“What’s Going On” – the essential input for change & innovation

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Would you organise a dinner party with friends without checking on food preferences that might have changed, or competing events that might impact scheduling? Of course not, yet businesses do initiate innovation programmes without making similar checks, or as Rumelt[1] suggested “What’s really going on here?”, or perhaps even Marvin Gaye’s shorter “What’s Going On”  

 “Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way 
To bring some understanding here today” 

(Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On) 

Importance of understanding stakeholder desired outcomes

If success is desired, early in any change or innovation programme effort should be given to understanding stakeholder needs whether they be external customers or suppliers or internal colleagues across functions. 

As the innovation aspirations grow a more formal strategy process may be required to ensure not just the right “Where to Play choices but also the right “How to Win choices to overcome bottlenecks to achieving aspirations.  This certainly does not reduce the need for deeper understanding of stakeholder needs, more likely the reverse! 

The rush to the “usual suspects” without insight

Nevertheless, at the beginning of the strategy process there is often a Pavlovian style rush to complete tools like SWOT and PESTEL with inadequate attention given to diagnosing “What’s Going On” from the stakeholder perspective – the very information needed as input to this analysis! At best this gives incomplete and poor-quality diagnosis but can all to easily drive the process in the wrong direction.  

SWOT - PESTEL - BCG matrix

Perhaps this is because that business strategy process is all too often conflated with the annual financial budget process, not allowing adequate time to secure this key input? May be the innovation process has not adequately defined, causing this aspect to be ignored. Or is there the pressure to demonstrate competence that encourages managers to jump into solution mode before really understanding “What’s Going On. 

But explanations do not resolve the problem. Knowing the current state, “What’s Going On” is critical to identify gaps to the desired business value propositionand what bottlenecks may be in the way of achieving aspirations.  

Lack of market understanding is commonplace

In a recent Arkaro survey, the lack of market understanding was confirmed as a problem area in strategy process. More specifically identified strategy problems included; 

  • “Not adapted to the market reality and dynamics” 
  • “Lack of understanding of the key differentiators” 
  • “Not enough time spent on in-depth understanding of the Customer Experience, Value Proposition, Value Delivery System and Co-opetive Eco-system.” 
  • “Strategies frequently developed from random, fashionable, or idiosyncratic visions that are constructed (with little thought) in a few minutes e.g. doubling a mature and established business in 5 years just because an addressable market seems large – it is seldom balanced with considerations such as competitive intensity, new and emerging competitors from other industries etc.” 

How Arkaro can help you...

Skills need to be acquired to secure this understanding differ in the B2B world. It may be that your organisation lacks the capability, capacity, or both to secure the needed insights. Arkaro’s experienced industry professionals can either train your teams, or deliver results themselves, to understand “What’s Going On?”. Key areas include; 

  • Bring focus to the problem to be solved 
  • Market research with value chain analysis 
  • Application of Jobs-to-be-Done Theory to identify opportunities to serve desired outcomes with;
    • Divergent qualitative interview 
    • Convergent quantitative interviews  
  • Objective Competitor Analysis and gap identification 
  • Value Proposition refinement and Business Model value delivery enhancement 

Bringing focus to the problem to be solved is key to avoid inefficient redundant data collection and risk of “analysis paralysis”. When this is combined with a better understanding of “What’s Going On”, greater insight emerges on the bottlenecks to achieving aspirations. 

Whether it be a “do it with you” or a “do it for you” approach from Arkaro, understanding “What’s Going on?” deserves time and investment to be an effective input… and of course, if needed Arkaro can coach you through the Emergent Approach to Strategy.

 Let’s fix a call to see if Arkaro can bring value to your organisation. 

[1] « Good Strategy, Bad Strategy » Richard Rumelt

Mark Blackwell - independent consultant Arkaro

Mark Blackwell

Mark Blackwell founded Arkaro in 2016 following a career in organisations both large and small, covering a wide range of industries including animal health, specialty chemicals, advanced materials, food and feed ingredients.  13 years at DuPont included 8 years of consulting  roles across multiple businesses.  Expertise included Six Sigma, Integrated Business Planning, Product Line Management and Business Productivity. At this time Mark worked with Pete as the ideas forming Emergent Approach to Strategy™ were developed.  More recently Mark has provided feedback on the book prior to publication and is the first affiliated partner to deliver the Emergent Approach to  Strategy

Mark is based in the Geneva, Switzerland area.