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Posts Tagged ‘strategic thinking’

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‘We have the best working environment around here’ … ‘we changed the whole competition landscape, we are the best now and our competitors have to live with it’ … ‘Our products/services are not comparable to others, we are the best’

Once such kind of mentality starts flying around your organization, then it is in need for a serious therapy; it is going through the ‘illusion of the best’ syndrome! And once you have it, it is the downhill road thereafter.

There is no doubt that the marketplace is a competition arena. However, deciding who is the best should be left to stakeholders and unbiased observers, certainly not to the organization managers only!

And let’s give it some thought; in a business environment, what is the best? the best compared to what? and in which categories? And should we compare our products/services/practices to our competitors only? in our environment only? or should we do that globally? I am sure you can come up with endless series of question like these …

My argument is that the whole concept of being the best should have no place in a business environment. The ‘best in ….’ is a relative term even if based upon ground measurements, because, at the end, those measurements are based on agreements between a number of people.

The illusion of being the best could be damaging on the long run. It generates demotivation and kills innovation; why should we do more, we are the best?!

It happened that I have being sitting once with one of the so-called-managers of one of the biggest companies in the country and he was talking about how they are conducting some of their business. The strange thing is that he was referring to many managerial flaws in his talking, and he was acknowledging those flaws! I asked him ‘it is great that you can put your fingers on the wrong doings that are causing pressure on your staff and your productivity. So why don’t you solve these issues?’ His reply was ‘this is how we do business around here!’ I said ‘but there are many companies around the world that faced similar problems and there are many lessons that you can get advantage of.’ He replied ‘No No No … do not talk about companies around the world. Tell me about local companies. We are the best company in the area and this is how we are running our business’!!!!

I hope you got what I mean now!!

 

p.s. I think the ‘illusion of best’ syndrome fits Jim Collins’s stage number one of declining organizations; the stage he calls ‘Hubris Born of Success.’ Read more about it in his book ‘How the mighty Fall, and Why Some Companies Never Give in’ published in 2009.

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For those not familiar with Saudi Arabia; It is unfortunate to say YES, Saudis are still debating the idea of allowing women to drive!

Anyway, this is not what this post is about, but I felt it was a mandatory introduction!

Now, let’s assume that the decision popped up and women are suddenly allowed to drive. From business and marketing points of view, what kind of change or new opportunities that could come up as a result of the new situation? Here are some points I thought of:

  • Automobiles Selling Tactics: Car dealers should really change, or at least introduce new selling tactics and marketing campaigns targeting women. Many researchers have argued that the way men and women approach the final purchasing decision is remarkably different. For that, ways to target segments divided based on gender should be different as well. And believe it or not, such studies have already started to take place in Saudi Arabia once the driving debate started to heat up few years ago, at least this is what a marketing manager in one of a prominent Saudi car dealer told me.
  • Car Accessories Shops: Women, at least of a younger age, will be definitely looking to have distinguished cars; exactly like their counterparts males. So I won’t be surprised to see car accessories shops opening whole sections specifically for ladies. Or even better, complete new accessories shops for ladies only, operated by ladies only!
  • Pimp-her-Ride: This could be related to the pervious point, but with those who have some extra cash to spoil themselves, and their cars!!
  • Segregated Car Service: Whether we are talking mechanic shops, car cleaning, oil change, etc, There is a huge opportunity to create women-only shops. If someone would argue here that allowing women to drive will ease the segregation between men and women we are currently seeing in the society, I would respond by saying yes but still. At least at the beginning, such women-only shops could flourish because it would give women a sense of freedom freedom they are enjoying in their closed communities. You know, taking off their Abbayas and enjoying chit-chat with friends in a closed area while their car is serviced. That will definitely be much better than waiting in line in most-of-the-time dirty oil change shops! So it could turn out to be a good idea after all! Even further, the existence of such shops could be a factor of helping some conservative families to make the decision of allowing their wives and daughters to drive. They will be dealing with women most of the time, right!

It does not matter how strange, funny, or shocking, these ideas might sound to some of you, because such a decision will definitely takes its toll on the society. New challenges, new obstacles, and new opportunities usually come out as results of change. Taking all that and blend it with the Saudi market status and the Saudi consumer behavior, I am sure interesting outcomes will be generated.

what do you think?

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Whenever you receive an advice from an experienced man/woman, you should appreciate it and see how much you can integrate it into your own vision and style. But when you receive the advice from someone who is heading an iconic company and is believed to be the innovative spirit within that company, and not to mention that he has just been selected for the fifth time to be among the 100 most influential people around the world by the Time magazine then you should really listen … and listen carefully!

I am taking about the CEO of Apple, the man who does not need to be introduced; Steve Jobs. In the following clip, Mark Parker, the CEO of Nike is sharing with audience, and with all of us, the advice he received from Steve. Although the advice is very straight forward and, you could say, simple. thinking of it for few minuets would tell you that it is a strategic advice. An advice about the mission and personality of a company. And if not taking that from Apple, whom should you take it from anyway!!

Check it out …

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No doubt about it; it is a historical moment for Saudi Arabia that just decided to go nuclear. A royal decree initiated the nuclear era for the Kingdom by announcing the establishment of King Abduallah Nuclear and Renewable Energy City in Riyadh. For a wealthy country that can afford the initiating stage of nuclear facilities like Saudi Arabia, such decision should not come as surprise at all. It could be even said that it’s been an awaited decision for some time now.

Such a move is a step further in many fields and on so many levels. And these are some interesting points:

  • Modernizing the almost expired electricity and desalinated water infrastructure beside reducing the dependance on hydrocarbon resources.
  • Meeting the increasing demands on power and water in a country that besides its huge requirements, it aspires to attract more foreign capital and creates more competitive investment environment.
  • Opening a whole new market with all its needs of manpower, technology, and logistics.
  • Familiarizing the country with the technology that could be later on extended to the medical field applications and scientific research requirements (it seems that because of KAUST, we are now more relaxed talking about scientific researches … and let me tell you, that feels great 🙂 )

I still remember how the nuclear engineering department in King Abdulaziz University (KAU) was not amongst the favorites by us, the engineering students, by that time. I assume that it will be among the most desired majors in the coming few years in the Kingdom and we might see more nuclear sections in both science and engineering within our universities. And that is another benefit of going nuclear.

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So Saudi Airlines just signed five privatization agreements (link); I do not know why I am not impressed by this!

As a summary, these are the five agreements:

  1. Privatizing the core aviation unit.
  2. Establish a new ground service company.
  3. Financing its new fleet of Aircrafts.
  4. Manage its IPO (initial public offering) of its catering company.
  5. Developing aircraft maintenance at KAIA.

Now, none of the agreements above seem to address Saudia long, lasting, and main problem of poor customer service performance. None of these agreements, arguably, would directly impact the final customers (passengers) except the one ending with a new fleet of aircrafts. In addition to that, these headlines or projects’ titles do not disclose much about their true value or how they are related to Saudia strategic goals (I am assuming they have strategic goals here!!). Take the project number two for example, my understanding is that Saudia has always been subcontracting its ground services to several companies; so what is the point now of forming a company with one of them, how that will enhance the service?

Moreover, one of the interesting parts in this piece of news is the gesture towards Saudia’s revenue which, in 2009, reached SAR 18.5 billions. For a company that is working in a near monopoly status, that should not be so surprising. Nevertheless, the revenue figure itself is not of a much importance here because we do not know their operational costs, and hence we do not know their net profit!

All in all, privatization in itself should not be looked at as a step toward open and modern market mentality. Lack of competition, clear understanding of the market and its needs, and the well to be different and competent at the first place cannot be compensated by the mere move from being ‘public’ to ‘private.’

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Peter Drucker had once said ‘To Satisfy the customer is the mission and purpose of every business.’

Now, I am really wondering how many companies are living, or even believing in such kind of business philosophy. Needless to say, the purpose of existence and company’s mission are not things to be taken lightly. And I remember that I read somewhere about a leader who was gathering his top executives from time to time to ask them to state their company’s purpose of existence each from his/her own view and responsibility.

Now imagine extending the philosophy of customer satisfaction we started this post with to each and every part of the organization, to really believe in the concept of internal customers* and that each and every department has an ultimate goal of satisfying its customers.

Do not you think that adapting such a concept would ease the struggle between teams and different departments? Do not you think that it would actually release the pressure of the constant power struggle within organizations?

I believe it will … but let’s be honest, how many companies do you know that are adapting this concept; and I mean really applying it and not only talking about it for PR purposes!!

* The concept of internal customer has been recognized by Joseph Juran in his famous quality trilogy. Internal customers can be anyone in the organization, anyone who is painting a small part of the big picture that will eventually represent a product or a service provided to an external customer.

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Since the moment we took our first breath, we have been programmed to think about immediate results. We go to school to pass tests and get certificates regardless of how we benefit from whatever we are taking. We ship the whole family to London or Paris for a summer vacation regardless of how this will impact our coming months’ budget. That’s on individuals level; on corporate level, we open stores, offer discounts, and produce aggressive ads to capture customers immediate attention and score quick profits regardless of our core purpose of existence and our long term vision. That’s why you always hear someone says that he/she only cares about getting the certificate, and that’s why a company that haunted you wherever you went for some times ceases to exist in few months or few years.

The problem is simple; the term ‘Strategic Thinking’ is not part of our vocabulary … it is not part of our lives.

What is happening in Jeddah these days is a definitive evidence on that. For a long time, the city lacked a strategic eye looking into its future. The forgotten city has been carrying the burdens of poor infrastructure, intense traffic, and high pollution without anybody to provide a long term vision to release these burdens. However, once a disaster takes place, we are pretty good at providing quick fixes, pointing fingers, and then, just go back to our normal routine.

What really pisses me off is that the concept of strategic planning is part of any management related books (for those who read) and it is also part of any managerial preparation courses or trainings (for those who take trainings); and for God sake, please do not tell me that nobody amongst our city officials reads or takes training. Having said that, I do not believe that Jeddah problems need books or trainings to be noticed, just ask anybody of its residents and he/she will list all its problems in a blink of an eye!

I really hope this disaster will be a slap on the face for us all to wake up. To start looking into the future and plan for it. We are really bored of being reactive, let’s be proactive for a change!

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