The Corporate Signpost toolkit is your pocket consultant, available 24/7. The following case studies illustrate how insights and inspiration can be gained without the expense of hiring a consultant. These were genuine business situations, though identities have been preserved.
Case 1: Problem Solving
Geoff, an independent management consultant concerned about not attracting enough business, was seeking insights before revising his marketing strategy. We decided to draw three cards to represent the underlying issue, the obstacle to progress, and a solution. These are the cards and the interpretation we put on them.
The underlying issue: Geoff had such a wide range of skills and experience that his service offerings lacked market focus. Also his standards were not clearly defined. Potential clients were overwhelmed by the range of services on offer and consequently had little confidence in the quality. Geoff needed to decided which race he was in and scope his offerings accordingly.
The obstacle to progress: Through lack of focus in the marketplace and trying to be all things to all people, Geoff was having difficulty selecting which of his many resources (skills and experience) to promote. He was faced with his reluctance to restrict himself to a narrow field of interest. His failure to focus resulted in a dispersed rather than targeted message and it failed to hit any target at all.
A solution: This card gave Geoff the inspiration to re-examine his skills and to create an integrated, results-oriented package of complementary skills that would be of interest to a particular target market. This satisfied his need for a relatively broad remit, while presenting a single (though multi-faceted) concept to potential customers.
Actually Geoff had been unconsciously aware of the underlying issue and obstacle all along but had been unwilling to admit it. The Corporate Signpost images helped him to face the unpalatable truth and to confront his fear. The third image prompted Geoff’s subconscious to synthesise the information available and to produce a new idea, seemingly out of thin air.As a final touch we rolled the twelve-sided die to identify key influencing factors. An “11″ translated into opinion formers, information technology and management, politics, and product appraisal – all key to a marketing issue.
Case 2: SWOT Analysis
This is an example of my own. Following a panel debate about a government initiative to encourage business risk analysis and continuity management I was asked my opinion of the event. The speakers had been knowledgeable, each contributing lucid arguments on particular aspects but I felt an undefined niggling dissatisfaction.I decided to use Corporate Signpost to clarify my thoughts via a SWOT analysis. [I carry the card deck with me to most business events.] Here are the cards I drew:
I and my companions interpreted these images as follows:
- Strength: The strategic summary of government guidelines and comparisons of current practice in different industries was effective.
- Weakness: The arguments lacked bite. Quantified evidence of potential costs of major disasters (and knock-on effects) would have validated the concerns.
- Positive – delegates received a useful brochure about the business continuity framework;
- Negative – by lukewarm attitudes and failure to highlight (a) their own routine contingency planning and (b) the consequences of inaction, the panel missed the opportunity to inspire support of a sensible initiative.
- Threat: Through inaction have we made ourselves into sitting ducks in the event of disaster? Who is this initiative aimed at? Are we too complaisant about setting our own targets for putting continuity planning in place?
This analysis helped me to understand my uneasy feeling of dissatisfaction and to express the underlying issues concisely.
Case 3: New insights from a single card
Denise, a project manager, was given the task of implementing business continuity management for the first time within her company. As this concept was new to her, she sought insights from her Corporate Signpost toolkit by drawing a single card at random. Here are the insights prompted by this card:
- The project needs a champion at senior level to see it through
- The aim is to provide protection (armour) against major risk
- The scales signify that all factors should kept in realistic balance
- The process should be robust but not restrict movement or visibility
- The red flash indicates the importance to the whole company
- The blue background emphasises the role of performance measures and controls
These insights gave Denise a starting point for her task.
Case 4: Relationship analysis
An insight session for Nigel, a local businessman brokering the merger of his company and two others, highlighted outstanding issues that, without attention, could have scuppered the deal. Timely action saved the situation and the merger was successful.
Nigel’s role: This card relates to a proactive strategic management role with the energy and determination to put strategy into effect. It indicated that Nigel would have to take the initiative for implementing the merger and for communication. He would be the knight champion of the project. His new partners would take passive roles.Nigel admitted this to be the case and was confident he could deal with this situation.
The role of the two other business owners: This is a significant card that concerns the whole venture. It indicates a last minute hitch (a) that appears worse than it is and (b) resolution of which generates positive impact.In this case Nigel’s new partners were shown as the root of the problem. Although Nigel had thought all issues had been agreed, on questioning his partners they admitted to unvoiced concerns. Forewarning enabled their neutralisation before they became problematical.
The synergy between them: Green signifies all aspects of the infrastructure of the company. This card asks whether we know what resources are currently available and whether they are sufficient.The three companies specialised in complementary activities. This card was taken as a positive indicator for the newly merged company and a reminder that, in order to maximize benefits, the partners needed a comprehensive understanding of the scope of their new joint capabilities.
The potential outcome: Blue indicates all aspects of business performance – financial, quality, quantity, efficiency. This card was taken as confirmation that the enterprise would be successful with cause to celebrate. It was also a reminder that we can define success only by comparison with pre-set performance targets. Nigel resolved to create a performance plan and progress monitoring process.
The ultimate facilitator for adding insights and inspiration to business strategy