A large global business unit had been started with the launch of a breakthrough line of products, products that had given it a substantial competitive advantage. Over the years, this competitive advantage had eroded as competitors emulated their technical and marketing innovations.
The business unit was now struggling to maintain its leadership position. More and more the management was coming to the conclusion that to keep their market share and maintain their competitiveness as differentiation eroded, they would have to have resort to price wars with their competitors - something they absolutely did not want to engage in.
LPR's charter was to help the business leaders design a new strategy. One that created an advantage for the Business Unit at par with the advantage they had when they first launched their line of products, so that they could compete on their own terms, rather than on price as everyone else was doing. This strategy had to have a global element, a global principle, with regional adaptations. However, in order to do that, the regional management bodies had to be enrolled in the possibility that a common strategy would work. Their full alignment and buy-in was essential.
The old strategy was obsolete, and had been for a while. Up to now, there had not been any perceived need, nor any attempt at designing a global strategy. The worldwide business was managed in several regions, each composed of several countries. The various regions had done very well with their own approaches to their markets, which they all viewed as unique.
The management of the regions were brought together - 100 people in total -, and engaged in a set of discussions over a period of a week. Our intention was to:
- separate them from their immersion in the current circumstances,
- separate them from their predictable future and the limitations they were experiencing,
- take them away from merely solving the problems they saw, and instead,
- have them re-invent their competitive advantage.
To do that, we had them step in an environment, a desired future, 6 to 10 years hence, and describe freely what they had – somewhat like a gigantic wish list -, why they where excited about it, how they maintained it, and any ideas they had on how they got there.
The first phase was one of free thinking, disconnections and disagreements. There were many diverging ideas, some great, some not so great; some doable, some outlandish; some that were not for them, and some in which they saw a lot of potential. The intention was to cover as large a territory as possible, to allow new ideas to form naturally in the group.
In a second phase we let ideas begin to “gel” and take shape, with added details as the participants were getting more and more excited.
In a final phase, the strategy was formulated in the form of an overall purpose and a specific strategic intent, with the alignment of all participants. The strategic intent was then expressed in the form of clear yearly objectives, with immediate action plans for each region.
The charter was fully accomplished, although many had thought that would not be possible, and certainly not in the time we had. The result was the design of a competitive advantage that they could uniquely fulfill, and in a way that would not be easily copied.
- Participants were excited, engaged and ready to go – they saw a new future for their organization
- Day-to-day actions were correlated to the desired future. The gap between the outcome/milestones of the desired future and the predictable outcome of the "past extended "were cast as “problems to solve”, and a number of "breakthrough projects" were invented to bridge the gap
- Excuses, explanations, reasons and justification that in the past would have thwarted new thinking were displaced with conversations for possibility and promises of new innovative actions
- Collaboration across markets was accelerated as executives saw the advantages in sharing what worked.