The steps and challenges of a vision approach

Chapter 4 – Visionary: Be First

Dennis Gilling founded Quintiles transnational in 1982 after identifying that there was an opportunity in the pharmaceutical industry. The company revenues increased rapidly due to a combination of quick action in the market and persistence while faced with skepticism. Based on the case, a visionary approach to strategy is based on predicting the future of the industry and then creates a new strategy or disrupts the existing ones to come up with a better approach. A vision approach follows three main steps, including envisage, build, and persist. In this case, envisage enables one to identify an opportunity, use the necessary resources to grow it, and maintain the same momentum after it starts functioning. The visionary approach should thus be applied when the environment is malleable, and the company sees it can penetrate using a predictable manner. Some of the companies that have succeeded using a visionary approach include United Parcel Service (UPS) and Mobiquity that identified potential opportunities and used them well.

The main challenge in this approach, however, applies in its implementation. The implementation process is informed by the information collected on the industry, including trends, competition, obstacles, customer trends, and technological advancements. The visionary approach creates a new reality for the implementation of a new strategy and hence the implementation process but has a reality of the vision. Implementation of the approach can either involve applying new technology, innovation, or applying the existing capabilities to a new industry. For people to embrace the change, the implementation needs to be organized by being quick, visionary, and understand potential obstacles. Implementation entails including the strategy as part of the culture and expanding it externally, although this can fail if the company remains visionary forever or remains biased in terms of perception.

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Chapter 5 – Shaping: Be the Orchestrator

Novo Nordisk was established in 1923 by August Krogh, who saw an opportunity in the insulin industry that had not yet gained root. Nova began in China by creating links to the potential stakeholders, including physicians, government, and patients. Nova’s effort shaped the entire industry, and today is one of the most respected in the pharmaceutical industry in China. Likewise, people have an opportunity to shape the industry by following three easy steps starting with engaging, evolving, and orchestrating and collaborating with the stakeholders to benefit later. The best time to apply the shaping industry is during its nascent stages of evolution when the players are young, fragmented, or dynamic. Firms can apply this strategy in emerging markets since they are malleable and unpredictable, unlike the developed countries. Strategizing is, however, the most important step in succeeding in shaping approach. In this case, the firm can estimate the real nature of the environment and avoid over or underestimation.

Among the shaping, approach strategies involve engaging the stakeholders and shaping the vision such that the firm understands the scope of the environment. After understanding the stakeholders, it is important to understand their interests, especially on the product, and decide whom to collaborate with at the right time. Shaping is done by orchestrators who catalyze the evolution and not manage the change. However, the process must explore and invest heavily in the desired opinion to ensure success. Once this is complete, the implementation should focus on expanding beyond the borders to reach other potential customers. The orchestrator must ensure that the implementation process is consistent with the stakeholders’ views since this can affect its functioning. It is, however, important to avoid falling for the trap of poor timing on when to approach the market since this can attract losses.

Chapter 6 – Renewal: Be Viable

Ken Chenault Amex’S CEO was forced to take drastic steps aimed at cutting costs when the company was faced with increased card payments and reduced card spending. The cost-cutting mechanisms included reducing employees, lowering marketing expenses, and growing sources of business finances. A good example of a renewal idea is like the one employed by Amex and usually leads to renewed vitality and competitiveness, especially in a harsh environment. Renewal is necessary when the current environment cannot sustain business and hence free up some resources for use later. The main steps followed in renewal include anticipation, economize, and then grow, and they are applied when a firm faces harsh working conditions. One of the factors that call for renewal is a technological advancement, which interrupts the ordinary running of the industry. For instance, Kodak, one of the largest photography firms, underwent bankruptcy in 2012 due to the rise of digital photography.

Renewal, regardless of the firm, involves, is a high stake process, and requires utmost dedication. The aim of the strategy is first to economize the resources available then grow and prosper, which calls for attention when implementing the strategy. The implementation process must create a balance between ensuring the firm is viable in the short term and ensure its long term growth. In most cases, the implementation phrase involves engaging a rigorous cost-cutting mechanism, which may include restricting the entire organization and then execute a growth-focused approach. To achieve this, the firm needs to put in place an appropriate culture that consists of a top-down approach and then maintain an external focus on the issue. Different companies, like AIG and Bausch& Lomb’s Brent Saunders, have succeeded by engaging renewal in a harsh environment. The major traps in the renewal strategy include early wins where firms proceed with cost-cutting for long instead of focusing on growth.

Chapter 7 – Ambidexterity: Be Polychromatic

Most of the multinational corporations like PepsiCo are faced with one of the most significant challenges of running the company and, at the same time, reinventing it to ensure long term sustainability. The idea is called ambidexterity and entails balancing between day to day running of the business and planning for future growth. The affected firms apply multiple strategies at a given time and still record success. They succeed in the process by start separating different units, switching resources to them, organizing their operations, and sourcing external players to affect the processes. These four steps separate the original organization to the new units and enable them to maneuver independently. Each subunit formed face different challenges and is free to develop the approach that best fits the problems. The approaches chosen are market-based and not proposed by the management since the units get the motivation from the market.


Ambidexterity is usually challenging, especially when firms involve external ecosystems and combine their mostly contradictory intentions. In this case, companies are compelled to orchestrate a different approach to deal with the external players involved in the running of the subunits. However, this exposes the firm and may lose control over the elements of business ceded to the foreign players. The strategy was applied by Apple in the production of the iPhone, where different components, including hardware and software, are produced separately. Firms are, however, diverse, and each responds differently. For instance, classical and adaptive firms exist based on an opposing platform. Other firms are adaptive, especially when adopted by external players, but they, too, need to curtail their rate of growth from the experimentation phase. It is, therefore, important for firms to come up with industry-specific strategies that help the leaders sail the firm in case of such changes.

Chapter 8 – Lessons for Leaders: Be the Animator

Throughout the book, a major feature has featured prominently involving the need for multinationals to apply multiple strategies because they operate in a multifaceted environment. The phenomenon commonly associated with a combination of approaches is further enhanced by the fact that these environments are dynamic and cannot rely on one method. Leaders in such organizations must possess some key characteristics to fulfill their roles in the firm. The functions of the leader in this industry include segmenter, diagnostician, disrupter, team coach, salesperson, inquisitor, antenna, and accelerator. As a diagnostician, the leader assesses the firms’ environment and determines the best approach to deal with the underlying problems. After this, the leader segments the firms’ activities and decides which method to apply for which unit.

Leaders have a role in forcing the changes they want and achieve this by disrupting the current operations of the industry. Leaders cannot complete all the work but rely on employees. They thus need to offer team coach skills and ensure the people them work to the expectations. A firm succeeds largely depending on sales, and hence the leader must diligently take up this role. The role requires them to get in touch with the strategic stakeholders, including customers, investors, and partners. Leaders enquire from the unit managers and hence get a clear picture of what ought to be done. In this case, their inquisitive nature enables them to come up with the best approach to the problem. The role of the leader and antennae allows them to be in touch with the external environment and hence make changes that are consistent with the environment. Lastly, the leader accelerates the required changes to ensure they are productive as soon as possible. However, the leader must avoid falling into the trap of managing instead of leading the


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