Strategy for Volatile Times

The end of the summer heralded the arrival of three management related documents on my desk, my review of the materials by
Forrester and CurrentAnalysis can be read here.The McKinsey Quarterly reader ‘Strategy for Volatile Times’ was the hardest to analyse since it had a selection of different areas that it focused on loosely bound by the title of ‘Strategy for Volatile Times’. It reminded me of a executive fortune cookie jar or the track listings of those ‘Now that’s what I call music’ compilations from the 1980’s.

Interesting points

I found the ‘Managing for improved corporate performance’ article by Lowell L Bryan and Ron Hulme most interesting. First they make the first assumption that ‘for a company to perform well’ (what I assume they mean by corporate performance) ‘Any definitions must revolve around the notion of results that meet or exceed the expectations of shareholders.’ Basically the thinking is defensive, about husbanding resources and defending the company’s existing position (value rather than growth). So don’t look for people who follow this credo to develop the next market killer like the iPod. With this in mind the authors tried to provide an engine for innovation within the company by recommending a regular review process called a ‘corporate performance council’ of senior executives to meet monthly to get the school reports on ongoing projects and filter out new ones for promotion. This is similar to the existing processes done already at large corporates such as Shell. It also stacks the dice against the geeks and boffins who hold the key to many of the ‘insanely great’ ideas.

Their model for corporate performance is what they call BASICS:

  • Build new businesses – (apparently focusing on your core competences is now out of fashion in management consultancy circles). Much of this approach could be construed to be more indicative of a growth focused company rather than value focused

  • Adapt the core – make sure that the core business keeps up changing times and keys into your new businesses as necessary

  • Shape the portfolio and ownership structure – actively manage the business of M&As, divestitures and financial restructures to maximise shareholder value

  • Keep an eye on crucial strategic functions

No, I don’t have a clue how they got BASICS out of that lot either. Secondly, is it me, or are the critical BASICS activities listed above the ones that would be like wasps round a jam pot for the big consultant firms like McKinsey?