By changing what decisions are made in the business model, when they are made, who makes them, and why they are made, you will be able to come up with business models that better manage information and incentive risks and, as a result, outperform existing business models, disrupt established ways of doing business, and lead to a sustainable competitive advantage, according to Karan Girotra and Serguei Netessine in their book The Risk-Driven Business Model: Four Questions That Will Define Your Company.
In the era of Big Bang Disruption, new disrupters attack existing markets not just from the top, bottom and sides, but from all three at once; their offerings can be simultaneously better, cheaper and more customised, according to Larry Downes and Paul Nunes in their book Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the Age of Devastating Innovation. If you want to avoid becoming a victim, you need to learn how to create, launch and compete using your own Big Bang disruptions.
Tomorrow’s legal world bears little resemblance to that of the past, according to Richard Susskind in his book Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future. The next two decades will bring more changes to legal institutions and lawyers than have the last two centuries. While traditional job opportunities for young lawyers are diminishing, a whole range of exciting new legal occupations will soon be created.
The world palpably shook in September 2008 and the repercussions are still very much with us, according to Bruce MacEwen in his book Growth is Dead: Now What? Law Firms on the Brink. Clients of big law firms are putting more pressure on prices than ever before. They are strongly resisting paying for junior associates, and requiring that major segments of matters be handled by low-cost providers such as LPOs and contract lawyers. Realisation rates and leverage have fallen sharply, and law firms are experiencing significant excess capacity.
The topic of executing your plans may not be currently trending on Twitter, but it is the key to success, according to Lee Colan and Julie Davis-Colan in their book Stick With It: Mastering the Art of Adherence. It is tough to stick with anything in the current competitive and rapidly changing environment, but that is precisely the reason why adhering to your strategy is vitally important to long-term success.
Traditional methods of strategy show you how to analyse your strategic situation, but do not give you the next step, which is how to get a creative idea for what to do, according to William Duggan in his book Creative Strategy: A Guide for Innovation. The typical two-step strategy creation process involves firstly strategic research and analysis, and secondly brainstorming a solution. However, a brainstorming approach relies on information already in the participants’ heads, and usually results in a weak solution.
You must differentiate yourself from your competitors; in order to thrive in good times and bad, you must go beyond the regular, expected offerings that everybody else in your business has, according to Steve Van Remortel in his book Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream: The Scoop on Increasing Profit by Differentiating Your Company Through Strategy and Talent. If your clients see no difference between your offerings and those of your competitors, you will be left competing on price.
The author’s strategic planning process revolves around five fundamental features:
- Differentiation: Deliver what the author describes as a “competence”, which consistently makes your customers choose you over your competitors
- Tangible value: Consistently reinforce the tangible value, in dollars, that your competence delivers to customers
- Talent management: Have a system for identifying, selecting, developing and retaining the skills sets necessary for delivering your competence
- Tactical/departmental plans: Develop action plans for each department of your organisation
- Plan execution: A plan execution program ensures the accountability and discipline necessary to bring plans to reality
According to the author, fewer than 10% of organisations that develop an annual business plan are able clearly to define how they will differentiate themselves from competitors. Is it even possible for most businesses to differentiate themselves? The ones that try often make spurious claims to being the “best” or “most experienced” in the district/state/world, often supported by reference to “awards” won. But what clients and customers are really seeking is something that will be of value to them, because the goods or services are provided in a uniquely helpful way.
Most businesses give up on the idea of finding a true point of differentiation, just as most businesses that do formal planning fail to execute the plans in an accountable manner. Nonetheless, some firms do manage to achieve a clear and sustainable differentiation, leading to significant profitability. This book provides a helpful process for identifying a unique organisational “competence” and using that as the basis of strategic planning. A lot of research, creativity and soul-searching is still required, but the author’s process helps to make the steps manageable.
The book has a companion website which provides numerous worksheets and resources that can be used in the strategic planning process, including some online behavioural and skills assessments that are available free to purchasers of the book and can be used to help team members better understand and interact with each other.
While I did not find the book to be an irresistible page-turner, and many of the steps involved in the author’s process are pretty much the same as those in everyone else’s strategic planning process, I think there are sufficient unique features of the book, particularly in the area of identifying a unique organisational “competence” as a basis for differentiation, to make the book a very worthwhile purchase for organisational leaders, and there is compelling value in the free extras available via the companion website.