Articles

5 questions about international business that you probably can't answer

With so much focus these days on international business, you might think that there is no stone unturned, the topic is quite familiar to all executives around the world and the challenge is more about how to do it than what we know about it. Let's see if this is true 🧐! Can you answer the 5 questions below?...

Things we don't get about the digital transformation

Digital transformation is not a new thing: it started decades ago. It's just that back then it wasn't called this, and it is also much more spectacular today than in the 20th century. So there is a history we can explore, and when we do, unsurprisingly, there are a few things that stood out all along. At the end of the 1980s, my colleagues and I used to share a computer. Everything was handwritten and scattered in the organization, and it remained so long after servers, databases and word processors became available. In the middle of the 1990s...

5 reasons why you are not thinking out of the box

Of course, there is no method to think out of the box: as soon as one is found, it falls in the box! However some conditions can help us to get this specific attitude, or mental process, or secret ingredient, or whatever it is that makes one find an opportunity where everybody else sees a dead end. As we age, it becomes obvious that some of us "have it" and others don't. For the former, serendipity is no mere accident, it's a pattern. For the latter, looking for solutions is a daily frustration and a long history of fruitless attempts. Thinking out of the box is not just a nice trait. Today it can be the difference between survival and oblivion, competitive advantage or weakness, the next step and the misstep. Which is why it's worth thinking for a few minutes about what could restrain your imagination...

Innovation and quality are frenemies: the Qualiopi case

In the 20th century, engineers have developed effective approaches to improve the quality of their products. Fired up by their achievements, they teamed up with managers to apply these methods more widely to companies. Leaking outside the manufacturing departments, the Deming wheel, 6 sigma and other concepts eventually morphed into TQM (Total Quality Management), where quality management ruled over all corporate processes. For a while, it seemed that only companies with a strong technological / industrial background would fall for this, but...

5 major management mistakes

Managing human beings is not simple and there is no reason why it should be. Experienced business people know that in today's very competitive environment, the diversity of individuals, their ideas, their involvement are more than ever the key to success. Using them as biological robots gets you nowhere. Therefore managers are more and more professional and learn techniques and approaches, but as usual just getting a tool doesn't guarantee that you will do a good job. Here's a few mistakes you can make even with the best intentions and useful management knowledge...

You don't work with business consultants: what do you miss?

Many companies don't feel the need to work with business consultants. Why would they? Managers already know how to do business; in today's harsh world, they could not keep their jobs for very long otherwise. Sometimes there's an unexpected difficulty, a spike in activities or a project a little too ambitious or complex, and the door briefly opens to experts from the outside, but as soon as things get back to normal extra hands are no longer needed. Consultants are not exactly easy to deal with. They are expensive. Their performance is uncertain, since they are usually employed for tricky issues. A reliable consultant can disappoint in a challenging project, and...

Teaching in cyberspace: 2020 conclusions. Seriously.

After a few hundred hours of teaching exclusively online, in a context where there was no other option for anyone, it is possible to draw a few general, and then more specific, comments. This is not just looking back at the last months. I realized it was worth thinking deeper about this when I had the chance to enter a parallel universe. When you teach to more than 40 students online, it is difficult to know what is going on. Some students, usually the same small group, answer your questions, the others often seem a bit disoriented when you reach out to them individually, and that is about all you know. One day, as I was giving some feedback after an online presentation by some students, a Facebook comment appeared on the screen of the presenter...

The blind side

2020 seems to decision makers like the ultimate acid test for strategy. If you can survive this, surely that's proof of the brilliance of your board, the strength of your company or the relevance of your business model. And already when you read this it doesn't seem right, does it? Yes, Amazon, Microsoft and Zoom are making tons of more money. But now like before, managerial prowess is only a side dish, the main course being "the right time and the right place", i.e. sheer luck. Microsoft has developed the operating system of the IBM PC which then became the industry standard, and now we are stuck with Windows. The Office Suite was a nice move to expand this initial advantage, and Teams an additional layer of paint...

Some curves are hard to navigate, even for car manufacturers

Most industrial sectors will find the pandemic and its aftermath difficult to handle but car manufacturers should be particularly challenged. One of the reasons is that they were not looking good in the first place, and this in spite of the continuous growth of the global market. Until Covid19, the two main difficulties were a crowded offer and the painful transition to cleaner transport technologies. The number of players is an underlying weakness of the automotive sector. While profitability is driven by economies of scale (or more accurately experience curves) and hence the market is increasingly global, many zombie manufacturers remain in the game...

It takes work to turn "them"​ into "us"

In Rennes, in beautiful Brittany, taking the bus or the subway is a peaceful affair. People say hi to the driver and quietly take their seat. The journey is unlikely to be troubled, would it be even by a traffic jam. The worst nuisance is usually the sizzling sound of a schoolboy's wireless earpods. But in these pandemic days, things are not exactly the same. There are fewer passengers, they have to sit one seat away from each other, and they wear masks. Or so should they… There's the occasional couple of male teenagers keeping the mask on their chin at the back of the bus, but as more passengers board, they end up...

Where large-scale disruptions actually lead us

When the pandemic removes our favorite products from the supermarket shelves, we realize that just-in-time, complex global supply chains are vulnerable, and some of us jump to hasty conclusions. The global system would obviously be crazy and ineffective, and we should return to "normal": local small-scale farms and plants producing for local needs. Always on the lookout for populist opportunities, some politicians reactivate the dusty concept of sovereignty and promise a future that looks furiously like the past (and the recipe for the great depression, with echoes of ...

Will the lockdown make us smarter?

Being locked down has a number of side effects, one of them being that at times we can no longer distract ourselves with "things to do". Disconnected from the office, the customers, the issues, the colleagues, the objectives and the KPIs, it is harder to claim that we don't have time. Our brain becomes available, as it is not kept busy by daily chores. The thing with the brain is that it is very difficult to keep it idle. It works, constantly, and needs ...

Black swans, business and fantasies

A risk assessment for a business usually starts with a list, and each of the potential threats is graded on likelihood and impact. Then we apply the Pareto (or 80/20) method, and allocate 80% of our risk management budget or resources to...

Leave deglobalization to competitors

To many of us caught in the pandemic maelstrom around the planet, 2020 looks like the year when globalization crashed. And yet one more time, globalization will probably pass the test, no matter how spectacularly the case is made. If you are skeptical, ponder the points below...