How Top Consulting Firms Do Strategy

Photography by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

ome say strategy is vision, others say strategy is process and tactic. It’s one of those things everyone has a different take on. To pin down what strategy is, I started by looking at how today’s thought leaders — McKinsey, Harvard Business Review, and Monitor Deloitte — see strategy, and I’d like to share those insights with you.

McKinsey’s Take on Strategy

Strategy is…
1. An integrated set of actions to create a sustainable competitive advantage over competitors.
2. A way of thinking, not a procedural exercise or a set of frameworks.

McKinsey believes a firm should look at strategy from four lenses: financial, market, competitive advantage, operating model.

Through the financial lens, we benchmark our financial performance against peers. It’s an objective baseline for us to assess and prioritize new initiatives, and to understand what the future looks like if we follow our current trajectory.

Through the market lens, we consider:

  1. Which market segments we can grow profitably in over time
  2. Other attractive markets we should consider entering

Through the competitive advantage lens, we try to figure out what it takes to capture value and win in our current markets. We determine if we can win, win quick enough, and win sustainably.

Finally, through the operating model lens, we allocate and design our people, process, and technology resources to inform strategic objectives.

McKinsey’s 4 Lenses Strategy Framework

The Building Blocks of Strategy

Below are the core building blocks McKinsey identified.

McKinsey’s Building Blocks of Strategy

They will ensure alignment on key decisions and that the company is prepared and willing to act on the strategy adopted.

HBR’s Take on Strategy

Strategy is…
1. A plan to create value.
2. Choices to do some things and not others.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) says strategy is about expanding the top side and the bottom side of the Big I:

Diagram by Harvard Business Review on YouTube

To capture additional value, a firm must either expand willingness to pay (raise the top bar) or expand willingness to sell (lower the bottom bar).

  • improve product quality
  • expand product complements (ex. printer + cartridges)
  • build network effect
  • make employees’ jobs better
  • make suppliers’ lives easier

If the I is not expanded, value is merely shifted from the firm’s margin to their customers, their suppliers, or their staff.

Monitor Deloitte’s Take on Strategy

Strategy is…
An integrated set of choices that positions the firm in its industry, to create sustainable advantage relative to competition and superior financial returns.

Deloitte’s Strategic Choice Cascade (Diagram by Abdul Aziz)

Their iterative “cascade” to strategy development has 5 steps:

  1. Define your purpose (goals & aspirations)
  2. Pick your market (where you’ll play)
  3. Determine how you’ll win in your chosen markets
  4. Understand how you need to configure (capabilities needed to win)
  5. Decide what you’ll invest in (to support the capabilities you need)

I hope these comprehensive frameworks gave you a good overview of what strategy is and how it’s developed in the business context.

By: Yvonne Wang

Source: How Top Consulting Firms Do Strategy | by Yvonne Wang | Nov, 2022 | Medium

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Future Forum’s latest report, which surveyed more than 10,000 workers during August, found that overall work satisfaction scores dropped 15% for executives, who also reported work-life balance scores that were 20% worse and work-related stress and anxiety scores that were 40% higher....getty

For months, the pandemic has driven an upswing in burnout among workers, focused attention on employees’ mental health concerns and fueled a wave of departures known as the Great Resignation, most noticeably on the front lines.

But the latest quarterly survey released Thursday from Future Forum, a consortium backed by the messaging platform Slack, finds that now, even senior executives’ sentiments about their jobs are declining—and it appears to be prompting them to fall back on old norms about where and when people work.

Future Forum’s latest report, which surveyed more than 10,000 workers during August, found that overall work satisfaction scores dropped 15% for executives, who also reported work-life balance scores that were 20% worse and work-related stress and anxiety scores that were 40% higher. While the sentiment and experience scores for executives dropped precipitously—particularly among those who work for large companies—those for non-executives remained flat or rose slightly, the report said.

While that might elicit little pity from employees who’ve felt overworked and underpaid over the past two years—and who are also worried about the economic slowdown—the added economic stress for executives can have an impact on the people who work for them, says Slack’s Brian Elliott, the executive leader for Future Forum.

“On top of that set of changes and challenges [from the pandemic], you’re facing a lot of economic pressures too,” says Elliott. “That kind of stress is leading people to go back to what’s familiar and comfortable for them. Executives are saying things like ‘I need my finger on the pulse of the organization’”—otherwise known as monitoring people in the office. “This is the first time we’re seeing this kind of jump and increase in stress in executives.”

Elliott says that whenever he talks to senior leaders—Future Forum does research but also convenes executives to swap ideas—the issues of productivity and culture come up as concerns. But the new data suggests employees work more productively if they have flexibility—and that concerns about culture erosion may be overblown.

Future Forum’s report—released by Slack, which makes tools it hopes will serve as a “digital HQ” for hybrid workers—found that workers who have full flexibility with their schedules say they are 29% more productive and 53% more able to focus than those who have no schedule flexibility.

Meanwhile, remote and hybrid workers were 52% more likely to say company culture has improved over the past two years, compared with those who work onsite daily, even though 25% of executives said “team culture is negatively impacted” by not being together in the office.

“I get why the stress is there on executives, but it’s driving a set of behaviors that are actually contrary to what they want to accomplish,” Elliott says. The report, for instance, also found that 60% of executives surveyed said they are designing policies with little direct input from employees.

He says that could lead organizations to be less competitive when it comes to recruiting talented employees. “If, as a senior leadership team, you’re still basing most of your decisions on the discussions that are happening at this level and not really getting in and understanding it,” Elliott says, “then you’re at risk of going backwards.”

By:

I am a Senior Editor at Forbes, leading our coverage of the workplace, careers and leadership issues. Before joining Forbes, I wrote for the Washington Post for more than a decade covering

Source: As Economic Concerns Rise, Executives Are Reporting Record-High Stress—And Defaulting To Old Office Habits

.

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The Future Of Sales And The Pervasiveness Of Technology

I was recently a guest speaker at the Sales Leadership Conference organized by Dr. Karen Peesker, Co-Founder of the Sales Leadership Institute, a department at the Toronto Metropolitan University (formally Ryerson University) in Toronto, Canada. The conference was hosted by IT World Canada, Microsoft, DHL, Rogers and other community leaders. The conference goals were to bring university professors, students, industry leaders, and academicians to share their learning programs, identify gaps and requirements to advance the sales profession and most importantly, tackle a vision for the future of sales.

The strongest theme of the conference was the business imperative for advancing digital literacy, data literacy and ensuring that technology was firmly embedded in all sales learning programs. Digital literacy is best defined as an individual’s ability to find, evaluate, and clearly communicate information and knowledge through using diverse digital platforms. It is best evaluated by an individual’s interaction skills with technology and includes: grammar, composition, typing skills and the ability to produce text, images, audio and designs using technology.

This point was acutely reinforced by Fawn Annan, the CEO of IT World Canada (ITWC), with her high impact video conference address, where she identified how pervasive technology is in shifting the global sales landscape. Her panoramic and rich perspectives highlighting how diverse technologies – AI, analytics, IoT, driverless cars – are collectively impacting the world of a sales professional at work, and in society.

Annan quoted Gartner Group’s research stating that “a seller’s decision making is now based more on data, analytics and AI, versus intuition and experience” – prior stable hallmarks of a sales professional. This means that sales professionals will need far more digital literacy and data literacy training to be able to function in a far more data centric world. Other key takeaways from this video included:

1.) Hyper automation is advancing a buyer’s sales journey, and that a seller only has 26 moments to engage and influence a buyer in his /her purchasing journey. In other words, finding the right moments is even more important in following the customer data crumbs.

2.) Consumers check their cell phones on average 47 times/day and these frequent check-in’s, according to Google, are referred to as micro-moments. Hence the increased value of AI driven advertising as well the increasing intrusion consumers feel in invading their privacy.

3.) Over 76% of consumers transact and ship on mobile devices, and this number is increasing year-over-year. Hence, sales professionals’ primary interaction devices must be mobile and portable.4.) Sales applications exist throughout the sales buyer’s journey and increasingly, they are AI applications. According to McKinsey, the fastest growing companies invest more in AI sales digital tools than slower growth companies. A major contributor of sales performance success is having a robust sales software infrastructure. Hence, companies must accelerate their investments in sales intelligence software toolkits for advancing competitive advantage.

5.) Annan profiled two companies in her video address: SalesChoice and RingCentral. SalesChoice’s focus is on accelerating the growth of sales professionals and is a comprehensive AI platform well known for its proven sales use cases. Solutions include:

· Predictive Opportunity Scoring (focusing on the best deals with highest probability of a win outcome),

· Predictive Sales Forecasting that are securing prediction levels of up to 95% accuracy,

· Monitoring your data to ensure the AI predictions are on solid foundations,

· Relationship intelligence, with their new alliance partner, IntroHive, to bring even more win or loss signals to the attention of sales professionals. Who would not want to buy software that can predict your future outcomes at the top of your funnel and predict a win or a loss on every sales deal outcome, and identify the depth and breadth of your customer relationships across your enterprise?

· Mood and Health Intelligence: SalesChoice is active in innovation research with the Ontario Center of Innovation (AVIN program) and Purolator, propagating the importance of health in advancing employee productivity, and reducing attrition. Did you know that according to Payscale, sales account management was ranked as the second most stressful job, with 73% of respondents rating the role as “highly stressful.” Salespeople are under a lot of pressure to meet quota, convert quickly, and keep approval rankings high.

So increasing health approaches are critical to ensure sales talent don’t burn out or give up. Estimates of annual turnover among U.S. salespeople run as high as 27%—twice the rate in the overall labor force. In many industries, the average tenure of a sales professionals is less than two years. Given that the costs to recruit a sales professional is 20% and the time it takes to ramp up a sales professional is around 9 months, you can see how expensive it is to not retain your sales talent.

AI can act like a crystal ball. With good data, the mathematical genius in an AI algorithm and computational power is like the holy grail to guide sales professionals to greater deal outcome success and hopefully to happier behaviors and positive win outcomes as well.

The second company profiled was Ring Central, where Annan highlighted their collaboration and call center solutions, using AI methods to optimize building more productive customer interactions. Leaders like Sheevaun Thatcher, are advancing sales modernization programs at Ring Central, integrated diverse disciplines from: Adult Learning, Interactive Design, Strategic Planning, Collaborative Leadership, Diversity and Inclusiveness and always connecting the dots seamlessly. If there is a leader to watch advancing the field of sales and learning enablement, it is Sheevaun Thatcher.

Annan consistently highlighted that having advanced AI solutions can make a major difference to your digital conversion success, and reinforced that the old tools of looking in the rear view mirror are simply yesterday’s approaches. Due to the rapid speed of our world’s changing footprint, having smarter and forward looking (predictive AI analytics) toolkits is the only way that companies can grow faster, and more importantly, survive.

Increased AI Sales Toolkits Knowledge and Competency is Key.

Educating sales professionals to be ready for a smarter AI focused workplace will require skills, knowledge and proficiency in using modernized toolkits. So sales training must offer hands-on and practical skills development in universities to hit the ground running and bring value to a company immediately upon hiring.

Companies that use AI for sales in pre-sales have seen a 50% boost in leads, a 60-70% reduction in call time, and a 40-60% cost reduction. Numerous toolkits are in the market identifying the ideal buyer prospect and even knowing the propensity (density) of a buyer’s interest in your solution. Knowing where you customer is in their buyer journey is an inflection point for engaging in a micro-moment. Leading solutions advancing leads using AI are profiled in this blog.

In addition to pre-sales, other AI approaches can be used in opportunity scoring, predictive forecasting, and even mood / health indicator correlated to win rates. These are all areas that SalesChoice, a former ITWC Digital Transformation Award recipient, has been pioneering in.

According to the 2021 Buyer Experience Study, 80% of SaaS buyers report the buying process has too many steps and results in frustration for both the buyers and sellers. Hence, what this means for developing sales training programs is that skills not relevant to technology will need to be balanced with those that are. For example, empathy and two-way listening is key. Strong sales professionals understand that a buyer comes to solve a specific problem and not to buy your product. Understanding your buyer’s need is key in order to find a path for resolving it rapidly and reducing buyer and seller friction.

Research has shown that identifying the needs of your buyer can shorten sales cycle by as much as 65%. Customers (buyers) are coming into sales cycles far more informed from online sources. Hence, sales professionals need to learn more consultation skills to unravel the customer’s needs using relevant problem solving skills, enabled with as much prior information on the buyer as the buyer has on the seller.

Increase Training on Collaboration and Selling Virtually

With continued reliance on working virtually, the sales professionals will need to use a variety of online sales toolkits, ranging from a leading CRM (HubSpot, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, etc.,), calendar management system, and collaboration system (like Zoom, or Microsoft Teams) etc. Expertise for effective collaboration will need to include skills in emotional intelligence, written skills, video presence (posture, smiling vs frowning), and voice skills (how you sound impacts how people want to listen). Other key skills like relationship development are increasingly valued in our network economy as building trust online must be mastered in seconds to capture a conversion in a micro-moment exchange.

Increase Digital Literacy Skills

There are many skills in digital literacy – from being able to use software, operate a digital device, to the ability to manage complex cognitive, social, emotional and motor skills to function effectively in digital high-tech environments. Key areas in digital literacy for a sales professional will need to include: the ability to understand reading instructions in digital environments, create or analyze simple to complex graphical displays in user interfaces, use diverse visualization methods, extract knowledge from non-linear, hypertextual navigation, and ascertain the quality and the validity of the information that is being presented.

Increase Data Science and AI Skills

In our data rich world, it is imperative for sales professionals to develop stronger data literacy skills. Data literacy skills include the ability of a sales professional to identify, understand, operate on, and use data effectively. Gartner Group defines data literacy as “the ability to read, write and communicate data in context, including an understanding of data sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied, and the ability to describe the use case, application and resulting value.

Further, data literacy is an underlying component of digital dexterity — an employee’s ability and desire to use existing and emerging technology to drive better business outcomes.” Gartner Group is predicting that by 2023, data literacy will become essential in driving business value, demonstrated by its formal inclusion in over 80% of data and analytics strategies and change management programs.

However, traditionally sales professionals possess stronger skills in relationship building, listening and understanding people’s emotional states. A recent survey found that out of over 7M sales professionals on Linkedin, only 0.4% indicated they had studied math. This mirrors my experience as well leading sales teams or building software for sales professionals. Data literacy is a major gap in sales and to bridge this gap, companies will need to invest in training sales professionals in math, statistics and AI general concepts. This also will shift the hiring profile as increasing digital literacy and data skills are imperative to lead in the changing data rich world.

Conclusion

The Sales Leadership Institute and the leadership of Dr. Karen Peesker is an excellent initiative that requires government and industry support, as close to 5% of the North American labour population is comprised of sales professionals. Sales is an important profession focused on selling a company’s products or services, and also one that manages the customer’s relationship from an account management perspective.

Skill development in digital literacy, data literacy, relationship intelligence, and not losing sight of the softer skills (communication, written and oral, and listening) are all critical to advance the sales profession and be prepared to compete in a world that, as Annan shared in her video address, is increasingly technology centric.

SalesChoice, an AI SaaS company focused on Ending Revenue Uncertainty and brining more Humanity to Sales to avoid attention deficit disorder using AI and Cognitive Sciences. A former Accenture, Xerox and Citicorp executive, she bridges governance, strategy and operations in her AI initiatives. She is also a board advisor of the Forbes School of Business and Technology, and the AI Forum. She is passionate about modernizing innovation with disruptive technologies (SaaS/Cloud, Smart Apps, AI, IoT, Robots and Cobots), with 14 books in the market, with The AI Dilemma just released. Follow her on Linked In or on Twitter or her Website. You can also access her at The AI Directory.

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Source: The Future Of Sales And The Pervasiveness Of Technology

More contents:

Amazon Adding 125,000 Workers in U.S., Opening Dozens of Facilities

These Industries Added the Most Remote Jobs During the Pandemic, and Talent Is Tight

Listing an open role as work-from-home may sway applicants to apply, but founders will still likely face stiff competition for talent in the fields that have added the most remote positions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, the vertical for marketing, media, and design has seen the biggest growth, with a 974 percent increase in remote roles paying six-figure salaries or higher, according to research from Ladders, a career site based in New York City. The data looked at 50,000 North American employers to find which high-paying professional fields have seen the most growth in remote work.

Project and program management is the next fastest-growing, with an 801 percent increase, followed by accounting and finance with a 750 percent increase. Runners-up include human resources and legal (546 percent), technology (521 percent), and engineering and construction (410 percent).

The availability of high-paying remote work across all fields has grown more than 1,000 percent since March 2020. At that time, there were just over 7,000 jobs available, compared with 80,000 today.

“The world is staying remote post-Covid,” says Ladders’ founder and CEO Marc Cenedella. “Your competitors, your suppliers, and your customers are increasingly comfortable with hiring remote employees in all fields. ‘Work-from-home’ is now a must-have for employers to be competitive.”

Working remotely may require changes in your workplace to be more employee-friendly and productive, Cenedella says. Fewer meetings, better-written communication, occasional in-person meet-ups are just some of the new behaviors and practices he’s seeing from remote employers. “It’s best to be proactive, curious, and open to new ideas as we all figure out what the workplace looks like in 2022 and beyond,” he says.

By: Anna Meyer, Assistant editor, Inc.@annavmeyer

Source: These Industries Added the Most Remote Jobs During the Pandemic, and Talent Is Tight | Inc.com

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Critics:

People who do their jobs from home, freelance or travel for work are increasingly leaving cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco and taking their families — and jobs — to places including Denver and Boise, Idaho, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Here are the top 20 companies, hiring hundreds of remote workers each.

1. Appen

Headquarters: Chatswood, New South Wales, Australia

Industry: Technology (machine learning and artificial intelligence)

Remote jobs: voice coach, linguist, web search evaluator, transcriber

2. Lionbridge

Headquarters: Waltham, Massachusetts

Industry: Software and business (language translation)

Remote jobs: creative designer, social media assessor, project manager, scheduling assistant

3. VIPKid

Headquarters: Beijing, China

Industry: Education

Remote jobs: online English as a second language teacher

4. Liveops

Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona

Industry: Customer service

Remote jobs: customer service representative, licensed insurance agent, health care resource specialist

5. Working Solutions

Headquarters: Dallas, Texas

Industry: Customer service

Remote jobs: sales development representative, travel reservation specialist, corporate travel agent

6. Kelly Services

Headquarters: Troy, Michigan

Industry: Staffing

Remote jobs: data entry operator, administrative assistant, software tester, data analyst

7. EF Education First

Headquarters: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Industry: Education

Remote jobs: language teacher, copywriter, content writer, college counselor, IT coordinator

8. SYKES

Headquarters: Tampa, Florida

Industry: Customer service

Remote jobs: customer support agent, executive assistant, senior director of client management

9. Concentrix

Headquarters: Fremont, California

Industry: Business services

Remote jobs: sales and service representative

10. Williams-Sonoma

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Industry: Retail

Remote jobs: customer service agent, technical designer, copy manager

11. UnitedHealth Group

Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Industry: Health care

Remote jobs: product director, medical director, health and wellness coach, call center nurse

12. LanguageLine Solutions

Headquarters: Monterey, California

Industry: Translation

Remote jobs: interpreter, software engineer

13. TTEC

Headquarters: Englewood, Colorado

Industry: Business operations

Remote jobs: Salesforce developer, software engineer, consultant, web developer

14. TranscribeMe

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Industry: Information technology, translation

Remote jobs: transcriptionist

15. Humana

Headquarters: Louisville, Kentucky

Industry: Health care

Remote jobs: sales manager, medical director, business and technology lead, sales executive

16. Cactus Communications

Headquarters: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Industry: Communications

Remote jobs: editor, medical writer, academic research evaluation

17. Transcom

Headquarters: Stockholm, Uppland, Sweden

Industry: Customer service

Remote jobs: technical support representative, payroll administrator, customer service agent

18. BroadPath Healthcare Solutions

Headquarters: Tucon, Arizona

Industry: Health care

Remote jobs: director of service operations, provider service representative, insurance claims processor, data specialist

19. Dell

Headquarters: Round Rock, Texas

Industry: Computer technology

Remote jobs: program manager, account executive, consultant, sales executive

20. Aetna

Headquarters: Hartford, Connecticut

Industry: Health care

Remote jobs: outreach coordinator, content quality reviewer, network relations manager, health coach

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