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The Passion for Opportunities Published: Sunday, May 2, 2004 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

The best time to establish whether or not a team has a strategy is to observe them at work trying to evaluate opportunities, especially those somewhat remote from the current business. On these occasions we noticed that when faced with unfamiliar opportunities, a management team will put these through a hierarchy of different filters. The ultimate filter is always a “fit” between the products, customers and markets that the opportunity brings and one key element or driving force, of the business. This is a clear signal that the team has a kind of a critical knowledge filter for their decision. In other ocassions, when there is no filter in place, the team will look at the numbers and, if these look reasonable, they will jump abroad only to find out later that the opportunity has something else at the root of its business, which is the driving force, and gradually the opportunity can become somewhat disruptive. Of course, both conditions, if managed with wisdom, can lead to adequate results.

Research clearly shows that the seduction of opportunities is at its highest when the current strategy is producing more cash than the business requires... The point is that leaders and executive teams have to be alert of the seduction by opportunities syndrome. Management skills are not always easily transferable from one business to another. In fact, each driving force brings with it the requirement to develop a set of different skills. In order to avoid this kind of trap some science and a lot of craftsmanship will be necessary to avoid this kind of obstacles: engaging in working with opportunities for which there is no quick knowledge available.

One essence of strategic thinking is related to the clear understanding of which component of the business is more important than all others and is the heartbeat of such a business, and as such lends itself more to certain products, customers, market segments, and geographic markets.

But, what about the case for experimentation or planning the way to un-planning a formerly planned enterprise? Of course, the business should always reserve a kind of institutional space for this kind of risky strategic venture. There are some legitimate instances when the organization or the executive team may want to change, modify or complement the current strategy. One such instance is when actual strategy runs out of growth. Every company needs growth to perpetuate itself and when this condition is not present, the team should ponder the possibility of doing something different or changing the driving force and the direction of the company. A second condition is when there is something threatening in the horizon that might invalidate the existing strategy. A third instance is when the driving force of the company changes by accident and not by design.

So there are times when companies and their leaders should break it up, start it up, fail for learning and then succeed.

 


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