Archive

Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

Its time for Celebration and Some Introspection

December 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Celebrations:

My last blog post was the 250th post on this blog. When I started this blog, I had not realized that this would be such a long, fulfilling and an interesting journey.

Thank You:

Along the way, I have met a lot of people who have shared my beliefs and those who did not share my beliefs. Irrespective of us agreeing, I have gained many more friends. 

In order to write a blog post, I have read many different perspectives that have already been shared by other bloggers. This enabled me to stumble upon some of the best content and bloggers that the web has to offer. Each one of them and the blog posts that I have read have contributed to improving my understanding of the topics I have written about. 

Some of my posts got great response (shared/read by a lot of people), some that i am very proud to have written but did not get shared as much. However, each one of these posts were equally difficult to write and equally satisfying. 

I would like to thank you all, my readers who have read, shared and inspired me to continue to share my thoughts as blog posts!

THANK YOU!

I also commit to you all to continue to strive and bring to you different perspectives and thoughts to the topics that i write about.

Introspection:

I think it is important for us all to introspect and look back at our work every now and then and try to make sense of the journey, what worked and what didn’t and why?  

I realize that most of my best work has been when I was emotionally involved and passionate about what I wrote. Most of these were in response to what I saw taking place in and around me in various organizations. 

I also realize that almost all of the work that could have been better has been when, I have tried to keep up to a schedule of posting, so that I continue to post something every week.

This has made me resolve that I shall strive to write posts only when I am emotionally connected to the topic.

For all of you who want to check my best work thus far, please find below a list that I have created.  

Top 5 posts (from a readership/shares) perspectives:  

5 posts which I think were some of my best work (apart from the one’s above): 

Do let me know which of my posts did you like the best thus far.

You could also connect with me at twitterLinkedInFacebookGoogle+

Hoping to continue to have your support! 

Advertisements

This is the Time to Re-design Your Sales Planning Process

November 7, 2013 Leave a comment

Right now is the most important time of the year for a sales leader. Its the time when you not only are trying to support your teams to meet their annual quotas, but also supposedly need to be in the planning mode to make decisions on the sales quotas for the subsequent years.

If you are like most sales leaders that I have known, you are finding it difficult to maintain a balance among both these activities. And in most cases, the closure of the year takes more precedence than planning for the next year, which would be best to avoid by better planning at the start of the year.

So, how do you decide what sales figures you want to aspire for and how do you allocate the sales quotas?

Do you decide on a % increase on the current year sales figures as the aspiration? Say 15% year-on-year growth in top-line. Is this handed down to you by the CEO or the board of directors? Do you then add some cushion and divide this among your direct reports based on the markets and volumes that they currently run, who in turn do the same to their direct reports and this continues till you have reached the sales executive and communicated his quotas. There is always some negotiation at every level. Since both the parties know that this is a given, it loses its validity and people plan for these push-backs in the original quotas being suggested.

Now the sales executives are left to create a sales plan that can help them achieve their quotas. Smart sales executives create a plan for atleast 40% more revenue to ensure that there are no surprises at the end of the year and starts executing the plan with his set of accounts.

Now imagine that you also do the following exercise at the start of the year:

In November, you get your sales teams to take a day or two off and block it for planning. You could get the entire sales team do this on the same day or spread this out for different days for different teams. You inform all your sales executives to look at the accounts that they manage and come up with sales plays with each of these accounts. Then they identify the potential revenue from each of these sales plays. They create 3 estimates – Best case, Worst Case and Probable case. Based on the sales play, current macro conditions and the relationship with the customer, also estimate where they are in their buying process. Repeat this process with all their customers. Then you add the revenue potential for all the three scenarios from all the sales executives and also know the stage in which each account is in the sales process. This gives you a good idea of your pipeline from your existing customers/prospects. You also ask each one of your sales executives to come up with a list of 10-15 accounts in their market whom they would like to do business with and what would be the potential sales plays for those accounts, if they could come up with one. You would need to then take this list to your marketing teams and get them to create a plan on how they could support your team to get these customers interested in your products and services. You then set the quotas of the sales executives based on the worst case scenario and if you have to set sales quotas for the sales managers, set them based on the most probable or best case scenarios. Alternately, you could set the sales quotas of your sales executives based on the most probable scenario and measure your sales manages based on the % of their direct reports who achieve their quotas.

If your organization is like most organizations that I have come across, you would find that the revenue potential is much higher than any percentage increase in revenue that you had originally planned to achieve. In addition to that, you now also have a sales play defined for each one of your existing customers and the prospects already in the pipeline.

Now, it is very important for you as a sales leader to do this exercise in the last quarter of the year so that the entire team realizes that the planning process is as important as the sales closure for the quarter. This is the cultural shift that you could effect. Also, this ensures that the entire team is involved in the planning process and not just the sales leaders. This entire process will also ensure that you hit the ground running when the year starts. This process also ensures that your sales executives will not just concentrate on customers where there are current deals being planned but also continue to build his relationship with all his customers.

These are my thoughts. What do you think? Is this level of planning achievable? Do share your thoughts by commenting below or by tweeting your thoughts to me at @rmukeshgupta.

Three Conversations that Help you Remain Customer Centric

September 18, 2013 Leave a comment

In a blog post, Eric  Barker shares the insights from Harvard Business School professor Gautam Mukunda, author of Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter and list down “Denial”, “Hubris” and inflated “Egos” as some of the most common mistakes leaders do. The post also talks about some good advice that leaders can do well to heed to.

I think that leaders need to create and keep an open line of communication to three kinds of people to stay grounded to reality.

  • Frontline staff: Regularly engage your front line employees who sell/service your customer for a frank and open conversation. Keep these conversations open and use them as a pulse check for ground reality and bullshit detection. This will work best if you schedule some time every week and randomly pick staff and engage with them directly, without having to let any of their managers know about the discussion. This keeps everyone on their toes. Most importantly, act on the information that you learn as part of this conversation. This will ensure that your staff will also take these conversations seriously.
  • Customer and customer Staff: Meet your customers (your counterparts and end-users of your products/services) and talk to them about the product or services. Try and learn why they do business with you and how they benefit from the product/service. Also, ask them about their opinion on how could you make it easy for them to work with you. Take their inputs with a grain of salt and find ways to use these conversations to explore better ways to work with your customers and make it easier for them to do business with you. Again, it would be best if you use your CRM system and get your assistants to schedule some of these appointments or calls directly.
  • Someone who is not from your industry but serves the same market segment: Some of the most interesting insights about your customers can be gained by talking to other businesses (from different industries) that also sell to your current set of customers. You can then use these insights to improve your business and interaction with your customers.

If you are able to do these conversations regularly (at least weekly), you shall remain grounded to reality and will never have any dearth of ideas to improve your businesses.

This also has a ripple effect among your staff as they will also realize that you could end up talking to any of their customers and so will continue to treat their customers well. This will also ensure that your direct reports don’t filter out bad news for you, which in my opinion is the single biggest reason for organizations going bankrupt or missing out on huge opportunities.

The overall result would be that your organization will be considered more customer focused by the people whose perception matters the most – Your Customers.

Do share your thoughts about this approach for culture transformation.

You can connect with me on twitterlinkedinfacebook or email.

You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter here.

PS: A great video that talks about 5 techniques that you can use to keep your organization Customer Centric:

 

Transforming Organization Culture

September 11, 2013 Leave a comment

This weekend I happened to watch a play by “Yours Truly Theatre” titled “Bhagwaan Dhoondo“, which loosely translated means “The Search for your Own God”. It was by all means an enthralling performance, which ended with a standing ovation from the audience. It was funny, thought provoking and entertaining throughout.

What was most interesting thing about the play was that it was of a genre called “Interactive Theatre”, which is a kind of Improv theatre and has two parts to the play:

  1. The first part is rehearsed and performed by the actors. This part tells a story of the protagonist. It stops at a place, where the protagonist is at a cross-road and has a decision to make.
  2. The second part of the show is decided by the audience. The moderator of the play comes on stage and leads a discussion about the situation and what options does the protagonist have and what should he/she do in this situation. Based on the audience reactions, the actors then incorporate the feedback and play out the rest of the story impromptu.

When I stood applauding the performance, it stuck me that this would be a great way for an organization to design or transform its culture.

If  as a leader, you want to transform the culture of your organization, you want everyone in your organization to understand and act according to the new values.

Gather around your employees and get them to play out the situations that they face in their day-to-day work and stop them at a moment-of-truth, a moment where they need to make a decision and act on it, a decision that defines the culture of the organization. Now, stop the role play and ensue in a discussion about the various choices that the employees have at that juncture and let them offer their choices. Most of this will be based on the current culture. Now you can either continue to steer the discussion towards the decision that you want them to make as that will reflect the new culture you want to inculcate. Then get the same set of employees to improvise and enact the rest of the scene on this course.

In order to be successful, you as a leader need to be able to determine the Keystone habits of your organization that needs to be changed and use this exercise to influence that habit, which can then start an avalanche of change within the organization.

This method of influencing the culture of the organization has some significant benefits like:

  • This leaves no scope for ambiguity in the team as to how they are expected to behave in the specific scenarios that have been staged.
  • This can also bring forth all the other ramifications that need to be taken care of, all dependencies exposed, which can then be worked upon. It is in such details that most culture transformation exercises fail.
  • This also allows you to try the different options for the teams in a way that does not cost money or lost time.
  • This is also a fun activity for the team to do. Specially, when the team is able to exaggerate the situation a bit and is able to have some fun at themselves and the current policies.
  • This also creates a sense of caraderie among the team along with a sense of ownership for the new behavior as it was arrived together with them and not ordered by someone in the “Corporate”, who doesn’t understand a thing about how things work in reality. This substantially increases the odds for the new behavior to take root.

Do share your thoughts about this approach for culture transformation.

You can connect with me on twitterlinkedinfacebook or email.

You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter here.

PS: Charles Duhigg talks about Keystone habits and how to change habits

The Real Higher Education Challenge

September 11, 2013 2 comments

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion around Higher education and how this is creating student debt at an alarming rate. There are estimates which out student debt in US alone at more than a trillion dollars. The common thinking seems to be to look at ways to reduce the overall cost of delivery of education. MOOC’s seem to be the flavor of the season as they can obviously reduce the cost of delivery by leveraging technology.

However, in my opinion, we are trying to address a symptom and not the root cause. I think that the root cause of the education problem is the reducing relevancy of the education provided in this course, that leads to lack of employment to all.

So, if we really want to disrupt the higher education industry and solve the challenge, we need to find a way to address this issue of relevance to businesses, that without burdening the students with debt and at the same time leverage the current institutions.

My suggestion to solve this would be following:

Higher education needs to be offered in two streams:

  • Full time courses as offered now but with a slight change. Instead of just offering the course, the universities help set up businesses that are being run by the students. The businesses get passed on to every batch of students as the current set of students graduate. This coupled with the classes that they attend in the university can not only prepare them well for their subsequent future in corporates and at the same time provide them an option and experience of starting and running their own businesses. The students can then choose their path as per their individual choices.
  • Offer life long memberships to students, who instead of paying their annual fee and studying, agree to pay a small amount monthly or annually in return of being able to come and attend a short term course (4 to 6 weeks) whenever they want to. This way, the college will continue to get funds to run the university and at the same time people will get to learn whatever is relevant and whenever they need it. This solves all the current set of challenges: Student debt (which will not pile on as the students pay a small fee over long periods of time), funds for universities (as the universities will be able to get the fee from a lot of students who are still not in the college) and the students get to learn what they want to, when they want to, so that their learning is relevant.

Once universities are able to do both of these options in place, they will start to become relevant again. Of course, they can continue to work on reducing the cost of delivery of the courses by using MOOC’s and other technologies as well. These will improve the efficiency of the universities thereby allowing them to survive with lower cash flow than otherwise.

Of course, these are just a couple of ideas. I am sure that if we agree that the most critical area where disruption is sorely needed in the current higher education is in its relevance, then we can come up with a lot more ideas which could be used to solve this challenge.

Whatever we do, we must hurry as I think that time is running out and we need to find a way to address this at the earliest or we might risk loosing some of the most important institutions in the world.

What do you think? Please do share your opinions so that we can continue the discussion.

You can connect with me on twitterlinkedinfacebook or email.

You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter here.

PS: Dr. Clayton Christensen discusses disruption in higher education