The Four Ps of
By Ron Price
When it comes to
creating a strategy for your business, it is rarely wise to move
forward with just one carefully thought out course of action.
Instead, it is wiser to encourage vigorous debate and develop
several alternatives as part of the strategic discussion. The best
scenario is to have three to five alternatives that are all so good
that you experience a lot of angst over which one to choose. This
process provides several benefits; among them are better critical
thinking, increased creativity, and a number of alternatives to
choose from as the future unfolds.
organizations don’t value this approach and they quickly move
strategic discussions toward consensus. As a result, these
organizations often end up caught by the marketplace when
circumstances change. While their strategy may have been great at
the time they created it, factors outside of their control can
change the dynamics of their business and, without alternatives that
were developed in their strategic planning process, they cannot
respond quickly enough to leverage an opportunity or avoid a
In order to remain
relevant and effective, businesses need some way to monitor both the
execution of their strategic plan and the changing environment in
which they do business. With these management tools providing input
in real time, organizations can quickly adjust course as
circumstances present new opportunities or threats. A simple model
made up of “Four Ps” can help companies create this advantage.
These Ps are Perceptions, Performance, Purpose and Process.
There are six
different stakeholder groups you should be listening to periodically
to determine whether you’re moving in the right direction. These
six groups are:
customers see you is critical to any organization. Since not all
feedback systems work equally to uncover customer perceptions, you
should use a variety of feedback systems. Some examples are
suggestion cards, phone calls, emails, interviews, focus groups, and
should to track your employees’ level of engagement and
satisfaction. Again, you should use a variety of feedback systems to
gauge their perceptions. Your employees have a big impact on your
long-term performance, especially when you’re trying to execute
changes in strategy.
In the old
world, companies didn’t care what their vendors thought of them. But
in the new world, everyone is connected and part of a greater whole.
In developing flexibility with your strategy, all of your
relationships are potential assets that you can draw upon to execute
or change your strategy when it’s necessary. So understanding how
your vendors perceive you is important. Do they view you as one of
their prime customers, or as one of the troublesome ones?
Depending on your industry, you have different guidelines to follow.
Sometimes those guidelines play a significant role in strategy.
Therefore, know how your industry’s regulators view you.
5) Owners or
Whether your company has one or several major investors, you need to
fully understand how each perceives the organization. Since the
person or people who hold the purse strings play a major role in the
company, they have dynamic relevance in terms of strategy.
This could include the Chambers of Commerce, the media, the other
significant businesses in the area, or even the government. How
these outside groups view your company can significantly impact your
relates to the following four questions:
1) How are we doing
implementing and executing on our strategy, including the goals and
Are we ahead? Are we behind? Are we performing according to plan or
are we in some way out of sync with the plan?
2) What are the
current economics of our business?
changed from what we assumed when we created our strategic plan?
3) What are the
operational results that we’re producing?
If you break these down to business units or individual strategies
or functions, figure out the actual operational results you’re
getting. You may be doing a great job executing on your strategy,
but it may not be producing the results you anticipated.
4) How are we
performing relative to the performance agreements that we
established in the organization?
agreements are the specifics of the operational plan that were
created in the strategy. How are you lining up with the milestones
for specific initiatives? Or what’s happening with the consequences?
Are you getting greater or lesser results than expected?
When you review
your purpose as an organization, you need to ask the question, “What
has changed?” or “What is or will be changing in the environment?”
Your answer should impact the way you look at your vision or your
long-term goals for the organization. The goal is to look for new
opportunities or to identify what threats may be emerging because of
changes in the environment.
“What has changed internally since we met last?” Do we have some new
strength that we didn’t have before? Did we obtain some new
equipment, technology, or intellectual property? Did we get some
great talent that we didn’t have before that should be impacting our
strategy? Has there been a new limitation that’s emerged since we
last looked at this scorecard?”
Based on your
answers, you should review whether you still have the right
strategy, goals, or timelines. You also have to determine what you
can redefine and adjust in your plan to improve in any of the areas
you’ve analyzed. Finally, you need to ask yourself, “Where should we
focus our improvement efforts to create new value in the future?”
All work is a
process. It’s a series of tasks combined to achieve a particular
goal. Such is the case with strategy as well. There are steps you go
through, there are people involved, and there are processes you have
to look at to determine where you can improve your implementation
and in what order of priority. Are you creating waste? Is there
rework? Are there inefficiencies in your various processes? Are the
processes really creating the results you’re looking for? How are
you doing tactically? How are you improving your processes? How
should you adjust your resources?
Finally, you should
be asking how you can create the sense of urgency and the
accountability to ensure superior execution of your plan. You may
have a great plan, but if you don’t have the right sense of urgency
or the right level of accountability in the execution of it, a great
plan poorly executed still produces poor results.
for Better Results: Good strategic thinking and monitoring takes
the four Ps into consideration. It’s about constantly looking at
your environment and adjusting your plan as necessary. Developing
this kind of monitoring system, along with a more robust development
of alternatives in strategy moves you away from rigid organizational
charts toward more team-based environments. As a result, you’re
better able to adapt your strategy to the environment while it’s
changing. When you implement the four Ps into your organization, you
keep your strategy fresh and don’t become stagnant or obsolete in
the implementation of your plan…or in the marketplace.
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