Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Rethinking exit and entrance strategies 22: keeping an effective innovative focus while approaching and going through significant business transitions 12

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 27, 2017

This is my 22nd installment to a series that offers a general discussion of business transitions, where an organization exits one developmental stage or period of relative strategic and operational stability, to enter a fundamentally different next one (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 559 and loosely following for Parts 1-21.)

I have been at least relatively systematically addressing a set of closely related topic points in this series, since its Part 20, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative:

1. It can be vitally important to make explicit strategic effort to more deeply understand where your business is now and where that business is headed if it seeks to simply follow a straight-forward more predictively linear path, rather than making a more profound shift and going through a genuine transition such as an exit or entrance strategy.
2. And it is equally important to be aware of the possibilities, at the very least of what types of transitions could be possible, and their implications and consequences.
3. This leads me to the question of what would be planned for in a strategically considered, intentionally entered into business transition, and how such a transition plays out.

And I began to focus on tools and approaches for addressing these issues, in the context of a specific business analysis in Part 21, where I at least briefly defined and discussed prioritizing possible next tasks (which can include problem resolutions) according to a specific type of urgency scale.

The basic goal of such a scale is to help organize and prioritize effort and resource allocation that would support it, to more effectively address a balance of short and longer-term needs, and in the face of what might already be a pressing and demanding ongoing normative work flow with all of its resource demands.

One you have at least a starter list of what you would reasonably at least start to do first out of a list of possibilities, and next as you proceed from there, the next questions to consider in this tool-set oriented How discussion, all involve timing. And to highlight a detail here that should be obvious: there are always going to be a wide range and variety of tasks, functions and processes going on at any given time in a business, and this means planning out how to coordinately do what, and both now and next and in combination. Direct and specific resource-need collisions, comprise only one of many possible areas where these questions critically arise, where limited-availability critical needs equipment, and limitations to the numbers of specific types of specialty-skilled employees can and do arise. Just focusing on those key bottleneck-limited employees for a moment, they might be able to help complete any of several of the currently high priority items on your urgency scale list, but in many cases they are only going to be able to significantly help with one of them at a time as they only have so many hours in a work day and they can only be in one place at a time.

I ended Part 21 by noting that:

• It is impossible to make a valid choice between business change options, unless and until you have at least a basic understanding of the needs requirements faced that would drive that change – and for their details and for their costs and risks and for their relative priorities.

Relative priorities change, and possible attainable value and risk change as a cause of that, so the types of goals and priorities analyses that I write of here, have to be recurringly pursued in keeping a business on track. And of particular importance in the context that I focus on in this series, that type of ongoing due diligence effort can help determine when a business would best pursue a same-as-usual linear path forward or a more disruptively novel, true business transition such as an exit strategy.

I offer that point of thought to put my continued discussion of the analytical tools and perspectives that I consider here, into perspective. They are important for both ongoing business management purposes and when facing at least a potential need for more fundamental change too. The urgency scale that I offer here, and same-function counterparts to it that might be employed all address the issues of what to work on now and next as top and high priorities. Now let’s consider how identifying, carrying out and performance tracking these tasks actually play out and what that can tell you as you strategically plan forward. And I begin addressing that by posing two basic questions:

• How and where in the business is your basic urgency scale-based goals and priorities list holding steady and reliably consistent, with changes there arising more from steadily predictable seasonal and other cyclical causes than anything else?
• And how and where is it changing in more disruptively unexpected ways?

When the second of those two possibilities comes to predominate, that means a current linear path forward has at least significantly begun to break down and a more fundamental change in course might be needed. And with that noted and with a need for early warning sign identification and analysis in mind – and even when business as usual still largely seems to be working, I finally bring in the other criterion type that I said I would address here: critical timing considerations:

Normative business activities that are routinely followed tend to fit into steady, reliable patterns for what is needed to carry them out and for how long that will take. Resource allocation for them and of essentially all types can become standardized, and exception handling becomes standardized too. So, for example, if completing some task requires purchase and use of a particular outside-sourced item: call it an alpha widget, and Purchasing is told there will be a delay on shipment of that item from its manufacturer, they would know who to notify and they would know who on their team would be responsible to notify whom on that list, and basic accommodations would be put into play to accommodate this delay. This here-standardized and planned out accommodation becomes part of that business’ ongoing resiliency planning and execution. And this paragraph and its briefly sketched outline of what could easily become a larger discussion is all predicated on actively and successfully pursuing a steady and reliable linear path forward.

Disruptive and novel emerge out of what would be expected to be more predictably accommodated, when that linear path forward begins to break down. And one of the surest signs that this is happening is when timing and its accommodations begin to break down too. As a more senior manager or business leader, you might not see where and how a breakdown is happening in detail, or where specific problems are arising in their resolution or accommodation, that would suggest larger more comprehensive challenges ahead. But even then, you can and should be able to see when schedules are slipping and lengthening, or when they need to be compressed and shoehorned in, in order to for example, avoid breakdowns from scheduling collisions. Even the managers who actually lead specific projects or tasks might not see all, or even enough of the specific hands-on details in order to directly know where and how problems are arising, and certainly when the teams they lead are dispersed and some of their people report to them remotely, as for example as telecommuters. But overall schedule changes, from the planned and expected cannot be so readily hidden and certainly not long-term.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will more directly consider breakdowns and their indicators. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

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