5 tips for better strategic decision making

Imagine you are a major retailer planning to enter an ‘adjacent’ $50B retail market, and you specifically want to attack the market leader for ‘strategic’ reasons.  But there’s a catch:

1.       The market leader has 15 years accumulated experience in the sector – you have none; and

2.       They have nearly 10x the market share of their nearest competitor … (~18% vs. ~2% market share - your likely entry point)

A tough ask.  But wait.  There’s more.   This is the story of the failure of Project Oxygen at Woolworths.  One analyst labelled it as “the greatest own goal in recent Australian business history”. 

What happened?  And how do we avoid these traps?

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'Playing to Win' as a strategy process framework

A friend was looking to engage a consultant to guide their business through a strategy process.  We chatted about it over a few drinks one night and a few days later he asked: what do you think of the framework in ‘Playing to Win’.   

The bottom line is 'Playing to Win' offers a neat framework, and in good hands it will help strategic leadership teams wrestle down their strategies.  But what matters more than the framework is the quality of the thinking, and the quality of the conversation.   Here’s what I told him: maybe you’ll find the advice useful. 

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Building a Growth Platform

Over the last decade only 20% of the Global 2000 companies grew their top line at twice global GDP growth rates (5.5%), and only about 10% actually earn their cost of capital.  Bain recently posted some very insightful research findings into sustainable growth.  I summarise their findings below, and provide you a link to their full 10 minute video presentation. 

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Horizon 2 - 'no man's land'

There's a reason Horizon 2 was referred to as 'no man's land' in a recent HBR article.  It is the catalyst for organisational transformation, but it presents unique challenges for senior managers.  But difficult or not, in today's world putting your nose to the grindstone may result in serious harm

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Growth & Organisational Renewal - the work of Horizon 2

McKinsey's three horizon strategy model highlights the distinct elements of strategy which tackle the challenges across different time horizons. 

Horizon 1 is the 'competitive strategy': it addresses how a business plans to win the competitive battles over the next 12-18 months.

Horizon 2 strategy was originally seen as the 'growth' strategy, bringing on stream the next major earnings streams.  But it must also deliver organisational renewal to overcome the effects of 'organisational entropy'.  It has a 2-5 year time horizon. 

Horizon 3 is the 'option' strategy.  It is about exploring new possibilities, many of which will not make it past various decision gates, but from a portfolio of options will come the next horizon 2 growth pathways.  The time horizon for option plays is often more than 5 years from inception to a major value contribution.