'The Enablers'. We develop humans into winners

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Location: Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

We Develop Human Capital "Not to unlearn what you have learned is the most necessary kind of learning" said Antisthenes. Our passion at 'The Enablers' is to develop people. Developing human resources is more important to 'The Enablers' than getting clients. We want to make sure that people take way something valuable and useful for their lives. In our workshops, we create an environment which is conducive to learning. We encourage participants to: • Un-learn what is obsolete. • Learn what is contemporary to become futuristic. • Un-learn and re-learn, un-learn and re-learn again! When people follow these three steps, the miracle process begins - the process of excelling. With this mission, 'The Enablers' was established in January 2004 by Prof. Vivek Hattangadi. ‘The Enablers’ unlock the concealed potential in people and leverage their latent talent so they emerge as winners. In our learning sessions, the participants learn the way an excellent surgeon learns - practicing what has been learned through purposeful activities rather than merely from instructions. Our sessions are pragmatic; learning’s are doable. We have a large clientele even outside India.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Positioning in the Indian pharmaceutical industry

This article was written by Vivek Hattangadi and dedicated to Prof. Chitta Mitra of C Marc, the Brand Manager – Guru of the Indian Pharma industry – appeared in the November 1995 issue of ‘Pharma Manager’. It was edited by eminent pharma personalities like Prof. Tarun Gupta, Dr. Anji Reddy, Mr. K.C. Hegde and Mr. V. Thyagarajan.

Positioning in Pharma Industry

“Positioning is a concept that has changed the nature of advertising – a concept so simple that people have difficulty understanding how powerful it is”, say Al Ries and Jack Trout in their now legendary book “ Positioning- The Battle for your Mind”.

Product positioning is the art of tailoring the image and presentation of a product or service to appeal to a selected market segment.

At its best, product positioning enables marketers to draw a direct link between an existing product attribute and a specific customer need, in our industry, the doctor.

Positioning is not what you do to the product but what you do to the mind of the customer i.e. the doctor. Positioning also shows you how to use ad techniques to capture the biggest market share and become a household name

Examples of successful positioning in consumer products are aplenty; e.g. Lux- ‘The Beauty Soap’, Liril – ‘The Freshening Soap’ and Lifebuoy- ‘The Health Soap’- all from the same manufacturer! All of them successful!

How one would like to see such powerful positioning in the pharmaceutical market in India- and the scope here is much more than anywhere in the world.

Witness the fierce battle amongst 3 powerful brands of Ciprofloxacin! But has even one of these brands been able to effectively occupy the mind of the doctor on any particular attribute? It is today being widely prescribed in “Fever of Unknown Origin”, which was never the intention of any company marketing ciprofloxacin.

Simply, positioning is how your target market defines you in relation to your competitors.

A good position is:

1. What makes you unique

2. This is considered a benefit by your target market - the doctors

Both of these conditions are necessary for a good positioning. Does your target market consider this a good thing?

Positioning is important because you are competing with all the noise out there competing for your potential prescribers attention.

If you can stand out with a unique benefit, you have a chance at getting their attention.

It is important to understand your product from the customers point of view relative to the competition.

Positioning is a crucial decision and should not be taken in the air-conditioned chambers of the Marketing Managers.

It has to be done after meeting the doctors.

Right positioning can make even an ordinary product an extraordinary brand.

In order to begin positioning a product, two questions need to be answered:
1.What is our marketing environment?

2.What is our competitive advantage?

The marketing environment is the external environment. Some things to consider:

How is the market now satisfying the need your software satisfies?
What are the switching costs for potential users for your market?
What are the positions of the competition?

It is important, therefore, to know the perceptions of the brand in the doctor’s mind before a positioning decision is taken. Your position in the market place evolves from the defining characteristics of your product. Yes, meet the doctors, (No- Not an opinion poll).

If the Brand Manager believes that there is an area, which can be exploited, through proper promotion, and he has enough reasons to believe that it is a relatively strong, take a stand and position the brand to change the perception of the doctors.

After meeting the doctors, address the following issues:

a) What are the major needs of the prospect in the identified segment?

b) What is the order of those needs?

c) What is the vacant slot in the mind of the doctor?

Address these questions before determining the positioning the strategy.

Positioning Strategies

Pharmaceutical products can be positioned and measured against a number of parameters.

A pre-requisite to positioning is to identify the market segment.

Product positioning is the process of matching product features to the needs of selected market segment. This can be done through the following thought process.

Let us consider some of the ways that a positioning strategy can be conceived and implemented.

What are the needs of the doctor?

What are the benefits of the product?

What features can substantiate the claims?

a) Positioning by attribute

Associate the product with past experience with the company. A new product can be positioned with respect to an attribute that the competitors have ignored.

b) Positioning by price/quality

The price/quality dimension is so useful and pervasive that it can be a separate topic by itself. A high price serves to signal higher quality o the customer.

c) Positioning by indications

Another positioning strategy is associating the product with its indication. This is the obvious course to follow when a company has two or more products in the same therapeutic segment.

d) Positioning by the product user

One more approach is to associate a product with the user or a class of user. Sometimes a product can have multiple positioning strategies, although increasing the number involves obvious difficulties and risk.

e) Positioning with respect to a competitor

In positioning strategies an explicit or implicit frame of reference is the competition. First, a well established competitors image can be exploited to communicate another image referenced to it. Second, it is not important how good customers think you are; it is just important that they believe you are better. Build your strategy around your competition's weaknesses. Reposition a strong competitor and create a weak spot. Use your present position to its best advantage

Analyze recent trends that affect your positioning. Al Ries and Jack Trout provide many valuable case histories and penetrating analyses of some of the most phenomenal successes and failures in advertising history. When the positioning has been decided the positioning statement has to be made known not only to all involved in the marketing process, but also to people in the manufacturing finance, HRD and to all in the company. And of course, the grass root must understand the reasons for the position strategy.

Positioning an anti- anxiety drug: A case study

A new non-benzodiazepine immediate acting anxiolytic is being introduced for the first time in India. This anxiolytic has no sedative action unlike the benzodiazepines. Another interesting feature is that this anxiolytic has no drug-drug interactions. It is a long acting anxiolytic and its dosing is just one tablet a day.

Osborne Pharma Ltd. (OPL), the company marketing this new anxiolytic is already well entrenched in the cardio- vascular market.

Two of their products, a nitrate and a beta-blocker are the brand leaders in the respective markets and their ACE-Inhibitor and calcium channel blocker are very strong brands in their category. Moreover, OPL has a moderate presence in the macrolide and the quinoline market. No doubt, doctors prefer to call OPL as, “The House that Repairs Weak Hearts.”

This anxiolytic is the first “psychotropic” in their product portfolio.

OPL is invading into a new product category. Three more companies are also on the verge of introducing the same molecule. All of them more or less are of the same size. It would be an interesting battle amongst equals.

Market research reveals that anti- anxiolytic drugs have very strong co- prescription profile and the prescriber base from cardiologists and gastroenterologists and consultants nears 100%. At the same time, the prescriptions from psychiatrists for anxiolytics are very frequent. In fact, the most frequently prescribed drug by a psychiatrist is an anxiolytic.

Around 40 doctors are met determining the positioning. The positioning analysis is done and few questions are raised:

Would the profession accept a psychotropic product from a “Cardiac- Care” Company?

Has the vacant slot been determined?

Does OPL enjoy the same sort of equity with the gastro- enterologists and psychiatrists as it does with the cardiologists?

Will the psychiatrists accept a ‘psychiatry’ product from a “Cardiac Care” company?

Will the cardiologists accept an anxiolytic product from a “Cardiac Care” company?

Undoubtedly, had OPL introduced a product for cardio-vascular disease, success would be instantaneous. A sound positioning strategy, however, would make this anxiolytic a success.

The logical approach would be to position this product as a “co- prescription with the basic drug for cardio-vascular disease” as OPL has a “Cardiac” profile. It could be positioned as an ‘essential co-prescription’ in hypertension, and coronary artery disease. It would be easy for doctors to retie the connection that already exists for this company. His mind would readily accept what matches his prior knowledge and the experience with OPL!

Yes this would be a narrow but very powerful positioning for this company. But isn’t this what positioning is all about?

Here, OPL has made an overt decision to concentrate on a certain segment. This requires commitment and discipline because it is not easy to turn their backs on potential prescribers like psychiatrist and gastro-enterologists. A distinct, meaningful position is to focus on the target segments and not to be constrained by the reaction of other segments.

“Narrower- The Stronger”. A question can be raised at this juncture as to whether it would be prudent for OPL to re- position itself from its current position as a “Cardiac- Care” company to a “Total Healthcare” company.

The anxiolytic from OPL should be successful as the attempt is to distinguish it from competitors. Thus would help the doctor to know the real differences between the OPL brand and the other 3 brands.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Giving gifts not good for doctors

I reproduce below an interesting article I downloaded from the Internet. In the Indian context, in the pharmaceutical industry, Brand Managers and Field Managers refuse to see beyond gifts and samples for brand building activities. Communication and other activities take a back seat. Now, after reading this article, one can even say it is also unethical? Come on Brand Managers, let us get into real Brand Building activities - Vivek Hattangadi

Giving Gifts To Doctors Not Good For Patients 25 Jan 2006

The medical profession is challenged by the conflict of interest between a doctor's commitment to his/her patient's interests and drug companies' product promotion. The prestigious Institute of Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University, New York, says that current self-regulation on giving gifts to doctors does not protect patients enough.

In a paper, the Institute says more stringent regulation is needed. It proposes a policy for academic medical centers to take the lead in eradicating doctors' conflicts of interest. This would include stricter controls on support for continuing medical education activity carried out by pharmaceutical companies.

The paper also calls for the end of free samples. The President of the Institute, D Rothman, says a gift requires reciprocity. Even though doctors say they cannot be bought, he believes gifts do influence prescribing patterns. He says that what should underlie doctors' prescribing ought to be scientific knowledge and patients' interests, not reciprocity - be it conscious or unconscious.

You can read the paper in the January 25 issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).The pharmaceutical industry in the USA spends $21 billion on marketing. According to the report, a large part of this is directed at physicians.

Even medical students get gifts and attend events paid for by drug makers.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist - Editor: Medical News Today

Monday, January 23, 2006

The success story of Intas Pharma - A Case Study

This is the success story of Intas and is a case study for all the students of brand management.

The success story of Intas Pharmaceuticals Ltd. – A case study
as told by Vivek Hattangadi

In early 1992, when Dilip Shanghavi, now Chairman and Managing Director, Sun Pharma, confided in me that Sun Pharma would shift back to Bombay in a couple of years, I was taken aback. Probably he felt that I would be happy as I was a thoroughbred Bombayite (or as you can now call – Mumbaikar). But exactly the opposite happened.

Having spent about six of my 18 professional years (then in 1992) in Bombay, I knew that if I shift to Bombay, I would be spending five hours everyday in commuting. These 5 hours would be a waste, which I could utilize in self-development and reading.

For my self-development, Bombay was certainly not the right place.

I started looking for a change in a forward-looking company in Ahmedabad. I got my break in Intas.

Intas in 1992 was exactly what Sun Pharma was in 1987 when I joined them. Intas then, was hardly doing Rs. 20.00 lakhs per month and the field force across the country did not exceed 50 medical representatives and field managers.

But I could see the fire in both the brothers – Nimish Chudgar and Binish Chudgar. They wanted to come into the big league as early as possible and were constantly looking for new molecules and effective people.

They mentioned that the field staff at Intas had a low-morale as Intas was not succeeding like USVP, Torrent or Sun Pharma.

The first job at H.O. was to breathe fire into the field staff and develop a killer instinct in them.

The introduction of a successful new brand seemed to be only way out.

By October 1992, Torrent (A company which was then over 35 times bigger than Intas in sales) had already procured permission for cisapride and they marketed it as Unipride – but could not make much headway.

We at Intas were also thinking about this product although Torrent had failed. This is the most opportune moment, I thought, to achieve what the Chudgar brothers wanted.

We were all keen on making this new brand a prized brand and to transcend the product and may be even the company.

A very catchy name, the think tank at Intas thought, would help.

We brainstormed and my colleague in the Product Management Team – Chirayu Upadhya came out with the name CISA.

All liked it and we were about to zero down on this name.

I still wanted the doctors perception on this name. I asked Chirayu to meet a few gastro-enterologists. Within 3 days Chirayu came back to me and said that a great majority of them have found the name CISA to be sweet, short and catchy.

Chirayu, however added, that when the doctors were asked to pronounce the name, he distinctly heard them pronouncing the ‘s’ in CISA like ‘z’.

If that is the case, I said to Chirayuu, we would call it ‘CIZA

And CIZA was born.

Two things were very important – the promotional theme and the brand name style.

Ciza was a pro-kinetic agent, which improved the motility of the g.i. tract. The logo style, therefore, had to depict a forward propelling movement.

We asked the vizualizer to stretch the tail of the ‘z’; use italica style so that the brand name Ciza should appear to have a forward propelling movement: which was exactly the mode of action of the drug.

The logo style, when finally developed appeared some thing like this, (with the tail of the ‘z’ stretched to extend below the ‘a’ in brand name):


This logo style did contribute significantly to the success of the brand.

On the promotional theme, to the gastro-enterologists, the introduction of cisapride was akin to the ‘wheel being invented’. (A doctor in fact verbalized this during the brand name interviews).

Our introductory literature had an image of the Stone Age wheel and the copy screamed: “Kinetics rediscovered…”

Ciza became an instant hit and in the first month itself, Ciza had a sale of over Rs. 20 lakhs – more than all the other brands of Intas put together.

The field staff responded very positively. I knew that I was able to strike the right chord and ignite fire in their bellies. And then they went in for the kill.

West Bengal in general and Calcutta in particular, had the tradition to make all like H2-antogonists and PPI’s successful. If Ciza was to be made a brand to be reckoned with, success in Calcutta was vital.

The then Regional Manager at Calcutta – Mr. Pradeep Kumar Mukherjee, played a significant role.

Mr. Mukherjee approached Dr. P.N. Jalan of Calcutta, the most respected gastro-enterologists in India, to conduct a symposium on this brand.

At first, Dr. Jalan refused to even grant an interview to Mr. Mukherjee, saying that Intas was an unknown entity and he would not like to be associated with the symposium to be conducted by Intas. But Pradeepda used all his charm and successfully persuaded him to be the main speaker.

The very fact that Dr. Jalan was to be the speaker drew record-breaking crowds to the symposium.

Overnight, Intas was recognized as a company to be taken seriously. The follow through activities by Pradeepda and his team at Calcutta was terrific. Ciza and Intas painted the town red.

The success at Calcutta was soon replicated in all the major cities and soon, the gastro-enterologists across the country fell in love with Ciza and Intas.

Later on we had brand extensions like Ciza MPS and Ciza 40 for diabetic gastro-paresis.

We then used CRM activities as the main weapon and swayed the gastro-enterologists towards Intas.

We built a base of loyal doctors and we knew them ‘by heart’.

At one time, when the sales of Ciza had reached Rs.250 millions annually, we could actually count exactly 627 gastro-enterologists and physicians with a gastro-enterology profile who contributed to over Rs. 200 millions from the Rs.250 millions. Yes – the Pareto’s Principle was loudly visible.

Success breeds’ success and all gastro products introduced by Intas became run-away hits. Lan-30 was one of them. Although, this was the 6th brand of lansoprazole to be introduced, within a year, it went on to be the brand leader.

Towards the end of the last century, Intas had 3 divisions and today it is a multi-divisional company and ranks amongst the top 20 companies in the industry in India with annual sales turnover expected to reach Rs.4000 million by the end of March 2006.

A case study in the Indian pharma industry, where a brand built a company.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Secrets of Success

The secrets of success? Read this interview with Rod Moore

My Secrets for Success!

Rod Moore talks to Rachel Manktelow and shares his secrets for sure success. As a life strategist, trainer, and creator of the “Design Your Life” system, Rod has inspired thousands of people to achieve more success in their lives. Rachel talks to Rod about his own influences and his secrets for success.

Rachel: Rod, can you tell me something about the successful people you most admire?

Rod: There are many people who come to mind but three in particular that I see as role models for what is possible.

Martin Luther King Jr. – The spiritual leader of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s was one of the most influential and persuasive people of the last century. His ability to move people to action through his mastery of language was truly inspirational. He directly modeled the success of Gandhi, using a peaceful approach to voicing discontent. He had strong moral conviction and was prepared to die for what he believed.

Richard Branson – Told he was dyslexic at a young age, Richard Branson’s is an amazing story of success. Some people with a similar condition are held back by it or worse, use it as an excuse that limits their achievement. Instead, Richard took action and, at the age of 15, launched his first business. He based his businesses on what he values most: having fun, involving his staff and treating them well and making great products and services accessible through lower prices.

Lance Armstrong – Lance Armstrong is an example of what you can achieve when you are focused on a compelling future. When diagnosed with cancer, he chose not to focus on this and instead to focus on his dream: To win the toughest bike race on the planet. Winner of 7 Tour de France races, he is a model of consistency, focus, determination, self-belief, guts and glory. Rachel: Great role models! So how, specifically, can people learn from these role models and apply their successes in our own lives?Rod: In each of these people, we can find many clues for improving our own lives. Quite simply, by studying such people you can learn how to model their success. For example, when I wanted to learn how to be a more compelling professional speaker, I went out and got recordings of all of Martin Luther King’s speeches and listened to them over and over. I studied the structure of his speeches, his vocal tonality, his use of metaphors, his pacing and his passion. As a result my own speaking moved to a new level.

So the key is to ask: What goal are you working towards? And whom can you learn from who has been successful in that before you?

If you want to climb Mount Everest (or any other challenging mountain!) then make a list of the great mountain climbers. Then simply learn to model their attitude and actions: What are their thoughts and beliefs, their strategies such as preparation and training, their resources such as the team they worked with? By modelling those who have succeeded before you, you can really achieve anything you want to.Rachel: You've worked with some amazing people and helped them achieve much more from in their lives. Can you share with us some of your most favorite success stories? Rod: Every day I have the good fortune to hear from people who have used our goal setting systems to transform their lives. It’s exciting to see that people can totally change their lives simply by expanding their view of possibilities, creating clear, focused goals, and developing the right mindset to propel them towards the life they dream of.

Perhaps my favorite story is of a lady who was interested in goal setting and personal development but had not really set any goals in the past. When she used my goal setting system she took a month to go through it and totally design her life. She ended up setting over 90 major goals! This gave her an expanded view of what was possible in life. As a result she decided to learn more and begin delivering goal-setting workshops. In the next 6 months she presented over 100 workshops. She became highly successful and now presents workshops frequently in the UK and Barbados.

Another story I love is of a young lady in New York. She dreamed of writing a movie script and having it become a Hollywood movie. So she already had her big dream – but no idea about how take it forward in real life. By using my goal setting process she was able to “chunk down” her goal into smaller steps, and soon she began to make rapid progress forward. She is now in negotiations for the movie deal and set to become a huge star.

Rachel: Rod, we are all so keen for success, so why do so many of us fail to achieve our full potential?Rod: Most people fail due to their mindset. Many times, I have had people tell me they set a goal to become a millionaire. And failed. When I speak to them about what they have done to actually achieve the goal it usually amounts to very little. I call it the “million-dollar-goal, $10-dollar-mindset syndrome”.

Goals are of little value if your mindset is not aligned to the goals. Most people limit their success because of their mindset. They picture the worst possible outcome. They talk themselves out of making that phone call… They tell themselves it probably won’t work out anyway.

The most powerful tools I have come across to align your mindset with your goals are based on Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP works on your unconscious mind, re-imprinting new mental programs that compel you to action. The “Design Your Life” system uses NLP techniques to help align your mindset with your goals.

The first vital step towards achieving your potential is of course to design a compelling future. But the next step, and by far most important, is to align your mindset.

Rachel: So what are your top tips for everyone wanting to make 2006 their most successful year ever?

Rod: As I tell people in my goal-setting workshops, to achieve massive success, here’s what you must do:

(1) Expand your view of possibility. Don’t feel constrained. You can achieve much more when you follow your dreams.

(2) Design your life in detail using a specific life design system such as “Design Your Life”.

(3) Break your goals down into a step-by-step action plan. Learn from the strategies and actions of others who have found success already.

(4) Align your mindset to your goals. “Design Your Life” uses good NLP techniques to help align your mindset with your goals. Investigate and start using some such “mind programming” techniques.

(5) Take massive action. After taking action review the outcome and be prepared to adjust your approach if you do not get the result you where seeking. Keep doing this until you reach your goal

(6) Find a mentor, friend or coach who will support you and help keep you on track.

(7) Enjoy yourself! You need focus and work on your plans, but also have some fun along the way.

Beating Procrastination

How to manage time? Learn from MindTools -- an article by Kellie Fowler

Beating Procrastination Manage your time; get it all done.
by Kellie Fowler

If you’ve found yourself putting off important tasks over and over again, you’re not alone. In fact, most people procrastinate to some degree - but some are so chronically affected by procrastination that it disrupts their careers and thwarts even their best efforts.

The key to controlling and ultimately combating this destructive habit is to understand how and why it happens (even to the best of us) and to take a few simple steps to better manage your time and outcomes.

Understanding Procrastination:

In a nutshell, you procrastinate when you put off things that you should be focusing on right now, usually in favor of doing something that is more enjoyable or that you’re more comfortable doing.

Sometimes this happens when someone does not understand the difference between urgency and importance. The prevailing belief here: We all have the same amount of time in every day and procrastinators spend this time fully, but do not invest it wisely.

Instead, procrastinators focus so much on urgent issues that they have little or no time left for the important tasks, despite the unpleasant outcomes this may bring about.

Other causes of procrastination can be as simple as waiting for the “right” mood or the “right” time to tackle the important task at hand; a fear of failure or success; underdeveloped decision-making skills; poor organizational skills; or perfectionism.

How to Combat Procrastination:Whatever the reason behind procrastination, it must be recognized, dealt with and controlled before you miss opportunities or your career is derailed.

Part of the solution is to develop good organizational and personal effectiveness skills. Learn to establish the right priorities, and manage your time in such a way that you make the most of the opportunities open to you.

The other part of the solution can be as simple as applying this rule of thumb: If you're not working (directly of indirectly) to progress your top priority projects, you may be procrastinating. And, when you're doing something important, such as working on your top-priority project or task, and something urgent comes up, recognize that this will take time away from this important work.

To do this, it is imperative to understand the difference between urgency and importance.

On one hand, let’s say that your boss comes to your office and says he or she has called a meeting and wants you to join other team members in the conference room now. This is clearly urgent.

Or, your sales manager calls in from the field and explains that your biggest customer just received the wrong shipment and is in dire need of the correct shipment. This will require tracking down the original shipment, working through the placed orders, even the salesman’s paperwork, etc. Again, this is urgent.

However, while immediate action is needed here, these things only tangentially affect the truly important things in your life.

Important things are likely to be the actions that serve to broaden you, build your career, or achieve something of real human significance to you. These important actions are often easy to pinpoint, for they are the ones that help you achieve your goals.

This is not to say that you do not have to take care of the urgent things. Instead, you will need to take care of these things as efficiently as possible, while also staying on top of the important demands/going-ons of the day. You’ll need to minimize the time spent on these urgent tasks, while still ensuring that they are successfully and efficiently resolved.

With proper planning and some self-discipline, many urgent matters disappear altogether or, when they do surface, your planning and discipline makes them less urgent and easier to deal with. This means that you waste less of the valuable time that should be spent on the important things.

And, keep in mind that you probably do not have to handle every urgent matter yourself. Delegate as far as possible, so that you do not get caught up in remedying every urgent situation. To spend life "firefighting" is a misuse of your “important” time.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What they Dont Teach at IIM- Ahmedabad

What They Dont Teach at IIM- Ahmedabad: Lessons on Life

There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So, he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall.When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.


The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted.


The second son said "No it was covered with green buds and full of promise"


The third son disagreed; he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.


The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.


The man then explained to his sons that they were all speaking the truth, because they had each seen but only one season in the tree's life.He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up.If you give up when it's winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, fulfillment of your fall.Moral:Don't let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest.

Don't judge life by one difficult season.

Persevere through the difficult patches and better times are sure to come sometime or later.

Do let me have your feedback at vivekhattangadi@yahoo.co.in

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Coping with Unreasonable Demands

This a very interesting article downloaded from Mind Tools

Coping With "Unreasonable Demands"Job Stress Management from Mind Tools - James Manktelow


Demands that seem unreasonable can be a tremendous source of stress.

These often arise when innocent situations come together and reinforce one another to create stressful, extreme, and unfeasible demands on you. For example, if you are in a customer service role, several customers can be clamoring for completion of large jobs at the same time. This becomes intensely stressful when you only have the resource to service a few of them.

Similarly, enthusiastic middle managers can amplify the importance of simple, low priority requests from senior managers, creating unwarranted pressure on implementation teams. In other situations, requirements can be misunderstood when transmitted from person-to-person, the importance of deadlines can be overstated, and requests can be made in ignorance of key pieces of information.

Obviously, real emergencies can also occur. Resolving these can often require extreme and unpleasant levels of activity from all involved.

In all of these cases, and in many others, reasonable people can make unreasonable demands with or without knowing it. If you add into this the concept of “stretch goals”, the fact that people making requests may not have correctly appreciated the situation, and the fact that that people may be playing normal commercial games, you can see how problems arise.

This tool helps you to work through apparently unreasonable demands to understand what lies behind them, and develop appropriate solutions to them. It helps you to work effectively with the person making the demand to find a satisfactory solution, rather than just assuming that the other person is “difficult and unreasonable”. This helps you to reduce the stress that these situations can cause.

Using the Tool:

By using this process, you can ensure that:
· The situation has not arisen as a result of a misunderstanding;
· You have fairly tried to understand the other person’s position;
· You have explored all reasonable ways to meet the demands; and
· You have tried to negotiate a fair compromise.
Each step in the diagram is explained below:

1. Check Your Information and Assumptions:

The first stage of this process is simply to make sure of your information. Check that you have not made any incorrect assumptions. Then check that you fully understand what you are being asked to do. Finally, confirm when it needs to be delivered. If you are set a deadline, understand why that deadline has been set, and what happens if it is not met. You may find that deadlines are actually much more flexible and arbitrary than they initially appear.

2. Look From the Other Person’s Perspective:

If things still seem unreasonable, try looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective. Make sure you are fully aware of all of the facts. For example, if you are working at full capacity and someone asks you to take on more priority work, they might not know how much work you have on. Explain the situation to them, and try to negotiate an appropriate solution.

Tip: “Negotiate" is an overloaded word. It conjures up images of sophisticated ploys and subtle gamesmanship. While this can be true in very important negotiations with a great deal at stake, what “negotiate” normally means is "find a mutually acceptable solution". This is often easy, and is something we do all the time.

It is also quite possible that what seems unreasonable to you, might seem fine to someone else. For example, if you are new to a company, it might have a longer hours culture than you are used to. As another example, a client needing to place a priority order may expect it to be turned around in a reasonable time - the fact that your production process is backlogged may not interest them. Come to a fair view of what is right in the set circumstances with which you have to work, and then manage the situation appropriately.

3. Explore Your Alternatives and the Cost of the Alternatives:

If the demand still seems unreasonable, think through all the ways in which you might try to meet it. A little
lateral thinking may help you to find a solution. Evaluate the impact of any possible solution.

4. Explain Your Perception Assertively:

Using the techniques we described in our
assertiveness article, arrange a meeting and explain the situation as you see it in an assertive manner.

5. Agree or Disagree, and Manage the Consequences:

By this stage, you will have done everything that you can reasonably be expected to do to meet the unreasonable demand.

It is still quite possible that you may not have agreed on a fair way forward. The other person may be trying to squeeze you to get a better deal than is normal. This is quite often the case in tough commercial negotiations (particularly where the other person does not expect to have to do business with you again).
Alternatively (this is unpleasant) they may have political “hidden agendas” and may want you to fail or be disadvantaged.

This is where you need to know your “BATNA” – your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. This is the course of action or outcome that is open to you if you do not agree to meet the unreasonable demand. You also need to have an idea of what the future value of the relationship might be, as making a sacrifice now may bring strong benefit in the future.If your BATNA is good, then the other person may have little power to impose the demand on you. Either use your BATNA to negotiate good compensation for coping with the unreasonable demand, or reject it.

If your BATNA is poor, then you may have to agree to the demand. Even if this is the case, try to negotiate some form of fair compensation for any pain you have to accept.

If you choose to turn down the demand, make sure that you
manage this with all of the stakeholders who will be affected - this gives them the opportunity to support you and help to manage the consequences.


It is far too easy to immediately jump to the conclusion that someone is a “bad person” when they make an unreasonable demand of you. In reality, people can make unreasonable demands for a whole range of good and bad reasons.

This tool gives you a process for working through seemingly unreasonable demands. This involves the following stages:
· Checking your information and assumptions;
· Looking from the other person’s perspective;
· Exploring the alternatives;
· Explaining your perceptions assertively; and
· Agreeing or disagreeing, and managing the consequences.

If you choose to turn down the demand, make sure that you explain the reasons for this to
all appropriate stakeholders. We talk about this next.

Please do communicate to me vivekhattangadi@yahoo.co.in

Please visit my site

Dear blog visitors,

Please do visit my site


Vivek Hattangadi
17th January 2006

Monday, January 16, 2006

How to choose a copy writer?

A very interesting article -A must read for Indian Pharma Brand Managers

How to Identify the Right Copywriter
by Youby Jonathan Kranz August 16, 2005

With September on the horizon, vacations are coming to an end and a new wave of marketing initiatives may be about to begin. For many organizations, 'tis the season to shop for talent, especially copywriters.

It looks easy enough. Just scroll through Craigslist or tap your talent agency, and you'll attract loads of well-scrubbed writers carrying handsome leather portfolio cases packed with clever, catchy copy.

But it's awfully hard to look beyond the leather to identify the talent who will really work for you. Too often, the new writer "just doesn't get it," cannot cooperate with your other talent or otherwise simply fails to articulate messages that really resonate with your audience.

Given human foibles, there are no fool-proof formulas for finding winners. But you can take measures—right at the start of your relationship—that give you a much greater probability of success. Here are some things you should look for in a writer at your very first meeting:

1. Connects creative work to underlying objectives

Face it: All the samples the writer proudly slides across the table to you are going to look pretty good. After all, your would-be writers cherry-pick their best work. Unless they're truly incompetent (most professionals are not), everything you read is going to be clean, smooth and attractive.

Your job is to dig deeper, to uncover the "why" behind each creative decision evidenced before you. Why was one benefit highlighted over others? Why use a particular catchphrase? What was the reasoning behind the diction, tone, point of view of the piece?

Good writing is never arbitrary, and every writer worth her salt should be able to connect her creative decisions to the underlying objectives of the project or the overall strategy behind the marketing campaign. Consider this your opportunity to expose the writer's thinking.

2. Wears many masks

Writers are like actors—they must be prepared to assume the voices and mannerisms of people who may be completely unlike themselves. As you flip through the samples, look for variety. You should "hear" different voices—manifested through changes in tone, rhythm and vocabulary—appropriate for different audiences. You should be able to guess the target demographic from the copy voice alone. The annual report for investment bankers should sound completely different from the direct mail pitch to porcelain doll collectors.

That's why industry experience may not be a significant criterion for selecting a writer. If a writer has the chameleon-like ability to match his voice to your audience's, chances are he can write effectively for your market. If not, no amount of industry knowledge will compensate for the inability to connect.

3. Asks questions—lots of them

Good copy is built on a foundation of understanding: who your customers are; what your prospects value and fear; how they shop. Also, what your product or service is; what makes it different; what role it plays in the purchasers' lives. Without this underlying knowledge, the resulting copy may be clever, but it won't be effective.

The only way a writer can reach that level of understanding is to dig for it by asking questions. Beware the passive writer who nods at everything you say and assures you she has everything she needs to proceed. Instead, look for the writer who pursues your comments with questions, then follows your answers with further questions. You want a writer willing to do this kind of spade work before writing a single word.

4. Listens well

Your interview should not become a dog-and-pony show for the writer's talent, limited to star-spangled presentations of beautiful brochures and self-adoring revelations of awards won, honors claimed. Sure, writers should be prepared to talk about themselves and their services. But, more importantly, they should be actively listening to you, taking pains to uncover your needs.

Do they ask questions (see preceding point) that logically follow your comments? Do they show genuine interest in what you do and how you work? And when you're speaking, is their body language reassuring? Do you see the kind of eye contact and body postures that indicate attentive listening? If they're not really listening to you now, when they're seeking your business, they probably won't when they're executing it.

5. Plays well with others

Ask anyone if he's a "team player," and you'll get prompt reassurances of the affirmative. No one will admit to being an arrogant prima donna, so you'll have to use indirect methods to gauge the writer's ability to work cooperatively with your team of designers, strategists, product managers and other marketing staff.

Take it as a good sign when a writer, without prompting, shares credit for a given project with other people who participated. Or openly admits that the driving concept came from someone other than himself. Or describes a project as a cooperative venture and articulates the value of the myriad roles that accomplished it. Conversely, regard the self-serving writer, the one who consistently hoards all credit to himself, with suspicion. Chances are, he'll make you and everyone who works with him miserable.

6. Demonstrates self-respect

We all want a bargain, and no one can fault us for desiring more, for less. After all, everything's negotiable.

Be careful what you wish for, however. A good writer may be willing to cut you a discount, perhaps in exchange for a guaranteed volume of work, but only the bottom-feeders will bite on rock-bottom project fees. Good writers respect the value of their work and expect to be compensated accordingly. If you insist on making price the most important criterion for selecting a writer, you may end up with a lot of grief you didn't bargain for.

In sum, it's not enough to review the resume, client list, samples or portfolio. You need to mind your prospective writer's behavior in the course of your first encounter. When you see curiosity, respect, intelligence and a healthy ability to listen carefully to others, you'll find a writer who's likely to work productively with you.

Jonathan Kranz is the author of Writing Copy for Dummies and the principal of Kranz Communications (

Whats in a name? A rose is not a rose rose if called by another name

Heard of Famotin and Famonite?
Heard of Oscar and Oskar ?
Ciprobid and Ciprocid?

All similar sounding names for the same molecule in the Indian Pharma industry.

Read on, a vey interesting article downloaded from Marketing Professionals

Extremely Frustrating and Completely Unimportant: The Arcane Art of Naming

by Michael Antman January 10, 2006

Here's a pop quiz: Name a form of marketing communications that can take as little as five seconds to complete, can be accomplished by a nine-year-old child or an adult, and is of absolutely no importance whatsoever.
Oh, and it also happens to be the most difficult and frustrating form of marketing communications, by far.

The answer is naming consulting, the often-arcane art of creating and applying names to products, services and companies.

Having named a dozen or so companies and products over the years, I'm firmly convinced of the utter irrelevance of names. This isn't something that the big, ultra-expensive corporate identity firms and naming boutiques will tell you, needless to say, because naming is their bread and butter—or, perhaps more accurately, their bread and pate de foie gras. However, because it's always been a small part of my own consulting practice, I have no compunctions about letting this dirty little secret out.

Here's what I mean. Imagine (since we're talking about bread) that you're planning to open a low-cost, high-quality sandwich shop and you need to come up with a name to put on the empty awning out front. It's critically important, wouldn't you think, to communicate to hungry lunch goers that your lettuce is crisp, your bread fresh, your ham and cheese of prime quality?

So, let's see... perhaps you should name your sandwich shop after a pitch-black, dank, dangerous hole in the ground that reeks of stale urine and is so loud that you can't hear yourself talk. An abysmally bad idea, you say? And yet it's worked out rather well for Subway, one of the most successful restaurant franchises in the world.

Ah, but you say, Subway is a reference to "submarine sandwich," which is what it's called in those parts of the U.S. where it isn't, instead, called a hero or a grinder or a muffaletta or a hoagie. And, yet, if you go into a Subway sandwich shop, the wallpaper contains reproductions of antique newspaper articles about the opening of urban subway systems, back in the days when they were even noisier, darker, danker, etc. than they are today.

Let's try another thought experiment. Let's say you're going to open a high-quality copy shop that offers high-speed copying and printing services, faxing, computer services, shipping and office supplies. Would you give it a name that evokes... oh, I don't know... a depraved clown? Of course not. And, yet, for Kinko's, it's worked out well enough. (There are many other examples of successful companies with seemingly inappropriate names, such as the plant-rental company Rentokil, which presumably has a subsidiary that allows you to purchase tropical plants outright if you plan to keep them alive.)

That these names have odd connotations is completely irrelevant. That's because what really matters is the quality of the product or service the name represents. Once the initial oddness of the name wears off, it soaks up these positive qualities like a chunk of tofu soaks up soy sauce, and the original meaning is utterly immaterial.

Hence, Yahoo, Google (which, by the way, is a play on the mathematical term "googol," itself concocted by a 9-year-old boy) and the automobile companies Chrysler and Chevrolet, which to our ears sound like perfectly reasonable names for cars, but which—when they were first introduced to the world—sounded exactly like what they were, the last names of their respective companies' founders.

Put another way, "Hershey" is a name that seems indelibly associated with chocolate, and yet there is nothing inherent in its two syllables to suggest chocolate; if Walter Chrysler and Milton Hershey has switched places early in their careers, we'd be snacking on Chrysler bars and driving Hershey cars, and we wouldn't even notice the lack of almonds.

So what makes this irrelevant discipline of naming so difficult?
First, because a name is so easy to come up with that an expensive consultancy that spends six months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to extrude a new corporate name is likely to be met with a good deal of skepticism. "Apex," the company founder says in shock. "It's just four letters! That's $250,000 per letter. Plus, it's right there in the dictionary! See, it means pinnacle! I could've come up with that myself!" (As well he could.)

The consulting companies can forestall this reaction by pointing out that there's an enormous amount of research that goes into developing a name (whether all of that research is necessary, given the irrelevancy of names, is another matter), creating a logo and stylebooks, and then creating a strategic plan for introducing the name to the marketplace.

Naming consultants will also tell you—quite accurately—that all of the names are already taken. Not just all of the good names, like "Global This" and "Strategic That" and "Smucker's Jams and Jellies." All of the names. According to some estimates, some product, company or service, somewhere has already taken virtually every word in the English-language dictionary.

Even invented names have been exhausted. Try another experiment: Think of a completely concocted word; the only requirement is that it should be readily pronounceable. Then, search for that word on Google. Odds are, you'll find it's being used by some company, in some context, somewhere. (Just now, I invented the word "Avexa" and Googled it. Bingo! It's a real company. Speaking of which, there's also a Bingo Technologies.)
In short, a world in which Tracinda and Fraxodi and Arixtra do business is a world in which there just are not enough letters to go around.

Thus, the shortage of names—or, more accurately, the proliferation of companies, products and services requiring names—means that a naming firm may go through thousands of possibilities to find one usable name that's pronounceable, doesn't sound too ridiculous (sometimes this requirement is waived), isn't already trademarked and doesn't mean "belly button lint" in Serbo-Croatian.

The obvious solution—so obvious that most companies and naming consultants ignore it—is to go back to days of Messrs. Hershey and Ford, when companies not only stood behind their products but put their names on them as well, thereby evading the issue of trademark infringement (since your name already belongs to you.)

This doesn't always work, as the software entrepreneur Chuck Microsoft has learned. But, by and large, using your own name for a new company or product is a sensible way to go. If you have a brand-new business and you're thinking of dubbing yourself, let's say, Axepia—stop. There's a less expensive, more personal and likely easier-to-pronounce alternative out there, and it's already printed on your American Express Card.

Good Luck to all

Friday, January 06, 2006

How to lead

It's Launch Time for "How to Lead: Discover the Leader Within You"
Article by James Manktelow

This is an exciting time for all of us at Mind Tools, as our year-long work comes to fruition in this newsletter, with the much-anticipated launch of “How to Lead: Discover the Leader Within You.” For weeks now, we have given you “inside looks” at this course. Now, we hope you share our excitement as we make the course available to you on the Mind Tools website.

How to Lead was written by myself (James Manktelow), Felix Brodbeck and Namita Anand; and it was edited by Kellie Fowler.

You’ll know me through this newsletter and as author of Mind Tools, Stress Tools and Make Time for Success! (which I co-authored with Namita). I bring practical business and leadership experience to the course, as well as expertise in breaking complex ideas down into simple, easy-to-apply mind tools.

Namita is a business journalist. She specializes in presenting complex information in a straight forward and engaging manner. And you’ll know Kellie, again from this newsletter, as an inspiring personal development writer and a careful editor.

We’ve also introduced Felix Brodbeck in previous newsletters. Felix is Professor of Organizational and Social Psychology, Head of Department, Work & Organizational Psychology, and Director of the Aston Centre for Leadership Excellence (ACLE) at Aston Business School, UK. He is a real world authority on leadership.

Between us we have written a course that combines Felix’s expertise and my experience with the practical, clear, accessible approach you’ve come to expect from Mind Tools.

And it’s a course that really will unlock your leadership potential, setting you firmly on the path to becoming a highly effective and deeply respected leader (just as long as you put in a bit of hard work).

Find out more about “How to Lead” at
http://www.mindtools.com/rs/HowtoLead. And really do discover the leader within you!

Building Expert Power - Lead From the Front!

There are many types of power that leaders can use.
These include problematic ones such as the power of position, the power to give rewards, the power to punish and the power to control information. While these types of power do have some strength, they put the person being lead in an unhealthy position of weakness, and can leave leaders using these power bases looking autocratic and out of touch.

More than this, society has changed hugely over the last 50 years. Citizens are individually more powerful, and employees are more able to shift jobs. Few of us enjoy having power exerted over us, and some will do what they can to undermine people who use these sorts of power.

However there are three types of positive power that truly effective leaders use: Charismatic power, expert power and referent power.
This article teaches the technique of building expert power.

Using the Tool:
Expert power is essential because as a leader, your team looks to you for direction and guidance. Team members need to believe in your ability to set a worthwhile direction, give sound guidance and co-ordinate a good result.
If your team perceives you as a true expert, they will be much more receptive when you try to exercise influence tactics such as rational persuasion and inspirational appeal.

And if your team sees you as an expert you will find it much easier to guide them in such a way as to create high motivation:
If your team members respect your expertise, they'll know that you can show them how to work effectively;
If your team members trust your judgment, they'll trust you to guide their good efforts and hard work in such a way that you'll make the most of their hard work; and
If they can see your expertise, team members are more likely to believe that you have the wisdom to direct their efforts towards a goal that is genuinely worthwhile.

Taken together, if your team sees you as an expert, you will find it much easier to motivate team members to perform at their best.
So how do you build expert power?
Gain expertise: The first step is fairly obvious (if time consuming) – gain expertise. And, if you are already using tools like the information gathering tools in "How to Lead", the chances are that you have already progressed well ahead in this direction.

But just being an expert isn’t enough, it is also necessary for your team members to recognize your expertise and see you to be a credible source of information and advice. Gary A. Yukl, in his book “Leadership in Organizations,” details some steps to build expert power.

A summary of these steps follows:

Promote an image of expertise: Since perceived expertise in many occupations is associated with a person’s education and experience, a leader should (subtly) make sure that subordinates, peers, and superiors are aware of his or her formal education, relevant work experience, and significant accomplishments. One common tactic to make this information known is to display diplomas, licenses, awards, and other evidence of expertise in a prominent location in one’s office – after all, if you’ve worked hard to gain knowledge, it’s fair that you get credit for it. Another tactic is to make subtle references to prior education or experience (e.g., “When I was chief engineer at GE, we had a problem similar to this one”). Beware, however, this tactic can easily be overdone.

Maintain credibility:
Once established, one’s image of expertise should be carefully protected. The leader should avoid making careless comments about subjects on which he or she is poorly informed, and should avoid being associated with projects with a low likelihood of success.

Act confidently and decisively in a crisis: In a crisis or emergency, subordinates prefer a “take charge” leader who appears to know how to direct the group in coping with the problem. In this kind of situation, subordinates tend to associate confident, firm leadership with expert knowledge. Even if the leader is not sure of the best way to deal with a crisis, to express doubts or appear confused risks the loss of influence over subordinates.

Keep informed:
Expert power is exercised through rational persuasion and demonstration of expertise. Rational persuasion depends on a firm grasp of up-to-date facts. It is therefore essential for a leader to keep well informed of developments within the team, within the organization, and in the outside world.
Recognize subordinate concerns: Use of rational persuasion should not be seen as a form of one-way communication from the leader to subordinates. Effective leaders listen carefully to the concerns and uncertainties of their team members, and make sure that they address these in making a persuasive appeal.

Avoid threatening the self-esteem of subordinates:
Expert power is based on a knowledge differential between leader and team members. Unfortunately, the very existence of such a differential can cause problems if the leader is not careful about the way he exercises expert power.Team members can dislike unfavorable status comparisons where the gap is very large and obvious. They are likely to be upset by a leader who acts in a superior way, and arrogantly flaunts his greater expertise.In the process of presenting rational arguments, some leaders lecture their team members in a condescending manner and convey the impression that the other team members are “ignorant.” Guard against this.

Best wishes, and until next time!
James & Kellie

Brand Value and User Experience

Recommended as 'A must read article for practising brand managers'

Brand Value and the User Experience
by Kelly Goto October 4, 2005

Jet Blue Airlines cares about its customers—and it shows.

In February 2000, founder and CEO David Neeleman started the airline with a simple strategy focused on "bringing humanity back to air travel by offering passengers low fares, friendly service, and a high-quality product."

Understanding customers' needs, habits and desires has truly given Jet Blue an advantage over competitors. Its vision of "humanizing" the experience ties into its business model, which focuses on providing exceptional customer service and reducing costs and inefficiencies whenever possible (source: "Flying High with Jet Blue").

The flight itself is a friendly, comfortable experience. A partnership with DirecTV allows passengers access to 24 cable channels during the flight. Even when I needed to change my return flight at the last minute, I was surprised to find myself with a $25 credit. Now that is service with a smile.

What do companies like Nordstrom, Jet Blue, Amazon and Dell have in common?
They have built their brand value on providing a positive experience for their customers, online and offline. Successful companies match business objectives with customer needs. They combine ongoing testing, feedback and improvement cycles into their daily practices and invest in listening, learning and modifying the user experience to create positive returns in revenue and loyalty. This means user experience is not just a practice or a process—it is a philosophy.

The user experience should be...
• Comfortable
• Intuitive
• Consistent
• Trustworthy
The term "user experience" has been defined and described in many ways, but we define it as "the overall perception and comprehensive interaction an individual has with a company, service or product. A positive user experience is an end-user's successful and streamlined completion of a desired task."

When designing a good user experience it's important to remember these four principles, which should be a part of any usability or user experience specialist's toolkit. While they are not the only components of a complete experience, these principles form a solid foundation upon which to build a structure of usability, information design and brand application.

Create comfort—first and foremost

The notion of creating a familiar, comfortable interface backfired when Apple launched E-World in 1994. E-World was an online community service similar to AOL. The extremely cute interface was created to mimic a small town environment with a bank and a library and a bar, which should have been very familiar to most people.

However, when signing onto the service (using a 14.4 modem) it was as if you stepped into a ghost town or a Twilight Zone episode in which the townspeople disappeared. There was no sign of activity on the site.

In contrast, AOL's just-launched service was booming. The icons changed each time you visited, the chat rooms were open and inviting and content was everywhere on the page. With AOL, you felt comfortable because there were people chatting, the site was active and, of course, setting up and signing on was extremely easy.

AOL won over E-World's service because it was able to expose a mass audience to a new technology in a way that was non-intimidating and easy to use.

Online, comfort is created in many ways. The tone and voice of the company, established through copy and content, should reflect the brand personality of the company: The Onion can afford to be irreverent, whereas Whitehouse.gov should be a bit more formal.
Sites should be very clear in explaining their services and offerings—and it should be clear how to get to what you are looking for. When buried deep within a site after following various links and cues, it is important to be able to get "home."

Create a friendly and appropriate "voice" for your company that is reflected in the copy and in the visual language of all materials, online and off.
Make sure the home page explains the purpose of your site, company or product clearly and concisely.

Create an easy way to get "home" from every page of your site. Use standard conventions such as linking the logo back to the home page.

Make it easy to find what you are looking for. Search should yield usable results (not 2,000 non-relevant links). Paths to products or information should be easy to follow and hassle-free.
Keep surprise to a minimum. When linking outside of your site, give a warning and use a pop-up if possible. When downloading a PDF or other media, make it clear how large the file is and give an estimated download time.

Make the experience intuitive

Our everyday experiences with products, services and companies, both online and offline, are filled with hits and misses. The interfaces we interact with on a regular basis must be intuitive and easy to use, or they will be donated with the next run to Goodwill.

Case in point: many of my friends rave about TiVO, so I took the plunge and bought a device that I thought was TiVO (it was not). Struggling to use the interface, record my favorite shows and, the ultimate trick—watch one show while recording the other—proved to be nearly impossible. There was no "season pass" (which allows you to easily set your TiVO to record a show for the season) and my experience has been rather, shall we say, poor. So I intend on switching from my DISH DVR (Digital Video Recorder.) Bye-bye DISH and hello TiVO!
Complex applications in the past were software-based and packaged with manuals and training. These days, every industry from pharmaceuticals to human resources has migrated its complex systems to the online environment. Much attention has been placed on improving the usability of the "front-end" of Web sites, but most Web applications continue to be developed by engineers with little to no actual experience in user experience methodology, information design, brand application or usability.

This is not just a trend—it is an oversight by many companies not willing to invest in improving the user experience. Or they simply are not aware of the business benefits of providing a streamlined experience.

Think like a first-time visitor—understand specifically who they are and what they are looking for. Provide an easy starting point from which to begin.

Navigation, links and content should be easy to read, not full of jargon or insider terms your company may use internally, but which would be unclear to an outsider.
Organize your site in a way that makes sense to the visitor, not according to how your corporation is organized.

Make sure that links and clickable items look active. Make images and headline text active when appropriate.

Incorporate rounds of small-scale (informal) usability testing into your development process.
Keep it consistent

We all have our favorite restaurants. We know where to park, what the hours are and what dishes will be served. We know to expect great service, and to pay a price that is reasonable. Every time we go to our favorite restaurant, we expect these things to be consistent and, when they are not, we are dismayed.

Recently, one of my favorite sushi restaurants in San Francisco was sold to new owners. When I entered the restaurant, the decor was slightly different and the faces were unfamiliar. I ended up leaving the restaurant and heading to a different one. How disappointing.

Creating a consistent experience takes time and attention to detail. Although your site may change over time, the experience of interacting with your organization or company should retain a consistent focus on quality of product, service or content.

We start our brand investigation by looking at every instance of logo currently being used, online and offline. This includes memo pads, mailing labels, sales and marketing materials and more. One New York-based client had over 30 different logos in use at the same time. We collected them all and presented them in a report showing all of the variations and lack of consistency among all of the client's divisions.

Maintain brand standards whenever possible. Invest in the creation of a branding style guide for your company that translates to your online presence.
Use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to create consistency and to ease updating.
Use clear and consistent labeling from the top-level pages down through the lower-level pages of the site.

"Chunk" similar information together on individual pages and create a consistent manner of representing content on pages.

Content should be consistently written and presented throughout the site and in marketing and advertising materials.
Build credibility and trust

Let me tell you about the Kobe Beef scam. I was excited to cook dinner for a group of friends for a special occasion, and a friend recommended a Web site with a special "6 steaks for the price of 4" sale. The site was sent to me via my friend, so I felt the site was trustworthy.
I was wrong. During the ordering experience, I was surprised to find there were no options for shipping the order. There was no "expected date and time of arrival" or options to ship the order via next-day air. For something this important (dinner for 6) and perishable, wouldn't you want to know when it would arrive?

While placing my order, I noticed that I had been routed off of the Web site and into a Yahoo storefront. This did not make me feel comfortable. After I ordered, I tried to email the company and tried to call the 1-866 number. There was no answer.

Was it a scam? Most likely, but if it was a credible company it did an extremely poor job of facilitating a trustworthy customer experience.

Trust is important: When expecting customers to submit personal information and credit card numbers online, it is extremely important to build a certain amount of trust with your audience before they will feel okay about submitting personal and private information.
Collect only relevant information from your audience. If additional details are desired, make them optional. Develop a credible presence by making sure the site has no typos and is clean and functional. Links should not be broken. The site should be free from errors at the most basic level.

Have a non-legalese, easy-to-comprehend privacy statement linked from every page of your site.

Make it easy for your customers to contact you. Provide multiple ways (1-800 number, email, live chat) to connect with your company.

Get back to any customer requests within 24 hours.

Provide an easy customer feedback form; follow up with phone calls, online surveys and customer visits at least twice a year.

A little service goes a long way. If there is
a problem—FIX IT.

Notify your customer base before making drastic changes to the site. Allow your audience to be a part of the change rather than being surprised by the outcome.

Make it so

Commitment from the top level of an organization to focus on creating a comfortable, intuitive, consistent and trustworthy experience from start to finish is necessary for ongoing success. Such companies understand the business value that this approach will yield over time.
User-experience professionals generally have a small arsenal of usability specialists who are ready to deploy task analysis and customer observation toward the improvement of a site or product. Although usability is only one component of the entire user experience, it is a viable and measurable place to begin.

In the end, the interaction a visitor has with your company is an emotional experience; over time, positive experiences lead to trust. Strive to create an experience that is compelling and memorable. Remember, successful businesses, online and offline, are built with the customers in mind.

(This article was originally published on Digital Web Magazine [www.digital-web.com].)
Note: Join Kelly Goto this Thursday at noon (EST) for the MarketingProfs seminar "Behind the Wheel of Web Redesign: What Drives Success." In this 90-minute seminar, Goto will walk you through methods to streamline and enhance your current development process with a focus on both the end user and measurable results

Seven Common Sales Challenges

Seven Common Sales Challenges That Prevent Executive Buy-In
by Jeff Thull November 29, 2005

With the complexity of today's business solutions and their far-reaching affects, senior level executives are often actively involved in the process of assessing the issues and their options. Yet many companies are finding that their best sales and marketing strategies are highly diluted by the time they reach their customers, and their sales professionals are not connecting to the power in the executive suite.

Gaining access and connecting to executive decision makers is just one of the challenges that most sales professionals face. There are seven common challenges that sales professionals need to resolve to effectively engage the executive suite.

Consider the following situations, how often they occur within your team and how you currently are approaching each.

When was the last time you couldn't connect to the executive's critical business issues and were delegated down to a support level?Brilliant ideas and valuable products and services fall to indifference if you can't immediately establish credibility and connect to the executive's most pressing issues. Your credibility comes via the relevance you establish in your introduction by connecting your solutions or capabilities to the business drivers of the executive. When you reference challenges that the industry is facing or objectives that the company has stated in its public records, the executive will recognize that you've thought the matter through and you couldn't have had this conversation with anyone else.

You realized that your strongest contact in your customer's organization no longer held the power to make the buying decision.In today's highly competitive and volatile marketplace, globalization, consolidation and centralization are some of the causes of decisions' moving to higher levels of power and influence. This movement is forcing even the most experienced sales professionals to expand their expertise and compete at levels not required before. Expecting that a single contact in your customer's organization can and will carry your message effectively is hanging on to thin threads of hope. It is critical that we translate the value we can create at the technical, operational or clinical level to the impact it has on the performance drivers on the executive's dashboard and have those conversations with each executive. By recognizing the dials they are watching and being able to discuss their current measurements and how your solution will affect those measurements is a conversation most executives will be open to.

Your competition was in the executive suite and you weren't.Can the competition get to the executive suite and take your account while you believe that your relationship is strong at the operations level? Absolutely! Let's face it, your competition would have the advantage. People typically spend more time preparing for a prospect visit than they do for a customer visit. Don't let being overly familiar lull you into understanding less about your customer than your competitor who has prepared more. Gain advantage and pull ahead of competitive threats by establishing a broad base of relationships that will pre-empt and neutralize competitive moves.

You bought into the "I make the final decision" when, in fact, political moves and ego games got you hung up with someone who can barely influence the decision.Don't let diluted messages sabotage your best opportunities. Understand how your solution affects each level of responsibility within your customer's organization. It is only natural that you will interact at all levels to understand the full potential your solution will have, and after the sale to assure that the full value of your solution is being achieved. Building these relationships as you gather information will ensure that you are firmly grounded with both those who are influenced by and those who influence the decision.

You finally reached the person who held the checkbook, but you couldn't build the financial case needed to make the buying decision.The financial executive plays an increasingly central role in setting the strategy of the organization and how to fund the implementation of the strategy. Do not place the burden on your customers of translating your technical advantages into the financial impact of your solution. Involve them in your calculations; have them collaborate and adjust your assumptions. In the end, the customer must "own" the justification. Be their advisor, not their sales rep. Position your solution as a strategic asset.
Third-party consultants forced you to compete on price when you knew that the value you would create for the customer was not making it to the executive level in your customer's organization.Recognize that you and the consultant have the same customer. Build the case for mutual gains with the consultant by asking the questions they have not thought of asking and don't have the answers to. They will recognize the value that you add to their position and invite you into the executive suite. Help third-party consultants manage a quality buying process that builds successful outcomes for them, for you and for your customers.

Your convincing proposal won the first round of approvals, but you later found that the executive buy-in never happened. The executive had criteria on the table that you never tapped into, or even knew existed.Engage the executives early in the decision process to establish the criteria that creates senior-level ownership. Build winning proposals that connect the business drivers at all levels of influence and decision. Ask the in-depth questions that your customer has not thought of asking. Ask questions that expose the risks inherent in a successful implementation of your solution.Executives are concerned about working with suppliers that truly understand their business, their customers' demands and their competitive landscape, as well as the challenges associated with the implementation. If you cannot speak to these issues, your time in the executive suite will be brief at best.

To help you get started in gaining access and communicating with credibility, here are three suggestions:

Understand the executive mindset and be empowered to connect to top executives. Gain insight into how they think, what they expect, what makes them move forward and how they drive management support. They are looking for ideas and resources to execute their strategy, and ways to reduce risk and increase the probability of success.

Create compelling relevance that gains you access to the executive suite. Build a value assumption that will connect your capabilities to the executive agenda and ensure that you have strong executive-level sponsorship to prove or disprove the hypothesis.

Know how to establish exceptional credibility with corporate executives. Expected credibility is what you know about your solution. Exceptional credibility is what you know about your customer's business. Look at your words and your documents. Are they about you and your solution, or are they about your customer and their business?

When you understand the mindset of the executive, connect to their agenda and establish exceptional credibility, you will find yourself having meaningful conversations that often result in long-term and mutually beneficial relationships
Jeff Thull is president and CEO of Prime Resource Group (
www.primeresource.com) and the author of The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2005) as well as Mastering the Complex Sale (2003).

Business Strategy: Execution is the Key

A must read article for a marketing strategist

Business Strategy: Execution Is the Key

Date: Jan 21, 2005 By Lawrence Hrebiniak

Many managers are comfortable planning, but lag when it comes to actually putting the plan into action. This chapter explains why execution is even more important than planning, and how you can put your plan into motion more quickly and efficiently.


Two decades ago, I was working with the Organizational Effectiveness Group in AT&T's new Consumer Products division, a business created after the court-mandated breakup and reorganization of the company in 1984. I remember one particular day that made an impression on me that would last for years.
I was talking to Randy Tobias, the head of the division. I had met Randy while doing some work for Illinois Bell, and here we were talking about his division's strategic issues and challenges. Randy later moved into the chairman's office at AT&T and then became a successful CEO of Eli Lilly, but his comments that day years ago were the ones that affected me most.
Here was a new business thrust headlong into the competitive arena. Competition was new to AT&T at the time. Competitive strategy for the business was nonexistent, and Tobias was laboring to create that elusive original plan. He focused on products, competitors, industry forces, and how to position the new division in the marketplace. He handled expectations and demands from corporate as he forged a plan for the business and helped position it in the AT&T portfolio. He created a strategic plan where previously there had been none, a Herculean task and one well done at the time.
On that day, I recall asking Randy what was the biggest strategic challenge confronting the business. I expected that his answer would deal with the problem of strategy formulation or some competitive threat facing the division. His answer surprised me.
He said that strategy formulation, while extremely challenging and difficult, was not what concerned him the most. It was not the planning that worried him. It was something even bigger and more problematic.
It was the execution of strategy that concerned him above all else. Making the plan work would be an even bigger challenge than creating the plan. Execution was the key to competitive success, but it would take some doing.
I, of course, sought further clarification and elaboration. I can't remember all of his points in response to my many questions, but here are some of the execution challenges he raised that day, referring to his own organization. He mentioned the following:
· The culture of the organization and how it was not appropriate for the challenges ahead
· Incentives and how people have been rewarded for seniority or "getting older," not for performance or competitive achievement
· The need to overcome problems with traditional functional "silos" in the organization's structure
· The challenges inherent in managing change as the division adapted to new competitive conditions
This was the first elaboration of execution-related problems I had ever heard, and the message has stayed with me over the years. It became clear to me that day that:
Execution is a key to success
It also struck me in those early days with AT&T that, although execution is a key to success, it is no easy task. Here was a company with an ingrained culture and structure, a set way of doing things. For the company to adapt to its new competitive environment, major changes would be necessary, and those changes would be no simple cakewalk. Obviously, developing a competitive strategy wouldn't be easy, but the massive challenges confronting the company made it clear to me early on that:
Making strategy work is more difficult than the task of strategy making
Execution is critical to success. Execution represents a disciplined process or a logical set of connected activities that enables an organization to take a strategy and make it work. Without a careful, planned approach to execution, strategic goals cannot be attained. Developing such a logical approach, however, represents a formidable challenge to management.

Even with careful development of an execution plan at the business level, execution success is not guaranteed. Tobias's strategic and execution plans for the Consumer Products division were well thought out. Yet troubles plagued the division's progress. Why? The problem was with the entire AT&T corporation. The company was about to go through a huge metamorphosis that it simply was not equipped to deal with and make work. Execution plans at the business level founder or fail if they don't receive corporate support. AT&T was, at the time, a slow-moving behemoth in which change was vehemently resisted. Well-prepared and logical plans at the Consumer Products business level were hampered by a poor corporate culture. Tobias' insights and potentially effective execution actions were blunted by corporate inertia and incompetence.

Although execution is critical to strategic success, making strategy work presents a formidable challenge. A host of factors, including politics, inertia, and resistance to change, routinely can get in the way of execution success.

Fast forwarding to the present, I just finished a few weeks working with managers from Deutsche Post, Aventis Pharmaceutical, and Microsoft, talking to them about execution problems. I also just participated in a Wharton executive program on strategic management and was debriefing with a few of the participants.

The major point cutting through all the conversations is the importance and difficulty of executing strategy. Two decades after my conversation with Randy Tobias, managers are still emphasizing that execution is a key to success. They are arguing that making strategy work is important and is more difficult than strategy making. Plans still fail or wither on the vine because of poor execution.

The striking aspect of all this is that managers apparently still don't know a great deal about the execution of strategy. It is still seen as a major problem and challenge.

Management literature has focused over the years primarily on parading new ideas on planning and strategy formulation in front of eager readers, but it has sorely neglected execution. Granted, planning is important. Granted, people are waking up to the challenge and are beginning to take execution seriously.
Still, it is obvious that the execution of strategy is not nearly as clear and understood as the formulation of strategy. Much more is known about planning than doing, about strategy making than making strategy work.

Is execution really worth the effort? Is execution or implementation truly a key to strategic success?

Consider one relatively recent comprehensive study of what contributes to company success. In this study of 160 companies over a five-year period, success was strongly correlated, among other things, with an ability to execute flawlessly. Factors such as culture, organizational structure, and aspects of operational execution were vital to company success, with success measured by total return to shareholders. Other recent works have added their support to this study's finding that execution is important for strategic success, even if their approach and analysis are less rigorous and complete.iii These works then, in total, support the view I've held for years:
Sound execution is critical—A focus on making strategy work pays major dividends
Despite its importance, execution is often handled poorly by many organizations. There still are countless cases of good plans going awry because of substandard execution efforts. This raises some important questions.

If execution is central to success, why don't more organizations develop a disciplined approach to it? Why don't companies spend time developing and perfecting processes that help them achieve important strategic outcomes? Why can't more companies execute or implement strategies well and reap the benefits of those efforts?

The simple answer, again, is that execution is extremely difficult. There are formidable roadblocks or hurdles that get in the way of the execution process and seriously injure the implementation of strategy. The road to successful execution is full of potholes that must be negotiated for execution success. This was the message two decades ago, and it still is true today.

Let's identify some of the problems or hurdles affecting implementation. Let's then focus on confronting the obstacles and solving the problems in subsequent chapters of this book.
Managers Are Trained to Plan, Not Execute
One basic problem is that managers know more about strategy formulation than implementation. They are trained to plan, not execute plans.
In most MBA programs I've looked at, students learn a great deal about strategy formulation and functional planning. Core courses typically hone in on competitive strategy, marketing strategy, financial strategy, and so on. The number of courses in most core programs that deal exclusively with execution or implementation? Usually none. Execution is most certainly touched on in a couple of the courses, but not in a dedicated, elaborate, purposeful way. Emphasis clearly is on conceptual work, primarily planning, and not on doing. At Wharton, there is at least an elective on strategy implementation, but this is not typical of many other MBA programs. Even if things are beginning to change, the emphasis still is squarely on planning, not execution.
Added to the lack of training in execution is the fact that strategy and planning in most business schools are taught in "silos," by departments or disciplines, and execution suffers further. The view that marketing strategy, financial strategy, HR strategy, and so on is the only "right" approach is deleterious to the integrative view demanded by execution.

It appears, then, that most MBA programs (undergrad, too, for that matter) are marked by an emphasis on developing strategies, not executing them. Bright graduates are well versed in strategy and planning, with only a passing exposure to execution. Extrapolating this into the real world suggests that there are many managers who have rich conceptual backgrounds and training in planning but not in "doing." The lack of formal attention to strategy execution in the classroom obviously must carry over to a lack of attention and consequent underachievement in the area of execution in the real world.

If this is true—if managers are trained to plan, not to execute—then the successful execution of strategy becomes less likely and more problematic. Execution is learned in the "school of hard knocks," and the pathways to successful results are likely fraught with mistakes and frustrations.

It also follows logically that managers who know something about strategy execution very likely have the advantage over their counterparts who don't.
If managers in one company are better versed in the ways of execution than managers in a competitor organization, isn't it logical to assume, all other things being equal, that the former company may enjoy a competitive advantage over the latter, given the differences in knowledge or capabilities? The benefits of effective execution include competitive advantage and higher returns to shareholders, so having knowledge in this area would clearly seem to be worthwhile and beneficial to the organization.
Let the "Grunts" Handle Execution
Another problem is that some C-level and other top-level managers actually believe that strategy execution or implementation is "below them," something best left to lower-level employees. Indeed, the heading of this section comes from an actual quote from a high-level manager.

I was working on implementation programs at GM, under the auspices of Corporate Strategic Planning. In the course of my work, I encountered many competent and dedicated managers. However, I also ran across a few who had a jaundiced view of execution. As one of these managers explained:

"Top management rightfully worries about planning and strategy formulation. Great care must be taken to develop sound plans. If planning is done well, management then can turn the plans over to the grunts whose job it is to make sure things get done and the work of the planners doesn't go to waste."

What a picture of the planning and execution process! The planners (the "smart" people) develop plans that the "grunts" (not quite as smart) simply have to follow through on and make work. "Doing" obviously involves less ability and intelligence than "planning," a perception of managerial work that clearly demeans the execution process.

The prevailing view here is that one group of managers does innovative, challenging work (planning) and then "hands off the ball" to lower levels for execution. If things go awry and strategic plans are not successful (which often is the case), the problem is placed squarely at the feet of the "doers," who somehow screwed up and couldn't implement a perfectly sound and viable plan. The doers fumbled the ball despite the planners' well-designed plays.
Every organization, of course, has some separation of planning and doing, of formulation and execution. However, when such a separation becomes dysfunctional—when planners see themselves as the smart people and treat the doers as "grunts"—there clearly will be execution problems. When the "elite" plan and see execution as something below them, detracting from their dignity as top managers, the successful implementation of strategy obviously is in jeopardy.

The truth is that all managers are "grunts" when it comes to strategy execution. From the CEO on down, sound execution demands that managers roll up their sleeves and pitch in to make a difference. The content and focus of what they do may vary between top and middle management. Nonetheless, execution demands commitment to and a passion for results, regardless of management level.

Another way of saying this is that execution demands ownership at all levels of management. From C-level managers on down, people must commit to and own the processes and actions central to effective execution. Ownership of execution and the change processes vital to execution are necessary for success. Change is impossible without commitment to the decisions and actions that define strategy execution.

The execution of strategy is not a trivial part of managerial work; it defines the essence of that work. Execution is a key responsibility of all managers, not something that "others" do or worry about.
Planning and Execution Are Interdependent
Even though, in reality, there may be a separation of planning and execution tasks, the two are highly interdependent. Planning affects execution. The execution of strategy, in turn, affects changes to strategy and planning over time. This relationship between planning and doing suggests two critical points to keep in mind.

Successful strategic outcomes are best achieved when those responsible for execution are also part of the planning or formulation process. The greater the interaction between "doers" and "planners" or the greater the overlap of the two processes or tasks, the higher the probability of execution success.

A related point is that strategic success demands a "simultaneous" view of planning and doing. Managers must be thinking about execution even as they are formulating plans. Execution is not something to "worry about later." All execution decisions and actions, of course, cannot be taken at once. Execution issues or problem areas must be anticipated, however, as part of a "big picture" dealing with planning and doing. Formulating and executing are parts of an integrated, strategic management approach. This dual or simultaneous view is important but difficult to achieve, and it presents a challenge to effective execution.

Randy Tobias had this simultaneous view of planning and doing. Even as he was formulating a new competitive strategy for his AT&T division, he was anticipating execution challenges. Competitive strategy formulation wasn't seen as occurring in a planning vacuum, isolated from execution issues. Central to the success of strategy was his early identification and appreciation of execution-related factors whose impact on strategic success was judged to be formidable. Execution worries couldn't be put off; they were part and parcel of the planning function.

In contrast, top management at a stumbling Lucent Technologies never had this simultaneous view of planning and execution.
When it was spun off from AT&T, the communications, software, and data networking giant looked like a sure bet to succeed. It had the fabled Bell Labs in its fold. It was ready to hit the ground running and formulate winning competitive strategies. Even as the soaring technology market of the late 1990s helped Lucent and other companies, however, it couldn't entirely mask or eliminate Lucent's problems.

One of the biggest problems was that management didn't anticipate critical execution obstacles as they were formulating strategy. Its parent, Ma Bell, had become bureaucratic and slow moving, and Lucent took this culture with it when it was spun off. The culture didn't serve the company well in a highly competitive, rapidly changing telecom environment, a problem that was not foreseen. An unwieldy organizational structure, too, was ignored during Lucent's early attempts at strategy development, and it soon became a liability when it came to such matters as product development and time to market. More agile competitors such as Nortel beat Lucent to market, signaling problems with Lucent's ability to pull off its newly developed strategies.

One thing that was lacking at Lucent was top management's having a simultaneous view of planning and doing. The planning phase ignored critical execution issues related to culture, structure, and people. The results of this neglect were extremely negative, only magnified by the market downturns in 2000 and thereafter.
Execution Takes Longer than Formulation
The execution of strategy usually takes longer than the formulation of strategy. Whereas planning may take weeks or months, the implementation of strategy is usually played out over a much longer period of time. The longer time frame can make it harder for managers to focus on and control the execution process, as many things, some unforeseen, can materialize and challenge managers' attention.
Steps taken to execute a strategy take place over time, and many factors, including some unanticipated, come into play. Interest rates may change; competitors don't behave the way they're supposed to (competitors can be notoriously "unfair" at times, not playing by our "rules"!), customers' needs change, and key personnel leave the company. The outcomes of changes in strategy and execution methods cannot always be easily determined because of "noise" or uncontrolled events. This obviously increases the difficulty of execution efforts.

The longer time frame puts pressure on managers dealing with execution. Long-term needs must be translated into short-term objectives. Controls must be set up to provide feedback and keep management abreast of external "shocks" and changes. The process of execution must be dynamic and adaptive, responding to and compensating for unanticipated events. This presents a real challenge to managers and increases the difficulty of strategy execution.

When the DaimlerChrysler merger was consummated in 1998, many believed that the landmark deal would create the world's preeminent carmaker. Execution since has been extremely difficult, however, and the six years after the merger have seen many new problems unfold. The company has faced one crisis after another, including two bouts of heavy losses in the Chrysler division, a series of losses in commercial vehicles, and huge problems with failed investments in an attempted turnaround at debt- burdened Mitsubishi Motors.iv Serious culture clashes also materialized between the top-down, formal German culture vs. the more informal and decentralized U.S. company. Angry shareholders at the 2004 meeting created and mirrored internal dissent and issued an ultimatum to Jurgen Schrempp to turn things around fast.

The six years after the merger presented problems unforeseen at the time of the merger. Execution always takes time and places pressure on management for results. But the longer time needed for execution also increases the likelihood of additional unforeseen problems or challenges cropping up, which further increases the pressure on managers responsible for execution results. The process of execution is always difficult and sometimes quarrelsome, with problems only exacerbated by the longer time frame usually associated with execution.
Execution Is a Process, Not an Action or Step
A point just made is critical and should be repeated: Execution is a process. It is not the result of a single decision or action. It is the result of a series of integrated decisions or actions over time.
This helps explain why sound execution confers competitive advantage. Firms will try to benchmark a successful execution of strategy. However, if execution involves a series of internally consistent, integrated activities, activity systems, or processes, imitation will be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Southwest Airlines, for example, does many things differently than most large airlines. It has no baggage transfer, serves no meals, issues no boarding passes, uses one type of airplane (reducing training and maintenance costs), and incents fast turnaround at the gate. It has developed capabilities and created a host of activities to support its low-cost strategy. Other airlines are hard pressed to copy it, as they're already doing everything Southwest isn't. They're committed to different routines and methods. Copying Southwest's execution activities, in total, would involve difficult trade-offs, markedly different tasks, and major changes, which complicates the problem of developing and integrating new execution processes or activities. This is not to say that competitors absolutely cannot copy Southwest; indeed, other low-cost upstarts and traditional airlines are putting increasing competitive pressure on Southwest. This is simply arguing that such imitation is extremely hard to do.
Execution is a process that demands a great deal of attention to make it work. Execution is not a single decision or action. Managers who seek a quick solution to execution problems will surely fail in attempts at making strategy work. Faster is not always better!
Execution Involves More People than Strategy Formulation DOES
In addition to being played out over longer periods of time, strategy implementation always involves more people than strategy formulation. This presents additional problems. Communication down the organization or across different functions becomes a challenge. Making sure that incentives throughout the organization support strategy execution efforts becomes a necessity and, potentially, a problem. Linking strategic objectives with the day-to-day objectives and concerns of personnel at different organizational levels and locations becomes a legitimate but challenging task. The larger the number of people involved, the greater the challenge of effective strategy execution.

I once was involved in a strategic planning project with a well-known bank. Another project I wasn't directly involved in had previously recommended a new program to increase the number of retail customers who used certain profitable products and services. A strategy was articulated and a plan of execution developed to educate key personnel and to set goals consistent with the new thrust. Branch managers and others dealing with customers were brought in to corporate for training and to create widespread enthusiasm for the program.
After a few months, the data revealed that not much had changed. It clearly was business as usual, with no change in the outcomes that were being targeted by the new program. The bank decided to do a brief survey to canvas customers and branch personnel in contact with customers to determine reactions to the program and see where modifications could be made.

The results were shocking, as you've probably guessed. Few people knew about the program. Some tellers and branch personnel did mention that they had heard about "something new," but nothing different was introduced to their daily routines. A few said that the new program was probably just a rumor, as nothing substantial had ever been implemented. Others suggested that rumors were always circulating, and they never knew what was real or bogus.
Communication and follow-through for the new program were obviously inadequate, but the bank admittedly faced a daunting task. It was a big bank. It had many employees at the branch level. Educating them and changing their behaviors was made extremely difficult by the bank's size. Decentralized branch operations ensured that problems were always "popping up" in the field, challenging employees' attention and making it difficult to introduce new ideas from corporate to a large group of employees.

In this example, the number of people who needed to be involved in the implementation of a new program presented a major challenge to the bank management. One can easily imagine the communications problems in even larger, geographically dispersed companies such as GM, IBM, Deutsche Post, GE, Exxon, Nestlé, Citicorp, and ABB. The number of people involved, added to the longer time frames generally associated with strategy execution, clearly creates problems when trying to make strategy work.
Additional Challenges and Obstacles to Successful Execution
The issues previously noted are serious, potentially impeding execution. Yet there are still other challenges and obstacles to the successful implementation of strategy. These need to be identified and confronted if execution is to succeed.

To find out what problems managers routinely encounter in the execution of strategy, I developed two research projects to provide some answers. My goal was to learn about execution from those most qualified to give me the scoop—managers actually dealing with strategy execution. I could have relied solely on my own consulting experiences. I felt, however, that a more widespread approach—surveys directed toward many practicing managers—would yield additional positive results and useful insights into execution issues.
Wharton-Gartner Survey
This was a joint project involving the Gartner Group, Inc., a well-known research organization, and me, a Wharton professor. This is a relatively recent project, with data collection and analysis in 2003.
The purpose of the research, from the Gartner introduction, was as follows:

"To gain a clear understanding of challenges faced by managers as they make decisions and take actions to execute their company's strategy to gain competitive advantage."
The research instrument was a short online survey sent to 1,000 individuals on the Gartner E-Panel database. The targeted sample comprised managers who reported that they were involved in strategy formulation and execution. Complete usable responses were received from a sample of 243 individuals, a return rate that is more than sufficient for this type of research. In addition, the survey collected responses to open-ended questions to provide additional data, including explanations of items covered in the survey instrument.
There were 12 items on the survey dealing with obstacles to the strategy-execution process. They focused on conditions that affect execution and were originally developed in conjunction with a Wharton Executive Development Program on strategy implementation. Let's briefly consider this program and the survey it generated, and then we'll look at the items involved.
Wharton Executive Education Survey
I have been running an executive program on strategy implementation at Wharton a number of times a year for about 20 years. I have met hundreds of managers with responsibility for strategy execution, many of whom confronted major hurdles in their attempts to execute strategy successfully. As part of the formal program, managers brought their real-world problems with them. Time was allocated to air out the problems and focus on their solution in the course of the program.

Based on these presentations and my discussions with managers, I developed a list of execution hurdles or challenges to the execution process. I discussed this list with managers, asking them to rank the problems or obstacles in order of importance. Over time, items were modified, added to, or deleted from the list until I settled on 12 items that made sense and had "face" validity. These items, managers felt, clearly had a relationship to strategy execution.

Using the 12 items to gather opinions over a large number of executive education programs provided me with responses from a sample of 200 managers. They provided a ranking of the items' impact on strategy execution. Open-ended responses to questions about execution issues, problems, and opportunities were also collected over time, providing additional valuable data. Coupled with the data collected in the Wharton-Gartner Survey using the same 12 items, I had complete responses from more than 400 managers involved in strategy execution who told me about their execution problems and their solutions to them.
Panel Discussions
In subsequent Wharton executive programs after the data collection, I held informal panel discussions to collect additional insights into what the data were actually saying. I asked managers why, in their opinion, people responded the way they did. "What are the surveys telling us about execution problems or issues?" was the predominant question.
These discussions forced managers to read between the lines and interpret the formal data. They also enabled me to probe into what could be done to overcome the obstacles and achieve successful execution outcomes. Insights were collected, then, not only on the sources of execution problems but their solutions as well.
The surveys and follow-up discussions provided data right from "the horse's mouth." These were not idiosyncratic data, the opinions or observations of a few managers or CEOs who, against all odds, "did it their way." The number of managers providing answers, coupled with an emphasis on real problems and solutions, added a strong sense of relevance to the opinions gathered about strategy execution.
The Results: Opinions About Successful Strategy Execution
Table 1.1 shows the results of the surveys. The 12 items are shown, with the respective rank orderings for the Wharton-Gartner Survey and the Wharton Executive Education Survey. (The actual questionnaire, for those interested, appears in the appendix to this book.)
Table 1.1 Obstacles to Strategy Execution
Wharton-Gartner Survey (n = 243)
Rankings Wharton-Executive Education Survey (n = 200)
Either Survey Top 5 Rankings
1. Inability to manage change effectively or to overcome internal resistance to change
2. Trying to execute a strategy that conflicts with the existing power structure
3. Poor or inadequate information sharing between individuals or business units responsible for strategy execution
4. Unclear communication of responsibility and/or accountability for execution decisions or actions
5. Poor or vague strategy
6. Lack of feelings of "ownership" of a strategy or execution plans among key employees
7. Not having guidelines or a model to guide strategy- execution efforts
8. Lack of understanding of the role of organizational structure and design in the execution process
9. Inability to generate "buy-in" or agreement on critical execution steps or actions

10. Lack of incentives or inappropriate incentives to support execution objectives

11. Insufficient financial resources to execute the strategy

12. Lack of upper-management support of strategy execution

It is obvious that there is strong agreement on some of the items. The importance of managing change well, including cultural change, is first on both surveys. Inability to manage change effectively clearly is seen as injurious to strategy-execution efforts. Although culture was not mentioned explicitly in the item, the open-ended responses and panel discussions placed culture at the core of many change-related problems. To many of the respondents, "change" and" "culture change" were synonymous.
Trying to execute a strategy that conflicts with the prevailing power structure clearly is doomed to failure, according to the managers surveyed. Confronting those with influence at different organizational levels who disagree with an execution plan surely will have unhappy results in most cases.
Poor sharing of information or poor knowledge transfer and unclear responsibility and accountability also can doom strategy-execution attempts. These two items suggest that attempts at coordination or integration across organizational units can suffer if unclear responsibilities and poor sharing of vital information needed for execution is the rule. Again, this makes sense because complex strategies often demand cooperation and effective coordination and information sharing. Not achieving the requisite knowledge transfer and integration certainly cannot help the execution of these strategies.
There is also agreement on the unimportance of some of the items. Both survey groups clearly agreed that a lack of upper-management support and insufficient financial resources were not major problems for strategy execution in their organizations. These results were extremely surprising, so I pursued them further.
Presenting these results to managers in the panel discussions helped clarify the findings. Basically, the story is that top-management support and adequate financial resources are absolutely critical, but that support is primarily manifested during a planning stage, when deciding on execution plans and methods. Commitment to plans of actions and commitment of resources occur as part of planning, so they are "givens," predetermined inputs to the execution process. Execution plans and activities already have the blessing and approval of top management, and commitment of the requisite resources has already been made. Occasionally, top management may renege on its support during execution, but managers said that this was the exception, not the rule.
This explains, then, why the items dealing with financial support and top management buy-in were rated as only minor execution problems, not serious obstacles. The issues related to support and commitment had already been confronted and resolved, according to the managers interviewed. They definitely are saying, however, that had the blessing of top management not been attained, execution success would be far less probable, if not impossible, to achieve. Given that buy-in and financial support were a reality and in place, the focus could turn to other execution tasks and activities.

It is important to note, too, that top management and financial support are seen by managers as different issues than the power issue previously reported as significant for execution. Power has a broader and more pervasive influence than financial allocations, although there clearly is some relationship. Even after the approval of an execution project and the attendant budget allocations, power and social influence come into play and can affect execution. Managers were adamant in their opinion that, while power certainly includes elements of hierarchy and budgeting, power differences are deeper, more complex, and permeate the entire organization, regardless of hierarchical level.

There are some differences between managers in the two surveys on a few of the items. Having a "poor or vague strategy," for example, was ranked as the second biggest execution obstacle by the Wharton Executive Education group, but it was ranked fifth by the Wharton-Gartner managers. "Not having a model or guidelines to guide strategy execution efforts" was ranked as the second biggest obstacle by the Executive Education group but was seventh in the Wharton-Gartner Survey. There were also small perceived differences on the importance of organizational structure or design in the execution process.
Why the differences? It may be due in part to the makeup of the samples in the two surveys. The Wharton-Gartner Survey tapped the opinions of managers, some of whom, we can infer, were successful in execution and some of whom weren't. Surely, some of the individuals sampled were successful in their implementation efforts, meaning they weren't having problems.

In contrast, many of the managers in the Executive Education Survey attended the Wharton program because they were having actual execution problems. They came to the program to help solve them and to overcome real implementation obstacles. Their focus was clearly on righting or avoiding execution mistakes. They could see problems, say, with organizational structure or not having a model to guide execution efforts, whereas managers in the Wharton-Gartner Survey may have already overcome those problems and, hence, ranked them lower in importance. Whatever the reason, there were some differences between the two groups.
Poor Execution Outcomes
There was strong agreement between the research groups on the impact of the execution problems on performance results. In addition to "not achieving desired execution outcomes or objectives," managers in the surveys ranked a few additional results of poor execution methods as being highly problematical. These include the following:
· Employees don't understand how their jobs contribute to important execution outcomes.
· Time and money are wasted because of inefficiency or bureaucracy in the execution process.
· Execution decisions take too long to make.
· The company reacts slowly or inappropriately to competitive pressures.
These are not trivial issues. Execution problems can cost the organization dearly. Time and money are wasted, and a company can face serious competitive setbacks because of an inability to respond to market or customer demands. Execution problems must be addressed, but which ones and in what order?
Making Sense of the Data and Going Forward
Given the responses from managers just noted, what does all this mean? What really affects execution? What should we focus on in subsequent chapters of this book?
The first thing I did to answer these questions was to include all items that were ranked fifth or higher in either or both samples of managers. If either or both groups felt that strongly about an execution obstacle, I felt that the item deserved consideration. The far right-hand column in Table 1.1 shows checkmarks by these items.
Second, I looked to the open-ended responses, panel discussions, and my own notes taken during the Wharton programs and panel discussions to flesh out the items in Table 1.1. This proved to be enlightening. I determined easily that "managing change" included managing cultural change to many of the respondents, a point emphasized earlier. The impact of culture itself on execution and company performance was often emphasized, even though culture was not one of the 12 survey items. Managers basically said that culture was an underlying explanatory element in responses dealing with incentives, power, and change, items that were included in the survey. Some argued strongly for the importance of culture as a separate factor affecting execution success.
From these discussions and open-ended responses, I learned why there were many strong comments for certain items, such as the need for an execution model or plan. If a plan existed to guide execution efforts in their company, managers did not rank it as a significant problem. If such a plan didn't exist, it was considered to be a major shortcoming that gave rise to yet additional problems in the execution process.
I read and heard the lamentations of many about execution problems that arise from poor strategy or inadequate planning. Vague strategies cannot easily be translated into the measurable objectives or metrics so vital to execution. Unclear corporate and business plans inhibit integration of objectives, activities, and strategies between corporate and business levels. Poor strategies result in poor execution plans. Points such as these derived from the panel discussions and open-ended responses provided helpful insights into the meaning of the survey items and the factors affecting execution.
Finally, managers told me about the importance of controls or feedback in the execution process. What they were emphasizing is the importance of strategy reviews that provide feedback about performance and allow for changes in execution methods. These points are consistent with the importance of managing change and organizational adaptation, issues already discussed, but the managers' additional emphasis on the importance of controls, feedback, and change were duly noted.
After carefully examining all the data, I then tried to "cluster" the items logically to see which obstacles to successful execution seemed to "stick together." Here is my take on what the data seem to be saying.
The Execution Challenge
There are eight areas of obstacles or challenges to strategy execution. Or, to put it positively, there are eight areas of opportunity: Handling them well will guarantee execution success. The areas relating to the success of execution are as follows:
1. Developing a model to guide execution decisions or actions
2. Understanding how the creation of strategy affects the execution of strategy
3. Managing change effectively, including culture change
4. Understanding power or influence and using it for execution success
5. Developing organizational structures that foster information sharing, coordination, and clear accountability
6. Developing effective controls and feedback mechanisms
7. Knowing how to create an execution-supportive culture
8. Exercising execution-biased leadership
Having a Model or Guidelines for Execution
Managers need a logical model to guide execution actions.
Without guidelines, execution becomes a helter-skelter affair. Without guidance, individuals do the things they think are important, often resulting in uncoordinated, divergent, even conflicting decisions and actions. Without the benefit of a logical approach, execution suffers or fails because managers don't know what steps to take and when to take them. Having a model or roadmap positively affects execution success.
Strategy is the Primary Driver
It all begins with strategy. Execution cannot occur until one has something to execute. Bad strategy begets poor execution and poor outcomes, so it's important to focus first on a sound strategy.
Good people are important for execution. It is vital to get the "right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus," so to speak. But it's also important to know where the bus is going and why. Strategy is critical. It drives the development of capabilities and which people with what skills sit in what seats on the bus. If one substitutes "jet airplane" for "bus" above—given today's high-flying, competitive markets—the importance of strategy, direction, and the requisite critical skills and capabilities necessary for success are emphasized even more.

Strategy defines the arena (customers, markets, technologies, products, logistics) in which the execution game is played. Execution is an empty effort without the guidance of strategy and short-term objectives related to strategy. What aspects of strategy and planning impact execution outcomes the most is a critical question that needs answering. Another critical question deals with the relationship between corporate- and business-level strategies and how their interaction affects execution outcomes.
Managing Change
Execution or strategy implementation often involves change. Not handling change well will spell disaster for execution efforts.
Managing change means much more than keeping people happy and reducing resistance to new ideas and methods. It also means knowing the tactics or steps needed to manage the execution process over time. Do managers implement change sequentially, bit by bit, or do they do everything at once, biting the bullet and implementing change in one fell swoop? The wrong answer can seriously hamper or kill execution efforts. Knowing how to manage the execution process and related changes over time is important for execution success.
The Power Structure
Execution programs that contradict the power or influence structure of an organization are doomed to failure. But what affects power or influence? Power is more than individual personality or position. Power reflects strategy, structure, and critical dependencies on capabilities and scarce resources. Knowing what power is and how to create and use influence can spell the difference between execution success and failure.
Coordination and Information Sharing
These are vital to effective execution. Knowing how to achieve coordination and information sharing in complex, geographically dispersed organizations is important to execution success. Yet managers are often motivated not to share information or work with their colleagues to coordinate activities and achieve strategic and short-term goals. Why? The answer to this question is vital to the successful execution of strategy.
Clear Responsibility and Accountability
This is one of the most important prerequisites for successful execution, as basic as it sounds. Managers must know who's doing what, when, and why, as well as who's accountable for key steps in the execution process. Without clear responsibility and accountability, execution programs will go nowhere. Knowing how to achieve this clarity is central to execution success.
The Right Culture
Organizations must develop execution-supportive cultures. Execution demands a culture of achievement, discipline, and ownership. But developing or changing culture is no easy task. Rock climbing, white-water rafting, paint-gun battles, and other activities with the management team are fun. They rarely, however, produce lasting cultural change. Knowing what does affect cultural change is central to execution success.
Leadership must be execution biased. It must drive the organization to execution success. It must motivate ownership of and commitment to the execution process.

Leadership affects how organizations respond to all of the preceding execution challenges. It is always at least implied when discussing what actions or decisions are necessary to make strategy work. A complete analysis of execution steps and decisions usually defines what good leadership is and how it affects execution success, directly or indirectly.
Controls, Feedback, and Adaptation
Strategy execution processes support organizational change and adaptation. Making strategy work requires feedback about organizational performance and then using that information to fine-tune strategy, objectives, and the execution process itself. There is an emergent aspect of strategy and execution, as organizations learn and adapt to environmental changes over time. Adaptation and change depend on effective execution methods.

As important as controls and feedback are, they often don't work. Control processes fail. They don't identify and confront the brutal facts underlying poor performance. Adaptation is haphazard or incomplete. Understanding how to manage feedback, strategy reviews, and change is vital to the success of strategy execution.

These are the issues that impact the success or failure of strategy-execution efforts. Coupled with the issues previously mentioned (longer time frames, involvement of many people, and so on), these are the areas that present formidable obstacles to successful execution if they are not handled properly. They also present opportunities for competitive advantage if they are understood and managed well.
The last words, "managed well," hold the key to success. Knowing the obstacles or potential opportunities is necessary but not sufficient. The real issue is how to deal with them to generate positive execution results. The major significant point or thrust of this chapter is that execution is not managed well in most organizations. The remainder of this book is dedicated to correcting this woeful situation.
The Next Step: Developing a Logical Approach to Execution Decisions and Actions
So where and how does one begin to confront the issues just noted? Which execution problems or opportunities should managers consider first? What decisions or actions come later? Why? Can an approach to strategy execution be developed to guide managers through the maze of obstacles and problematical issues just identified?

The next chapter begins to tackle these questions. It presents an overview, a conceptual framework to guide execution decisions and actions. Managers need such a model because they routinely face a bewildering set of decisions about a host of strategic and operating problems, including those dealing with execution. They need guidelines, a "roadmap" to steer them logically to execution success.
Priorities are also needed. Tackling too many execution decisions or actions at once will surely create problems. "When everything is important, then nothing is important," is a clear but simple way of expressing the issue. Priorities must be set and a logical order to execution actions adequately defined if execution is to succeed.
Having a model, finally, also facilitates a "simultaneous" view of planning and doing. All execution actions cannot be taken at once; some must precede others logically. A good overview or model, however, provides a "big picture" that enables managers to see and anticipate execution problems. Execution is not something that others should worry about later. Planning requires anticipating early on what must be done to make strategy work.

Development of a logical overview is a step that has been ignored by practitioners, academics, and management consultants alike. Execution problems or issues typically have been handled separately or in an ad-hoc fashion, supported by a few anecdotes or case studies. This is not sufficient. Execution is too complex to be approached without guidelines or a roadmap.
Managers cannot act in a helter-skelter fashion when executing strategy. They can't focus one day on organizational structure, the next on culture, and then on to "good people," only to find out that strategy is vague or severely flawed. They need guidelines, a way to see and approach execution and the logical order of the key variables involved. A roadmap is needed to guide them through the minefields of bad execution decisions and actions. Managers require a "big picture" as well as an understanding of the "nitty-gritty," the key elements that comprise the big picture.

The next chapter tackles the essential task of providing this overview by showing the order and logic of key execution decisions. It begins to confront the obstacles identified in this chapter as it lays out this sequence of decisions or actions. These decisions and actions simultaneously define the areas needing additional attention in later chapters of this book. Having a model of execution is vital to making strategy work, so let's take this important and necessary step.
· Execution is a key to strategic success. Most managers, however, know a lot more about strategy formulation than execution. They know much more about "planning" than "doing," which causes major problems with making strategy work.

· Strategy execution is difficult but worthy of management's attention across all levels of an organization. All managers bear responsibility for successful execution. It is not just a lower-level task.

· Part of the difficulty of execution is due to the obstacles or impediments to it. These include the longer time frames needed for execution; the need for involvement of many people in the execution process; poor or vague strategy; conflicts with the organizational power structure; poor or inadequate sharing of information; a lack of understanding of organizational structure, including information sharing and coordination methods; unclear responsibility and accountability in the execution process; and an inability to manage change, including cultural change.

· Knowing execution hazards (opportunities) is necessary but not sufficient. For successful execution to occur, managers need a model or a set of guidelines outlining the entire process and relationships among key decisions or actions. A "roadmap" is needed to help with the order of execution decisions as managers confront obstacles and take advantage of opportunities.