Sun Tzu’s Advice to Strategy Makers


More than 2300 years ago, Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War, an amazing book on the principles of military strategy. Herebelow are some idea extracts:

  1. Adopt SOSTAC. He believed that it is essential first to carry out a complete analysis of the situation. The strengths and weaknesses of one’s position, the relationship between one’s goals and the goals of society at large, the intensity of one’s courage and determination, and the worthiness and integrity of one’s objective must all be carefully evaluated. Even then, it seems, SOSTAC (Situation Analysis, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Action, and Control) was emerging—situation analysis, objectives and strategy.
  2. Do your Homework. Those who triumph, compute at their headquarters, a great number of factors, prior to a challenge. Those who are defeated, compute at their headquarters, a small number of factors, prior to a challenge. Much computation brings triumph, little computation brings defeat. How much more so with no computation at all. By observing only this, I can see triumph or defeat.
  3. Develop some options. Therefore those who are not entirely aware of strategies that are disadvantageous, cannot be entirely aware of strategies that are advantageous.
  4. Know your Resources. You must be certain that your resources have been carefully evaluated before engaging in this challenge.
  5. Why senior management Support: before engaging in a challenge, a leader must be certain that the organization is prepared to support the expense of a confrontation.
  6. Do you hurt your market or environment? Brilliant leaders are always aware of the entire system, both inside and outside of their organizations. They know that to harm or destroy what is outside will hurt their own growth, while employing their rivals and incorporating their resources will enhance their strategy.
  7. Put everything in place before making a move. Sun Tzu believed that a true victory can be won only with a strategy of tactical positioning, so that the moment of triumph is effortless and destructive conflict is avoided even before considering a confrontation – for whatever purpose.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Walking and Talking Customer Value


To survive in this value era firms concentrate on improving four key business processes: designing, making, marketing, and supporting. Customer value is maximized when product, order, and experience—which are outcomes of the first three processes—are correct, timely, appropriate, and economical.

We are moving into the value era and firms will no longer survive if they simply focus on price and product features. Several non-price factors are thought to have great influence on customers perceptions of value received: 1) the length of customer lead times; 2) variation from promised delivery dates; 3) condition of product on arrival; 4) sales call and order initiation procedures; 5) credit, billing, and collection procedures; 6) effectiveness of after-sales support; 7) product documentation; 8) product performance; 9) product downtime frequency and duration; and 10) maintenance cost and difficulty.

There are four key business processes responsible for creating better customer value: 1) design—integrating the “voice of the customer” when building the product; 2) making –getting key inputs from suppliers and transforming them into other components or finished products leading to filled customer orders; 3) marketing—transforming sales leads into sales calls, sales orders, service calls, and sales support which lead to completed service transactions; and 4) support—those activities and tasks that serve internal customers.

In addition, the four key business processes must be reengineered and firms should strive for: 1) simplicity—provide the required variety of outputs at low cost and with minimum capital intensity; 2) focus—customer and supplier processes should be treated at the same process; 3) energy—employees should be empowered and also have problemsolving skills; 4) continuity—processes must have extensive improvement and refinement; 5) linearity—subprocesses within each process must be linked together and be customer driven; and 6) dependability—strong customer-supplier relationships assure the success of each process.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Competitive Forces


Competitive strategy has become an area of specialty among management researchers and consultants. These specialists find that the competition within an industry is constrained by an underlying structure consisting of five powerful driving forces:

a)    Rivalry among existing firms in the industry

b)   The threat of new firms entering the industry

c)    The bargaining power of suppliers to the industry

d)   The bargaining power of the buyers from the industry

e)    The threat of substitute products or services

The underlying forces determine the profit margins that are characteristic of the industry. They limit the prospects for greater than normal profit margins. They influence the intensity of the competition and the long-term probable outcome of the competition. To entrepreneurs who are not familiar with these forces represent fate.

We often attribute the success of an entrepreneurial venture to its entrepreneur. We shouldn’t detract from the importance of the leader in a new venture, but it is very important to recognize that there are other forces that contribute to the success. A super individual with a good product entering an industry with an adverse underlying structure may have little success. A lessor individual entering an industry with a more favorable structure may succeed despite mistakes and misjudgments.

There may be many factors that influence a business firm’s performance in the short term. These factors are transient such as economic conditions, material shortages or strikes. In the long term, however, the five underlying structural forces determine the potential returns achievable by the industry. The various firms competing within an industry are thereby limited in their potential profit margins and returns on investment.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

The General, Industry, and Competitive Environment


Through an integrated understanding of the external and internal environments, firms gain the information they need to understand the present and predict the future.

 The general environment is composed of elements in the broader society that influence an industry and the firms within it. These elements can be grouped into six environmental segments: demographic, economic, political/legal, sociocultural, technological, and global. Firms cannot directly control the general environment’s segments and elements. Accordingly, successful companies gather the types and amounts of data and information that are required to understand each segment and its implications so that appropriate strategies can be selected and used.

 The industry environment is the set of factors—the threat of new entrants, suppliers, buyers, product substitutes, and the intensity of rivalry among compititors—that directly influences a firm and its competitive actions and responses. In total, the interactions among these five factors determine an industry’s profit potential. The challenge is to locate a position within an industry where a firm can favorably influence those factors or where it can successfully defend against their influence. The greater a firm’s capacity to favorably influence its industry environment, the greater is the likelihood that the firm will earn above-average returns.

 How companies gather and interpret information about their competitors is called competitor analysis. Understanding the firm’s compititor environment complements the insights provided by studying the general and industry environments.

 In combination, theresults of the three analyses that are used to understand the external environment influence the development of the firm’s strategic intent, strategic mission, and strategic actions. Analysis of the general environment is focused on the future; analysis of the industry environment is focused on understanding the factors and conditions influencing a firm’s profitability; and analysis of competitors is focused on predicting the dynamics of compititors’ actions, responses, and intentions. Although we discuss each analysis separately, performance improves when the firm integrates the insights gained analysis of the general environment, the industry environment, and the compititor environment.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Increasing Knowledge Intensity


Knowledge (information, intelligence, and expertise) is the basis of technology and application. In the 21st Century competitive landscape, knowledge is a critical organizational resource  and is increasingly a valuable source of competitive advantage. Because of this, many companies now strive to transmute the accumulated knowledge of individual employees into a corporate asset. Some argue that the value of intangible assets, including knowledge, is growing as a proportion of total shareholder value. The probability of achieving strategic competitiveness in the 21st Century competitive landscape is enhanced for the firm that realizes that its survival depends on the ability to capture intelligence, transform it into usable knowledge, and diffuse it rapidly throughout the company. Firms that accept this challenge shift their focus from merely obtaining the information to exploiting the information to gain a competitive advantage over rival firms.

 

Conditions in the 21st Century competitive landscape shows that firms must be able to adapt quickly to achieve strategic competitiveness and earn above average returns. The term strategic flexibility describes a firm’s ability to do this. Strategic flexibility is a set of capabilities firms use to respond to various demands and opportunities that are a part of dynamic and uncertain competitive environments. Firms should develop strategic flexibility in all areas of their operations. Such capabilities in terms of manufacturing allow firms to “switch gears—form, for example, rapid product development to low cost—relatively quickly and with minimum resources.

 

To achieve strategic flexibility, many firms have to develop organizational slack. Slack resources allow the firm some flexibility to respond to environmental changes. When the changes required are large, firms may have to undergo strategic reorientations. Such reorientations can drastically change a firm’s competitive strategy. Strategic reorientations are often the result of a firm’s poor performance. For example, when a firm earns negative returns, its stakeholders are likely to place pressure on the top executives to make major changes. To be strategically flexible on a continuing basis, a firm has to develop the capability to learn. The learning continuously provides the firm with new and current sets of skills. This allows the firm to adapt to its environment as it encounters changes.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight