Monday, September 8, 2003

Choose your driving force--Part II

Business Times, p.B5

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Choose your driving force--Part II

Shepherd’s Law of Economics states that behind each corporation must be a singular force, or motive, that sets it apart from any other corporate structure and gives it its particular identity. Author Michel Robert says that it is the identification of what drives and gives the organization its momentum in a certain direction that is the key element of strategic thinking.

This singular motive is what is generally known in business parlance as driving force. It is that one key element of the organization that pulls the organization to where it wants to go. Having identified it, organizational leaders will find it satisfying from here on to lead the current situation and manage eventual changes. Having understood it, the rest of the organization could confidently march together to the same beat while they innovate along the way. When you know where you are coming from, it is easy to go where you want to be.

Last column we identified three driving forces:

· product/service concept
· user/customer class
· market type/category

Today, in our Journey on Entrepreneurship, let us discuss three more strategic drivers identified by Michel Robert in his book, Strategy Pure & Simple (McGraw Hill):

Production Capacity/Capability-Driven Strategy

An organization might invest heavily in its physical assets and production facility. Therefore, they want to keep this facility running on full capacity. Such a company will attract all takers to optimize such facility. Examples are hotels and airlines. Once an airplane takes off, that’s it. It could not anymore take in passengers while in flight. But who knows that in future there might be air stations for changing flights or taking connecting flights without the hassle of tedious airport procedures. Anyways, everything the airline spent to put that plane in flight is sank cost that cannot be recovered anymore.

Airlines endeavor, therefore, to fill every flight. So everything these airlines do is towards keeping their airplane flying at full capacity for passenger and cargo. Airlines are production capacity/capability-driven organizations.

Technology/Know-How-Driven Strategy
To my mind, the business of 3M is adhesive technology and its many applications. 3M adhesive-based products are in business, medicine, engineering, practically everywhere. They provide solutions for seemingly unrelated problems. You buy a pad of Post-it and soon enough you find a million and one ways you could use them. Soon or late, your whole desk or cubicle or room is grandly decorated with Post-it reminders, quotes, markers, instructions, etc.

Clearly, 3M is a technology/know-how-driven organization. Same with Microsoft, Dupont, Sony, Sharp, Xerox, HP, Polaroid, IBM, and many other companies offering “solutions looking for problems.” These companies create or acquire hard and soft technology and go looking out for applications of that technology. They normally offer an array of products and services and serve a broad spectrum of end users and market segments.

Sales/Marketing Method-Driven Strategy
So-called-dirty ice cream companies thrive because of their sales method which is peddling ice cream in carts along streets, narrow and wide, particularly in residential areas. You will never see a dirty ice cream company selling its products in supermarket or malls or variety stores. They will not also sell any product that can not fit in their cart and can not be peddled in the streets. You can’t find these ice cream vendors in places where they are not allowed, such as along streets in the busy financial district of Makati. They sell ice cream in cones, in cups or as ice cream sandwiches. They do not sell them by the pint or half gallon or gallon. Otherwise, they lose their identity—ambulant ice cream retail selling method.

This unique way of order taking and selling to customers is employed by sales/marketing method-driven companies. Avon, Tupperware, Amway and Fortune Selling use the door-to-door direct selling. They will only sell products that could be sold by this method. They prohibit their sales crew from selling their products from a stationary venue like a store.

Take note that for the example companies given here, their respective driving force guides all their strategic decisions regarding products, customers, markets and use of resources. It makes them focus their energies and resources to most important elements of the organization and forget about the “noise” around them. It is their not-so-secret weapon that gives them the “magic” competitive edge.

Next column we will discuss the last four possible strategic drivers an organization could pursue.

Final call. You still have a week to prepare to go to Panama and attend the First ASTD Global Network Conference and Exposition on linking training and performance. This will be held on Sept 17-19, 2003 at Hotel Riande Intercontinental, Panama City. Call GraceVictoriano at telephone 715-9332 for details. See you there.

(Ms. Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and facilitates strategic thinking process. Email your comments and questions for her at

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