02 Dec

Grateful for You!

As we celebrate 20 years in business this holiday season, our thoughts turn to those who helped shape our business over the years.

We have accomplished amazing things together and we are incredibly thankful for your partnership – either now or in the past. Attached is a card to say thank you!

In the spirit of giving, Line of Sight Group is making a donation in your company’s name to Urban Roots, a Saint Paul organization whose mission is to cultivate and empower youth through nature, healthy food and community.

Sincerely, Steve, Sara, Jen, Jennifer, Erin, Kristi, Teresa, Wayne and all of our associates including Kim, Keisha, Jane, Sonal, Vivian, Allie, Jordan, Emma, and others.

Line of Sight Group

steves@lineofsightgroup.com

888-723-6188

www.lineofsightgroup.com

Celebrating 20 years of business in 2022!

17 Nov

With Gratitude from Line of Sight Group

Gratitude is emerging as a dominant change adults want, once the pandemic and other major changes of 2020 are over, according to an ongoing study from Ignite360. The emergence of the gratitude sentiment is an example of a societal change driver. Author Volpe insists that it’s time for action and companies must be proactive, rather than reactive. What opportunities and threats does it represent for your organization? How will your business respond? How will your marketing messages change?

Market and competitive intelligence capabilities, therefore, are more critical than ever. The Line of Sight Group team is thankful to work with customers who understand the power of data and insights! We are always ready to help! 

https://www.ignite-360.com/blog/gratitude-the-change-people-really-want

22 Oct

Adaptive Strategy – How to Understand and Respond to Industry Changes that can Grow (or Ruin) Your Business

When I guest lecture with the MBA students at the University of St. Thomas, I often begin with a question: “What do the following have in common?”

“They are all extinct!” comes the response quickly.

“Why?” I say. “Why are they extinct?”

“Because they failed to adapt.”

“Adapt to what?” I tease.

With a bit of exasperation, they respond with something like this: “CHANGE!! THEY WERE UNABLE TO ADAPT TO CHANGES IN THIER ENVIRONMENT.”

“EXTERNAL,” I add. “Unable to adapt to changes in their EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT.”

In order to adapt to changes in your industry, you first have to understand what industry change is. Next you have to know what to look for. Then, when a change is recognized, you have to know whether or not it is important, and if so, only then should you make plans to act on it.  

Understanding Industry Change

Industry change is EXTERNAL. It originates from outside the organization rather than internally. Market demographics, technology, customers and competition are examples. These external factors, called ‘change drivers’, are less controllable, harder to forecast and can be more disruptive than changes that originate internally in an organization. Just think about the dramatic effects that the Coronavirus has had on our economy and entire way of life in 2020!  

Industry change is also RELATIVE. All organizations have several fundamental relationships. In fact, a business organization is defined by relationships with its customers, employees, suppliers, investors, lenders, government regulators, communities in which they operate and other stakeholders. And while firms may not have relationships with direct competitors, they are perceived relative to competitors and substitutes by customers and others.

As industry stakeholders respond to external changes, these relationships change, and it is the changes in these relationships, within the context of the external change drivers, that are important in understanding adaptive change.

  • The dinosaurs lived in an environment that allowed them to flourish until, of course, climate change would eventually wipe them out.

Monitoring Industry Changes

Start at the end. The first step is to know what to look for. It is well known that data volumes are exploding. In 2016, it was written that more data had been created in the past two years than in the entire previous history of the human race. [1] Luckily, only a small fraction of that data would ever be relevant to your organization.

By starting at the end, and determining what the data would be used for, it is possible to focus your efforts. For example, when considering how to not become extinct, the data that would represent a threat to our existence is most important. Best practice organizations start by defining a set of ‘key topics’ based on the assumptions in their current strategic plan or potential opportunities and threats, and are used to guide their change monitoring activity.

  • In 2000, when Reed Hastings, the founder of a fledgling company called Netflix, flew to Dallas to propose a partnership to Blockbuster CEO John Antioco and his team, Hastings got laughed out of the room. While Blockbuster had paid attention to its retail competitors, it did not recognize a business model that relied on sending DVDs through the mail as a threat. [2]

‘Movie’ versus ‘snapshot’. Change, of course, happens over time. Changes in the external forces and stakeholder relationships can only be recognized using a longitudinal approach, which compares data points in time. Most organizations today find themselves in a world where the pace of change is fast and accelerating. Best practice companies do constant surveillance and continuous updating by an individual, group or outside partner with this responsibility. The U.S. military may have the world’s best capabilities for this, as designated intelligence officers constantly gather intel from the front lines.  

  • The demise of pay phones was a predictable result of the adoption of cell phones. It was easy to see the adoption curve and predict when the large carriers would exit. Sprint left the business in 2006. AT&T exited two years later, and Verizon got out in 2011. [3]

So What? Just because change is occurring and relevant to an opportunity or threat, doesn’t mean it is important. To understand if the change is significant, it is necessary to apply relevancy filters such as: Is the data real or is it only an outlier? Is it outside of expectations? What is the size of the change? What market segments are being impacted? What are the possible consequences and implications of the change?  This is where human analysts with knowledge of your business, aided by text analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) tools, apply their experience and raise red flags where appropriate. These red flags are called out in the regular updates and summary reports routinely circulated to managers and executive teams.

  • In BlackBerry’s downfall, managers didn’t take seriously the idea that the market was changing. BlackBerry’s leadership was based on enterprise and government markets, and never took the consumer market, and Apple’s iPhone, as a serious threat to its business. At least not until it was too late.

“BlackBerry proves that Andrew Grove really did have it right when he said, ‘only the paranoid survive.’ That’s probably the best lesson CEOs can take away from BlackBerry’s fall.”

— Craig Hanson, General Partner, Next World Capital [4]

What Now? Once recognized as important and relevant, executives can begin making plans for appropriate response. The first step in the response planning is a ‘deep dive’ analysis that is focused on the specific opportunity or threat to check assumptions, manage risks and develop a set of strategic options. Those options can further be played out in scenarios or war gaming exercises.

Acting on Intelligence

Ultimately, adaptive change means that executives must make investments and allocate resources to address the opportunity or threat. These are the ‘bets’ that executives make and are at the core of business strategy. Developing and utilizing a systematic process for gathering industry, market and competitive intelligence enables executive teams to make those bets swiftly, efficiently and confidently.


[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2015/09/30/big-data-20-mind-boggling-facts-everyone-must-read/#32a007d817b1

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2014/09/05/a-look-back-at-why-blockbuster-really-failed-and-why-it-didnt-have-to/#222daa451d64

[3] https://money.cnn.com/2018/03/19/news/companies/pay-phones/index.html

[4] https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomtaulli/2013/09/23/lessons-from-the-fall-of-blackberry/#3674057d544d

18 Sep

Line of Sight Client Wins Award

Last week, one of Line of Sight’s clients won an award for her contributions to her company’s market insights and competitive strategy initiatives. Melissa works at a large, multinational organization in our healthcare vertical market, and leads the market research efforts at one of their main divisions. We assist her in collection, analysis and reporting on competitive and industry change drivers, and managing that content on our cloud-based intelligence platform – Intelligence2Day. 

Congratulations to Melissa and her entire team!


Hello,

I just wanted to let you both know that yesterday I won a team award for CI in Marketing, and a big reason is because of all the hard work that LoSG has done and the partnership you’ve had with us. I just wanted to thank you and let you know how appreciated you are!!! You’re the best Kristi – you do such fantastic work!!!

Sincerely,

Market Research Analyst | Strategy and Marketing Analytics

22 Jul

Hope is Not a Strategy

In mid -March of this year, when the coronavirus began shutting down schools, businesses and our normal way of life, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an interview with Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. In it, Osterholm discussed some of the frustrations of being the voice of impending change, which policy makers really didn’t want to hear, and why the message was ignored until too late.[1] 

An Early Warning

In his 2017 book “Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs,” Osterholm sounded the alarm on coronavirus diseases’ disturbing combination — they have a relatively high mortality rate and can spread rapidly in humans. In the last 20 years, outbreaks of SARS and MERS (in the same viral family now fueling the COVID-19 pandemic) did not go global, but they were “harbingers of things to come.”

In January he said, to a group of organizations he advises, “I now am absolutely convinced this is going to be a pandemic. This will be a worldwide epidemic. We will see major transmission around the world. And, what has happened in Wuhan will happen in other places.”

“This to me was the equivalent of someone standing on a beach, a beautiful sand beach on the Gulf, beautiful blue skies, not a cloud in the sky — but 500 miles south of there is the biggest low-pressure system we’ve ever seen. We should have been telling people back then, this is going to be like a Category 5 hurricane.”

Resistance to the Message

Osterholm cites key reasons why policy makers were so slow to respond.

  • A sense of invincibility. Osterholm says, “We had almost this sense of invincibility that we had a border that would not allow such infectious-disease agents to penetrate …. We, of course, know that is folly.”
  • Little understanding of vulnerability. “[There has been] no real understanding of the vulnerability of this country outsourcing all of its drug supply manufacturing to places like China. And, when you don’t understand all that, or elect to neglect it, it’s easy to say another day went by and nothing happened.”
  • Lack of creative imagination for possible scenarios. “People who knew health care knew [it had been] carved down to the bone for which there was no resiliency of any substantial nature, no excess capacity, no monies to stockpile large volumes of protective equipment.”
  • Perceived distance. A common response was, “Well, that’s in China.” Osterholm explains that people didn’t understand these viruses don’t adhere to political boundaries — geographic areas are just another place for them to go
  • Resistance to objective evaluation of risk. People were wanting to believe this was a low-risk situation, but Osterholm and others were saying, “No, no, no.”

Leadership and Strategy

Osterholm states that changing behavior in response to the pandemic requires addressing both the “heads and hearts” of people. While factual data appeals to the ‘head,’ leadership appeals to the ‘heart.’

“How are we going to start dealing with both the hearts and the heads of the citizens of this country, and for that matter the world? And, we have to understand it’s going to be more than just giving them factual data or information. This is where leadership is really key. It’s important we don’t forget this piece.”   

The interview closes with this Q and A: 

Q. “Are you hopeful about new potential treatments for COVID-19, such as chloroquine, that are being studied right now?”

A. “I am hopeful, but hope is not a strategy.”

For leaders of organizations, the lessons are clear. Paying attention to the external environment can be both difficult and uncomfortable. It might require reconsideration of earlier strategies or acknowledging that some things are beyond your control. You may not want to hear it.

Whether it is unprecedented environmental change, like a global pandemic, or subtle change in your industries or markets, it is important for leaders to use unbiased data in their decision-making process, assess the magnitude of change and the associated risks, evaluate the needed capabilities to respond, and muster the courage to confidently communicate and lead.

In other words, ‘hope’ is not a strategy. 


[1] https://www.startribune.com/coronavirus-pandemic-what-s-normal-now-what-s-next-an-interview-with-michael-osterholm/568978932/?refresh=true

11 Jun

Supporting Those Calling for Change

In the wake of the death of George Floyd on May 25th and the ensuing protests and riots in our hometown of Minneapolis/St. Paul, some of our clients around the country are taking time this week to hold sessions with their employees to reflect on the systematic racial injustice in our country.   

We at Line of Sight Group stand in support of our client’s actions, as well as all who have been and will continue to protest peacefully and work for real change.

We are data people. We believe in the power of facts. We help our clients every day by delivering objective data and insights that help them identify opportunities and threats to  make informed business decisions.

In the spirit of objective data, below are some statistics we have curated regarding racial disparities in the states where we live. We’ve done this not only to bring light to these facts, but also to bring ourselves closer to it and help us all understand that we are part of the problem and must be part of the solution.

We support our clients, organizations and individuals who are working to make our world a place where fairness and justice exist for all people. We pledge to do our part as well. 

Minnesota

  • Children in Poverty: White-not Hispanic (6%) and Black/African American (33%) [1]
  • MCA III test scores show that by Grade 4 Black/African American students are falling behind their white peers in reading: White-not Hispanic students (65% proficient) and Black/African American students (31% proficient) [2]
  • Twin Cities ranked  4th worst place for Black Americans[3]
  • Twin Cities ranked 92nd out of 100 metros for racial equity [4]

[5]

Missouri

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Missouri had a population of 6,137,428 in July 2019. The white race represented 83%, while black or African Americans comprised 11.8%. 

  • In 2019, approximately 6.21% of the vehicle stops of Blacks and 6.34% of the stops of Hispanics resulted in arrest, compared with about 4.55% of the stops of whites [6]
  • In 2017, roughly one in five Black/African American young adults between 16-24 years old is neither in school nor working[7]
  • Black Americans account for about 13% of the U.S. population, but 24% of the coronavirus deaths. In Missouri, blacks account for 12% of the population, but 37% of coronavirus deaths [8]

Colorado

  • As of December 2019, Black/African Americans constituted 5% of Colorado  residents, but 17% of people in jail and 18% of people in prison  [9]
  • In 2018, Black/African Americans represented 4% of the adult state population, but accounted for 12% of arrests/summonses and 11% of adult district court filings [10]

Iowa

  • Nationwide, a black person is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than a white person. In Iowa, however, a black person is 7.26 times more likely to be arrested[11]
  • Out-of-school suspensions. Nationally, African American students (13.5%) are suspended at about four times the rate of white students (3.4%). Six Midwestern states (including Iowa)  suspend black students at more than five times the rate of white students [12]

New Jersey

  • Out-of-school suspensions. Black students were 5.4 times more likely to face out-of-school suspension compared with white students. New Jersey tied with Iowa as the fifth-worst state for black-white disparities [13]
  • Black children are four times more likely than white children to enter foster care in New Jersey [14]

Also…in the spirit of being fair and unbiased, we also looked for statistics that describe disparities that favor African Americans. We are pretty good researchers but, unfortunately, we could not find any…


[1] A Statewide Crisis: Minnesota’s Education Achievement Gaps (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis): https://www.minneapolisfed.org/~/media/assets/pages/education-acheivement-gaps/achievement-gaps-mn-report.pdf?la=en

[2] 2018 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey https://mn.gov/admin/demography/news/annual-statewide-summary/2018-acs-release.jsp

[3] MPR. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/06/17/minnesota-no-4-in-child-wellbeing-but-among-worst-in-racial-disparities

[4] NAACP. https://www.twincities.com/2019/12/06/twin-cities-ranks-92nd-out-of-100-metros-for-racial-equity-naacp-report-finds/

[5] https://www.startribune.com/how-did-minnesota-become-one-of-the-most-racially-inequitable-states/547537761/

[6] Missouri Vehicle Stops 2019 Annual Report

[7] 2019 Equity in Missouri Higher Education Report

[8] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/06/04/black-americans-face-higher-covid-19-risks-are-more-hesitant-to-trust-medical-scientists-get-vaccinated/)

[9]  https://www.vera.org/publications/state-incarceration-trends/colorado

[10] Colorado Dept. of Public Safety, October 2019 (pg. 9) http://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/ors/docs/reports/2019-SB15-185-Rpt.pdf

[11] ACLU Report: https://www.aclu-ia.org/sites/default/files/tale_of_two_countries_racially_targeted_arrests_in_the_era_of_marijuana_reform.pdf

[12] Race in the Heartland. University of Iowa and the Iowa Policy Project. Colin Gordon. October 2019. https://files.epi.org/uploads/Race-in-the-Midwest-FINAL-Interactive-1.pdf

[13] Why are black, hispanic students suspended more often? NorthJersey.com. https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/education/2019/03/22/nj-has-one-nations-worst-racial-gaps-school-suspensions/3140484002/

[14] WNYC investigation of data from 2009-2013. https://project.wnyc.org/nj-foster-care/

30 May

Using External Data to Excel at Pricing

A study published last year in HBR, Forbes and Bain and Company’s own outlets looked at top-performing B2B companies (as defined by increased market share, self-described excellent pricing decisions and execution of regular price increases). The findings suggest that top performers are more likely to:

  • Employ tailored pricing at the individual customer and product level
  • Align incentives for frontline sales staff with the pricing strategy
  • Invest in ongoing development of capabilities through data, training and tools

These top performers develop pricing capabilities by bringing market intelligence to bear on three variables for setting target prices:

  • The attributes and benefits that each customer truly values (External Data)
  • The alternatives and competitive intensity in the industry (External Data)
  • The true profitability of the transaction after accounting for leakage in areas such as rebates, freight, terms, and inventory holding (Internal Data)

What caught my eye, of course, is the emphasis on the use of EXTERNAL DATA to develop the pricing capabilities of these top performers.  

Applying external data to pricing decisions requires an underlying capability to collect data, analyze and deliver insight to pricing decisions. While the authors offer no specifics on HOW this is done, here are three techniques we’ve used over the years to help clients develop this capability:

  • Systematic scanning. Top performers systematically monitor for pricing information and indicators rather than engaging in “episodic pricing projects”. From press releases to published contracts to captured conversations by the sales force, open source data is compiled, organized and analyzed to understand what customers are paying and the pricing strategies of the competition
  • Market and competitive analysis. The B2B supply chain contains several transaction points – the points at which money is exchanged for something of value, whether a supplier, customer, distribution partner or other. And whenever money is exchanged, data and information are associated with the transaction. Using this ‘follow the money’ approach and asking the right questions, it is possible to extract valuable insight regarding the attributes customers value and the pricing practices of the competition
  • Win/Loss analysis. When we speak to B2B customers on our client’s behalf following a buying decision, we seek to understand both the key buying factors as well as the customer’s buying alternatives and their perceptions of price. Whether our client won or lost the decision, knowing how their pricing compared aids them in setting future prices

While data and insight are one component of overall pricing success, 77% of top performing companies have access to the right data and tools. An example is a top performing company in the specialty chemical industry that successfully employed these pricing tactics and increased EBIT by 35% within two years.

The authors close the white paper with these words, “companies in almost all industries have underinvested generally across pricing. The episodic “pricing project” approach leaves companies well short of full potential. With meaningful margin upside at stake, managers cannot afford to continue pricing by guesswork or rules of thumb.”

The links below will open a three pricing-related case studies.      

Maximizing Revenue Through Market-Based Pricing

https://lineofsightgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/LoSCaseStudyCS32.18_MarketPricing-1.pdf

Price Benchmarking

https://lineofsightgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/LoSCaseStudyCS30.18_PriceBenchmark-1.pdf

Protect Against Low Priced Competition

https://lineofsightgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/LoSCaseStudyCS31.18_LowPriceCompetition.pdf

Here is a link to the Bain and Company brief “Is Pricing Killing Your Profits?”:

https://www.bain.com/contentassets/da6c7f536eeb47ab863ff9719ea2381e/bain_brief_is_pricing_killing_your_profits.pdf

10 May

Successful Presentation at SCIP 2019

Our joint presentation with Michelle Volesko Brewer from Wolters Kluwer was a resounding success on Wednesday, based on participant surveys. About 30 participants learned about and shared experiences with Managing Complex CI Projects.

2019SCIP_Presentation_Slide1

This session focused more on the ‘Art’ of the role of strategy professionals rather than the ‘science’. Key Best Practice themes that arose through the discussion were things like ‘good planning’, ‘project definition’, “objective setting’, ‘communication, communication, communication’ and leadership.

2019SCIP_Presentation_Description

Below are links to the presentation deck, handout and session notes. Please contact us with any questions.

Thanks to all who participated – Steve and Michelle

SCIP PowerPoint Template_SS_MVB_FINAL Ver 2

SCIP Handout_SS_MVB_FINAL

SCIP Presentation Notes_Complex Projects_20190508

08 Mar

Strategy as Learning – Why Your Strategy Should Be a Hypothesis You Constantly Adjust

womanwithfish

In the HBR article entitled  “Your Strategy Should Be a Hypothesis You Constantly Adjust” (link below) authors Edmondson and Verdin examine two cases of recent business failure: Wells Fargo’s and Volkswagen, and discuss the concept of ‘strategy as learning’.

In both cases, the companies’ strategies were viewed by their top executives as analytically sound, but the performance gaps were blamed on execution. As a result, mid-level managers and employees kept trying harder to execute the plan, effectively digging the hole deeper until there was no other choice but to cover it all up. This, of course, led to scandal and eventual loss for the organizations financially and beyond.

‘Strategy as learning’ contrasts sharply with the view of strategy as a stable, analytically rigorous plan for execution in the market.

Like all hypotheses, strategy as learning’ starts with situation assessment and analysis — strategy’s classic tools. Also like all hypotheses, it must be tested through action. With this lens, encounters with customers provide data that is of ongoing interest to senior executives — vital inputs to dynamic strategy formulation.  Strategy as learning is characterized by ongoing observing and adjusting, fueled by data that can only be obtained through execution.

The ‘strategy as learning’ concept aligns with our idea of ‘strategic thinking’ as posted on our blog 10/5/2018: Strategic thinking is about capturing what managers learn from all sources (including both ‘soft’ insights from experiences and observations as well as ‘hard’ data from market research) and then synthesizing it into a vision of the direction that the business should pursue.

The concept of ‘strategic learning’ and ‘strategic thinking’ is what Line of Sight Group is all about – an evidence-based approach using external data to augment our client’s internal perspective to help them 1) make informed strategic decisions and 2) adjust those strategies based on empirical data from customers and the industry. Our Market Intelligence and our Customer Win/Loss analysis offerings are specifically designed to help our clients develop and maintain systematic and unbiased feedback loops that enable confident adjustments to strategy.

Strategy is about placing bets – big and important bets that can make or break the future. Continuing to up the ante with the belief that the problem is in execution instead of using data to gain feedback for necessary adjustments can result in loss of not only the hoped-for jackpot, but also the entire bankroll.

https://hbr.org/2017/11/your-strategy-should-be-a-hypothesis-you-constantly-adjust

07 Nov

Line of Sight Group: Proud Sponsor of ProductCamp Twin Cities 2018

LoS_ProductCamp 2018_JS (3)

The team at Line of Sight loves it when we have a chance to attend and sponsor great events…and ProductCamp Twin Cities 2018 really fit the bill! The event was held for the second year at The Nerdery, where attendees were able to share insights and network with developers, engineers, project managers, marketers, user experience, customer experience, product managers, and others who are passionate about product.

This user-organized “unconference” featured Sarita Parikh, Senior Director Consumer Experience and Strategy, Pearson, who gave the keynote speech, “Influencing Behavior in an Irrational World.” Attendees also had their choice of several other sessions, including  Product Management Excellence: Creating a Best-in-Class Product Management Organization (Jeff Lash), Linguistics for Voice Interaction Designers: A Crash Course (Ellen Lucast) and more. Engaging speakers and plenty of networking opportunities made for a successful day! We look forward to seeing you next year at ProductCamp 2019.