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jerryking : unscalability   9

Strategy or Culture: Which Is More Important?
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” These words, often attributed to Peter Drucker, are frequently quoted by people who see culture at the heart of all great companies. Those same folks like to cite the likes of Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, and Zappos, whose leaders point to their companies’ cultures as the secret of their success.

The argument goes something like this: “Strategy is on paper whereas culture determines how things get done. Anyone can come up with a fancy strategy, but it’s much harder to build a winning culture. Moreover, a brilliant strategy without a great culture is ‘all hat and no cattle,’ while a company with a winning culture can succeed even if its strategy is mediocre. Plus, it’s much easier to change strategy than culture.” The argument’s inevitable conclusion is that strategy is mere ham and eggs for culture.

But this misses a big opportunity to enhance the power of both culture and strategy. As I see it, the two most fundamental strategy questions are:

1. For the company, what businesses should you be in?

2. And for each of those businesses, what value proposition should you go to market with?

A company’s specific cultural strengths must be central to answering that first question. For example, high-margin, premium-product companies that serve wealthy customers do not belong in businesses where penny-pinching is a source of great pride and celebrated behavior. Southwest has chosen not to enter a NetJets-like business, and that’s a sound decision.

Likewise, companies whose identity and worth are based on discovery and innovation do not belong in low-margin, price-competitive businesses. For example, pharmaceutical companies that traditionally compete by discovering novel, patentable drugs and therapies will struggle to add value to businesses competing in generics. The cultural requirements are just too different. This is why universal banks struggle to win in both commercial and investment banking. Whatever synergies they might enjoy (for instance, from common customers and complementary capital needs) are more than offset by the cultural chasm between these two businesses: the value commercial bankers put on containing risk and knowing the customer, versus the value investment bankers have for taking risk and selling innovative financial products.

Maintaining cultural coherence across a company’s portfolio should be an essential factor when determining a corporate strategy. No culture, however strong, can overcome poor choices when it comes to corporate strategy. For example, GE has one of the most productive cultures in the world, and its former leader, Jack Welch, concedes that his acquisition of Kidder Peabody was a failure because its cultural needs did not fit GE’s cultural strengths. The impact of culture on a company’s success is only as good as its strategy is sound.

No culture, however strong, can overcome poor choices when it comes to corporate strategy.

Culture also looms large in answering the second question above. In most businesses, customers consider more than concrete features and benefits when choosing between alternative providers; they also consider “the intangibles.” In fact, these often become the tiebreaker when tangible differences are difficult to discern. For example, most wealthy individuals choose financial advisors more for their personal chemistry or connections than their particular range of mutual funds. Virgin Airlines tries to attract passengers who like its offbeat, non-establishment attitude in how it operates. Culture experts are right to point out Southwest, Nordstrom, and Zappos because these companies have instilled norms of behavior that are essential features of their winning value propositions: from offering consistently low-price, high-quality service in Southwest’s case, to consistently delivering surprising staff service at Nordstrom and leading customer satisfaction at Zappos. What these companies really demonstrate is how culture is an essential variable—much like your product offering, pricing policy, and distribution channels—that should be considered when choosing strategies for your individual businesses. This is especially so when the behavior of your people, and particularly your frontline staff, can give you an edge with your customers.

Strategy must be rooted in the cultural strengths you have and the cultural needs of your businesses. If culture is hard to change, which it is, then strategy is too. Both take years to build; both take years to change. This is one of the many reasons that established companies struggle with big disruptions in their markets. For example, all the major credit card companies are seeking to transition from traditional payments to digital commerce. This shift in strategy will be difficult to pull off. It not only requires a cultural change, but also a change in companies’ target customer, value propositions, and essential capabilities—the three most fundamental choices a business strategy comprises!

Consigning strategy to just a morning meal for culture does injustice to both. Confining culture to the narrow role of “enabling” strategy prevents it from strengthening strategy by being part of it. It also weakens the power of strategy to turn your company’s cultural strengths into a source of enduring advantage.

Don’t let culture eat strategy for breakfast. Have them feed each other.
cultural_clash  cultural_change  intangibles  management  organizational_culture  Peter_Drucker  questions  quotes  strategy  synergies  value_propositions  via:enochko  unscalability 
march 2019 by jerryking
Scaling the Unscalable Business: 5 Things You Can Learn from a Successful CEO in the Professional Services Industry | ALGA
Posted December 15th, 2015 by ALGA Business Insurance & filed under Atlanta Business Owner, Business Insurance.
unscalability  scaling 
november 2018 by jerryking
How To Scale the Unscalable ·
OCTOBER 13, 2018 | The Sales Blog | by ANTHONY IANNARINO
[Do things the DON'T scale] Caring is difficult to scale. Every interaction—both internally and externally—requires greater intention, attention, and energy. Because so much of this depends on the individuals, many believe it doesn’t scale. Organizational caring isn’t a thing.

Initiative is equally difficult to scale. The idea that a person would decide for themselves what needs done and take action before being asked isn’t something that is easily accomplished. Because it is difficult, few try to be proactive as an organization.

Resourcefulness, harnessing the creative powers and imagination, if put to work in an organization would likely allow that group of people to outperform their competitors by the widest of margins. Most would never even consider this a goal.

If you want to scale your business, the first thing you should scale is the things that most people don’t believe lend themselves to being scaled. When you scale the attributes and virtues and values that build a culture that is positive, optimistic, future-oriented, and empowered, your business will scale on its own power.
caring  hard_work  howto  initiatives  organizational_culture  resourcefulness  scaling  unscalability 
november 2018 by jerryking
Vertical media mergers are just so 19th century | Financial Times
June 21, 2018 | Financial Times | Anne-Marie Slaughter.

Media companies are falling over themselves to merge with one another right now. AT&T took the US to court over the right to buy TimeWarner, and Comcast and Disney are engaged in a bidding war for some of 21st Century Fox. Big looks set to get bigger. Yet according to our best thinkers on the future of capitalism, the corporate titans driving these decisions are heading firmly backward.

AT&T and Comcast are communications companies that are attempting to go vertical and control every layer of a media empire from underground cables to the creation of content....Andrew Carnegie was determined to own coal mines and railroads as well as steel mills. The goal was control from top to bottom, closed access and economies of scale.

But that is old-fashioned thinking, according to the current crop of books on the dramatic economic changes being wreaked in the next phase of the information age. They argue that vertical integration amounts to building silos in an era that will be dominated by platforms — owning in an era of renting — and looking for mass markets when customers want individualized products.

Hemant Taneja makes a strong case for “customised microproduction and finely targeted marketing” in his book Unscaled. An investor for the Boston-based firm General Catalyst, he does not question the value of having many customers rather than few. But he argues that fast-growing companies in sectors ranging from energy to healthcare and education are succeeding because they customise their goods and services to a “market of one”.

The rise of artificial intelligence and cloud computing allows these companies to “rent scale”, he writes. Small, nimble companies can now out-compete big ones in specific markets, adding scale as they need to.....Netflix’s market value exceeded that of Comcast back in May and it is now bigger than Disney. Its global headcount is 5,500, nearly one-fifth of Time Warner’s and one-50th of AT&T’s. Netflix does not have the size to build as large in-house AI capabilities. But a quick search for “media data analytics” reveals a score of companies. Why pay for that capability when you can rent it
Andrew_Carnegie  Anne-Marie_Slaughter  artificial_intelligence  books  cloud_computing  end_of_ownership  entertainment_industry  Netflix  platforms  scaling  size  vertical_integration  AT&T  Comcast  customization  Disney  gazelles  nimbleness  mass_media  personalization  mergers_&_acquisitions  21st_Century_Fox  Time_Warner  19th_century  microproducers  target_marketing  unscalability  silo_mentality 
june 2018 by jerryking
16 lessons on scaling from Eric Schmidt, Reid Hoffman, Marissa Mayer, Brian Chesky, Diane Greene…
Chris McCannFollow
Community Lead @ Greylock Partners. Previously founded @StartupDigest. Photographer.
Dec 8, 2015
1. What “blitzscaling” means
2. Startup advice can’t be applied generally across stages
3. The top consideration of scaling is when to scale
4. Before product-market-fit hire slowly
5. Few things are critically important, most don’t matter (changes by stage)
6. One of the keys to get to scale, is to do things that don’t scale.
7. The reason to scale in the first place
8. The first level of scale is moving from one team to two teams (building and supporting)
9. Recruiting becomes the #1 priority when scaling
10. Have a framework for judging talent
11. Remember that even at scale, great products come from small teams
12. Hiring from the outside vs. promoting from within
13. Have a strong culture
14. Communication with 100's+ of employees is tough

15. Scaling is moving away from problem solving to coaching

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn
From Jeff Weiner: On the continuum of Problem Solving <=> Coaching
Coaching — Founders tend to be people who are good at getting things done, therefore they look to solve problems rather than coaching people to solve them. The problem with this is when you add people into the organization — when they have a problem, if the founder solves it for them — they will keep coming back to the founders to solve problems.
This won’t scale. You have to coach people to solve their own problems. Then you need to coach people to coach other people to solve problems. This is how you get to true scale.

16. The role of a CEO during blitzscaling

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, Executive Chairman at Alphabet
From Eric Schmidt: My role was to manage the chaos. There are different kinds of CEO’s and there is more than one answer.
venture_capital  lessons_learned  growth  scaling  howto  Reid_Hoffman  Silicon_Valley  blitzscaling  coaching  unscalability 
july 2017 by jerryking
The path to enlightenment and profit starts inside the office
(Feb. 2, 2016): The Financial Times | John Thornhill.

Competition used to be easy. That is in theory, if not always in practice. Until recently, most competent companies had a clear idea of who their rivals were, how to compete and on what field to fight.

One of the starkest - and scariest - declarations of competitive intent came from Komatsu, the Japanese construction equipment manufacturer, in the 1970s. As employees trooped into work they would walk over doormats exhorting: "Kill Caterpillar!". Companies benchmarked their operations and market share against their competitors to see where they stood.

But that strategic clarity has blurred in so many industries today to the point of near-invisibility thanks to the digital revolution and globalisation. Flying blind, companies seem happier to cut costs and buy back their shares than to invest purposefully for the future. Take the European telecommunications sector. Not long ago most telecoms companies were national monopolies with little, or no, competition. Today, it is hard to predict where the next threat is going to erupt.

WhatsApp, the California-based messaging service, was founded in 2009 and only registered in most companies' consciousness when it was acquired by Facebook for more than $19bn in 2014. Yet in its short life WhatsApp has taken huge bites out of the lucrative text messaging markets. Today, WhatsApp has close to 1bn users sending 30bn messages a day. The global SMS text messaging market is just 20bn a day.

Car manufacturers are rapidly wising up to the threat posed by new generation tech firms, such as Tesla, Google and Uber, all intent on developing "apps on wheels". Chinese and Indian companies, little heard of a few years ago, are bouncing out of their own markets to emerge as bold global competitors.

As the driving force of capitalism , competition gives companies a purpose, a mission and a sense of direction. But how can companies compete in such a shape-shifting environment? There are perhaps two (partial) answers.

The first is to do everything to understand the technological changes that are transforming the world, to identify the threats and opportunities early.

Gavin Patterson , chief executive of BT, the British telecoms group, says one of the functions of corporate leaders is to scan the horizon as never before. "As a CEO you have to be on the bridge looking outwards, looking for signs that something is happening, trying to anticipate it before it becomes a danger."

To that end, BT has opened innovation "scouting teams" in Silicon Valley and Israel, and tech partnerships with universities in China, the US, Abu Dhabi, India and the UK.

But even if you foresee the danger, it does not mean you can deal with it. After all, Kodak invented the first digital camera but failed to exploit the technology. The incentive structures of many companies are to minimise risk rather than maximise opportunity. Innovation is often a young company's game.

The second answer is that companies must look as intensively inwards as they do outwards (e.g. opposing actions). Well-managed companies enjoy many advantages: strong brands, masses of consumer data, valuable historic data sets, networks of smart people and easy access to capital. But what is often lacking is the ambition that marks out the new tech companies, their ability to innovate rapidly and their extraordinary connection with consumers. In that sense, the main competition of so many established companies lies within their own organisations.

Larry Page, co-founder of Google, constantly urges his employees to keep being radical. In his Founders' Letter of 2013, he warned that companies tend to grow comfortable doing what they have always done and only ever make incremental change. "This . . . leads to irrelevance over time," he wrote.

Google operates a 70/20/10 rule where employees are encouraged to spend 70 per cent of their time on their core business, 20 per cent on working with another team and 10 per cent on moonshots. How many traditional companies focus so much on radical ventures?

Vishal Sikka, chief executive of the Indian IT group Infosys, says that internal constraints can often be far more damaging than external threats. "The traditional definition of competition is irrelevant. We are increasingly competing against ourselves," he says.

Quoting Siddhartha by the German writer Hermann Hesse, Mr Sikka argues that companies remain the masters of their own salvation whatever the market pressures: "Knowledge can be communicated. Wisdom cannot." He adds: "Every company has to find its own unique wisdom." [This wisdom reference is reminiscent of Paul Graham's advice to do things that don't scale].

john.thornhill@ft.com
ambitions  brands  breakthroughs  BT  bureaucracies  competition  complacency  constraints  Fortune_500  incentives  incrementalism  Infosys  innovation  introspection  irrelevance  large_companies  LBMA  messaging  mission-driven  Mondelez  moonshots  opposing_actions  organizational_culture  outward_looking  Paul_Graham  peripheral_vision  radical  risk-avoidance  scouting  smart_people  start_ups  staying_hungry  tacit_knowledge  technological_change  threats  uniqueness  unscalability  weaknesses  WhatsApp  wisdom  digital_cameras  digital_revolution  historical_data 
april 2016 by jerryking
Do Things that Don't Scale
July 2013 | Paul Graham

The question to ask about an early stage startup is not "is this company taking over the world?" but "how big could this company get if the founders did the right things?" And the right things often seem both laborious and inconsequential at the time.
advice  start_ups  Y_Combinator  Paul_Graham  scaling  recruiting  experience  management_consulting  barriers_to_entry  product_launches  partnerships  customer_acquisition  user_growth  Steve_Jobs  unscalability  founders  questions 
november 2013 by jerryking
Value of big data depends on context
According to Hayek, it is not only localised and dispersed knowledge, but also tacit knowledge that is crucial for the functioning of the market system. Often, useful localised knowledge is tacit. By definition, tacit knowledge cannot be articulated and mechanically transferred to other individuals.[See Paul Graham on doing things that don't scale] Companies and governments have become more successful in collecting large volumes of data but it is nearly impossible to capture useful tacit knowledge by these data collection methods.

Furthermore, the value of big data is not about the volume and the amount of collected data but it depends on our ability to understand and interpret the data. As human faculties of interpretation and understanding differ greatly, the value of big data is subjective and dependent on particular context. Ironically, the skillful use of big data may require tacit knowledge.
data_collection  letters_to_the_editor  massive_data_sets  Friedrich_Hayek  tacit_data  contextual  sense-making  interpretation  tacit_knowledge  valuations  Paul_Graham  unscalability 
february 2013 by jerryking
The Ultimate Start-Up Challenge? Hyper Growth - WSJ.com
MARCH 10, 2010 | Wall street Journal | By TERI EVANS. Fast
growth is often an entrepreneur's dream, but it can come with
repercussions, including customer-service snafus and staffing chaos. If
not managed well, it can also wreck a company culture, which can put a
young company in "serious danger," according to Rob Wolcott, a professor
of entrepreneurship and innovation at the Kellogg School of Management.

"In many ways, culture is the one thing that gives you long-term
competitive advantage because it's something that is very difficult to
copy," .[perhaps see Paul Graham on doing things that don't scale] Mr. Wolcott says. "When growth becomes too hot to handle, so to speak, then everyone starts focusing on the urgent and sometimes misses the important."
growth  start_ups  challenges  size  scaling  organizational_culture  revenge_effects  competitive_advantage  uniqueness  customer_service  repercussions  staffing  chaos  high-growth  unscalability 
march 2010 by jerryking

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