Information overload is a challenge many in business face today. How do you ensure all relevant signals from your company’s market environment are picked up, whilst the efforts for doing so are minimised and the decision-makers only receive need-to-know information and analysis when they need it?
Erik Elgersma simplifies it…
“What are you doing here? The birthday party is next Saturday. That is not to say you are not welcome, but…” This is how one of our eldest friends welcomed my wife and I last Saturday. We appeared at the right doorstep, but at the wrong time. Embarrassed and amused I looked at my wife, who had assured me of the timing. We had both received the invitation email, but I had ignored it after I had seen my wife putting the appointment in our family calendar. When my wife does so, who am I to doubt the accuracy?
Trying to reconstruct the logic of failure1, I later wondered why we gave our old friends a surprise party last Saturday. Obviously, my wife and I both made mistakes. My wife mixed up the timings – these things happen. My mistake, however, was more interesting. I believe I suffered from “authority bias,” which I will discuss in a little more detail below.
Last night we celebrated the launch of Beyond Default by David Trafford and Peter Boggis at the iconic Tower Bridge gallery in London.
David and Peter brought together a pleasant mix of their family, colleagues and clients to celebrate this momentous occasion and the venue most definitely set the tone for an eventful evening.
Views from the gallery at Tower Bridge
An eclectic mix of drinks were served to guests on arrival whilst they were kept in suspense in the foyer as Martin Liu, General Manager at LID UK introduced David and Peter who talked about the book and thanked people who helped with the process.
At the recent ninth “Competitive and Market Intelligence International Conference” in Amsterdam, a launch event was held for Erik Elgersma and his new book, The Strategic Analysis Cycle: Handbook.
AartJan van Triest, Erik Elgersma and Bas van den Berg
Erik is the Director of Strategic Analysis at FrieslandCampina, one of the world’s largest dairy companies. This is Erik’s first book, based on his 17 years of experience as a senior practitioner in strategic analysis. The book has a second volume – The Strategic Analysis Cycle: Toolbook – that is due out this summer.
The event was attended by professionals in competitive and market intelligence from all over the world, together with Erik’s colleagues from FrieslandCampina. AartJan van Triest (Chief Marketing Officer of Friesland Campina) set the scene by speaking about the importance of strategic analysis and competitive intelligence to keep ahead of a company’s competitors. Erik hoped, in this data-driven world, that his book would provide a practical guide not just to collecting, analyzing and managing data, but also to communicating data and insights to decision-makers, to ensure that insights are not only being unearthed but also being acted upon. Erik then presented the first copy of the book to Bas van den Berg, Chief Operating Officer (Cheese, Butter & Milk Powder) and member of the Executive Board of FrieslandCampina. The evening ended with Erik spending close to two hours signing his book and receiving the warm wishes of his fellow professionals and colleagues.
What does strategy mean?
Some people have a faulty understanding about what the word “strategy” means, yet they use the term as if they knew everything about it. And I know some of you are thinking, “Javier, give me a break; that’s impossible—” as you read these lines. But it is. When you finish the following paragraph, you’ll probably realize you’ve misused the term more than once.
The best definition I know is that strategy is the path that allows us to achieve a specific target in a complete way using the fewest possible resources. Strategies are meant to achieve objectives.
Strategy is the path that allows us to achieve a target in an effective and efficient way
As such, there are several traits a good strategist should have:
Understanding your objectives
The first one is a precise understanding of the objective. It’s shocking how often people start developing strategies without having a clear understanding of what they want to achieve. Objectives are not always formulated in a clear way; and it’s not uncommon that the person who sets up an objective does not know what he/she really wants to achieve. At P&G people learned to define objectives the so-called smart way; smart is an acronym meaning Specifically, Measurably, Accurately, Relevantly and Time-bonded. It’s a great formula. A good strategist has to ask all the right questions until the objectives become well set and defined.
The second trait of a good strategist is neutrality. There is no way you can develop sound strategies if you are biased toward one of the alternatives, or are politically motivated to chose any particular resource over another when delivering the target.
The third trait is knowledge. Unless you understand the field you’re evaluating in its totality, as well as its means and its causal relationships, your strategies might turn out to be sub-optimal. The fourth trait has to do with quantification skills. Many fail in this critical area. You have to be able to reduce all your choices to a set of comparable variables, the most common ones typically being time and money. People often fail to do this because often “the outcome is too obvious,” or simply because “it was too much of long shot to quantify.” Nevertheless, you’d be surprised just how much decisions can change once you thoroughly quantify each option’s implications.
The ability to tell the “brutal, honest truth”. Sounds easy, but managers often do not want to hear bad news. If you are a manager, please refrain from this behavior; it is without a doubt the bad habit that derails most careers. If you avoid “bad news,” you quickly grow isolated from reality, and are incapable of steering your business or brand. Your people start to fear being the ones who come to you with “undesirable” data or facing the consequences of a bad meeting or worse, being the victim of the “kill the messenger” syndrome. Often they’ll “disguise” the truth to make it more palatable. But without the plain truth it’s impossible to design good strategies.
Now, the next time somebody asks you about your “brand strategy,” you might want to reply, “To reach what objective?”