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“A successful focus strategy will emphasize unmet needs, as opposed to just raising the bar slightly on strategy elements about which customers are largely satisfied” suppliers and customers. A successful focus strategy will be very future focused, requiring insights as to what is keeping customers awake at night, the challenges on their own horizon that might define a supplier success story for the supplier that helps them to address them. A successful focus strategy will emphasize unmet needs, as opposed to just raising the bar slightly on strategy elements about which customers are largely satisfied. It is not only getting customer input, but getting customer input on hard and illdefined questions that allows firms to come up with a winning answer to the key questions outlined above. The second key theme that must be addressed in developing a focus strategy involves the question “Who in our firm must contribute, and how, if we are to succeed”? The firm in the case study had only involved the sales team in its first attempt to select targets for focus (and, to be fair, recognized that some other parts of their organization would have to make changes as the strategy was implemented). But it’s often not the sales team that will have to make the most significant changes in response to the decision made on focus. The examples above again provide illustrations. Had the firm in the case study gone forward with its initial choices, there would have had to be mega-changes in product development (to focus on the Good-Better

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segments) and in manufacturing (to shift the focus to low-cost operations). Had the firm considering an industry shifting key activities to Asia selected that industry as one on which to focus, it would have required building competencies in that region that could make positive contributions to key relationships. For sure, the sales team in both of these firms would have had to make changes, but they alone had no chance of success unless other parts of the organization also made parallel changes. Change is a challenge, and requires very active leadership involvement if it to be successful. My earlier research on the obstacles to successfully implementing changes to a firm’s business model defined the two factors that most frequently stood in the way of successful change management: “Internal resistance to the new business model” and “The implementation process was poorly managed”. Moving to a focus strategy is a major change to most firm’s business model, and these two obstacles will rear their ugly heads and thwart the change unless executive-level leadership gets out in front of them, constantly selling the change and its importance, making sure that the right resources are in place, and underscoring the importance of the change through measurement, review, and rewards. Again, wishing doesn’t make it reality. Strong and ongoing leadership

Profile for Business Excellence Magazine

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Dec 2013

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