As we do every year around this time, we schedule Executive Briefings with a number of our clients to get a sense of how they think 2020 is going to shape up. It is also to share with them what we think are going to be some key challenges. I have decided to add a little wrinkle this time and I’ve added two questions that I’m posing for them. And based on their responses, I’m willing to predict how much success their organization will achieve in 2020 – regardless of the level of analyses they’ve done or the sophistication of their Category Management plans.
The first question I’m asking them is about their level of understanding the Value Drivers of their Stakeholders. I’m not going to repeat all the qualifiers attached to the Value Drivers (Must be defined by the Stakeholders, non-quantifiable may be more important in driving decisions and behaviors etc. etc.) because you’ve heard those from us multiple times. If they cannot identify the key Stakeholders for their significant categories and rattle off their Value Drivers, I know they will have a challenging year ahead of them. They will continue to struggle with getting relevance, they will wonder why there is so much resistance to their noble efforts, they will be challenged by not getting alignment with their Stakeholders, their targets will be compromised, and they will absolutely leave significant Value on the table. They will continue to wonder why they are not being involved much earlier by the Stakeholders and why corporate leaders don’t recognize the critical role that they can play but are not being given a chance to.
The second question I’m asking them is to share with me what their plan is to enhance their raw material (combined competency/capability of their organization). Again, if this does not just roll of the tongue with some passion, I know they will have a challenging year ahead of them. That tells me that they do not acknowledge that their only means of creating Value is through that raw material and if they do not have an active plan to enhance that, they are in trouble. I’m looking to hear that they know what their Stakeholder Value Drivers are – for today and tomorrow and that they have determined what competencies and capabilities they are going to need to deliver those Value Drivers. Then I’m looking for a plan to ensure that those competencies and capabilities are going to be there when needed. This is no different than ensuring the production line has what it needs when it needs it – otherwise it shuts down.
So far this has led to some very intriguing discussions. A number of Executives were surprised at how hard it was for them to identify ALL the Stakeholders for their critical categories and found it even more challenging to identify their Value Drivers. They’ve taken it on as a homework assignment for themselves and their Leadership Team. The second question has also caused some head scratching because they were unable to draw a direct line between what they were expected to deliver for their Stakeholders and the plans they had for their people and capabilities. Continuing to invest in tactical competencies when their needs are going to much more strategic is clearly going to increase their capability gap – not decrease it.
So take a look at your plans for next year and ask yourself the two questions above. I’m hoping it makes you pause and think at least.