TECHNOLOGY

Lobster Ink [Geneva / Amsterdam / Cape Town] – shifting an entrenched culture to unlock sustainable business potential

Themes: Technology, Culture, Organisational design, Strategy, Communication, Leadership

The challenge:

Dutch-based technology company approached us with a deep concern regarding a systemic, recurring management issue in their Technology Department. There were numerous visible challenges with the integrity of the architecture of their technology platform, which resulted in the business not being able to effectively service their existing client base or confidently bring in any new business. We were called in to analyse and intervene with a solution for the technology platform and resolve their short-term staffing shortfall.

Our solution

Our recommendation was to embark on a three-part intervention deployed via multiple time horizons. Our short-term solution was to immediately address the obvious challenges relating to the technology stack. Our architecture specialists made sure that the system was secured and made sustainable to ensure business continuity. Action plans were then put in place to ensure the reliability of the system, before a longer-term vision of the future of the department was designed.

Our medium-term intervention was to facilitate a six-day strategy workshop with the board in Geneva, Switzerland.

We conducted a thorough investigation into the the plausible future states that the organisation could possibly take advantage of. We ensured that there was clarity with regards to a comprehensive strategic stack as well as a critical path of deployment of the strategy throughout the organisation.The long-term involvement then involved working with multiple functional departments to understand the need for the strategic shift as well as how this would affect the various departments within the organisation. Action plans were then agreed on and contracted with the COO throughout the organisation which provided a robust framework from which to manage the growth on the new trajectory.

Our assessment:

We immediately set up individual sessions with each member of the technology team to harvest multiple perspectives as to what the real problems with the system were. Issues were interrogated, categorised and documented. On analysis of the gathered data it was clear that the issues in the department were not isolated just to this specialisation within the organisation. We determined that as a result of an accelerated rate of growth over a number of years, the organisation lacked consensus in their language. A culture of fear was fuelling the need for teams to work in silos and against one another. There was a serious lack of clarity when it came to strategic direction, poor internal communication, an overall lack of leadership and an organisation stuck in the viscosity of the overwhelming complexity that resulted.

The outcome:

Remarkably the organisation saw results almost immediately. The executive team achieved strategy consensus for the first time in their history and wholeheartedly bought into the vision of the future.Teams and individuals reported radical improvements in their productivity thanks largely to the clarity that the strategic stack offered. Functional unit and individual OKRs provided structure and guidance to management and staff from with to operate. Inspired by the improvements in understanding of the strategic direction, the business was able to then confidently hire the right calibre of talent to leverage the strategy. Units could focus on what was important, staff churn decreased, productivity increased and as a result of the intervention a brand new enterprise client was brought on board which resulted in agreed financial targets being easily met. The business now has structure on which to grow and the confidence to measure their progress towards their desired future.


PACKAGING

Tiny Keg Productions – defining the critical strategy for a startup packaging company

Themes: Business strategy, Marketing strategy, Business model design

The challenge

The founders of a brand new beverage canning startup were needing to carefully define a one year strategy to make the best use of limited financial and human resources as well as to get buy-in from their investors for their plans.

Our assessment

Our suggestion to the team was for them to co-create an idealised strategic outcome for the new company in a normative way so that together they could build a robust view of the future based on multiple partial view points.

Our solution

We facilitated a two-day strategic workshop with the founders of the company as well as their funders in which we defined the ideal future of the organisation which was rooted in contextual understanding of how key trends in the industry may play out and develop over the period concerned.

The outcome

The workshop yielded a clear picture of where the business would ideally be heading as well as actionable plans and key indicators for the founders to implement. The group found the session inspirational and practical and everyone walked away with a very clear understanding of what success looks like and how it was to be achieved. As a result of identifying key leverage points for optimal growth, the company quickly picked up reliable and profitable business and has had a dream operational and financial start.

RETAIL

Yuppiechef – systems redesign which reduced stress and saved money

Themes: Operations, Business process reengineering, Technology, Culture, Organisational design, Strategy, Leadership

The challenge

Yuppiechef is one of South Africa’s leading e-commerce retailers and has been operating for over a decades. The organisation has won numerous awards and is considered by many to be one of South Africa’s most innovative retail brands.As part of our long-term strategic and operational involvement with the retailer we were asked work with the company’s customer service team following a tough time of losing critical management skills and key operational team members. Staff turnover was high and the productivity and effectiveness of the team were at an all time low.

Our solution

We tacked the project from multiple angles, starting off with a thorough analysis of the reality of what the team were experiencing on a daily basis. We assessed the internal culture of the group and immediately suggested some short-term tactics to resolve some of the obvious barriers that existed as part of the structure of the operational system. A preferable vision of the team culture was co-created with team members which formed the basis on which cultural guiding principles were designed and managed. We innovatively structured the business process of the department using the ‘cynefin’ framework created by David Snowden and set about categorising and prioritising team productivity around the various conditions as outlined by the framework. This allowed the team to shift resources in real-time throughout their business cycle depending on the classification of the incoming workload.We analyse shortfalls in the system and were able to spot productivity and revenue generating opportunities as a result.We therefore shifted the culture, provided clarity with regards to strategy and instilled a sense of urgency with regards to its adoption. We offered transparency with regards to how progress would be measured and then constantly fed those results back to the team. We opened up lines of communication between management and the team and focused on empowering the personal development of team members that showed promise.

Our assessment

The organisation experienced some radical changes due to its evolutionary transition from a technology start-up into a medium-sized retailer. This period has resulted in a lack of structure and clarity with regards to strategy throughout the organisation. The organisational design was no longer fit-for-purpose any longer and needed to be re-engineered to be able to effectively administer the work that the team were now mandated to perform.

The outcome

The result of the intervention was that the team had a radical improvement in productivity. We were able to successfully navigate the team through a 20% growth in sales over the festive season with a staff complement of half of what the organisation had the previous year with far less stress and disruption.We immediately saved the business more than R1 million in lost sales per month thanks to spotting an opportunity with call backs on dropped orders and produced 40% revenue growth on a lackluster business unit that far outperformed other compatible units on which we had no influence.Thanks to the culture change exercise we were able to retain the talent that was beneficial to the new way of working and reduced staff turnover to below 7%


FINTECH

Thundafund / Back-a-Buddy – developing a growth strategy for an innovative Fintech start-up

Themes: Business strategy, Marketing strategy

The challenge

Thundafund / Back-a-Buddy is an innovative South African crowdfunding platform that is not only growing at a rapid rate, but also defining a brand new funding category in South Africa; granting access to financial capital to a wider audience by leveraging technology.

The challenge was to help Thundafund / Back-a-Buddy define the best path towards the future which allowed them to grow without taking on unnecessary external funding, while at the same time focusing on opportunities that will fast-track them towards profitability.

Our solution

We facilitated a comprehensive review of what has possibly led to their success and then help the team design their preferable business structure from the ground up. We then structured the new organization using frameworks that measured progress and offered transparency on the action plans that were mandated to various specialists.

Our assessment

Our analysis of the business concluded that what they needed was a shared vision of a plausible future that could be operationally structured and executed in a way that leveraged the fact that they were a small team with limited capacity.  

The outcome

The team were overjoyed to have easily hit their stretch financial target for the year well before the deadlines that they had agreed to thanks to the structure that the process had offered them. Not only that, but valuable networks and partnership were forged as a result of bringing about awareness of the key leverage points that were available to the organisation. The intervention has therefore proven to have invaluable to the organisation as a framework on which to grow their business and influence in the category for the long term.


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