Accelerating Value
Accelerating Value

Episode · 9 months ago

The Secrets of Planning & Executing Successful Strategy

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Do you believe your business can stay successful by luck alone?

There is only one definition of luck I’ve heard that will consistently drive results:

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

But you might know that by another name — strategy.

Today’s guest, Karen Root, Director of Experience Strategy at Boehringer Ingelheim, is a master strategizer, who joins me to untangle the secrets to planning and executing a successful strategy.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Why strategy begins with asking the right questions 
  • How marketing can overcome the standard C-suite criticisms
  • Why you should seek strategy insights from outside your industry

Keep connected with Accelerating Value on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Accelerating Value in your favorite podcast player.

Today, every budget approval is an investment deal. If you're a marketer, sales or business leader, you had to promise to deliver value and impact. Writing the wave to get there is hard enough. Finding your way through the storm is even harder if you're looking for that path forward so that you don't wipe out. You've come to the right place. Let's get into the show and we're back. Hey, everybody, this is mark excuse with accelerating value. You know the drill by now. You've a lot of you. Almost seventyzero of you are listening every week and we're really grateful about that. You know what this is all about, right? This is all about how do I think about value creation? Right, if I am a director, a senior director of VP, and I aspire to something bigger, I want to be in the sea suite and I'm starting to add conversations the people, and maybe you've been having conversations with people for some time about value in terms of things like Roli time to value the business case. You know, hey, you're basically asking me for money. What am I going to get for it? And, like, what is your promise look like? Actually, that's what this is all about. And today we have a really terrific treat for you. Karen root is is going to really talk in brass tax about it, what it means to be a strategist and how strategy is a promise and what that ultimately means and how she thinks about the promises that she's making when she advanced as a strategy. So, Karen, welcome. Thank you. Can you introduce yourself just a little bit so that everybody kind of knows who...

...you are? Surely can? So? I am Karen Root. I have about, let's call it, twenty five plus years in different forms of leadership, predominantly strategy, marketing, brand experienced strategy and design through a variety of industries including can consumer package goods, software development, lots of medical pharmaceutical biotech, medical devices, publishing and so forth. So many years down this road. Also have some personal involvement in over seven startups and still remain a investor and major contributor to several new ones in technology, predominantly okay. Well, so this is perfect right, because not only you in your main job advancing strategies that are essentially promised, but you're also listening to people pitch you ideas as an investor, which are really a promise? I mean, if we think about the reality of the average start up, it's future or its value is primarily in his future somewhere, and so ultimately, as an investor, it kind of comes down to a do I really think this has future value? So when we talk about promise, strategy is a promise. Let's talk about that for just a little bit. How do what's been your journey on this? Like you, probably didn't start out with that perspective. That is true. I think in the beginning I was trying to make the decision, make solid decisions and try to find ways to win by being very decisive and...

...believing I had the good insight, good instinct and that would lead me in the right direction. Over time I've started to evaluate it as a pragmatic process, if you will, of understanding. You know, what are the factors that I'm receiving? The questions I ask have improved considerably over the years. I think that's one of the most fundamental aspects of strategy, is really asking the right questions so that the promises you make are realistic, deliverable and based in sound understanding of the market. I think the other aspect is that I'm far more broad when I give consideration now to strategy and when I find the most winning strategic direction. Has Been deeply understanding the customer in the market place in a way that I have a unique perspective that I think brings a value that either I or the the governing bodies don't believe is relatively out there, that you know, that most everyone doesn't know. There are ways of looking at a market now that I have, I've kind of developed over time and approaches. Again, a lot of it is the questions that you're asking to do some of those assessments and I think that's the edge. It's being able to really sink in and not be afraid to go in deep. They you know, one of the criticisms that you hear, what a bit it actually out of the sea suite and out of the board room about marketers and, for that matter, other functions come in forward as well, right, is...

...that they're two intuitive about their strategy. HEGIC creation. Right, they kind of know what they think and they know what they feel and they kind of have their experiences that they're going by and they develop the strategy that has sort of the near of research, but if you hope too hard, right, there's a lot of well, this is what I believe kind of responses there or not? Right? That's that's what you hear a lot from the sea suite and from from board members and books like that. Is it possible? Or actually, let me refer, let me reframe it. To what extent does intuition play a role in stract? Well, I think there is a level of it. I think intuition is a byproduct of experience. I think you know as you develop a good intuition, but it's where it's applied, right. It's not the fact that I'm coming to you saying I believe this is where the markets headed, or I believe these are the things that customers are going to do, or or major turns, MNA's things that are happening that we need to to understand. I've kind of got that instant of it. That, to me, is not really where the intuition comes into play. It's it's positioning ourselves of saying this is where I need to dig, this is where I need to find out more information. Right, because when you're poking the holes, it doesn't it doesn't take a lot sometimes right and and it's based on it's kind of like saying, well, let's all look at the secondary research. If everybody's looking at the secondary research, you have no advantage whatsoever. It's looking at the market in a way that your competitors aren't, of making sure it's not just what's instinctual to you, but it's what's happening to the market place, in the customers. It's very much that outside in approach and making sure we're getting beyond that the neared surface, because...

...a lot of things just happened to crumble when you start poking, and I've been doing a lot of hooken these days. So I totally agree with that assessment. Oh absolutely, and I think taking the last two years, you know, given what's happened, you have to be doing a lot of poking right now. So one of the things that I learned in my career moving out of heavy tech into an allied industry, but has that in this case aerospace has has more rigor to it from a from a strategic perspective, but it honey. Well, we did. We had we had a five year plan strap and then we had each year we had an annual operating plan, a op which was sort of the update right to strap, and the way that Dave Cody, who was the chairman and CEO of honey well at that time, approached it, and I think the still very much part of the honey well approach, is that he's like, you know, what you're giving me is your hypothesis and I need to understand how you tested that hypothesis because I want to I want to a test it the same way, if I choose to, and see if I can replicate your results and to I want to poke it. I want to you know, there's obvious gaps. I want to be able to poke in those gaps and see what happens. Right. So there's a there's kind of this and I think this actually goes to the heart of part of the issue that many marketers have, and he seems Ab with their CEA sweets, is around the promise. Right. So I'm I'm accepting your recommendation, your strategy, your promise, because it what goes with that or all these outcomes that I think I like. Right, and...

I sort of agree that the way you have said you're going to go from where you are now to where your where you're going to take us this promise. It's dual. And then I want to know, okay, we're halfway through on in terms of the timescale. How do how are we doing? And then all of a sudden the whole thing kind of goes boo. All's part. What have you learned in your own career that you could give us some recommendations? To people who are listening to this conversation and going, holy cow, this is exactly where I am right now and this is like I'm lucking out listening to this and listening to what Karen has to say, how would you help them, like take them through like brass taps? I think some of the the aspects is to, you know, not be afraid of what we don't know, look for the greatest uncertainties. It's some of the questions I ask now, earlier in the process than later, right because we all know there are gaps as we put together these plans and all too often leadership is not asking what the greatest uncertainties are. Where are the gaps? Right where? We're sometimes filling the gaps in our presentations and our plans and they may not be built on solid footing and there may also be a desire or a need to go after them and fill them appropriately. So, you know, the other thing I'd say is I five years. Boy, when speed is the new currency, I think five years is is a really long time. I don't know that I would give as much credence and credibility to that five year out mark as I'd probably didn't ten years ago. I think you know you're in. Maybe the three year place is a good play as a little bit more appropriate and realistic speed in the volatility. Yeah, but...

...the the the uncertainties, to be more upfront with them, to be more realistic. I think that again, we tend to go into marketing because we're very optimistic about the opportunities that we have and the ability that we have to change beliefs or behaviors of customers. And the pragmatic side, that realistic side, gives you a lot of credibility when you start to look at what you don't know and the ability to say, you know, if we had more insight over here, we may be able to make better decisions. And sometimes, you know, by by being very forthright about those gaps and what you wish you knew, you can get either more support to go after them or merit credibility to the parts that you do bring. So I think there's a balance to be really clear about there, because there's nothing more frustrating for me than reviewing plans and then finding how much is really based on assumptions and opinions, and I really work to clarify those these days. More than anything else, just get to the the reality of what do we know and to be you know, bring forth the the creativity of understanding what do we know that everybody else doesn't know? It's the approach to the assessment that I've started to get really more unique in my approach to strategy that I really like the concept of being able to see the market in a different way. I did this and in medical devices, and it changed the game and allowed us to create a pipeline of products that were extremely successful because we started looking at the market after twenty some years of success, we started looking at the market a whole different way and and it was a game changer. It let us continue a...

...pipeline and develop new products that had way more life, way more new categories, new types of products, new technologies, because we took a different approach. Don't think you've got it wrote. Think from your customers perspective and you can find new insights in there. And you know I mean, as I was listening to you, one of the things that came into my mind is that this is also where diversity and inclusion police's and and practices in your team and really help you a lot. I mean, most of us think of Dni in kind of moral and ethical terms, but there is also some really huge operationals, very practical advantages to be had from this approach, because a lot of times we also we don't know what we don't know, and the more diverse our teams are, the more that is a hedge against that risk. Someone is more likely to be there for you and say, Hey, have you thought about this? And you're going to sit there and go, crap, I never have thought about that at all. Now you are right, and that's that's that's one of the big advantages of having people not like yourself. Couldn't agree more. I mean that we look for that so much on the teams, but especially when you're when you're doing market assessments, when you're trying to gather voice of customer, anytime you're prototyping or gathering feedback. The more diverse that team can be, the better the positioning and the better the results will be because fundamentally, as we go into all these scenarios, we've got this baseline, I'll say it again, of opinions and assumptions right. So if you think about the the psychological processing that gets us there,...

...we as humans see the visible outward signs of internalized right thoughts. So we see it in behaviors, in decisions, in language, instructure of organizations. What's behind that is an internalization to each individual which becomes there not visible assumptions and opinions, and that clarity is something that it's difficult sometimes to work out. So by having that real, true diversity and inclusive group, you can surface those issues a lot faster to get clarity right. The goal is for that clarity of you know, it shouldn't be based on my my thoughts and opinions, shouldn't be based on anybody else this. It should be truly what the markets reflecting. And to get there you can do that much faster with a very diverse group than it is through trying to surface them, although I do try to surface them anyway because it's really healthy for team structure and team dynamics, but the diversity kind of gets you there so much faster. What is your biggest epiphany like if you went back, say, ten to twenty years? You think about I do this all the time with myself, think about what you should have known own ideally ten years ago or twenty years ago, and you didn't know. You know it now, right, and sometimes you kind of like, Oh my God, I can't you know. And what what's yours? I think mine currently is around the questions we ask. Right. I heard somebody say once if they had asked, you know, way back when they were developing cars, and if they asked, what would...

...be, you know what the advantage would look like in the next value statement? It would have been a faster horse. And for for me that's the wrong question. Of course, folks living then at the time in the need, that would be their first reaction, but it's absolutely the wrong way to ask. Then maybe it's the five why right. We go to that and recently I attended a conference and to add on to the end is what's stopping you, because it's not just about, okay, I need a faster horse. Why and why and why? But what's stopping you today from getting that? How's that a problem? So I think it's in the questions and questions to customer base right. It's really getting into the depth. So many times we think that solutions are going to be some outlet and is technical ingenuity and it most of the time comes from solving problems right. The advantages we develop today, they're coming faster because we now can connect things and see solutions bringing value in a lot of different opportunities. But it's still fundamentally that same way. But we don't get to really understand the problems if we don't ask the right questions. And how we go about that is really critical. It's really, really something I wish I had been better at ten years ago, for sure. Do you think it is correct or the rest of the business or the board or whoever it is that's it's listening the strategy being presented. You think it's fair or appropriate that they see it as a promise? Oh, absolutely, I mean, let's face it, I kind of look at strategy...

...in a more expanded view than I probably did ten years ago as well. I think it's a bit of a process that gets us to understanding the the market. So deeply that we can make decisions and recommendations that we will win. And that is the promise, right and I think to me it's what that due diligence and that process looks like today and how we can do it faster with technology and bringing all those aspects forward. But all in all, it is a promise that I'm going to deliver to you, X, Y and Z of market because we're going to approach it in this way after learning this information. So yes, it's a promise I've got to deliver absolutely. How do you do you advise people who are listening to this to iterate correctly on a strategy? Right? So there's a famous there's a thing that saying in the military that the best battle plan in the world never survives the first shot. And what it's really getting at is things change right there the you know, there's a lot of headwinds and tailwinds and fog and misunderstandings and all this kind of stuff, and we're you know, this is using another analogy for a second. This is very much like navigating a boat across an ocean. You know, you can, you can plot a straight line between these two points, but that doesn't account for storms and currents and wind and all kinds of things happening between the toes. Two points right. So how do you how do you advise people to think about this, not only from the people who are room, from the point of view of those who are proposing strategy, but also people who are consuming it, people who are making the...

...ultimate decision? Absolutely so I like to approach it as a consistency with flexibility. Right that it is like driving a boat across the ocean. We want to have a path, we want to have a plan. There may be information we're lacking, there may be market dynamics or conditions that change. A think about the pandemic. What changed over night for so many and those that were ready to go had a key opportunity to jump in. So it is a continual assessment, but your strategic direction is based on that sound footing. That's sound assessment framework. The the rest are the nuances of how right, the why and the what are the one the big pieces of that strategy that have more of a foundational, solid footing, if you will. The how we get there. Maybe things that flex and I always like to say luck is where preparation meets opportunity, and I think about examples like tell a health that you know, we were heading in this direction, there was opportunities kind of going this way. technlogy was joining and meeting us this way, but suddenly, in the pandemic the need backed off everything else and boy, within hours in some cases, companies were able to flip the switch and be they're ready and available to meet the need. Luck, yes, because they were prepared and the opportunity arose and they were there faster. But they should have been going that direction anyway because that was the strategy. It's just a matter of, you know, making sure those the nuances and the flexation is happening...

...so that you're not you know, you're not reading a textbook here and it's nothing is that straight line. That's really wishful thinking. In fact, I don't even think it's wishful thinking. I think it's very naive and some of the greatest, most interesting aspects recently of new products and successful launches have been because they're responding to the market needs in the dynamics and things that are happening real time. So, but it doesn't mean that you change strategic course and direction right the promise I'm making is to deliver on x, Y Z. It's just a matter of saying wow, because of this dynamic, we have a unique opportunity to capture share, share of wallet by going after this approach and really being flexible. A as you think about it, creativity is starts to make a major play in here of how do I problem solve? Right, it's not just about the the the players on the field. It's saying, if the field changes, how do I? How do I think about that differently? And you know, where every problem is an opportunity. I think that's one of the other changes that I've had over the past ten years that conflict problems I look at very differently now. They're all opportunities and the boy, when you look at it that way, how do we? How do we change this game? It really does open up a lot more now. You're right, and you know one one. You know a factor that is a headwind or a problem right for one company can be the reverse at exactly the same time for a different interest rates. Great example, even the...

...current situation that we have with inflation, there there are companies are making out like bandits right now in that environment. It's not normal it's not a you know, it's most people are are experiencing the very much as a head wind, right. Yeah, there are definitely industries and companies that are tailment from the you know, one another one. That's that I found. It's kind of similar to this. Is Competitor Action. Right. We are trained to think of something that our competitor did as presenting a headwind us, but a lot of times actually you can elevate and entire category that we're in and and can, in many situations, be a Tailwin. It can help us. So, yeah, you just got to be able to really those kinds of pots and say, okay, what am I going to do about this? and that's the creative. Absolutely is it. Are the activities of our competition, you know, growing the market, or are they growing their share from our you know, taking from us or another competitive you know, those are very different perspective. Sometimes the same thing, right, they make me the same activity, but there's also learnings there. I think the other piece that I have have come a cross because of being in so many industries is the connection of multi industries and looking at things differently. And a lot of times we get stuck thinking that our industry has some kind of advantage and if our competitors are doing it, it must be the best way because it's in our industry and I think well, that's good, that's okay. It serves as a benchmark. But having been in so many industries, I tell you things are so similar and when you look at it, it's just looking at it...

...like kind of like a diamond through, you know, the different fragments and lenses and it really is helpful to get outside of yourself, get outside of your company, get outside of your industry and just start looking at these different holistic prisms of what it can tell you. I've learned a tipe in in e commerce for years and doing e commerce for consumer package goods led me down a road, strangely enough, to look at mining and learning how they were filming mining and portraying and communicating what they do as miners gave us a ton of insight into positioning product. It was a strange connection, but they're at surface and it was like wow, if you're focusing on the value, focus on the value right. It was kind of though, that in the introductions, and that's probably like fifteen years ago, the introduction of you know the value ladder that we do today, which is, you know, take your take your fundamental all aspects of your product and find out what the benefits are and then ladder that up to what the values are. And it led me there a lot quicker than we kind of got to in the primary industries I was working. But it's, you know, keep your mind open and keep looking outside of yourself and it's really interesting and insightful. All right, so I got one last question for you. It's actually a question that some ass if I would impose. Okay, that is not every strategy is successful. How do you own failure of a strategy? Wow, not completely destroying your credible. I think it's really important to own the failure of a strategy. What's critical about it is to understand what the failure was. Was it based...

...on a market condition we didn't know, a change? If it's based on, you know, basic information we just didn't gather, we didn't close that gap, then you know that that's sometimes a real tough thing to face head on. If it's due to something else and some aspect of market condition, or there was a merger and acquisition and that change the game. You know, to me it's about. It's not about waiting to execute the strategy and seeing it fail. It's about notifying the leadership, the board, of the CEO, whomever were working with, and saying this is a major impact to our strategy and here's why. Right. So you know, the strategy is not this this book written in stone that is just to be executed blindly. It's a it's a living, breathing aspect of our organization and our our ability to win. So it's, you know, it's not just oh I failed, it's what's happened here. There's a dynamic, sometimes in our control, sometimes out of it. Sometimes it's a business choice that affects our strategy. So I don't look at it necessarily as failures. I look at it all as learnings. What works well, what ultimately doesn't work well. There's decisions that are made and they're based on information and it and we have to connect those dots continuously to be able to reflect appropriately, because what maybe going in one direction today can go in a whole nother one tomorrow. So it's being forthright and that it will always save your credibility, because if you're credible right and you're bringing up the information that's being impacted, then the organization, the decision makers, you can do something about it and you know you just don't want to wait too long or bury your head in the sand. It's being...

...out there with it there. Thank you so much. This has been so great. Thank you. Feeling in my bones we're going to get a lot of great feedback on this one and and the lot of times we get requests for people to be invited back. So I'm just going to go ahead and assume that because I think you've got a lot that you can share with our viewers. So if you if you're up for it, I think we're going to come back around for a second pass. Absolutely my pleasure. Thank you, guys. See you next week. On accelerating value. The sooner you can optimize your marketing spend, the quicker you can start delivering clear, measurable value to Your Business. That's exactly where business GPS from. Proof analytics can help learn more at proof analytics DOT AI. You've been listening to accelerating value. We're raw conversations about the journey to business impact. Help you weather the storm ahead. To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Until next time,.

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