WHY I DISLIKE MY OWN LINKED IN POST AND WHY YOU SHOULD TOO

I recently wrote a blog titled; ‘Accessibility – What Is It & Is It Worth The Bother?’ Having then also posted it on Linked In, I found myself disliking the finished article. But why?

Linked In QMThe blog (read it here), looked at accessibility and the ‘carrot and stick’ of why businesses and other organisations should be more aware of tackling the issue. The ‘stick’ discussed remaining legally compliant under the Equality Act of 2010 while the ‘carrot’ pointed to the potential for increasing markets by better understanding various groups falling under what are  termed, ‘protected characteristics.’

One of the examples I used was of the difference giving more thought to something as simple as font selection can have; in the UK offering an increased potential market of up to 6 million people. And yes, you read that correctly, 6 million people.

I was happy that I had got my message across and proceeded to publish my blog before then also posting it on Linked In (read the Linked In post here). And this is where things went astray.

I had written an article on accessibility but the font offered by Linked In for posting articles on their site is, you guessed it, for many people, of the inaccessible variety. Hence, although I still posted, I dislike my post as it is hardly an example of good practice, of practising what you preach. It does however, demonstrate how widespread and often invisible the issue of (in)accessibility can be.

It is a far wider issue than many realise. From magazines to book publishers to company websites and more, poor font selection excludes many from reading otherwise great publications, books, websites, marketing materials, even court documents (yes, the very people responsible for upholding the law regularly breach it).

But flip that on its head and spot it for the opportunity it is. Understanding font selection and the many other misunderstood aspects of accessibility could put you ahead of your competition when trying to reach these often ignored sections of our community. On font selection alone, better reaching up to 6 million more people in the UK alone.

The choice is yours. Legally compliant or flouting the law; talking to some or talking to all of your potential market; mediocre and pretending or excelling and doing.

 

(For the record, I have fed back to Linked In on this issue).

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global, 2016

Drop me a line today to book your Accessibility Audit.
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DO YOU KNOW WHY THEY ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?

Regular readers will know the importance of asking the right questions in order to make the intelligence that informs strategy relevant. For example, even if you know who your customers are, if you don’t also understand why they are your customers it won’t only undermine your marketing strategy it will undermine the entire company strategy. How? Read on…..

question-markConsultation is often performed as little more than lip service, as a misunderstood ‘must do but don’t really understand how or why’ exercise before the ‘clever’ people get down to creating the strategy.

And yet, many strategies which look great at first read are doomed before they are even launched because corners were cut during consultation and they fail to understand or reflect reality.

One example is in establishing who your customer is, on the face of it quite a simple thing to research. That extends to who your potential customers are. Again, not exactly a stretch and once known we can plan how to go after them. Not forgetting, as too many do, the retention of your current customers!

Fine. Tick the box. Get on with the strategy.

Wait!

You forgot to find out why they are your customers.

Herb Kelleher

Herb Kelleher

A great example of the value of understanding why they are your customer is frequently relayed by Herb Kelleher, one of the founders of Southwest Airlines in the USA and their former CEO and Chairman. The way he tells the story it is one of knowing who you are in competition with but, as you will see, it is also one of knowing why your customer is your customer.

Southwest Airlines are famous for their really low fares which made Kelleher very popular with travellers but less so with his shareholders. In fact Southwest’s shareholders could not understand why they were only charging $79 for a ticket from Los Angeles to Las Vegas when their nearest rival was charging almost double that.

Those shareholders asked Kelleher to explain why they couldn’t charge $129? They would still be the cheapest available flight but profits would surely be higher?

But Kelleher had done his research; he had consulted properly and had asked the right questions. He knew that such a hike in price could hurt Southwest. How?

When Southwest set their ticket at $79 it was no accident. $79 was the cost of driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (factoring in maintenance and the like). Kelleher realised that as well as being in competition with other airlines, if Southwest set their ticket price right, they could also compete with the car. He knew that if they raised their prices they would still be cheaper than other airlines but would no longer be able to compete with the car.

Kelleher saw it as knowing his competition (the car) but it was also knowing why those ticket purchasers were Southwest customers. For many it was because they could fly as cheaply as they could drive. Without knowing that, Southwest might have followed their shareholders wishes and raised prices and then wondered why business had fallen.

Now, take a look at your own strategy. Is it based on the shareholders’ or  your own assumptions or Kelleher’s intelligence? Is it based on sound consultation and research or was one (or more) vital question omitted leaving it standing on foundations of sand?

You cut corners when consulting at your (and your business’s) peril.

 

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global, 2011, 2016

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ACCESSIBILITY – WHAT IS IT & IS IT WORTH THE BOTHER?

A recent spate of poorly put together marketing emails and post has left me wondering whether business, political parties and others in the UK understand ‘accessibility’ and its value when trying to communicate with others?

inaccessibleAccessibility; in response to the second part of the question I pose in the title for this blog, it’s a bit carrot and stick.

The stick is the law; namely the Equality Act (2010) which expects businesses to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for those identified as having ‘protected characteristics’ namely; age, disability, sex, religion or belief, race, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage & civil partnership and pregnancy & maternity.

But what is accessibility? It is a good measure for how well you are making those ‘reasonable adjustments’ required by the law – how easily can someone with one or more of the protected characteristics access your products or services? Or even read your marketing materials?

There are the obvious such as do you have accessible toilets (often called disabled toilets) which someone in a wheelchair could actually access. This is not as ‘common sense’ as you may think. In the process of conducting Accessibility Audits* for organisations, I have come across ‘accessible’ toilets that a wheelchair user could enter but not close the door behind his or herself because it opened inwards. Would you want to leave the door open while using the toilet? Is this ‘reasonable?’

Then there are the less obvious barriers to accessibility which I see on a daily basis and which I will come to in a moment.

But, before I do, consider the carrot and stick again. If the law is the stick then the potential for increasing the size of your market is the carrot. For, which sensible business (or other organisation) will not make ‘reasonable adjustments’ if they open up previously ignored demographics?

This is where understanding those less obvious barriers to accessibility become important. Let us take something as seemingly innocent as a font you choose to use on your company website, in your emails, or in other communications. The main driver here is usually the ‘look’ and the overall design yet for an estimated 10% of people the font you choose can be the difference between being easily read, difficult to read and even, for some, near impossible to read.

By understanding which fonts are more (or less) accessible and making those ‘reasonable adjustments’ you make your business more accessible to, potentially, 10% more people. That is over 6 million people in the UK.

There are numerous other ways in which understanding how to make your business more accessible can increase your potential market size by 10, 15, or even 20%; many just as easy as changing a font.

Equality is important and the law is there for a reason but surely, for the sensible business, the carrot is preferable to the stick and the carrot of increasing the number of people you are talking to must be worth some reasonable adjustment. Especially if your competitors are not doing the same!

Is accessibility worth the bother? You tell me.

 

*Drop me a line today to book your Accessibility Audit and start opening the door to your business to more people.

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global, 2016

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A TRIP TO THE OCEAN

Blue Ocean Strategy is not for everyone, it requires a special set of skills and abilities. But for those who have them, identifying the Blue Ocean and swimming towards it can be great news for business…..

ocean-turtleMuch within corporate strategy hinges on either the development of or the protection of competitive advantage. You have a strategy and the strategy seeks to exploit ways in which you have an advantage over those in the sector with whom you compete

In some sectors this is becoming harder and harder, it is becoming difficult to differentiate in over crowded market places and bland conformity appears to be winning out (or at least that is the impression given).

In 2004 W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne defined this crowded market place as the ‘Red Ocean’ – the known market place, limited and bitterly fought over. Kim and Mauborgne proposed that there is another place in which to do business, the ‘Blue Ocean’ – the unknown and uncontested market space. Blue Ocean Strategy was born.

But the Blue Ocean isn’t for everyone. First and foremost it requires you to be innovative, without innovation you are not going to be able to swim away from the Red Ocean to the clear waters where competition no longer lurks.

What does a successful Blue Ocean Strategy look like? Think of Cirque du Soleil.

Cirque-du-soleil-brandCirque du Soleil was created in 1984, before anyone had even coined the term Blue Ocean Strategy. The circus trade was dying. It couldn’t compete with the growing number of alternative leisure activities available to children and animal rights protesters were beginning to win the battle to ban performing animals.

Competitive advantage was sought by having bigger big tops, more famous clowns, more grandiose shows but the public wasn’t being fooled; it was still the same show in (slightly) different clothes.

It would appear to be an act of lunacy, of corporate suicide, to decide to enter this marketplace but that is what Cirque du Soleil did. However, instead of competing in the overcrowded Red Ocean, they innovated, they created a whole new market for circus performers.

Instead of children they targeted adults, instead of big tops they used theatres and vast indoor venues, instead of being the same as everyone else they found ways not only to differentiate but to operate in new markets. Suddenly adults were queuing up to go to the circus and were happy to pay a lot more money for the privilege!

The key is to mix innovation with the identification of ignored or unchartered waters in the way Cirque du Soleil did. When identifying the Blue Ocean so clearly twenty years after the advent of Cirque du Soleil, Kim and Mauborgne were also kind enough to provide a kind of handbook with four guiding principles:

  1. Reconstruct market boundaries.

It sounds obvious but instead of continuing to hunt in the same crowded waters, look for where the competition isn’t operating. This might be among users in place of purchasers, it might be an ignored demographic, it could even be in service as oppose to product sales. Try anticipating rather than following trends, identify the emotional appeal over the practicality.

  1. Think ‘big picture’.

Yes, (good) strategy should always do this anyway but in reality many corporate strategies have become bogged down in budgets and spreadsheets. They over-rely on historical data and give too little consideration to common sense and intuition. When looking to the future think blank canvas; think what could we do?

  1. Look beyond existing demand.

Don’t only look at existing customers, look at non-customers. How can they become new and repeat customers? Cirque du Soleil did it by taking the circus to adults in adult venues. Calloway Golf found out that many of their ‘non-customers’ didn’t like playing golf because hitting the ball was too difficult and so designed a club with a bigger head.

  1. Get the strategic sequence right.

If the answer to any of the following questions is ‘no’ you need to rethink your strategy:

  • Buyer utility – does your idea offer exceptional buyer utility (not the same as exceptional technology)?
  • Price – does your pricing make you accessible to the mass of buyers?
  • Cost – can you hit your cost target and make a profit at your strategic price?
  • Adoption – Have you identified and are you addressing the hurdles to adoption up front?

The Blue Ocean is not for everyone but for those who are innovative and who can see a big picture it does offer opportunity. A word of warning though, just because your new ocean was blue does not mean it will always stay blue. When Karl Benz invented a replacement for the horse drawn carriage he was swimming from the red ocean to the blue. When Henry Ford saw the opportunity to mass produce and popularise the automobile he was doing the same. But no one today would suggest that either Mercedes Benz or Ford operate in Blue Oceans!

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global, 2011, 2016

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ADHOCRATIC – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

I was recently part of a group briefed to come up with some statements for a newly formed group of like-minded individuals and companies who needed to better define why they exist, who they are, what they stand for and where they are going. We were briefed to avoid words like ‘Mission’, ‘Values’ and ‘Vision’ as the group wishes to distance itself from standardised and/or bureaucratic norms. I suggested they might be ‘Adhocratic’ before needing to explain what I meant. The group loved it and have adopted it as part of those over-arching descriptors. However, the initial lack of understanding left me wondering whether it is a term which needs wider understanding……

The Centre for the Study of Adhocracy by Helen Johnson (2006)In short-hand, ‘adhocratic’ is the opposite of bureaucratic. While a good starting point, in long-hand, it is a bit more than that.

Being the opposite of bureaucratic, adhocratic is, in theory at least, unstructured, decentralised and responsive.

The term was first used as long ago as 1968 when Warren G Bennis, a US leadership theorist, proposed that the successful business of the future would rely on nimble and flexible project teams within a structure he called ‘adhocracy’.

Adhocracy then made fleeting appearances in theories ranging from “a new freeform world of kinetic organisations” (Future Shock, Alvin Toffler, 1970) to being one of four organisational structures defined by Henry Mintzberg in The Structure of Organisations (1979).

In my view the best description is “any form of organisation that cuts across normal bureaucratic lines to capture opportunities, solve problems and get results” stated in Robert Waterman’s 1990 book ‘Adhocracy.’

The fact so few have heard of, let alone employed Adhocracy suggests that Bennis read the future wrongly when he was, in part, spot on. However where Bennis suggested that adhocracy was the future for all successful companies, Mintzberg and Waterman saw that it is not a structure suited to many.

Local authorities for example are often slated for being bureaucratic when the truth is, they could not function effectively in any other way. It is when they become over bureaucratic, as they frequently do, that frustration arises.

Where adhocracy has, and continues to, come into its own is in the creative industries, in the new technologies and as creative departments within larger bureaucracies. However, even in those areas it appears ideally suited to, it can soon be the undoing of the organisation concerned if at the very least some form of guiding structure is not in place.

This ‘guiding structure’ creates two forms of adhocracy (sub-divisions):

  • The Operating Adhocracy which innovates and solves problems on behalf of clients (think advertising or software).
  • The Administrative Adhocracy which operates through a managed, project team structure in order to serve itself. NASA would probably not describe itself as adhocratic but in fact comes very close to being an Administrative Adhocracy.

It is often mistakenly thought that to be truly adhocratic the organisation will be so ‘freeform’ that it does not require direction or strategy. This is not the case however successful adhocratic strategy would be far lighter touch and flexible. Think Pareto’s Law as your rule of thumb and apply it to flexibility in strategy; a healthy bureaucracy would be 80% rigid and 20% flexible. Less than 20% and bureaucracy starts creeping into the over bureaucratic referred to above.

A strategy for an adhocracy would be the reverse; 20% rigid and 80% flexible becoming over adhocratic the more it creeps below the 20% ‘guiding’ rigidity.

Adhocracy is not for everyone; neither is bureaucracy and in reality most organisations will be positioned somewhere on a sliding scale between the two. And, as I often state, if strategy is to serve any/all of these organisations to their highest potential it must be highly personalised and avoid ‘templated-thinking’ at all costs.

It is not that adhocracies don’t exist, there are many of them operating extremely successfully in all parts of the world. It is that the term ‘adhocratic’ is poorly understood and therefore rarely applied.

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global, 2011-2016

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HAVE WE MISSED CHINA’S STEEL DISRUPTION STRATEGY?

Recent news has made bleak reading for the UK’s once proud steel industry but, despite political announcements of support, is the real issue being overlooked?

Pic: The Independent

Pic: The Independent

Over recent days and weeks, the UK media has reported on what may prove to be the beginning of the end for the steel industry in this country.

Much of that media commentary has focused on the need for government to do more without reflecting accurately on what more government can do. For despite grand talk from politicians in Westminster and devolved parliaments alike, the fact is that for the three key problems identified by the UK Steel Summit, their hands are tied.

The UK Steel Summit identified high energy costs, restrictions on state aid, and the Chinese dumping steel on the export market below the cost of production as the three key problems. The first two tie the hands of UK politicians due to EU restrictions and policies while the third, although actionable by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) again ties our politicians’ hands because they need Brussels’ consent before they are permitted to act and take the matter to the WTO.

But, has anyone considered that China is not simply dumping cheap, surplus steel on foreign markets but flooding them to a more defined strategic purpose?

Doesn’t it seem strange that a country recognised for its careful planning of industrial growth should make such an apparent ‘school-boy error’ in this sector?

Our politicians appear to have overlooked the possibility that this is a carefully crafted disruption strategy aimed at securing a huge slice of the world steel market. It certainly shows all the hallmark signs of the classic disruption strategy:

  • Come in at the cheaper, lower quality end of the market
  • Flood the market place of your competitors
  • When your competitors vacate the discount end of the market, increase quality but keep prices artificially low
  • And so on until you dominate the market having squeezed your competitors out or restricted them to lower volume niche markets

Unfortunately, as I have pointed out on numerous occasions in the past, the UK’s politicians are woefully inadequate when it comes to strategy, as are the nation’s media judging by the lack of recognition of this inadequacy.

This presents the twin problem of (1) China’s steel market disruption strategy not being recognised until it is too late and, (2) even if it is recognised in time, those tasked with addressing the issue lacking the competence to come up with a credible counter-strategy.

This is a bold, global strategy from the Chinese, a master stroke worthy of admiration from anyone with an appreciation of things strategic. However it must be countered, and countered soon, if we are not going to hand global dominance of this vital market to a single power.

The clock is ticking, and ticking fast.

 

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global, 2016

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IMPROVE YOUR PLANNING; LISTEN TO THE CATERPILLAR

Online, in person and in print; there are any number of places you can seek advice on developing sound strategy but in the rush to get on with the planning, don’t overlook the importance of properly defining what it is you are planning for…..

alice-in-wonderland-caterpillar-and-hookahLewis Carroll’s novel ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (commonly called Alice in Wonderland) was first published in 1865. It is generally considered to be one of the best examples of a genre known as ‘literary nonsense.’ And it is probably reasonable to think of it as nonsense as it tells the tale of a girl called Alice who falls down a rabbit hole and who then meets a number of strange anthropomorphic creatures. However, behind its enduring popularity lies Carroll’s ability to use logic to relay significant parts of his tale.

Consider the moment when Alice, lost, comes across a caterpillar:

“Excuse me sir,” Alice enquires, “could you tell me which road to take?”

Wisely the caterpillar asks, “Where are you going?”

Somewhat dismayed, Alice responds, “Oh, I don’t know where I’m going sir.”

“Well,” replies the caterpillar, “if you don’t know where you are going, it really doesn’t matter which road you take.”

The caterpillar imparts sound advice not only for Alice but for anyone involved in strategic planning. The temptation is to rush to the planning, to start describing the journey, the ‘how’ part of reaching the destination.

But pause a moment and consider the sage advice of the caterpillar; if you haven’t taken the time to get a clear picture of what success looks like, to properly define and describe your desired destination, then how can you accurately plan to ensure you arrive at your desired destination?

Having a strategy is not the key to success many think it is; the key lies in having a good strategy. And without a clearly defined destination, no strategy can be considered good.

But don’t take my word for it; ask a caterpillar!

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global, 2012-2016

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JOIN ME IN RIO IN NOVEMBER TAKING ON A CHALLENGE FOR A GREAT CAUSE

This November, I’ll be taking on the Rio 3 Peaks Challenge and supporting Street Child United. Why not join me?

SCWC-3-Peaks-Logo-Rio-2016Away from Cowan Global, I run a social enterprise called People’s Events and it is my privilege through People’s Events to have worked with some amazing charities organising events to raise funds to support their good work.

One of those charities is Street Child United who work tirelessly across the globe for the rights of street children and, this November, we are organising our third trip to Rio to take on the Rio 3 Peaks Challenge which is a gruelling trek up (and back down) three of the highest peaks surrounding Rio de Janeiro with the finish line at the feet of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.

Gruelling but very, very worthwhile and I am hoping some of those who read my blog will want to come along, take up the challenge and support this worthy cause.

Three Peaks, 2000 metres of climbing, within 12 hours – in temperatures which, on previous challenges, have hit 40 degrees!

Unlike other challenges, we also take some time to visit projects in Rio’s notorious favelas which have been supported by Street Child United and have saved many young people not only from the streets but from gangs and drugs and, likely, an early death.

These are experiences which will touch you every bit as much as the amazing scenery and views during the challenge will leave you in awe. This is a trip which will live in your memory forever for a wide range of reasons.

And afterwards, along with those memories, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you have done a good thing, contributed to a worthy cause, and done your bit to help the next child off the streets and into a future.

Street children don’t have to be invisible; they are somebody just like you and I.

Will you join me in Rio in November?

 

1377390_611785292258719_5684169149473698073_n

Visit the Rio 3 Peaks Challenge website

Sign Up for the Rio 3 Peaks Challenge

Twitter: @Rio3PC16

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Find out more about Street Child United

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global & People’s Events, January 2016

DOES YOUR STRATEGY ECHO THAT OF WINNIE THE POOH?

christopher robin and edward bearIt is probably not something that has occurred to many business owners and executives but, nonetheless, it is fair to say that when it comes to strategic planning, the vast majority are mimicking Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin.

Let me explain…..

But, before I do, a quick history of strategy. 2500 years ago Sun Tzu wrote about the concept and application of military strategy in ‘The Art of War.’ Then, for 2300 years or so strategy developed almost exclusively as a military tool. In the 19th Century sports people recognised the value of planned training and started exploring the concept of strategic planning, developing into the finely honed tool it has become for today’s world class performers.

Nineteenth and Twentieth Century businesses dabbled with planning and the mid-20th Century business even employed an early form of ‘strategic management’ however it was not until the release of H. Igor Ansoff’s ‘Corporate Strategy’ in 1965 than business began to properly embrace strategy.

Since then, many business owners and executives have developed and delivered strategy but have failed to grasp one of, if not the, primary reason(s) for having strategy. Strategy should be about the art/science of seeking and gaining a competitive advantage.

The military recognise this. Leading sports performers and their coaches recognise this. The majority in business either do not recognise or choose to ignore this.*

Instead they prefer to employ the ‘Insanity Planning’  method of developing strategy. And gaining competitive advantage means avoiding the insane.

  • Insanity Planning is doing the same thing today and tomorrow that you did yesterday and expecting a different result.
  • Insanity Planning is doing the same thing as your competition and expecting to beat them.
  • Insanity Planning assumes the competitive environment does not change and expects the plans of yesterday will yield the same results tomorrow.

And modern business loves Insanity Planning. Businesses seek templates of strategies developed by others; copy the plans of others expecting different results. Such insanity should have no place in the seeking of competitive advantage; of excellence; of high performance.

Quality strategy was, is and always will be personalised. Having the same (or similar) strategy as everyone else will not deliver competitive advantage.

Of course, historically, there have been times when the military have forgotten this important point in much the same way as business has. It usually takes a leader to come along and put in place strategy which avoids the insane to change thinking and remind people of the insanity of what they were doing. In hindsight, the new strategy might even look like common sense.

Such a leader was Horatio Nelson. In 1805, in the build up to the Battle of Trafalgar he recognised Insanity Planning for what it was (is). Had he not, I might be writing this article in French or Spanish.

Battle_of_Trafalgar_Poster_1805At the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson’s fleet of 27 ships came up against a superior combined French and Spanish fleet of 33. The conventional, accepted strategy of the day was to line the ships of the two opposing forces up parallel to each other and, effectively, start shooting until a winner emerged.

Outgunned, Nelson recognised this template for strategy employed by everyone else for the insanity it was. He knew that if he engaged the opposition in this way the odds of winning were extremely long. Insanely long.

So he chose to employ a personalised strategy which would give his fleet competitive advantage; which avoided the insane. As the enemy lined up according to the accepted, shared, strategy template of the day, Nelson chose to sail towards them in single file and at right angles to their straight line. He evened the odds, caused confusion amongst his foe and the rest, as they say, is history.

Nelson recognised the need to personalise the strategy to HIS goal; HIS resources; HIS (and his sailors’) skills and abilities; HIS definition of success. In doing so, he gained competitive advantage.

But, I hear you ask, what does any of this have to do with Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh?

To explain that, I will quote Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne:

“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.”

When it comes to strategic planning for business who do you mirror?

Are you an Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson or a Winnie the Pooh?

*Just a small selection of the research to support this statement:

  • 84% of a sample of 3543 companies confuse Mission and Vision. 64% thought Mission and Vision are the same thing. 91% lacked concise Vision. (Forbes 2009).
  • 61% of CEOs believe inflexible corporate structure hampers successful delivery of strategy. 82% of companies design structure ahead of strategy. (Forbes 2009).
  • 47% of CEOs say their strategies are better described as matching industry best practices and delivering operational imperatives; in other words, just playing along. (McKinsey 2011)
  • 87% of companies plan strategy using only intelligence that they share with their competitors. (McKinsey 2011).
  • 79% of Company Executives do not understand the language of strategy yet still use it. (Business Review 2007).

Article first published July 2013.

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global, 2013, 2016

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THIS NEW YEAR MAKE THOSE RESOLUTIONS ACTUALLY HAPPEN

Pic: Huffington Post

Pic: Huffington Post

Every year is the same; depending on which survey you read somewhere over 70%, 80% or even 95% of all New Year’s resolutions are doomed to fail. Where will yours stack up in that statistical pile?

Here are a few tips to ensure this year your resolution becomes reality.

Here at Cowan Global we spend our time helping businesses, charities  and other organisations become more successful by helping them be better at strategy. This means not only better at delivering strategy but also, importantly, in establishing challenging but achievable targets to pursue in the first place

And every year, where so many businesses fall short of their potential (and even fail), most of the population follow. Every year people set targets (aka New Year’s resolutions) they have absolutely no chance of achieving.

Key to your being successful in whatever you resolve to do in 2016 is to be smarter when you set your target now. By smarter, I mean SMARTER because it is an acronym you can test your resolution against:

S stands for specific. If you aren’t specific about what you want to achieve how can you honestly know when you have succeeded? “I want to lose weight,” simply won’t cut the mustard; “I want to lose half a stone” will. It is specific so that you know what it is you are setting out to achieve.

M stands for measurable. You need to be able to measure progress or you risk losing motivation. “I want to get fitter,” is a laudable aim but is hard to measure. “I want to be fit enough to run 5km without stopping” puts a measure on it and you can tick off 1, 2, 3 and 4 km as landmarks along the way to help keep you motivated.

A stands for agreed. If you are involving other people, they must all agree or you will fail. Beyond that people have a penchant for setting resolutions they think others will be impressed by instead of setting targets for themselves. Put another way, your resolution must be something that, deep inside, you agree you can and will pursue, you must agree your resolution with yourself! Half-hearted = half-arsed = doomed to fail.

R stands for realistic. You will know people (you might be one of them) who have big, often alcohol driven dreams every December 31st and who wake on 1st January to realise there is no way on God’s earth they will achieve their resolution and it bites the dust before it sees its first sunset. Unrealistic can mean plain crazy (eg I’m going to swim the Atlantic using butterfly) or ill-conceived such as committing to hit the gym for two hours every day when you know that work and family commitments will make one hour every other day far more realistic.

T stands for time-phased. In short; give yourself a deadline and, if it is a large undertaking, give yourself some time-phased check points along the way. So, if you are going to run to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro for charity it might be wise to have some progressive targets along the way as you prepare.

E stands for exciting. Does achieving your resolution excite you? If yes, great; if no, bin it and get another because if you aren’t excited by it now the further we get into 2016 the less you will be motivated to achieve it and that will lead to only one thing – failure.

R stands for recorded. Not just a record for yourself but a public record to which you agree to be accountable. This might be as simple telling your friends you are going to raise over £1000 for your favourite charity or it might be sharing your progress towards fitness, weight loss, giving up smoking or whatever else on a public blog. By recording what your resolution is you make yourself accountable for its success or its failure.

Whatever your resolution, good luck in achieving it. Have a great time on New Year’s Eve; see you the other side!

© Jim Cowan, December 2015

If you are looking for a challenge to make your aim for 2016, one which will test you, help get you fitter and help others, why not join me in doing the Rio 3 Peaks Challenge in November?

There’s plenty of time to get fit, raise funds and in doing so you will be helping Street Child United continue their fight against child homelessness.