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Published: August 24, 2010
 / Autumn 2010 / Issue 60

 
 

Growth through Focus: A Blueprint for Driving Profitable Expansion

2. Strategy: Focus through Lenses

The discovery process produces a set of success themes. In the second step, these themes need to be clustered and prioritized to define the focused bets that the company should make. Narrowing the focus is essential in order to concentrate resources on areas where the company has the best chances of winning. To take an analogy from photography, sharpening the focus on an object requires a telephoto lens that homes in on the subject while de-emphasizing background objects. Similarly, we have found that strategic focus requires lenses through which a company can look at its businesses. Lenses can be categories that the company is doing well in, brands that are performing well, geographies that are doing a stellar job, and platforms (like wellness or bone health in healthcare) that can serve to unify the company’s products and brands.

Consider the experience at Fonterra Brands. Through the discovery process, the company used two lenses — a product platform and a distribution channel. Using the platform lens, Fonterra identified osteoporosis as a key platform to bet on, based on its expertise in bone-health products. To pursue leadership on this platform, Fonterra entered into a partnership with GE Healthcare’s Lunar business to tackle the growing global health problem of osteoporosis using Fonterra’s Anlene bone-health products and GE Healthcare’s bone density technology. The partnership’s first initiative was the Anlene Bone Health Check, which provided free bone density screenings to millions of people in nine countries in Asia.

Using the second lens, Fonterra bet on the food-service channel as a key to its future growth. The outcome was a focused business called Fonterra Foodservices, which offers a complete suite of dairy products and tailored solutions for food-service professionals. Focusing through the distribution channel lens led to the strategy of creating a single “cow to customer” integrated business.

During the focusing process, each lens may produce several possible opportunities. These opportunities should be prioritized according to two criteria: the expected impact of the initiatives and the effort required. This exercise should result in a one-page preliminary plan that lists priorities for each lens. This preliminary plan should then go through several rounds of iteration with the input of key stakeholders. To improve the framework’s odds of adoption, it is important to involve as many of these stakeholders as possible in “owning” the outcome.

Once you find out what works, you can focus on it and scale the success to other markets, products, and brands. In the Unilever workshops, the company discovered that Lipton Portugal and Lipton Arabia were performing consistently well over time. Diving deeper into the reasons for this standout performance, the company found an interesting theme. In both markets, Lipton had been successful because it competed in the broad beverages market rather than limiting itself to the tea category. Further, in these markets, Lipton had done an excellent job of adapting its products to local tastes. For instance, Portugal had a successful iced tea business, whereas Arabia represented a successful hot tea market, despite the fact that Arabian countries have hot climates. The idea of taking a broader view of the business while remaining relevant to local tastes could be applied to Lipton’s other markets and categories.

3. Vision: Find a Simple Hook

Once the focus areas have been defined, the findings need to be summarized in a compelling yet simple vision. The vision serves as a rallying cry for the organization to align its efforts behind a clearly understood goal. Too frequently, the business strategies of large corporations are poorly understood outside the corporate headquarters and beyond the senior leadership of the company. To get everyone in the organization behind the strategy, it is vital to communicate the strategy across all levels and functions in the organization. This is the role that the vision plays.

 
 
 
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Resources

  1. Irene Rosenfeld et al., “Inside the Kraft Foods Transformation,” s+b, Autumn 2009: A roundtable discussion of Kraft Foods’ overall corporate reorganization.

  2. Mohanbir Sawhney, Sridhar Balasubramanian, and Vish V. Krishnan, “Creating Growth with Services,” MIT Sloan Management Review, January 15, 2004: Perspectives on how companies can drive organic growth through services.

  3. For more thought leadership on this topic, see the s+b website at: www.strategy-business.com/strategy_and_leadership.

 
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