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The Context

Four seasoned and very successful business executives have entered territory typically occupied by not-for-profit organizations and turned the industry on its head, delivering unprecedented results to their government client and making a tidy profit: in one American state.

The Problem

The company is struggling to figure out how to penetrate the rest of the US market, one state at a time. It has seen remarkable success, it has gained substantial credibility. Most of all, it has the potential to wholly disrupt an entire industry. Why aren’t they able to gain a foothold in other regions? Is it their business model? It is working very well, and everywhere else the industry functions in a virtually identical manner. Is it their strategy? They are repeating everything they’ve perfected in the first region. Or is it something else, altogether, something that never would have occurred to them? As it turned out, it was all three.

The Solution

After a number of analytical conversations, we ran a process with the four senior executives to examine the history of the company’s performance and to identify the key success factors driving that performance. In order to bypass the leadership biases inherent in standard strategic review processes, we utilized a very different narrative-based method and mapped the results on a wall-length canvas.  Finding as well that there was distrust between team members, we facilitated a safe and transparent processing of perceptions and concerns.

It soon became blindingly clear that while they had a clear purpose, it was  rooted in a dangerously inaccurate self-understanding: of what in fact drove their business model’s success and what value they were creating.  As a result, their executives had divergent but unarticulated assumptions about what constituted a good prospective client and how to go after them, leading to the friction and frustrations on the team. More profoundly we realized that they had assumed their company should be the primary cause of disruption, when in fact it could not be.  Instead their purpose was to be a catalyst for disruption through their ability to effectively secure the buy-in of key industry stakeholders who would champion the new industry model.  Their purpose is not to disrupt, per se, but to inspire and facilitate a disruption movement.  A purpose of this magnitude will have an achievement time-frame counted not in years, but in decades.

The Success

By attending to the causes of internal distrust and to a faulty business model which in turn drove a faulty strategy, the company was positioned to pursue with new vigour and strategic focus the breaking open of a whole new market and the transformation of the lives of many individuals and families broken by systemic social issues in the USA.  Within two years they had saved state government $124 million dollars in costs that would typically have been seen as unavoidable.

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