Last Friday, SOLYP Informatik GmbH and orange, green & water jointly hosted their first international webinar. We were very excited to welcome participants from North America, Europe, the Middle East, and China. Speakers included Dr. Alexander Fink, Executive Director of ScMI AG, Carsten Sambraus, Managing Partner of orange, green & water, Alexander Zimmermann, CEO of SOLYP Informatik GmbH, and Danaë Huijser, Managing Director of CMC-Europe. They all tried to tackle one of the key questions of strategic planning: Why do strategies fail? However, by looking at the problem from very different angles.
Not Being Fit for the Future
Dr. Alexander Fink’s answer to this question was: "Strategies often times fail because we fail in coping with the future.” He elaborated that there are basically three different levels at which businesses try to deal with the future:
- Prognosis: The traditional and most basic approach is to extrapolate historic data into the future. The focus here is on quantitative, rather than qualitative data. While this approach may work fine in the short-term, it is not well suited for long- and even mid-term strategic planning as well as for fast-paced and uncertain environments which many businesses find themselves into these days.
- Trends: Trend analysis is another common way businesses try to prepare themselves for the future. Its purpose is to identify current economic, social, and technological factors and patterns in the external environment which are likely to have an impact on the organization. It is used to identify opportunities as well as potential risks. Trend analysis is based primarily on qualitative data and tends to focus on the mid-term future.
- Scenarios: Scenarios help businesses to foresee different futures and cope with high levels of uncertainty. Unlike the other two methods, they provide comprehensive, internally consistent perspectives on the long-term future. Creating scenarios requires both “future-open” thinking, that is thinking about the future without wanting to predict it precisely, and “systems thinking,” which aims to understand the interactions within complex systems.
Fink continued to explain how to develop, interpret, and assess future scenarios and then use them in strategic decision making. He introduced the audience to an approach developed by ScMI AG which his colleague Dr. Andreas Siebe has presented at one of our previous German-language webinars, and thus may already sound familiar to some of you.
Not Knowing Oneself
Another common reason why strategies fail is, according to Carsten Sambraus, that many businesses lack a clear vision of who exactly they want to be and how they intent to get there. He presented a variety of insight facilitation tools - such as the customer activity cycle, McKinsey brand identity diamond, competitive radar map, business structure assessments, and real-win-worth assessment – which, taken together, help businesses in identifying and assessing their core competencies, the added value which they have to offer, the level of customer satisfaction they enjoy, and their ability to compete in the market place. It is stunning to see how many companies are fuzzy about these fundamental issues.
In this context, Sambraus also mentioned that once a business has come up with a solid strategy, it needs to make sure to communicate it to all its employees in a way that is inspiring and engaging to them and provides them with a clear roadmap as to who needs to do what. Simply presenting some bullet points with sales targets and other financial statements won’t do the job. Instead, he recommended crafting strategic stories that provide employees with the context why a change in the strategic direction is necessary and places a powerful picture in their heads that will actually stick.
Not Considering All Relevant Data
For Alexander Zimmermann, the lack of appropriate support tools for collecting, managing, and analyzing strategic data is another common reason why businesses fail in developing and executing robust strategies. As a solution to this problem, he presented the strategic planning software SOLYP3, developed by SOLYP Informatik GmbH, which is based on four key principles:
- Systematic collection of all strategic core data from all business units using pre-defined digital questionnaires. SOLYP3 serves as a central repository of the organization’s strategic knowledge which can be accessed anytime from anywhere.
- Use and linking of soft and hard data
- Coverage of the entire strategic planning process with a single tool
- Intelligent data analysis at the push of a button
The software can be customized to fit the individual strategic planning process of a company and can be applied in any industry. To learn more, watch this video with a summary of Zimmermann’s talk:
Not Being Able to Manage and Take Advantage of Cross-cultural Collaboration
Cross-cultural teams have become the norm rather than the exception in today’s globalized business world. While diversity certainly poses a communication challenge to companies, it also has its benefits, says Danaë Huijser. Working with mixed teams ensures that problems are looked at from all possible perspectives and is more likely to result in creative and innovative solutions. Cultural intelligence has become a key factor for business success these days. Huijser outlined three steps that help companies not only to cope with diversity, but to even take advantage of it:
- First, people need to become aware of their own cultural identity and how it shapes their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. People tend to think that their way is the “normal” way and that it cannot be challenged. However, they need to accept that there are indeed many other ways how to deal with situations.
- Once people are aware of their own cultural selves, they tend to be more appreciative of value differences. They are more likely to hear and learn from other peoples’ perspectives rather than just trying to impose their own views on them.
- Finally, people who are open to learn from each other will be able to combine their individual strengths to create a real win-win-situation for everyone involved.
Huijser continued to explain the differences between task-, role-, action-, and process-oriented cultures using some vivid real-life examples.
Videos of all presentations can be found on the website of orange, green & water. We would like to thank the speakers and participants and hope to welcome you in one of our next webinars!