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Harvey Schachter. (Wayne Hiebert for The Globe and Mail)
Harvey Schachter. (Wayne Hiebert for The Globe and Mail)

Power Points

Modern strategy: Four market dynamics you need to understand Add to ...

Also in this compendium: View your time as abundant and 13 hints somebody may quit

It helps to have patterns that explain the dynamics in your industry. A new model from the Strategy& consulting firm is based on the current state of play in major industries and so is worth adding to your strategic planning.

It outlines four different dynamics:

The Commoditization Spiral: We have been told that smart companies must distinguish themselves by distinctive, hard-to-replicate ways to serve customers. But sometimes the only option is to offer the lowest price to customers.

“In this dynamic, competition is so fierce and products are so similar that customers can play manufacturers off against one another to negotiate better deals. Almost as soon as a new product or service is introduced, others in the industry – including new entrants from emerging economies – offer something similar, and frequently at a lower price,” journalists Jeffrey Rothefeder and Art Kleiner write in Strategy+business.

“When caught in this dynamic, companies tend to panic and eliminate costs as quickly as possible, often hurting themselves by cutting corners on processes, on employee development, and on procurement to maintain the slimmest of margins on their products and services.”

This seems likely to overwhelm the music industry, but hasn’t. It has captured the chemical industry, however. It’s very difficult to escape and only a significant investment in innovation may help. The product may remain a commodity but some factors associated with it might at least persuade some customers to pay more.

The Table Stakes Game: This dynamic may initially seem similar but isn’t. It’s based on what is needed in industries to just stay in business, such as knowing audio quality in music. “In industries caught in the Table Stakes Game, many companies are competing at once – not necessarily on price, but on quality and features. Although they don’t fall into commoditization, it’s very hard for any of them to stand out and reach market leadership,” Mr. Rothefeder and Mr. Kleiner explain.

You’ll find this in place in industries where most major companies rely on similar capabilities, such as automobiles, oil and gas, beer and appliances. You can move away from this – it won’t be easy – by no longer trying to be all things to all customers, and focusing on some capability competitors can’t match. Alternatively, try to do everything faster and more effectively.

The Supercompetitors Pie: This involves companies setting themselves apart from competitors by product design, supply chain scale or manufacturing efficiency so that they become “supercompetitors,” shaping their slice of the overall market. In consumer packaged goods, we see companies jettisoning product lines where they aren’t dominant and becoming more narrowly focused. In defence, the companies used to all have similar products but now they are specializing, targeting selective weapons niches. Airlines are also starting to cater to specific consumer segments.

The Dominating Platform: Microsoft Windows, Google search and Amazon are essentially the sole supercompetitor in their sphere, the main technological platform with no real competitors.

The writers note that a battle for dominance continues to take place in music: “iTunes controlled the industry for about a decade; it was a powerful Dominating Platform. Then Spotify overtook Apple in both revenue and subscribers. But Spotify has not created a fully Dominating Platform, in part because streaming audio is a relatively open architecture with fewer barriers to entry than downloaded music had. Consequently, Spotify is battling with Amazon, Apple, Pandora, and many other music sources – along with some popular musicians including Taylor Swift and Adele – for platform control. This sector may ultimately fall into the Table Stakes Game dynamic instead.”

To achieve this dominance, you must establish a platform through highly distinctive capabilities or align with the company that does.

“Some industries combine several of these dynamics. Retailers, for example, may be enmeshed in all four at once. Moreover, these dynamics don’t appear to be static. Industries move from one to another,” they advise.

2. Abandon time scarcity for time abundance

When it comes to managing time, our usual stance is “woe is me.” There just isn’t enough time to accomplish what we want. But executive coach Marisa Murray, on the Clear Concept site, says we’ll be more effective if we apply an abundance mentality, thinking there is more than enough time. Try these tactics:

– Remind yourself there are 1,440 minutes available to you in a day. Put that way, you don’t need to be stressed. There’s enough time for your top priorities.

– Don’t just do; reflect to understand and appreciate. Before beginning any activity, take time to consider why it’s important to complete the task and what the best approach is. At the end, reflect on the progress made.

– Avoid contributing to the culture of “always busy and in a hurry” that pervades today’s workplace since that’s contagious, affecting you and others. “Choose instead to be intensely present and focused on the activity you are currently engaged in,” she writes.

– Value and appreciate time. You can approve your energy levels if you make a statement of gratitude, like “I’m really happy to have 30 minutes to spend on this presentation.” And when you save time, celebrate!

– View constraints as opportunities. “A time constraint can be turned into a fun game, to race against time. A time-consuming task (like a long commute) can be elevated with music or an audio book. Face each time challenge with optimism. Model that attitude and you’ll be surprised at how quickly problems dissolve and how soon optimism becomes your default mechanism,” she says.

– Give time to others. This may seem senseless when there doesn’t seem enough for your own tasks. But she insists giving creates an abundant frame of mind and your investment in others will feel rewarding. Moreover, next time you’re in need with an urgent priority, they may lend a hand.

3. The 13 signs that someone is about to quit

It’s often believed that you can tell someone is preparing to quit when they start wearing dressier clothes to the office, to be ready for job interviews, or are away a lot “for doctor’s appointments.” But a new research study by two academics, based on surveying nearly 100 managers, came up with these 13 signs that someone is about to quit:

1. Their work productivity has decreased more than usual.

2. They have acted less like a team player than usual.

3. They have been doing the minimum amount of work more frequently than usual.

4. They have been less interested in pleasing their manager than usual.

5. They have been less willing to commit to long-term timelines than usual.

6. They have exhibited a negative change in attitude.

7. They have exhibited less effort and work motivation than usual.

8. They have exhibited less focus on job-related matters than usual.

9. They have expressed dissatisfaction with their current job more frequently than usual.

10. They have expressed dissatisfaction with their supervisor more frequently than usual.

11. They have left early from work more frequently than usual.

12. They have lost enthusiasm for the mission of the organization.

13. They have shown less interest in working with customers than usual.

“The basic tenet of managing turnover is that everyone eventually leaves. But the ‘when’ can feel like a mystery. While our research shouldn’t be considered the only way to identify an employee on the verge of quitting, it does point to a set of behaviors that, taken together, can provide a clue – and it discounts behaviors that have mistakenly been seen as tells,” Timothy Gardner of Utah State University and Peter Horn of Arizona State University report in Harvard Business Review blogs.

4. Quick hits

– Do you need a structured morning routine? Many time-management experts recommend one, often involving planning, meditating or reading expansive literature, but productivity guru David Allen has no particular pattern; his goal is just to give his brain time to wake up as he walks the dog, has coffee, reads newspaper, and plays the mobile word game Words with Friends.

– Super successful people do not coast on their success, says executive coach Marshall Goldsmith.

– Managers who have to admit fault in a post-scandal settlement are more likely to recognize the ethical stumble and improve their behaviour than those who are offered a no-fault option with the same penalty and simply view it as a cost of business, according to research by Matthew Sooy of the Richard Ivey School of Business.

– Looking for a meeting icebreaker? Consultant Michael Kerr suggests asking people to answer one of these statements: “If I was president of this company for one day….” or “if I won the lottery I would….” or “if I could change one thing about my job it would be….” or “if I had an extra hour each day…”

– Don’t use e-mail to criticize, complain, or deliver bad news – it will backfire, says consultant Michael Hyatt.

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter

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