Articles Tagged Strategy

Apr 11, 2010
The future of your business is in the palm of your hand

One of the key practices of successful businesses is the ability to follow trends and anticipate market movements. This is extremely difficult: if any of us really knew what next year’s markets would look like, we would be billionaires. Some trends, however, are so predictable that the foolishness lies in ignoring them. And that is […]

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Apr 04, 2010
This childish culture of dirty tricks in our business world

The recent spate of competition in Kenya’s telecom sector has been characterised by something ugly: vandalism. Now that fibre-optic connectivity is commonplace, what easier way to disable your competitor than to hire a few goons to cut their cables? That leaves them in disarray for days, while we gain ground. Or do we? Telecommunications is […]

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Mar 29, 2010
At your next strategy retreat, ask yourself: how different are we?

“In the 1980s, competition from Japan was every western CEO’s worst nightmare. Whether it was TVs, VCRs, or fax machines, Japan’s ability to produce high-quality goods at low cost drove U.S. and European competitors out of those businesses. Since then, Japan has floundered for more than a decade. Why? A big piece of the answer […]

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Mar 21, 2010
Why reality usually has nothing to do with plans

Last week this column looked at two words: Event and Process. This week I want to engage you in a discussion about two more: PLAN and REALITY. The need to think about these words came to me on a recent flight. Anyone who has flown on a commercial flight will be familiar with the in-flight […]

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Mar 14, 2010
To succeed, make the crucial distinction between event and process

This Sunday I want to focus your attention on two seemingly simple words: EVENT and PROCESS. The difference between these words, I would like to argue, is that between earth and sky, between success and failure, between dream and reality. Yet we are confusing these words every day in Kenya and retarding our progress. Our […]

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Mar 01, 2010
No company can be all things to all customers

“”It is very true that we do not have the high-end ‘mind share’ product, as we speak, but of course we are working to get there,” said Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia president and chief executive. At its investor day late last year, Nokia hinted it would produce major new devices this year. Analysts reckon it is […]

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Feb 08, 2010
Toyota’s communication lapses are compounding its woes

“When Toyota told the world of the recall of its cars in January, one of its first public statements was made by a Japanese executive who faced television cameras wearing a surgical mask. Masks are common during Japan’s cold season. However, crisis management experts are seizing on the image as a metaphor for a company […]

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Feb 01, 2010
Apple’s remarkable ability to generate product emotion

“This Wednesday, Steven P. Jobs will step to the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and unveil a shiny new machine that may or may not change the world. In the magician’s world, that’s called “the reveal.” And the most magical part? Even as the media and technology worlds […]

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Jan 18, 2010
Learning from Toyota’s faltering drive

“Less than two years ago Toyota swept past an ailing General Motors (GM) to become the world’s biggest carmaker. Now its newly installed boss, Akio Toyoda, the 53-year-old grandson of the founder, says that the firm could be locked in a spiral of decline. Toyota is still a hugely formidable company, and some within the […]

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Dec 20, 2009
Are Kenya’s tyres connected to its steering wheel?

A board member with whom I was discussing his company made me laugh out loud recently. When I asked him how effective his board’s policy formulations were, he told me, with refreshing honesty: “You know, sometimes I wonder whether the steering wheel is really connected to the tyres…” Hilarious imagery: a bunch of important personages […]

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Dec 14, 2009
The 5 signs of a dysfunctional Kenyan organisation

“Sign No. 1: Conspicuously posted vision or value statements are filled with vague but important-sounding words like “excellence” and “quality.” Sign No. 2: Bringing up a problem is considered as evidence of a personality defect rather than as an observation of reality. Sign No. 3: If by chance there are problems, the usual solution is […]

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Nov 23, 2009
Here’s a new strategy: telling the truth!

“At last the phoney war is over. For months it has been clear that Britain’s fiscal mess is Augean. Poll after poll has shown that voters know big spending cuts are unavoidable. …So Mr (George) Osborne had much to prove when he stood up on October 6th to give a taste of what his policy […]

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Nov 22, 2009
Like its football team, Kenya is failing to qualify

I was an angry man last weekend. The ill temper was sparked by a football match. I watched Kenya lose 2-3 to Nigeria at Kasarani, and in the process fail to qualify for both the World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations. That in itself was not news, and should not have made me […]

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Nov 02, 2009
Guess what, Starbucks did bounce back

“Howard Schultz (returned) in January 2008 to run the firm he had made great but which had by then entered a seemingly inescapable spiral of decline. Investors approve: having fallen below $8 last November, down from an all-time high of nearly $40 in 2006, shares in Starbucks have risen above $20, a bit higher than […]

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Oct 19, 2009
Does your company have a distinctive personality?

“When I talk of corporate personality, I mean just that: the company, not the individual. The law created the concept of corporate personality over a century ago, distinguishing the company from the individuals who run it, own its shares, or work for it. I think corporate personality is a useful idea, as a commercial as […]

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Oct 12, 2009
The chains of past success shackle us

“Suppose you went to a doctor who said: “I’m going to do an appendectomy on you.” When you asked why, the doctor answered, “because I did one on my last patient and it made him better.” We suspect you would hightail it out of that office, because you know that the treatment ought to be […]

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Sep 28, 2009
Learn from a comedian: innovation is about trying things out

“Sometimes innovation comes from funny places. For insight into how to balance creativity with the practicalities of commercialisation, we turn to a somewhat surprising source: the Marx Brothers, one of the world’s most famous comedy teams. Each one of the Marx Brother’s acts was developed in small pieces in the creative marketplace. “It was developed […]

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Sep 14, 2009
Learning from the Crocs shooting star phenomenon

“For a while, they were just right there, in the middle of American culture,” says Richard Polk, the owner of Pedestrian Shops and, based in Boulder, Colo. Polk’s store was the first real shoe store to stock the crazy-looking plastic shoes, a few years back, when they first roared out of nearby Aurora to […]

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Sep 07, 2009
Real strategy is about saying “No”

“The very essence of having a strategy is being selective about choosing the criteria on which a firm wishes to compete, and then being creative and disciplined in designing an operation that is finely tuned to deliver those particular virtues. …Strategy is deciding which business you are going to turn away.” David Maister, Strategy & […]

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Jul 06, 2009
How one famous family oversees its business

“G.M.’s managers must answer to a new majority owner, the federal government, which in turn hopes to sell off its stake to other investors. Chrysler executives are learning to work with the Italian automaker Fiat, which acquired most of its assets. Ford’s top managers said they have no such worries about their controlling shareholders. “These […]

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Jun 22, 2009
Is your ‘great’ company sowing the seeds of its own future failure?

“When you are at the top of the world, the most powerful nation on Earth, the most successful company in your industry, the best player in your game, your very power and success might cover up the fact that you’re already on the path of decline.” That question—how would you know?—captured my imagination and became […]

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Jun 08, 2009
‘Me-too’ strategies are a waste of time

“When United Airlines decided in 1994 to compete with Southwest (Airlines) in the intra-California marketplace, the company tried to imitate Southwest. United put its gate staff and flight attendants in casual clothes; it flew only Boeing 737s; it gave the service a different name, “Shuttle by United,” and used separate planes and crews; it stopped […]

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May 31, 2009
Learn from this failing football club

Newcastle United got relegated from the English Premier League last week. “Say what”? I hear some (but not all) of you shout in unison. Don’t we get enough mania about foreign football in this country, without ‘A Sunny Day’ adding to the madness? Is it not enough that a deranged young Kenyan recently killed himself, […]

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Apr 12, 2009
Future success is not guaranteed – for anyone

Icarus flew too close to the sun, and came crashing down into the sea. He became giddy with excitement at his ability to fly, and was punished for his over-confidence. That is a Greek fable, but all societies have their tales about the phenomenon of hubris – the excessive pride or arrogance that so many […]

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Apr 06, 2009
To prosper in life, expect the unexpected

“It is easy to see that life is the cumulative effect of a handful of significant shocks. It is not so hard to identify the role of Black Swans, from your armchair (or bar stool). Go through the following exercise. Look into your own existence. Count the significant events, the technological changes, and the inventions […]

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Mar 30, 2009
Do yourself a favour – burn your mission statement!

Vision: To be a leading provider of quality products and services in the region. Mission: To deliver quality solutions and excellent returns and service to all our esteemed stakeholders through consistent best practice. Values: Excellence Teamwork Quality Customer Focus Professionalism Social Responsibility Do your vision, mission and values statements look anything like what I’ve put […]

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Mar 02, 2009
Don’t mistake your humdrum annual plan for your strategy

“There is nothing like a crisis to clarify the mind. In suddenly volatile and different times, you must have a strategy. I don’t mean most of the things people call strategy – mission statements, audacious goals, three- to five-year budget plans. I mean a real strategy. For many managers, the word has become a verbal […]

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Feb 23, 2009
Lessons in competition from the demise of GTV

“Gateway Broadcast Services announced today that its Board of Directors has unanimously approved a plan to liquidate the Company. The current financial and global crisis has severely interrupted the company’s ability to secure further funding for the continued operation of the business. Gateway Broadcast Services, suppliers of the GTV service to subscribers across Africa has […]

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