corporate. Strategy development is wrapped in uncertainty.

First you need to know your business. Where exactly do the sources of profit lie in the business? In other words, which are the product/market segments you serve and which make the greatest contribution towards operating profit?

The single most important factor in strategy development is to root it firmly within the context of the micro-economy in which your firm operates. Key assumption areas could be: product development, pricing, service enhancement or cost reduction.

Your strategy must reflect the reality of market demand and industry supply, today and tomorrow in your micro-economy.

Competitive analysis is best undertaken in two steps . The first is the current reality of how your firm stacks up to its peers in today's marketplace. And the second is how you envisage your firm rating against its competitors in the future - your target competitiveness.

Ask questions like - What are your goals and objectives? To make a reasonable existence, to maximize profit, growth, to keep employees in the jobs, to satisfy a range of stakeholders?

Business strategy is concerned with maximizing the competitiveness of a single strategic business unit. Corporate strategy is how you optimize your portfolio of business, whether through investment, acquisition or disposal, and how you add value to each through exploitation of your firm's overall resources and capabilities.

Finally the analysis of market demand, industry supply and your firms competitiveness will encounter risk at every turn, likewise opportunity. Uncertainty is unavoidable and will be ever-present. It must be addressed systematically in the strategy development process.

So when you put the building blocks of strategy together the look as follows:

This blog entry is part 1 of 10 entries that I will write. Next 9 will summarize tools to build each building block of the strategy pyramid.

I am already impressed with the way the author has put a structured way for learning this process. Kudos to Vaughan for that!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Brand advertising analytics

I recently worked on a study that tried to understand how much is too much money on brand advertising efforts.

Performing too much analytics on brand advertising and using the numbers as is to determine effectiveness is not a good strategy because of the following reasons:
a) Brand advertising is to create a perception and may not always lead to conversion. 
b) Pure analytics numbers will tell the number of click throughs and frequency of return but it gives no idea about the subconscious brand attachment. Its just not measurable using technology.
c) Campaign analytics is good for validating delivery as per your intent.

So this study involved a brand campaign that was run for a day on Youtube masthead. 
Quick facts:
1) Roughly 6 Million impressions were served to 580,000 browsers in 1 day.
2) So that means each browser saw over 10 impressions! I believe that the reach of the campaign can be increased if there is a way to throttle the ads on Youtube.
3) Only 2.21% people clicked through on the masthead ad and went to the site. I cannot give you the conversion rates for this specific site but standard conversion rates are around 3-4%. A tiny number of browsers may convert, but then chances are they know all about your brand before, your brand campaign just motivated them to finally get to something that they were trying to do later.
4) Final thing that I noticed is none of the 2.21% browsers came back to the site. So which means that brand campaigns may have initial traffic acquisition effect but then have very less frequency.

Now, readers may comment that this is very specific study and I do agree. So please don't start posting comments criticizing my post yet. This is a very specific study and data points are just not enough to conclude anything. I would imagine a proper study would classify their campaigns in following areas: Industry, campaign frequency, time period of study, copy of the campaign,  site flow and merchandizing on the site, reach, frequency and finally spending.

My intent was to make the general reader aware about the possibility of running such a study if they are trying to know how much money is too much spending on brand advertising. The study can be performed if your analytics platform allows mixing two data sources together and you have a way of collecting exposure data with your web analytics data.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Struggling to get value out of analytics?

In my conversations with my clients I hear the following phrases a lot:
  • "Too much data"
  • "Not sure what to look at"
  • "Big data is a challenge"
  • "Social network analysis is the only thing we care about"
  • "Can I integrate everything with everything?"
  • "We need to tap into mobile data"
  • "This sounds excellent, but I'm not sure how I could use this"

When I hear these things I feel just as follows:
 and only reason for this is because such companies are going 80 miles per hour and want to go 120 miles per hour in near future - only problem no one is bothered about where there are going so fast.

How to change this situation?
  • Build good communication highways in the company: The biggest issue that I see with organizations is that they do not have enough knowledge about what the smartest guys at the top think and thus do not know where the business is going. In fact, every manager who has a budget for anything in the organization should know the priorities of the company and what those priorities translate to at their level. This will ensure that they get best of the value from the budgets they spend.
  • Build an analytics team that has weight age & data savvy employees: If you are on the bandwagon of being a data driven company then you have to ensure that you value data. Just having a big data platform/analytics platfrom/predictive analytics platform is no good. In most companies the management never cares to ask for data (other than financial data) to make decisions. Also, the analytics managers either do not know the strategic objectives of each level so that they can promote data driven decisions by providing the right data or they are just too timid to voice the stories that find out of the data. So it is very critical for higher management to emphasize the value of analytics in a way that people take "data people" seriously.
  • Hire communicators(story tellers) and not pure statistics people: One of the trend across industry is that people do not use data because they find it hard to understand. This creates a void between stats people and people on the ground executing things. Its absolutely necessary for the analytics team to build a story telling skills set. If they cant take their data analysis and simplify it to a level where they could use the gist to tell a bedtime story to their kids then its too complicated.
  • Build repeatability: Often repeatability is misconstrued to be process. People who equate repeatability and process have it wrong. Process is a way to take away decision making capability away from the agents involved in the transaction. Repeatability on the other hand is a way for having a framework for making decisions regardless of the scenario. It is thus important for management to facilitate a way of working where resources responsible for tasks know the boundaries/constraints within which they can make decisions and approvals or involvement from other groups is required if they are to cross the boundaries. This enables creativity at individual level and increases efficiency. Repeatability framework need not only to be vertical but also horizontal in organizations.

Having  the above four capabilities will bring you to a level where you will start moving along a right direction. Analytics will then not be defined or limited to the capabilities and reports that a particular vendor can provide.

To summarize, if everyone in your organization should know where they are going as an organization and their contribution, and learns to ask two questions "So What?" and "What Next?"

Thursday, September 19, 2013

President Hideo Yoshida's Ten Spartan Rules

I am reading "The Denstu Way" and the first paragraph talks about the ten rules one of Dentsu's president had. His name was Hideo Yoshida (

His ten rules are that every people manager can tell his team. With these rules and boundaries for playing ground which the team members should not cross it will be really easy to build a high performing thing.

So here are the rules:
  1. Initiate projects on your own instead of waiting for work to be assigned.
  2. Take an active role in all your endeavors, not a passive one.
  3. Search for a large and complex challenge
  4. Welcome difficult assignments. Progress lies in accomplishing difficult work.
  5. Once you begin a task, complete it. Never give up.
  6. Lead and set an example for your fellow workers.
  7. Set goals for yourself to ensure constant sense of purpose.
  8. Move with confidence. It gives your work force and substance.
  9. At all times challenge yourself to think creatively and find new solution.
  10. When confrontation is necessary dont shy away from it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Observations about life

  • Do the 'Right Thing'. If can't figure out what the 'right thing' is, pretend you had to tell your parents or your favorite teacher about your decision. If you would feel uncomfortable telling them, it is probably not the 'right thing'.
  • Surround yourself with people that challenge you. Surround yourself with creative people.
  • "You know what you know and you dont know what you dont know; that is knowledge" - Confucius. 
  • "The true test of intelligence is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we dont know what to do," John Holt
  • The person who doesnt know much , is usually not humble. The person who knows a lot, is always humble.
  • Do what you love. Life is easier when you are doing what you are supposed to be doing.
  • Change is good.
  • The 2 biggest reasons that businesses(or any other endeavor for that matter) fail are ego and greed.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  • You dont learn by talking; you learn by listening. Corollary 1: The meanest thing you can do to someone is to not listen when they talk. Corollary 2: There are at least 2 sides to every story. Don't react until you hear all sides. Corollary 3: Overreacting always causes mistakes.
  • If you never consider failure, you will always succeed. Corollary: It is not a failure to not reach goals; it is a failure to give up on them. The biggest risk is not taking a risk.
  • It is not the mistakes that define the person, but the recoveries.
  • You are only as good as the pack you run with.
  • Save 10% of your salary. If you can't, you are living beyond your means.
  • Every successful person (regardless of how success is defined) has a mentor. Find a person that you respect and trust and emulate them.
  • Life is journey marked by good and bad events. There are births, weddings and graduations, but there also deaths, divorces and job losses. We yearn to have period of relative calm and certainty, during which there is no change and we have the opportunity to get into a groove and enjoy life, concentrating on the here and now. But we dont get them. If all we got were good events, that would be fine, but we also get plenty of bad, and they rattle us, tire us and make us yearn for calm.
  • The sky is not falling. "This is just a test; if this were a real emergency, you'd be dead." God.
  • Most people are inherently good. If you look for the bad in people, you will surely find it, at the risk of never being able to - nor wanting to - see the good. It is a self - fulfilling prophecy.
  • You can't automate a process you cant do manually.
  • People will work harder to fix a problem if they take part in recommending and implementing a solution.
  • Much of life is happenstance.
  • Luck is the best thing you can have in a life. I'll take good luck over good management any day. The hard part is recognizing and taking advantage of good luck. Corollary: You make your own luck.
  • Spread good karma. Greet all people with a cheerful face. Do good deeds for anyone and everyone.
  • Be positive. Smile a lot - it makes everyone else around you feel better, and you'll feel better, too. Do good deeds for anyone and everyone.
  • "Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." - Hellen Keller
  • "All happiness comes from the desire for others to be happy. All misery comes from the desire for oneself to be happy." - Shantideva, (7th Century), India.
  • Visit other countries and cultures. It will increase your understanding of other people and yourself.
  • "As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life." - Buddha
  • "If you think too much, you get all mixed up," John W. Pratt, Harvard Business School Professor.
  • Never work just for money or for power. They wont save your soul or help you sleep at night.
  • You can't tell a book by its cover.
  • Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
  • The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.
  • Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.
  • Work is either fun or drudgery. It depends on your attitude. I like fun.
  • Always communicate.
  • Confront conflicts (but rationally)
  • Dont let money determine all of your life decisions
  • Care about other people
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt
  • First impressions have the largest impacts
  • No matter how many people agree on a solution, there is almost always a better alternative.
  • You cant successfully sky dive without the support of a parachute
  • Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • Honesty is the best policy!
  • Set expectations right(be it in personal life or professional). Know what you expect from others, from the job/relation and what others expect from you.
  • When in doubt, be simple, frank and communicate.
  • Do onto others what you would expect others to do unto you!
  • Take care to be kind to those that are in positions supporting yours, i.e. secretaries, IT staff, doorman, valets etc.
  • "I would prefer even to fail with honor than to win by cheating" is a quote by Sophocles which I think implies a lot.
  • Creativity will always help in some way.

15 Steps to Fulfilling Your Wildest Dreams

According to Bill Gates there are 3 keys to success in any new venture:

  1. Being in the right place at the right time. (You could well be already there!)
  2. Have a vision of where the industry/business you're working in its going!
  3. Taking massive and immediate action! (It is time to act!)
"The future belongs to those who believe in the quality of their dreams." Was it Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, the famous German poet and philosopher who said those wise words?

Here are the 15 steps to fulfilling wildest dreams...

1) Know Yourself
Know and accept your weakness and faults (we all have them), but even more so your strengths, abilities and gift. Build on your strengths and try to minimize or improve on your weakness. An honest, objective analysis of yourself is the first step in preparing you for success and realizing your dreams. Celebrate you for just being you, a unique creation.

Aim for mental clarity about what you most want out of life. Think about it and write it down. If it's happiness, what do you mean by happiness: a sense of belonging, recognition, independence, love, money or security? If you don't know where you are and where you want to go with your life, how will you ever get there? Aim at nothing and you're sure to hit it.

2) Get Passionate
Don't apologize for getting passionate. What excites you the most? If you are not enthusiastic and excited about what you're doing, your path in life, you'll never get others to share your dream. Once you find your passion, you will have found your POWER, MEANING and PURPOSE in life.

3) Surround Yourself With Positive Passion
Always be aware. Negative people will poison your dream faster than anything else. Motto: "If you can't be positive, shut up!" Try and stay positive ... even in the face of negativity.

4) Accept From The Start That You Wont Please Everyone
You're going to be misunderstood, misquoted, hurt some feelings, perhaps even lose some friends (for the time being). Motto: "What other people think of me is none of my business!" Repeat this statement to yourself, especially when you doubt or feel discouraged.

5) Always Be Yourself
To thine own self be true. (Shakespeare's "Hamlet", act I.3.) This is supremely important, no matter what the world may think of you. The masses are conditioned to mediocrity and other people's success can make them not feel inferior for their own insignificant little lives. Accept yourself. Learn from others -- but don't be intimidated by them, or pretend be someone you're not; because ... "We are most effective when we're being ourselves."

6) Dont Be Scare Of Making Mistakes
The only real mistake is one from which you learn nothing. Motto: "Far better to try something and fail, than try nothing and succeed!"

7) Accept That It Will Never Be Easy
Realizing your dream may be the hardest, most uphill thing you'll ever do. A truth... "You can't coast uphill." The key ingredient in success is never giving up. Keep on keeping on with your quest. It has been said that "success is 99% made up of failures."

8) Stay Humble (No matter how successful you may be)
Dont ever think you've made it and arrived -- there's always a lot ahead, more to do, higher mountains to climb. Motto: "The greatest way to do our thing has yet to be discovered!"

9) Dont Underestimate Yourself
There is incredible power in yourself (in the form of the unique human mind), but far more so in the forces of the Universe. Make them work for you by living your life in harmony with these natural forces. Like positive energy attracts like. Enough "spiritual" thoughts! Back to the "real world" and you. Avoid developing an inferiority complex (Who am I, a "nothing?"). Don't be filled with feelings of self-pity ("nobody likes me"), or think "I cant do it." These thoughts will steal your dream.

10) Have Fun
Nothing is ever as bad as it seems -- don't get to solemn, or serious or too downcast when things go wrong (as they surely will from time to time). Take a lead from Thomas Edison's book: "I never did a day's work in my entire life: It was all FUN!" Laugh at life's funny moments... and there are plenty of them. "The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does." - J.M. Barrie

11) Develop 'The Will To Live"
There will be plenty of times when you'll face the death of your dream. When failures, disappointments, and criticisms come you need the will and faith to keep going. Remember: We learn far more from our failures than our successes, because failures show us what doesnt work. So, failure is just one step closer to ultimate success. Often the difference between failure and success is trying just one more time, picking yourself up off the canvas after being knocked down time and again.

12 Develop "The Will To Help And Serve Others"
Success on its own (i.e., for its own sake) will pollute and corrupt you -- it's dead end street unless you have meaning in your life. The years of struggle breed fortitude and character. The gold may be an inch away from the saem, where your fellow miners have given up. You need to succeed for a reason, a purpose, a cause that's bigger than you! and IF (a very big if) you've fulfilled all the above requirements... 

By the time you finish reading this you will realize its just 12 steps and not 15

Stress Free in 10 Minutes

1. Do Nothing
At least once during the day, take 5-10 minutes to sit quietly and do nothing. Focus on the sounds around you. Your emotions and any tensions in your neck, shoulders, arms, chest, etc.

2. Laugh Out Loud
Keep something handy that makes you laugh. It could be a collection of your favorite comic strips, of a funny email from, say, your child or a friend. You could even take a few moments to think watching your favorite comedy serial. Turn to this every so often during your day.

3. Tune In
When you face a daunting task, playing soothing music - be it classical, county or jazz. AT work you can use the CD drive on your computer to keep the music at the ready.

4. Think Happy
Focus on someone or something you care deeply about for anywhere from 15 seconds to 5 minutes. Or picture a scene from a peaceful vacation. A phrase that makes you feel positive about yourself and the world can also work.

5. Hit The Road
Get up from your desk, the couch - wherever you may be - and take a 10 minute walk.

6 Breathe Easy
For 5 minutes, slow your breathing down to about 6 deep-belly breaths a minute. In other words, inhale for about 5 seconds, exhale for about 5.

7 Rise Relaxed
Right before bed and after the alarm goes of in the morning, take 5 minutes to relax your entire body. Start by tensing your toes; consciously relax them. Move on to the muscles in your feet, and then your calves, upper legs, move upwards until you end by scrunching up and then relaxing the muscles in your face.

Funny Anecdote - You are always in my thoughts

An old man lived alone in Minnesota. He wanted to spade his potato garden, but it was very hard work. His only son, who would have helped him, was in prison. the old man wrote a letter to his son and mentioned his situation:

Dear Son, 

I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I wont be able to plant my potato garden this year. I hate to miss doing the garden, because your mother always loved planting time.

I'm just getting too old to be digging up the garden plot. If you were here, all my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me, if you werent in prison.


Shortly, the old man received this telegram:
"For Heaven's sake, Dad, don't dig up the garden!! That's where I buried the GUNS!!"

At 4 a.m. the next morning, a dozen FBI agents and local police officers showed up and dug up the garden without finding any guns.

Confused, the old man wrote another note to his son telling him what happened, and asked him what to do next. His son's reply was: "Go ahead and plan your potatoes, Dad... Its the best I could do for you from here"

No matter where you are in the world, if you have decided to do something deep from your heart you can do it. It is the thought that matters not where you are or where the person is.

Know your ABCs

Avoid negative sources-people, places, things and habits
Believe in yourself
Consider things from every angle
Dont give up and dont give in
Enjoy life today, yesterday is gone and tomorrow may not come
Family and friends are hidden treasures seek & enjoy their riches
Give more than you planned to give
Hang on to your dreams
Ignore those who try to discourage you
Just do it!
Keep on trying. No matter how hard it seems, it will get easier
Love yourself first and most
Make it happen
Never lie, cheat or steal. Always strike a fair deal
Open your eyes and see things as they really are
Practice makes perfect
Quitters never win and winners never quit
Read, study and learn about everything important in your life
Stop procrastinating
Take control of your own destiny
Understand yourself in order to better understand others
Visualize it
Want it more than anything
eXel at doing your best
You can do anything you set out to do
Zero in on your target and go for it!