Strategy

What we learned in our third year

We’re wrapping up our third year of operations, as the algorithmically-generated congratulations from Linkedin just reminded me. It’s a bizarre sensation, it seems like only yesterday we were working in coffee shops trying to launch. Fast-forward to today where we’ve had opportunities that were unimaginable three years ago. The greatest comfort I feel that is that we’ve stuck to our mission: help companies move & execute faster because the world is evolving at an ever-increasing pace.

To understand where we’re going, it helps me to revisit what we believe to be the biggest challenges facing companies today:

  • Technology has fundamentally distributed the value chain
  • Getting closer to the customer has become a point of strategic importance
  • To win, an organization must continuously adapt & learn

 

What has changed throughout the short history of our firm is how we help organizations address these challenges. Over the past 18 months, we’ve been able to focus on three core fields of action:

  • Deploying agile at the strategic planning level to increase velocity of execution
  • Demystifying important tech trends and applying them at the strategic level
  • Ensuring that the management team is aligned and communicates with each other on an ongoing basis.

As the third year wraps up, I wanted to share what we’ve learned. You can read about our previous annual summaries here and here.

Hire people smarter than you

It’s a simple piece of advice, but it works really well. Ask smart people to join your team and help them solve big problems. Having a team that is genuinely engaged and happy (at least I hope so!) is by far the most exciting opportunity. As an example, late last year, we were mandated with a very difficult client challenge that really stretched the team. It pushed everyone out of their comfort zone, but we banded together and the client was extremely impressed. I really do believe that our team can take on any challenge.

 

It’s about the culture

Growing from three guys to a team seven has been tremendously rewarding but has raised many questions. How do you build a culture? What does the ideal onboarding process look like? How do you keep people motivated, engaged and challenged? How do you structure the firm for optimal delivery given the variety of skill sets? We’ve tried not to follow conventional wisdom when answering many of these questions. For instance, we’ve offered flex vacation to the entire team – when people feel the need to take time off, they should be able to do so. Culture is a huge area of focus for us because we need to continue to attract the best and brightest people to join our team.

 

Adaptability is the key management challenge of this century

When we started the firm, we were a few tech guys trying to figure out management consulting and we positioned ourselves as such.However, as technology increases in importance, more companies are claiming to know how to help organizations capitalize on the trend; therefore, being seen as ‘technology focused’ is no longer a key differentiator. The lens through which we try to solve problems now is less about technology and more about adaptation. The challenge for the people running organizations is to constantly adapt to the ongoing market changes. Sure, technology plays an important part in this change, but it only remains a part of it. In traditional organizations, we need to stop talking about digital transformation (even though our firm is sometimes hired to give talks on the topic). In tech focused firms, the trap to avoid is using previous century management thinking and methodologies. In both cases, the key skill set they need to embrace is adaptability.

 

Focus is hard to master

As our firm grew, so did the opportunities and the challenge they presented. We sometimes try to chase too many shiny objects and forget to focus on what got us here. A key initiative moving forward is going to be doubling down on our core service offering and learning to say ‘no’ to less relevant mandates.

 

Bridging the gap between strategy and execution

When I look at our platform and strategic planning process, this year does really feel like  the year we achieved “product market fit” with our methodology. The need to translate corporate strategy into a plan that takes into account the market and the required organizational changes is a challenge for almost every organization that is beyond the startup phase. We believe that this can only be achieved with Agile. The most concrete benefit that we’ve seen implementing this across all sorts of organizations is the human impact. Leaders better communicate their challenges, have  improved focus and develop a better understanding of each other’s roadblocks. Solving these sometimes-abstract obstacles can generate 10X returns.

The road ahead

As we look to double our business again, I’m uncomfortably excited with the opportunities that lay ahead of us. With the wind in our sails, there is a palpable feeling that we’ve uncovered a real market opportunity: the need to help organizations move and execute faster – their sustainability depends upon it.