Christensen / Kotter – 1

Looking at our offerings:

Clayton M. Christensen writes a great deal about ‘jobs to be done’ in his book Competing Against Luck. A ‘job to be done’ is any product or service that people are willing to pay for

“For me, framing innovation challenges through the lens of jobs customers are trying to get done was an exciting breakthrough. It offered what the theory of disruption couldn’t: an understanding of what causes customers to pull products and services into their lives.” – Christensen

One of the more salient observations is that context matters. The context of a product or service serves a different job to be done depending on context.

The example in the book that Christensen offers is milk shakes. Depending upon when a milkshake is bought it turns out that there are very different reasons for purchasing it. Purchasing a milkshake in the morning suggests a different job than purchasing a milkshake in the afternoon. Armed with knowledge like this products and services can equip more fulling for what job customers are trying to hire for.

Interesting thinking on Christensen part but it suggests something companies loathe to do … rethink their initial assumptions about what and how they are trying to accomplish product offerings. In the words of Christensen it is rethinking services and products trying to find the reasons behind a customer choosing a product or service.

What I see in working with executives and employees at Meijer parallels what Christensen is suggesting. Our tendency is to look at the immediate impact of changes and to a lesser degree the extent to which we win long term through brand or product loyalty by successfully ‘interviewing’ for the jobs (services and products) that customers want accomplished.

Looking at how we provide them:

On the other side of the fence in Information Technology we have corporate silo’s and hierarchy stifling our ability to produce, particularly to produce anything that IS NOT what we are already producing.

As business models mature and as companies historically have achieved market dominance an invisible, immutable change happens, they become hierarchical silo’s seeking to pattern and replicate the existing dominant product or service offering (paraphrased from Kotter Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving world).

“The most fundamental problem is that any company that has made it past the start-up stage is optimized much more for efficiency than for strategic agility—”

Taking Kotter’s view plus Christensen’s view we end up with businesses that are built to resist the temptation to act like start ups in the act of quickly seeing market opportunities and attempting to achieve solutions to those opportunities in new ways, ways that solve for the Job To Be Done better than previously possible.

Both Kotter and Christensen offer suggestions that begin to move the conversation in the direction of solving both of these cultural and systemic issues in the corporate world.

What companies need, is to not act like market leaders bend on milking profit margins while inhibiting growth opportunities.

“After you’ve uncovered and understood the JOB, you need to translate those insights into a blueprint to guide the development of products and services that customers will love. This involves creating the right set of experiences that accompany your product or service in solving the job” – Christensen

“The answer is twofold. First, a dual system is more about leading strategic initiatives to capitalize on big opportunities or dodge big threats than it is about management. Second, although the dual system is a new idea, it is a manner of operating that has been hiding in plain sight for years. All successful organizations operate more or less as I describe during the most dynamic growth period in their life cycle.” – Kotter

By recognizing and reconciling both the inherent position and structure at the enterprise level as well as focusing on existing and potential customers armed with a methodology like “Jobs To Be Done” for solutions and a process for enacting ACTUAL innovation we can overcome the stigmatized and structured methodology of constrained markets and restricted execution. Practiced together Kotter and Christensen offer a methodology for successfully altering the nature by which corporations operate and a map for ongoing success …

Christensen, Clayton M.; Dillon, Karen; Hall, Taddy; Duncan, David S. (2016-10-04). Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice. HarperCollins

Kotter, John P. (2014-02-25). Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World. Harvard Business Review Press.


Starting from scratch

I’m often astonished by the amount of difficulty a standard digital corporate project has in getting completed. It seems there are endless processes and validations that need to be adhered to that choke up the system. It reminds me of an article that I read about RIM:

“Apple and RIM actually have very similar business models — they both control physical handsets and the operating systems that run them, unlike Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, which are only operating systems that run on other companies’ devices.”

“BlackBerry, once the global leader in smartphone technology, has put itself up for sale after years of falling sales and failed revamps.”

Companies do not change or handle change well. There’s no way around it. Businesses are created to sustain themselves not to reinvent themselves. What does that mean? It’s simple really what a company does best is sustain it’s existing practices.

Being able to cope with an external change at the scope of the addition of a product like iphone is untenable for large companies. Instances of companies that failed because they couldn’t handle an external change abound and sunday quarterbacking isn’t really my point. I think in many respects there is an underlying sub context to the problem.

The sub-context points to the inability of companies attempting projects by leveraging good practices, in place processes and existing accepted toolsets. In short the context of the way companies run projects mirrors their agility regarding external environmental changes … they have none.

Rim was one of the largest handset makers in the world and over the course of 3 years it was disrupted by a company that had NEVER made a phone before. Granted it was Apple so … a heavy hitter. Never-the-less it seems unreal to me that a company that has never made a product before can disrupt a company that has been making them for over a decade. There are several lessons to be learned from these stories:

  1. companies need to figure out how to move faster.
  2. companies need to figure out how to exist IN changing environments.
  3. projects for companies need to be able to tackle the problem the way it needs to be tackled, not according to the existing processes or tools.
  4. New can be more flexible and innovative. Experience of doing something for a long time … doesn’t suggest that you do it the best … or even all that well.