Thoughts

10/2021

New product and service development – Corporate gamblers or Sailors?

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03/2022

What accountability even means? For me, it is seeking the solutions and implementing them

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10/2021

New product and service development – Corporate gamblers or Sailors?

Think large corporates as sailors who navigate through the rough sea of business development

Sometimes I wonder by myself how large companies stay afloat. By saying this, I mean that in the early beginning when companies were founded, they were usually created to serve certain purposes. These purposes may have changed over time as well as the company itself in order to survive. The company has to develop over and over again by ever-changing circumstances and customer needs. Besides preparing and adjusting business for the current operative environment, the company also has myriad development options to choose from and prioritize in its strategy. Finding the right and motivated team for working on the development is also challenging. And of course, all of this should be accomplished while staying within budget. This whole development process might lead to the situation that the company expands excessively and becomes a clumsy large corporation that barely can hang on to competition while new entrants take the market share. 

Sometimes I wonder by myself how large companies stay afloat.

Sampo Lehtiniemi

The issue that I am stating here is not the lack of knowledge on how to develop the company rather to remember to come back to basics. In other words, this means knowing your own capabilities utilizing, combining, and applying those strengths, while bearing in mind the goal that is aimed for. Moreover, every business area should be critically evaluated and thought through which tactics are appropriate in which context. It is about taking one step back and really evaluate the whole business before taking the step forward. Research on entrepreneurship could be used to evaluate larger corporations — often new product and service development are connected to somewhat agile teams, or in some companies to even internal startups. 

The recent essay, done by Aalto University and the University of St. Gallen, responds to the ongoing debate about the reasons, that make entrepreneurs successful. In the essay, Soto-Simeone, Sirén, and Antretter argued that rather than seeing entrepreneurs as gamblers, they would like to offer an alternative metaphor of seeing the entrepreneur as a sailor. Sailors have to adjust their sails to stay afloat, in order to survive, just like entrepreneurs have to have a stable foundation for instance customers, doers, and money. When sailors have ensured this primary goal, they will assess their navigation performance based on other aspects such as speed, sustainability, safety, crew happiness, and output. Gambling, on the other hand, is a common metaphor for new ventures, but it has negative connotations that draw a picture of problematic behavior that produces successes only randomly. Therefore, the research team considers gambling an incompatible analogy to entrepreneurship. 

Seeing entrepreneurs as sailors rather than gamblers

Whereas the ongoing debate links the sailor and gambler metaphor into entrepreneurship, I am thinking, can we use the same analogy in the world of renewal large corporates? Often developing corporates try to gamble and find shortcuts – for the management team it can mean changing the corporate strategy, or on large scale, it can be the acquisition of another company or changing leadership team to more development-oriented persons. Sometimes it is believing in new trending theory or ism of the time. Some of them mention, lean startup, customer experience management, product leadership or connected planning. Whether the chosen solution is, it is often believed that one thing or one change solves everything. However, success is not coming by gambling on one theory or practice — more likely to be ready to adapt to the change, have the plan, set a clear target, measure and analyze the performance and leave room to grow. 

Navigate like sailors.

Source: Soto-Simeone, A., Siren, C., & Antretter, T. (2021). The role of skill versus luck in new venture survival. International Journal of Management Reviews : IJMR. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijmr.12262

03/2022

What accountability even means? — For me, it is and seeking the solutions and implementing those with my clients

People can feel like being accountable for many reasons, therefore everyone must be accountable for the right things.

A few days ago, I went to have lunch with my long-term client. During lunch, the conversation drifted to the work I did for the company. The assignment included organizational change with numerous projects, for example, the renewal and refinement of the strategy and the exploitation of digitalization. My client who is senior vice president of that company and has been shaping a dozen strategies herself over her long career said that she was very pleased how we handled the whole process. According to her, we were able to bring clarity instead of complexity, and without our work, the company would not be where it is nowadays. 

…we were able to bring clarity instead of complexity…

That lunch conversation made me wonder what the factor is that helped us to change the path of the company. I came to conclusion that it must be a matter of feeling that you are accountable, but how to define accountability? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, accountability means “the fact of being responsible for what you do and able to give a satisfactory reason for it or the degree to which this happens”. The Oxford English Dictionary, on the other hand, defines it as “The quality of being accountable; liability to account for and answer for one’s conduct, the performance of duties, etc.”, whatever that supposed to mean. However, it is naturally easy to play by definition with jokey reverse usage such as “I was asked in a job interview if I was accountable for what I do. I answered yes. When asked to provide examples, I said anytime something broke, or the system went down, I told them I was accountable.” 

The definition of accountability seems to depend on who is being asked (and I am not going to ask it from dictionaries ever again). For example, to a company manager, accountability means taking care of the mental well-being of her or his subordinates. While for a city councilor, it means defending the opinion of residents so that the planned factory would not be built in a residential area. For a student, this can mean further their studies on time, and for a team athlete, it means breaking up a difficult attack situation on behalf of the team. 

Although the leader of the company was pleased with our work, there were also certain challenges with it. Those challenges came out with the new strategy because we hired people faster and more extensively than the organization was able to absorb, and we were not able to find all key people in time. This created undesirable competition between people. In retrospect, hiring people should have been done in waves so that each new employee would have time to get used to the organization and their job description. This would make the teamwork smoother when everyone would know their roles. All in all, I think that accountability culminates in making vision and strategy into actionable (and right sized) steps. Mistakes are also ok if you take individuals and their perspectives into account, communicate openly and honestly with them, seek solutions together, and implement those solutions with the needed urgency or calmness.

…accountability culminates in making vision and strategy actionable (and right sized) steps.

Sampo Lehtiniemi

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