Articles Tagged Strategy

Feb 09, 2009
The herd instinct gets us all into trouble

“One thing this crisis has proved is that the herd instinct is alive and well and global. It led Bear Stearns and Citigroup and Lehman Brothers and AIG to believe that risk was a thing of the past, that housing markets could only go up and that unregulated mortgage-backed securities would forever yield unprecedented returns. […]

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Feb 01, 2009
Why are our shops so awful?

I remain stunned by the experience offered to customers by our supposedly excellent entrepreneurs. I am particularly appalled by our retail shops, most of which are woefully, bafflingly bad. I am in the market for a couple of computer printers. A relatively straightforward issue, you might think, since we seem to have a large number […]

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Jan 19, 2009
Want to be truly excellent at what you do? Practice!

“This idea – that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice – surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours. “In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert […]

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Jan 18, 2009
It’s back to basics for big business

Surely it’s impossible for a company listed in three stock exchanges to falsify its accounts for years on end? Surely you cannot put a fictitious $1 billion in cash on your balance sheet, and get it past your auditors? Surely you can’t just keep recording fake profit margins? Actually, you can. Satyam Computer Services, an […]

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Jan 12, 2009
No one saw the shocks of 2008 coming

“The past year has been full of big surprises, particularly for banks. One minute it was 85-year-old Bear Stearns that collapsed, the next it was 158-year-old Lehman Brothers, and then the whole financial system needed bailing out as confidence in free-market capitalism itself all but evaporated. Who would have thought, at the start of 2008, […]

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Jan 11, 2009
Corporate reputations came crashing down in 2008

Nothing in this world creates more wealth than private companies. And that wealth is spread around – to shareholders, employees, governments, suppliers and customers. The interconnected micro-world around the private company is the world’s most powerful economic ecosystem. Those at the top of the corporate world tend to have a halo around their heads. We […]

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Nov 30, 2008
What Kenya needs: Shock therapy

I touched on a subject before being interrupted by the US poll. I wrote in early November that we cannot advance as a society until we learn to respect rules, and that most of us only behave well when we are compelled to do so. I termed the phenomenon ‘moral entropy’: if you don’t force […]

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Nov 28, 2008
Repeat after me: Strategy is about difference

“A company can outperform rivals only if it can establish a difference that it can preserve. It must deliver greater value to customers or create comparable value at lower cost, or do both. …Operational effectiveness means performing similar activities better than rivals perform them…in contrast, strategic positioning means performing different activities from rivals’ or performing […]

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Nov 14, 2008
The changing face of business gurus

The Top 10 most influential business gurus: 1. Gary Hamel 2. Thomas L. Friedman 3. Bill Gates 4. Malcolm Gladwell 5. Howard Gardner 6. Philip Kotler 7. Robert Reich 8. Daniel Goleman 9. Henry Mintzberg 10. Stephen R. Covey The Wall Street Journal, 5 May 2008 Academics might be expected to dominate the Wall Street […]

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Sep 26, 2008
Can the Volt electrify General Motors?

“(General Motors) turns 100 this year, but amid the birthday celebrations it can expect a slap in the face: in 2008 GM is likely to be demoted to No. 2 among the world’s carmakers. Memories of past glory make being overtaken by Toyota all the more galling. In the 1950s and 1960s, GM poured forth […]

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Aug 22, 2008
Why I back Starbucks to bounce back

“On July 1st (Starbucks), based in Seattle, said it would close a further 500 stores in America (in addition to the 100 closures it announced earlier this year) and reduce its workforce of roughly 172,000 by around 7%. A remarkable 70% of the stores due to close were opened after 2005, which seems to confirm […]

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Aug 15, 2008
Teams: Why 2+2 is not always 4

“In the late 1920s, a German psychologist named Max Ringelmann compared the results of individual and group performance on a rope-pulling task. He expected that the group’s effort would be equal to the sum of the efforts of individuals within the group. For instance, three people puling together should exert three times as much pull […]

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Aug 01, 2008
The power shifts revealed by the new Fortune Global 500

The 2007 Fortune Global 500: 1. Wal-Mart Stores 2. Exxon Mobil 3. Royal Dutch Shell 4. BP 5. Toyota Motor 6. Chevron 7. ING Group 8. Total 9. General Motors 10. ConocoPhillips Fortune (July 21, 2008) What’s new in Fortune‘s Global 500 List? Well, 6 of the top 10 corporations by revenue are oil companies, […]

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Jun 20, 2008
Business has many casualties – but many do last the race

“Of the 500 companies that appeared on the first (Fortune 500) list, in 1955, only 71 have a place on the list today. Nearly 2,000 companies have appeared on the list since its inception, and most are long gone from it. Dozens of companies on this year’s list did not even exist in 1955. Some […]

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May 16, 2008
When will Kenya produce an African market leader?

“In 2005, the Chinese computer company Lenovo bought I.B.M.’s P.C. division, and the Mexican cement company Cemex acquired the British cement giant RMC. Last year, India’s Mittal Steel paid thirty-three billion for the Belgian company Arcelor, and Tata’s steel company bought the British-Dutch steel producer Corus for more than eleven billion.” James Surowiecki (The New […]

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May 11, 2008
Want success in life? Commit!

There is a lesson we must all learn: life is nothing if you don’t commit to it. In love, in business, in your career: you can’t ‘succeed big’ if you don’t ‘commit big’. If you want to be a winner, you have to decide what you want and how you’re going to get it. And […]

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May 09, 2008
Is coffee a great business to be in?

“For coffee farmers in Meru Central, every waking moment is a constant reminder of the good old days when the berries were synonymous with wealth. In the late 1970s…during the so-called “coffee boom”, many millionaires were made as the region, which lies at the foot of Mt Kenya, benefited from coffee sales. Coffee was to […]

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Mar 14, 2008
How your strategy can blind your company

“Strategies are to organisations what blinders are to horses: they keep them going in a straight line, but impede the use of peripheral vision. By focusing effort and directing the attention of each part within the integrated whole, the organisation runs the risk being unable to change its strategy when it has to. Setting oneself […]

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Feb 24, 2008
Did we really not see it coming?

We didn’t see it coming. That is the horrified standard response to our post-election crisis from our chattering classes (also known as the drinking classes, the pontificating classes, and the not-our-fault classes). This response is uttered in aghast fashion, and reflects the speaker’s disgust at these dreadful goings-on. This response allows many scapegoats to appear: […]

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Feb 22, 2008
Be afraid of your customers – not your competitors

“Yes, you should wake up every morning terrified with your sheets drenched in sweat, but not because you’re afraid of our competitors. Be afraid of our customers, because those are the folks who have the money. Our competitors are never going to send us money.” Jeff Bezos, CEO, (Interviewed in Harvard Business Review, October […]

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Dec 07, 2007
Lesson in capitalism from ‘The Godfather’

Scene from The Godfather: To set the scene, Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino), the don’s war-hero son who was not ordained to enter the family business, nonetheless finds himself tapped to avenge the attempted assassination of his father (played by Marlon Brando). His mission is to shoot Sollozzo, who engineered the gunning down of […]

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Dec 02, 2007
A family business that’s 4 centuries old

How long do family businesses last? Most make it to the second generation, and then the problems start. Once the visionary founder has handed over the reins to his son/daughter/nephew/brother, an inflection point occurs. What happens in that second generation decides whether the business has a future. Either the company makes necessary changes and undertakes […]

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Nov 30, 2007
Thinking deeply about strategy

“Where is (success) coming from? It’s coming from having, within a company, difficult-to-replicate and usually intangible resources. Things that can generate and sustain competitive success – things like reputation, a good customer group, network externalities, experienced and competent people performing your processes. …we know that companies get good at something by doing it. Now that […]

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Nov 23, 2007
From bricklayers to architects – lessons in development

“The rule of the market economy,” this Communist official explained to me, “is that if somewhere has the richest human resources and the cheapest labor, of course the enterprises and the businesses will naturally go there.” In manufacturing, he pointed out, “Chinese people were first the employees and working for the foreign manufacturers, and after […]

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Oct 14, 2007
Learning from China and India

China and India are undoubtedly the economic phenomena of this generation. Both are in the midst of an economic transformation that is startling in its scale and scope. Both are criticised – China, for still being an autocratic, undemocratic regime, India for not doing enough for its poor people – but there is no doubt […]

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Oct 07, 2007
Is Africa in the right businesses?

What is the coffee business? What is the football business? What is the athletics business? What is the flowers business? For us in Africa, the answers to those questions are very simple indeed. The coffee business is BEANS. The football business is PLAYERS. The athletics business is RUNNERS. The flowers business is GREENHOUSES. In all […]

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Oct 05, 2007
The amazing magic of the market

“In a single day, on July 16, 2005, the American and British economies delivered nine million copies of the sixth volume of the Harry Potter children’s book series to eager fans. Book retailers continually restocked the shelves as customers snatched up the book. Amazon and Barnes & Noble shipped preordered copies directly to customers’ homes. […]

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Sep 28, 2007
Big firms should not pick fights with the small fry

“In a meeting convened to explore opportunities, I asked my client’s managers how they intended to grow faster. The sales & marketing manager confidently replied they would destroy smaller competitors. My client, the leader in their industry, held a dominant share of the market. Small regional companies had been nibbling away at their heels for […]

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