Non Executive Director INSIGHTS





  • Custodians of the governance process
  • Strong ,independent minded character
  • Ability to probe, challenge, question and speak up to achieve satisfactory answers to questions
  • Integrity and high ethical standards
  • Sound judgement
  • Strong interpersonal skills exercising influence and building trust and rapport



  • Strategic decision making
  • Monitoring management performance
  • Monitoring the financial reporting process
  • Review of risks and controls
  • Remuneration of top executives
  • Appointment of new directors
  • Contribute to the work and decision making processes of the board
  • Operating in the best interests of the organisation
  • No conflicts of interest

Enablers to fulfil NED duties

  • A suitable formal induction on joining the board
  • Keeping up to date with the organisations business and refresh personal skills
  • Attend board ( and committee ) meetings with access to information to prepare and time to prepare- seeking clarification on information that seems unclear or incomplete
  • Raising points of concern either at or outside board meetings
  • Review minutes of previous meetings to ensure accurate record
  • Seek independent professional advice on matters where technical judgement is required
  • Ensuring that key issues identified have been satisfactorily dealt with
  • Monitoring that the organisation has complied with legal and regulatory requirements
  • Being satisfied about justification for public disclosures including annual reports and accounts
  • Being satisfied that any board performance issues communicated to the board by the chairperson are acted on



The UK Corporate Governance Code states that : the board should ensure that directors, especially non executive directors, have access to independent professional advice at the organisations expense where they judge it necessary to discharge their responsibilities as directors


UK law makes no distinction between executive and non-executive directors. Both might be held equally liable for negligence or failure of duty.


Becoming a NED: What you need to know in terms of due diligence:

Area Questions Check/comment
Role of the NED and ensuring a valuable contribution can be made to the board Do I have the required industry knowledge, specialist skills, relevant experience and time to make a positive contribution?
Does the size, structure and composition of the board allow me to make a positive contribution?
Can I meet the organisations expectations?
Are there any potential conflicts of interest?
Risk considerations What are the risks facing the company and potential personal liabilities?
Ethical issues Is there anything about the nature of the organisations business activities that conflict with my ethical beliefs?

How id the “Brand” perceived?

Business information What is the nature and size of the business?
What is its market share?
What is its strategic intent?
Who are key competitors?
What is the organisations track record – for example – sales, profits, dividends
What is the organisations geographical scope/reach
Are there any regulatory or legislative influences/restrictions on the organisation
Governance and Investor relations Who owns the company and who are the shareholders?

What is the structure of the board of directors?

What is the relationship between the board and shareholders?

What is the organisations record on corporate governance and for example to what extent does it comply with the provisions of the UK Corporate governance code

Sources of information ·       Company reports and accounts

·       Articles of association

·       Latest annual returns

·       Any social or environmental reports published by the organisation

·       Press reports

·       Rating agency reports

·       Analysts reports


What can make NEDs ineffective?


  • Lack of knowledge about the organisation and its operations
  • Not devoting appropriate/enough time to the NED role
  • Reluctance to challenge and over acceptance of the status quo /other directors views
  • Holding too many NED positions with not enough focus
  • You scratch my back and I will scratch yours attitude

A framework for effective corporate governance






1. Strategy and management Good Average Below average
1.1 Business strategy and objectives are clearly understood      
1.2 Implementation of strategy is regularly monitored
1.3 Clear direction is provided by the board and senior management to meet the strategic needs of the organisation and to promote key desired behaviours
1.4 The management team has the right range and balance of experience
1.5 The right people are in the right roles to implement strategy successfully
1.6 Management demonstrate clear and transparent judgement, with consideration of business risks in the decision making process
2. Internal control and risk management
2.1 Risk management policies and procedures are clearly defined, communicated and applied
2.2 Risk management activities are integrated with business planning activities
2.3 Risks are identified and assessed in all critical areas
2.4 Ownership of risk is clearly defined
2.5 Control procedures are clearly defined and understood by management – and they are consistently applied
3. Culture, capability and ethics
3.1 The company has an approved code of business behaviour and ethical conduct. The code of conduct has been communicated across the business
3.2 Effective and comprehensive training programmes are in place – these include a company induction programme
3.3 Governance, risk and control, business skills and competencies are assessed as part of the personal business development programme
3.4 Well structured communication programmes operate across the organisation ( group) – staff are kept up to date with latest initiatives and policy updates
4. Structures, policies and procedures
4.1 The organisation structure is appropriate and is based on the key business activities of the group
4.2 Policies, procedures and processes are clear, up to date and well documented. The scale of policies and procedures reflect the culture of the organisation
4.3 Roles, responsibilities and levels of authorisation are defined and agreed
4.4 Systems and procedures are flexible and able to respond to changes within the business and in the business environment
5. Information systems and reporting routines
5.1 Information systems are well defined and support the strategic direction of the organisation
5.2 IS/IT investment, change programmes, security routines and system performance are well managed with appropriate reporting routines
5.3 Business continuity plans (BCP) and disaster recovery plans (DRP) are defined, documented, resourced and tested
5.4 Information provided to the business is timely, reliable and meets the needs of users
6. Assurance and audit provision
6.1 The role of all assurance providers ( such as external audit, internal audit, health and safety, security, environment, insurance and compliance) and the range of work they do is reviewed, approved and communicated
6.2 Assurance activities are planned, integrated and coordinated. They are focused on the critical risks faced by the organisation
6.3 Reporting to the board by assurance providers is fit for purpose, comprehensive and covers a   full range of internal control areas
6.4 Any material weaknesses identified by independent reviews result in action plans that are followed through to completion
7. Board leadership, oversight and procedures
7.1 The board of directors has a clear definition of its mandate, and there is a clear definition of the role and responsibilities of individual board members
7.2 The Chairman provides effective leadership for the board, so that all directors contribute to board decision making and board meetings are constructive/productive. Directors receive informative papers for board meetings in good time to study them before meetings. The board is not dominated by one or two individuals
7.3 Members of the board have appropriate skills and expertise, and there is a formal and rigorous annual performance evaluation of the board, its committees and individual directors
7.4 There is an appropriate balance of executive and non executive directors on the board ( depending on the size and scope of the business)
7.5 The NEDs make sufficient time available to fulfil their responsibilities and have a good understanding of the company and it business. Induction and professional development are provided for directors
7.6 There is an effective decision making process at board level. Items of board business are resolved without undue delay, disagreement, or uncertainty and lack of clarity
7.7 The board committees have clear mandates and provide appropriate levels of insight and oversight
8. Compliance an Investor relations
8.1 All areas of external disclosure required relating to financial, commercial, operational or other matters ( such as disclosure requirements) are well documented and approved by the board
8.2 All compliance matters for the business are defined and given appropriate attention- compliance issues are dealt with on a timely basis
8.3 The business has a robust and transparent investor relations programme
8.4 The business satisfies the demands for information and develops appropriate relationships with investors and key stakeholders


FRC guidance on the role of Non Executive directors

Area Guidance
1. Induction A non executive director should, on appointment, devote time to a comprehensive, formal and tailored induction which should extend beyond the board room. Initiatives such as partnering a NED with an Executive board member may speed up understanding of areas of business activity and risk. The NED should expect to visit and talk with senior and middle managers
2. Personal development NEDs should devote time to refreshing and developing their knowledge and skills, including communication, to ensure that they continue to make a positive contribution to the board. Being well informed about the company and having a strong command of the issues relevant to the business builds respect and trust with other directors
3. Time commitments NEDs need to make sufficient time available to discharge their responsibilities effectively. The letter of appointment should mention the time required on company business and seek confirmation that they can devote the amount of time to the role consistent with other commitments. The letter should also indicate the possibility of additional time commitment when the company is experiencing increased activity such as acquisition or takeover , or as a result of major operational difficulty
4. Integrity NEDs have a responsibility to uphold high standards of integrity and probity. They should support the chairman and executive directors in instilling the appropriate culture, values and behaviours in the boardroom and beyond
5. Information NEDs should insist on receiving high quality information sufficiently in advance so that there can be thorough consideration of the issues prior to board meetings to enable informed debate and challenge.

High quality information should be accurate, clear, comprehensive, up to date, timely and contain a summary of the contents of the paper(s) – and inform the NED of what is expected from him/her on the t issue(s)

6. Stakeholders NEDs should take into account the views of other stakeholders- because those views may provide different perspectives on the company and its performance


NED checklist – reducing the risk of personal liability – to promote awareness of what has to be considered


1. Time spent on duties
  Yes No Comments
1.1 Have you allocated the agreed amount of time to the company’s business over the past 3-6 months?      
1.2 Have you allocated the agreed amount of time to the company’s business over the past year?      
2. Financial reporting – does the company’s financial reporting appear to be “honest”
2.1 Is there any possibility that financial and other information issued by the company could be wrong or misleading?      
2.2 If YES what have you done about this matter?      
2.3 Have the auditors voiced any concerns about any of the accounting policies used to prepare financial statements, or about any of the estimates in the financial statements?      
2.4 If YES have you done anything about the matter?      
3. Going concern status
3.1 Is there any possibility that the company might not be a going concern and may be trading whilst insolvent?      
3.2 If YES have you done anything about the matter      
4. The company’s risk exposures
4.1 Does the company have robust systems for monitoring and controlling risks?      
4.2 Are exposures to business risks and other risks within acceptable limits?      
4.3 In your opinion is the board reckless in allowing the company to operate with excessive risk exposures?      
5. Taxation
5.1 Are you satisfied that the company is reporting its tax affairs correctly to the tax authorities?      
5.2 Is there any risk of dispute with the tax authorities about any aspect of the company’s liabilities?      
6. Regulatory and statutory issues
6.1 Are there any regulatory issues that might expose NEDs to risk?      
6.2 If YES are you satisfied with the company’s compliance with regulations?      
6.3 Have you declared all conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interests to the company and have these been authorised?      
6.4 Have you declared your interests in any transaction with the company?      
7. Compliance with the UK Corporate Governance Code
7.1 Are you aware of any non-compliance by the company with the requirements of the code?      
7.2 If YES has the company explained its non-compliance in the annual report and to your personal satisfaction?      
8. Directors’ and Officers’ liability insurance
8.1 Have you checked the terms of insurance and amount of cover provided?      
8.2 Are you satisfied with the cover provided?      
9. Dealing in shares of the company ( quoted companies)
9.1 Do you intend to buy or sell shares in the company?      
9.2 If YES you may be at risk of insider dealing      
9.3 If YES are you aware of the times when you may not deal to avoid breaching the Model code?      
9.4 Have you notified the company of any dealings in its shares within 4 business days?      







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“The person who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” Chinese Proverb

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SIGNATURE PRESENCE : A study suggests that top leaders have 7 attributes that make them outstanding in their field. They are…

  • Technical Competence. This is  business literacy and a grasp of one’s field. If you don’t know the ins and outs of your business, you’re going to be at a serious disadvantage when facing the competition. Become an obsessive student of your business field until you know intimately how it works.
  • Conceptual Skills. This is a faculty for abstract thinking. It includes what Jonathan Swift called “seeing the invisible” ie visualising where people can go and what they can achieve. Practise taking time out just to play with your thoughts of where you and your team can go.
  • Track Record. This is a history of achieving results. Your track record enhances your credibility and therefore your authority. Don’t let any kind of achievement go by without recording it and using it to let people know you’re a person who gets results.
  • People Skills. Of all the people skills that you need to have to get people working with you, the top 3 are the ability to communicate, motivate, and delegate.Make up your mind to develop these three skills until you are a master.
  • Taste. The idea of “taste” is an intuitive sense of where talent lies. The great leaders are those who spot the potential right under their nose. When others just see people as resources on a balance sheet, successful leaders see them as potential to be developed. Get a taste for the talent in your team.
  • Judgment. Few leaders today are able to operate in perfect conditions. More often than not, they have to take decisions in imperfect conditions. That’s when their judgment comes into play. When time is short, when the data is lacking, great leaders rely on intuition to get them through. Make that sixth sense your best friend.
  • Character. Character means the qualities that define who you are. Not personality. Personality is your outward public face. But character is based on the values inside that matter more than anything else. Decide what yours are and how important they are to you.This establishes ” signature presence”




  • “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” –Anonymous
  • “No person can be a great leader unless he takes genuine joy in the successes of those under him.” –W. H. Auden
  • “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.” –Warren Bennis
  • “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.” — Andrew Carnegie
  • “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” –Rosalynn Carter
  • “Perhaps the most central characteristic of authentic leadership is the relinquishing of the impulse to dominate others.” –David Cooper
  • “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” — Max DePree
  • “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • “A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting. A boss is interested in himself or herself, a leader is interested in the group.” –Russell H. Ewing
  • “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions. ” — Harold Geneen
  • “One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” –Arnold Glasow
  • “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership. ” — John Kenneth Galbraith
  • “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” –Theodore Hesburgh
  • “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on… The genius of a good leader is to leave behind him a situation which common sense, without the grace of genius, can deal with successfully.” –Walter Lippmann
  • “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” –Tom Landry
  • “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” –John Maxwell
  • “The real leader has no need to lead– he is content to point the way.” — Henry Miller
  • “The leader must know, most know that he knows, and must be able to make it abundantly clear to those about him that he knows.” –Clarence B. Randall
  • “The person who know “how” will always have job. The person who knows “why” will always be his boss.” –Diane Ravitch
  • “A true leader is hated by most, and respected by all. A follower is liked by all, and respected by none.” –Scott Smigler
  • “Integrity is the most valuable and respected quality of leadership. Always keep your word.” –Brian Tracey
  • “You know what makes leadership? It is the ability to get men to do what they don’t want to do and like it.” –Harry S. Truman
  • “Leadership is not the private reserve of a few charismatic men and women. It is a process ordinary people use when they are bringing forth the best from themselves and others.” –Unknown
  • “Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.” –Thomas J. Watson
  • “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” –Sam Walton

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One aspect of my coaching work with clients is to help them develop and implement a portfolio approach . Some of these shared insights may be of use to you: 

1. A portfolio career is the pursuit of more than one income source simultaneously, usually by applying the various skills you’ve developed throughout your career to different types of work. For example, you could combine consulting with part-time work, teaching at a local college and freelance writing. You could use your speaking and facilitation skills to lead workshops at companies or educational institutions. You could even develop your own product or service. 

2. A Portfolio lifestyle involves a balanced lifestyle including earning your income from a variety of sources. For example, you might work on freelance contracts or as a part-time employee for several organisations, and perhaps also run a business.

  • In this way of working income is gained from several sources
  • It is popular with those who have specific skills that are in demand by different organisations.
  •  At different times you might combine self-employment with, for example, short-term contracts or part-time, temporary or project work.
  •  Each job adds skills and experience to your portfolio.
  •  This type of work allows flexibility and can also be secure.
  •  A balance can be struck between paid and unpaid work and an improved lifestyle

Working with several clients I have noticed that some attributes or qualities help to underpin success including : 

  •  some risk tolerance and courage,
  •  high self motivation and resilience , 
  •  adequate personal finances
  • curious an interested in continuous personal development ,
  • good interpersonal , self marketing and networking skills, 
  •  seeking appropriate support from others
  • willingness to take on new challenges and 
  • able to multi task.

“The quality of your life is proportional to the quality of the questions you ask?”

Anthony Robbins


If you are considering a portfolio approach an effective initial stage is to reflect carefully and consider specific criteria:

  • What aspects of my personality  and values help me to be a good fit for specific components of my portfolio ?
  • What existing skills and experience should I capitalise on?
  • What interests or hobbies might I expand on or cultivate further?
  • What new education might I need to complete?
  •  What new skills or experience might I need if I want to include in my portfolio an area of interest or something totally new to me?
  •  How will I research and test different possibilities?
  •  What balance do I want between leisure,family,friends and work time ?
  •  What are my financial requirements  in order to support myself and my family?
  • What resources and support can I call on as I make this journey?
  •  What  financial investment might I need?
  •  What systems and infrastructure will I need in place? 
  •  Can I generate passive sources of income?

GUIDING  THOUGHT :   STOP ,THINK and then ACT when well informed – there are 168 hours in a week  ( and typically for one third of that we sleep!)  –  so how many of your  approximately 100 waking  hours will you spend on each component ?



  • Consider the vision for your initial portfolio – What do you want more of and less of in your life?
  • Understand the requirements for each component
  • Analyse the gap between your current knowledge and skills and the portfolio component
  • Consider how to fill the gap ( Education , Training, Reading, Working in a similar business to learn the ropes ,Speaking to people working in that area , etc.)

An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory  – Engels

Having thought through and settled on at least some initial portfolio components you are ready to:

  • Research the enablers for that option
  •  Understand the time commitments involved
  • Estimate any costs involved and income generated  where appropriate
  • Develop an implementation plan
  • Move to implementation – learning as you do so

Action Process

Using the knowledge gained from your planning and preparation establish the components of your initial portfolio based on the best mix for you right now .

For example this could be any mix of components such as   :

  •  Own business ( wide range of possibilities)
  •  Franchise ( wide range of possibilities)
  • Non Executive Director
  •  Interim Management
  • Contract/Temporary work
  •  Consultancy
  •  Coaching in various fields
  •  Charity paid and unpaid work
  •  Voluntary work
  •  Magistrate
  •  Local Politics
  •  Trustee roles
  • Writing – technical /fiction

This is the secret – the repertoire. You have to try to consolidate your repertoire. It is a big step if you know how to do that.  Cecilia Bartoli

A portfolio approach implies an ongoing , flexible and evolving journey. The components of your portfolio can change and evolve. Consolidation, nurturing, sustaining and developing become essential drivers

Some components can be removed if they are not meeting your needs or criteria.

New components can be added as you learn more and discover new possibilities.

In this sense it is worth reviewing and evaluating progress at key stages to see what needs to change as well as being constantly curious and actively researching new possibilities.

View Peter Cobbe's profile on LinkedIn


  • NOW ACCEPTING NEW CLIENTS : Coaching via Skype / Facetime / 1 to 1 meetingsMy career experience includes HR Director and senior executive roles in Barclays plc and Tesco plc leading major transformation and complex change programmes reporting at Board level .I have an MBA, BA and I am a member of the  Association for Coaching. I am an accredited coach with over 12 years of private client coaching experience and as an associate consultant with Penna (UK) dealing with career, life,executive and business coaching and counselling. I work in mentoring and coaching partnerships with executives to help achieve gains of importance to them.I help people of all ages, different cultures and job levels to understand more about themselves, their impact on others and how to develop across major dimensions in life.
    I respect the integrity and confidentiality of my clients building on their existing great skills and abilities and evolving enhanced self guidance : ” No one in the world was ever you before, with your particular gifts and abilities and possibilities.”Specialties: Holistic / systemic approach to coaching
  • Achieving a portfolio lifestyle
  • Remote coaching via Skype and Apple Facetime
  • Coaching for Executive performance /High Potential including C level
  • Senior Executive mentoring
  • First 100 days
  • Career Coaching/portfolio lifestyle
  • Coaching for powerful presentations
  • Life Coaching
  • Executive advice on staff insight surveys
  • Facilitating key meetings and C- level strategic retreats engaging around people decisions that flow from business choices
  • Business/HR Strategy ,Change Leadership
  • Communications strategy
  • Psychometrics,NLP,Emotional Intelligence
  • Confidence&Self Esteem
  • Creativity coaching
  • Independent Consulting propositions coaching
  • Non Executive director coaching
  • Business Report/White Paper writing
  • Graduate career coaching

Just a thought :

Five frogs are sitting on a log.
Four decide to jump off. How many are left? 

Answer: five. Why? Because there’s a difference between deciding and doing.

Mark Feldman

For a free exploratory discussion on 1 to 1 or GROUP learning/coaching sessions contact me on:


via  my Linked In Profile

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The Ansoff product-market matrix helps to understand and assess marketing or business development strategy. Any business, or part of a business can choose which strategy to employ, or which mix of strategic options to use.

This is one simple way of looking at strategic development options:

Existing products New products
Existing markets Market penetration Product development
New markets Market development Diversification

Each of these strategic options holds different opportunities and downsides for different organizations, so what is right for one business won’t necessarily be right for another.

Think about what option offers the best potential for your own business and market. Think about the strengths of your business and what type of growth strategy your strengths will enable most naturally. Generally beware of diversification – this is, by its nature, unknown territory, and carries the highest risk of failure whilst also enabling opportunities.

Here are the Ansoff strategies in summary:

Market penetration – Developing sales of existing products to your existing market(s). This makes sense if there is market share to be gained at the expense of your competitors, or if the market is growing fast and large enough for the growth you need. If you already have large market share you need to consider whether investing for further growth in this area would produce diminishing returns from your development activity. It could be that you will increase the profit from this activity more by reducing costs than by actively seeking more market share. Strong market share suggests there are likely to be better returns from extending the range of products/services that you can offer to the market.

Product development – Developing or finding new products to take to your existing market(s). This is an attractive strategy if you have strong market share in a particular market. Such a strategy can be a suitable reason for acquiring another company or product/service capability provided it is relevant to your market and your distribution route. Developing new products does not mean that you have to do this yourself (which is normally very expensive and frequently results in simply re-inventing someone else’s wheel !) – Often there are potential manufacturing partners  who are looking for their own distribution partner with the sort of market presence that you already have. However if you already have good market share across a wide range of products for your market, this option may be one that produces diminishing returns on your growth investment and activities, and instead you may do better to seek to develop new markets, as in the next strategic option

Market development – Developing new markets for your existing products.

New markets can also mean new sub-sectors within your market – it helps to stay reasonably close to the markets you know and which know you. Moving into completely different markets, even if the product/service fit looks good, holds risks because this will be unknown territory for you, and almost certainly will involve working through new distribution channels, routes or partners. If you have good market share and good product/service range then moving into associated markets or segments is likely to be an attractive strategy.

Diversification – taking new products into new markets. This is high risk – not only do you not know the products, but neither do you know the new market(s), and again this strategic option is likely to entail working through new distribution channels and routes to market.

This sort of activity should generally be regarded as additional and supplementary to the core business activity, and should be rolled out carefully through rigorous testing and piloting.

Consider also your existing products and services themselves in terms of their market development opportunity and profit potential. Some will offer very high margins because they are relatively new, or specialised in some way, perhaps because of special unique selling propositions (USPs) or distribution arrangements. Other products and services may be more mature, with little or no competitive advantage, in which case they will produce lower margins

With this in mind the Boston Matrix is a useful way to understand and assess your different existing product and service opportunities: 


The Boston matrix model is a tool for assessing existing and development products in terms of their market potential, and thereby implying strategic action for products and services in each category.

Low market share High market share
Growing market Problem child (Rising) star
Mature market Dog Cash cow

Cash Cow – This metaphor is based on the idea of ‘milking’ the returns from previous investments which established good distribution and market share for the product. Products in this quadrant need maintenance and protection activity, together with good cost management, not growth effort, because there is little or no additional growth available.

Dog – This is any product or service which has low market presence in a mature or stagnant market. There is no point in developing products or services in this quadrant. Many organisations discontinue products/services that they consider fall into this category, in which case consider potential impact on overhead cost recovery. Businesses that have been starved or denied development find themselves with a high or entire proportion of their products or services in this quadrant.

Problem Child– These are products which have a big and growing market potential, but existing low market share, normally because they are new products, or the application has not been spotted and acted upon yet. New business development and project management principles are required to ensure that product potential can be realised and disasters avoided. This is likely to be an area of business that is quite competitive, where the pioneers take the risks in the hope of securing good early distribution arrangements, image, reputation and market share. Gross profit margins are likely to be high, but overheads, in the form of costs of research, development, advertising, market education, and low economies of scale, are normally high, and can cause initial business development in this area to be loss-making until the product moves into the Rising Star category, which is by no means assured – many problem children products remain as such.

Rising Star –  are those which have good market share in a strong and growing market. As a product moves into this category it is commonly known as a ‘rising star’. When a market is strong and still growing, competition is not yet fully established. Demand is strong; saturation or over-supply do not exists, and so pricing is relatively unhindered. This all means that these products produce very good returns and profitability. The market is receptive and educated, which optimises selling efficiencies and margins. Production and manufacturing overheads are established and costs minimised due to high volumes and improved economies of scale. These are great products and worthy of continuing investment provided good growth potential continues to exist. When it does not these products are likely to move down to cash cow status, and the company needs to have the next rising stars developing from its problem children.

After considering your business in terms of useful thinking aids such as the Ansoff matrix and Boston matrix there are other important considerations such as:

* What is the significance of your major accounts – do they offer better opportunity for growth and development than your ordinary business?

* Do you have a high quality; specialised offering that delivers better business benefit on a large scale as opposed to small scale?

* Are your selling costs and investment similar for large and small contracts? If so you might do better concentrating on developing large major accounts business, rather than taking a sophisticated product or service solution to smaller companies which do not appreciate or require it, and cost you just as much to sell to as a large organization.





One aspect of change management involves the use of brainstorming .

In Kevin and Shawn Coyne’s book : BRAINSTEERING: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas  some new ideas are provided for more effective brainstorming  based on the proposition that many attempts at brainstorming are doomed . The flow of ideas may be fast and furious with traditional brainstorming but they can be ultimately shallow

The authors propose seven main principles that  inform a ” brainsteering” approach . A more structured but not constraining approach.

1. Know your organisations decision making criteria : this considers the  company will use to make decisions about any ideas generated. There is a need to understand existing strategic and tactical aims.For example ideas used may need to be practical, affordable and profitable within a year .

2, Ask the right questions : Academic research implies that  loosely structured sessions are inferior to approaches that use structure as the best way is to use questions as the platform for ideas generation. /for example the authors suggest that 15 -20 questions are appropriate for a workshop attended by about 20 people.Typical questions might be around trying to understand the customer experience , how to reduce complexity, what existing policies and procedures should be challenged.

3. Choose the right people :  Pick the people who can answer the questions you are posing and have regard for their special knowledge.

4. Divide and Conquer :  Don’t hold on rambling discussion – break into sub groups of 3-5 people ( no fewer and no more based on the idea that the social norm is to  speak up in smaller rather than larger groups) and let them focus on one question for 30 minutes . So overall take the 15 -20 questions and split them between the subgroups ( about 5 questions each) .Furthermore where possible assign questions to groups that are best able to handle them.

5. On your marks ,get set,go ! : Orient the full group by clarifying expectations . Prepare participants for the possibility that they might only generate 2-3 worthy ideas and that this is balanced by the fact that by the need of the day all of the sub groups will have generated a wealth of ideas.

6.Wrap it up : By the end of a typical day each subgroup tends to produce about 15 interesting ideas for further exploration so there could be 60 ideas generated by a 20 person team . Have each subgroup narrow its list of ideas to a top few and then share all of the top ideas with the whole group to motivate and inspire all participants. the group should not pick winners or a winner. Close the day on a high note and describe exactly what steps will be taken to choose winning ideas and how they will learn about final decisions.

7. Follow up quickly : Decisions and other follow up activities should be rapid, well managed and thorough. Concrete action generated from brainstorm sessions can decline quickly as time passes and the momentum is lost. This part of the process must be clearly in place and agreed before any brainsteering session. There should be excellent communication to all participants covering all of the ideas and the rationale for selection and rejection at this stage.

The overall thinking behind this approach is that whilst traditional brainstorming is fast and furious it can be ultimately shallow. By using a more focused,question based approach their is an opportunity to capture better ideas from participants



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STRATEGY – 8 Key elements


Eight elements that strategists must consider


1. Business definition

This is the classic Drucker question: “What is my business and how is it positioned in the competitive market?” For non-profits and governments, the question might be, “What is our mandate?”

2. Financial management

This focuses on the sourcing, allocation and management of the financial capital the organization has at its disposal. The strategists must consider performance and controls as they develop a financial management strategy.

3. Growth

This concentrates on the type and rate of the organization’s growth. This can involve not only growing but also deciding to get smaller, perhaps by leaving certain markets. “Some companies want to stay the same size, which is the toughest,” Alan Kennedy noted.

4. Marketing

This involves identifying and capturing customers, through value that will appeal to them. Developing marketing strategy usually requires thinking through the balance between new and old products, and between current products and new products. (In non-profits and governments, where the term “marketing” might chafe, “communications” could substitute.)

5. Organizational management

This requires thinking through the sourcing, allocation, and management of the human resources of the enterprise – the HR strategy.

6. R&D/technology

This is the development and management of technology and intellectual property. You could use it for competitive advantage (as in pharmaceuticals, for example), or for productivity (as when introducing a new computer system). Research might be needed to develop the technology, or it might be purchased.

7. Risk

This illuminates the possible occurrence of the unacceptable, which could include lost opportunities as well as threats. Strategists can assemble the risks on a grid that indicates the likelihood of it occurring (from high to low) and the severity of impact (again, high to low).

8. Service delivery

The organization must take its marketing promise and deliver to the intended audience (through manufacturing, production or service). Key issues to consider are operational excellence,  effectiveness and efficiency.

The authors note that each of these eight elements is actually a strategy in itself, and that companies usually have a senior manager charged with each one (chief financial officer, chief marketing officer, chief risk officer).

Their most intriguing insight, however, is that organizations must arrange their strategies into the following array: One strategy, which they call the Alpha, will be the ultimate driving force and focus for the organization; two or three strategies are the Influencers, because they provide the most guidance and constraint on that Alpha; and the other strategies are Enablers, helping it all to work.

At a bank, for example, financial management is the Alpha, with risk management, service delivery, and technology usually the main supporting elements, or Influencers. Some bankers might argue that customer service is their prime goal, but Thomas Kennedy notes that when a customer says he can’t pay back a loan, bankers don’t typically say, “Oh that’s fine,” as they might if customer service were the real driver. Instead, they operate from financial management perspective of securing the funds.

The eight strategies, and the separation into categories of Alpha, Influencers and Enablers, are powerful for clarifying strategy in the boardroom and communicating it beyond. An organization can crystallize its plans on a single page, listing the eight strategies in a few words, and mapping out the Alpha, Influencers and Enablers.


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