Here are your choices: 1) quality upgrades, 2) productivity gains, 3) cost cutting, 4) sales training, 5) customer intimacy, 6) global expansion, 7) acquisitions, and 8) market-facing innovation. There’s only one correct answer and it’s #8: market-facing innovation. The others may be fine initiatives, but they won’t deliver growth that is rapid, profitable and (especially) sustainable. Not so sure about that?
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This is how one client described his experience with one of his company’s initiatives. Take understanding customer needs, for example. Many companies discuss and debate this year after year, but the wheels just keep spinning without traction. Nothing worthwhile happens until a) people are trained, b) metrics are established and c) new behaviors are rewarded. As Peter Drucker said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”
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This is also known as “attrition warfare,” and is characterized by competitors applying the same tactics. It’s also characterized by everyone losing, even the winners. Keep your productivity and quality initiatives… but understand that by themselves, these initiatives put you in a race to the bottom. Better to focus on what your competitors are not doing well. For B2B companies today, this is understanding customer needs before developing new products for them.
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Some firms exhibit “Brownian motion,” with initiatives flying in all directions. In others, ideas are vigorously debated… in action-free zones. In other cases, action begins but quickly fades, leaving employees wondering what next year’s program will be. In the saddest situations, long-term initiatives live only in the investor relations department’s PowerPoint® slides.
More in article, Build Growth Muscles at Your Company