Friday, April 30, 2010

BLACKSOCKS - Retail: A different Repeat Business model

Everyone hates shopping for socks. right? But we all need them and we all want to avoid those embarassing moments at the boss's 'chillout' party when we kick off our tight shoes and there, on full view for all to see is our stumpy big toe, defiantly sticking through our old socks.

You feel that hard fought-for promotion flying away along with the respect and adoration of your office assistant and her cool friends.

Who has the time or motivation to buy socks anyway? You have to be some kind of crazy person to spend your valuable spare time searching the mall for knitted foot gloves to match your business ensemble.

Fear not! There is a simple stress-free solution. BLACKSOCKS - There is no easier way to deal with your sock sorrows

This is an excellent example of an online retail business model that directly meets the consumers' needs for frequent changes of 'consumable' clothing.

These items are like spark plugs and tyres in a car, they will burn out or wear out and it is a low priority chore to replace them. Best to do it at a time and place that is convenient to you.

Pre-emptive, structured or scheduled maintenance has been an acceptable fact in the engineering world since time began and it can also be applied to consumers in retail and other sectors.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Leading Outside the Lines

Leading Outside the Lines

Balancing Hard and Soft - Formal with Informal
Formal: In every company, there are really two organisations at work: the formal and the informal. The formal organisation is the default governing structure of most large companies founded in the past century.

Businesspeople recognise the formal organisation as that rational construct that runs on rules, operates through hierarchies and programs, and evaluates performance by the numbers.

If you have been trained in the “hard” disciplines like finance, technology, or operations — as so many senior managers have — you have probably learned to operate naturally in the formal domain, deploying tangible factors like job descriptions, organisation charts, process flows, and scorecards.

Informal: The informal organisation, by contrast, is an agglomeration of all the human aspects of the company: the values, emotions, behaviours, myths, cultural norms, and uncharted networks.

The power of the informal is visible in every organisation every day — it is an undeniable, emotionally resonant force. Even the most rational managers recognise that the informal organisation within a company can create effects that seem like magic, especially in situations of change or transformation.

Unexpected leaders emerge from the ranks. Passion swells up and pushes work forward. Units and operations swiftly transform themselves.

Unfortunately, there are also less positive effects: Unexpected opposition lurks in the shadows, anxiety and fear hold work back, and critical operational improvements are derailed.

Organisations that sustain high performance over time have learned how to mobilise their informal organisations while maintaining and adding formal structures, each in sync with the other and in general, people appreciate the value of “leading outside the lines”: of balancing formal and informal measures in the pursuit of higher performance.

In sports, coaches pay just as much attention to the emotional aspects of the game as they do to the skills involved.

In business, the informal organisation is most successfully mobilised when there is also a sharp focus on performance. People want to know how their informal collaboration will lead to an improvement in results.

The difficulty for any manager to understand, even one who has a predilection for the informal, is exactly how to lead outside the the formal lines.

There is, after all, no universal recipe book: The right balance of formal and informal measures will look very different depending on the company, the business, and the circumstances.

In business, leaders who are well versed primarily in formal measures may feel less comfortable dealing with what they see as the “fuzzier” aspects of an organisation.

In Conclusion
Neither approach can stand alone in a modern organisation.

Most businesspeople are concerned with achieving higher levels of performance and all the rewards that go with it.

Those who are comfortable with formal and informal approaches will make the most progress toward this goal.

The mind-set that can synthesize both into a clear, simple, integrated direction is the mind-set that differentiates the peak performers from the also-rans, be they individuals, teams, or enterprises.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Putting Strategy into Practice

Putting Strategy into Practice

Celebrating a “must-read” concept, based on data from thousands of companies: Information flow and decision rights are integral parts of the strategic process.
by Thomas A. Stewart

Note: This article refers to the HBR anthology Must-Reads on Strategy, which includes “The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution” (beginning on page 81). Click here for a free download of the book (PDF), available until June 15, 2010.

Of all the false distinctions that dog business thinking — leadership versus management, profitability versus growth, short term versus long term — the most pernicious is the separation of strategy (where the company should go) from execution (getting there). Strategy without execution is daydreaming. What good is a blue ocean to one who cannot swim? Execution without strategy is pointless, even dangerous. What profit is there in doing the wrong things well?

Worse, the separation of strategy and execution lets both strategists and operators off the hook; it means that no one is held accountable for poor results. Strategists can claim that there is nothing wrong with the corporate plan; “those bozos just couldn’t execute it.” Those charged with implementation, for their part, may accuse the strategy of being impractical. Or they may devote their lives to the small tactical wins that made “the man in the gray flannel suit” such a sad sack, really. Strategy and execution are the left and right hands of the same organizational body: They should wash each other.

So it was profoundly right that the editors of Harvard Business Review (HBR), in compiling a new collection of their 10 most significant articles on strategy (Must-Reads on Strategy, [Harvard Business Press, 2009]), chose to devote half the volume to articles about execution. Leading this group was an article I commissioned when I was the editor of HBR: “The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution,” by Gary L. Neilson, Karla L. Martin, and Elizabeth Powers, first published in 2008. It is a great honor for the authors to be included in the company of Michael Porter, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, Clayton Christensen, and W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. And it is being celebrated at their firm, Booz & Company (which publishes strategy+business, and where I now work as chief marketing and knowledge officer).

But the article is also worth celebrating more generally — because it is a harbinger of the closing of that false gap between strategy and execution, and of a new understanding of the role of capabilities in driving strategy

Monday, April 19, 2010

Theory U and Theory T

Theory U and Theory T

Management theory books and disaster films have something in common. Both confront the prospect of the near-total destruction of life as we know it. In the movies, the hero invariably realizes what must be done and saves the world just before the credits roll. In management books, the chosen manager masters the correct theory just in time to avert business catastrophe. On screen, happy endings are unremarkable — it’s just entertainment, after all. But in the real world, real companies make real decisions based on the theories authors propose in their management books. Why should one assume that things always end well?

This question about happy endings comes to mind on the 50th anniversary of one of the most storied contributions to the management literature, Douglas McGregor’s famous distinction between Theory X and Theory Y. In his hugely influential 1960 book, The Human Side of Enterprise (McGraw-Hill), McGregor made the simple yet powerful observation that managerial practice often expresses some very deep assumptions about the nature of human beings: Two competing theories about human nature, he claimed, dominate the managerial thought–world.

Theory X says that the average human being is lazy and self-centered, lacks ambition, dislikes change, and longs to be told what to do. The corresponding managerial approach emphasizes total control. Employee motivation, it says, is all about the fear and the pain. Theory Y maintains that human beings are active rather than passive shapers of themselves and of their environment. They long to grow and assume responsibility. The best way to manage them, then, is to manage as little as possible. Give them water and let them bloom, say the Y-types.

Thursday, April 1, 2010