Category Archives: Management

How Can Our Corporate Sustainability Efforts Do Better?

The New Year is a time to reflect over the progress we’ve made in the last year and prepare ourselves for the opportunities and challenges of the year ahead. With all of the uncertainty and volatility in our news cycle, it can be tough to narrow our focus. I find that setting simple, achievable goals helps make even the most “unsolvable” problems seem within reach.

With that in mind, I’d like to close out the past year and begin the new with a simple question: How can we do better in our sustainability efforts?
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Consider the Stakeholders: Analysis & Decision-Making to Create Value

No one makes decisions alone. Especially in this technologically interconnected age, we are beholden to the interests and opinions of many groups of people: consumers, investors, brand enthusiasts, industry influencers… the list goes on. Each has a distinct point of view, an interest in the outcomes of our decisions, and often an investment of time, money, interest, and even reputation on the line.

When so many parties are stakeholders in the choices made by companies, brands, or influencers, how can we be certain that we are meeting the demands of our many constituent groups? How can we capture and consider the interests of our stakeholders? Enter Stakeholder Analysis – the process by which an organization can analyze the priorities and interests of various parties involved in a project or decision in order to create understanding and build consensus.
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Design Mindset: Bridging the Gap Between Product Design and Systems Thinking

Our Design Mindset series has attempted to define some of the many abstractions around “good” design – what is it, and how can it be quantified and consistently achieved? It’s easy to understand the importance of design in creating new products, both to stand out in an increasingly crowded market and to develop a user experience that resonates with consumers. It’s more difficult to implement design in other aspects of business, but the rewards are significant for those that do.

In an article published by McKinsey & Company, designer John Maeda remembers a client who had a realization about the importance of design, saying “Oh, so design isn’t about this pixels thing. It’s about systems thinking… it isn’t just about the appearance.” Good design values aesthetics, but perhaps even more so it values the integrity and functionality of systems. Let’s explore how successful companies bridge the gap between product design and systems thinking.
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Design Mindset: Achieving “Good” Design is Essential, But How?

We recently explored the business value of the design mindset – an approach that prioritizes holistic design that encompasses not only product design but process design and more. Companies that treat design as an ongoing creative process spanning the entire organization see tremendous benefits. In fact, a recent study by the Design Management Institute and Motiv Strategies found that an initial $10,000 investment in design ultimately created nearly $40,000 in value over the following decade.

How exactly does design deliver this value? For consumers, it’s obvious – good design enables a seamless user experience, which makes products both effective and easy to use. For businesses, there are larger questions. What exactly is “good” design, and how can it be quantified and consistently achieved?
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Inside In-N-Out Burger’s Powerful Employee Experience

Building an authentic, influential brand is about more than the customer experience. The best brands work from the inside out to create a positive environment for their employees as well. Of course, employee experience directly impacts customer experience, especially in industries where customers and employees must frequently interact. There is perhaps no industry in which this holds more true than in food service.

In-N-Out Burger, the fast food company we recently hailed as a “branding genius,” is in the news again. This time, the attention is on their dedication to the employee experience. From “crazy good pay” to work-life balance, In-N-Out Burger has come to be seen as the leader in fast food employee experience. Let’s take a look inside the brand and explore how its employee’s experience contributes to its success.
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An Alternative To Layoffs

Duncan Aviation, a premier US corporate jet maintenance company headquartered in Lincoln, NE, announced a reduction in hours and salaries – not a layoff – as a way to deal with the current business downturn.

The Lincoln Journal Star story from January 27th is followed by more than 40 comments, primarily comments by employees such as:

– "This seems like a reasonable solution, and a very honest business practice, ensuring the employees maintain a somewhat steady income and importantly, benefits. It is refreshing to see an approach other than cutting jobs."

– "At least the company is trying to do what is right, kudos for that. Better than some of the companies that just show employees the door."

– "High praise and many kudos to Duncan. I am proud to see a Company as Duncan take a huge step to keep their employees."

– "Kudos to Duncan for watching out for their employees!"

– "We would rather have the wage reduction and the 32-hour workweek as opposed to being unemployed with no benefits." (wife of a Duncan employee)

Everyone wins in this deal.

A Turnaround Strategy That Worked

MacDonald’s is one of two Dow Jones Industrial Average companies that posted a share price gain for 2008. This success is based on a comprehensive plan that began in 2003, when the company posted its first quarterly loss.

Andrew Martin’s article in the today’s NYTimes details:

– A change in mission “from the world’s best quick-service restaurant” to “our customers’ favorite place and way to eat”. The mission statement translated into every aspect of the business and is well articulated in the “I’m Loving It” ads.

– A change in investment strategy from expansion to a focus on improved sales per store

– A change in menu strategy that replaced supersizing with healthier options and all-white chicken.

– An addition of premium coffee products to compete with Starbucks and the new offerings from C stores.

– A renewed focus on cleanliness and service.

– And, a focus on updated facilities including drive-throughs. 60 percent of the profit passes through a window.

The genius of this turnaround is the customer focus of “being our customers’ favorite place and way to eat”.

What would happen in your business if you focused on being your customers’ favorite……………..?

The Search for Asymmetrical Information

Kevin Fryer recently loaned me a copy of Ken Fisher’s remarkable book, The Only Three Questions that Count: Investing by Knowing What Others Don’t.

As the title suggests, he makes the case for knowing (and actively searching for) information that no-one else knows. The logic and the detailed examples based on historical data are terrific. This book will radically alter your view of investing.

It was interesting, recently, to find Mr. Fisher’s premise replayed in an on line course from MIT. That course dealt with asymmetric information as applied to business decisions.

In marketing, we invest a lot of time on customer research. But, one seldom sees a research objective that reads, “to learn something about customers that no-one else knows”. But, isn’t that the real objective?

Perhaps one of the most successful companies at levering asymmetric customer data is Procter & Gamble.

There were several case histories within P&G of the power of the annual brand surveys. The process includes an annual round of quantitative and qualitative research for each brand.

As the story is told, during a 1960s California focus group for Tide, environmental concerns about phosphorus in detergent emerged. The company acted on the consumer concern, reformulated the product, re-engineered the plants and stayed ahead of the competitors, the regulators and the nascent environmental movement in the US. In fact, the reformulation of Tide put the company several years ahead.

Finding the asymmetric data on your market could lead to a huge payoff.