Build Yourself a Staircase for Market Growth


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Alan See wote a great post on Can Customer Value be Calculated in Executive Months in response to my earlier one on Take Three Bites at the Customer Value Cherry. He laments the short-termism of much of management today. Or rather, management that is here today and gone tomorrow.

The short-termism of many executives is an issue in many organisations. As is the revolving three-year assignment. And the promotion merry-go-round. We know that change initiatives require at least two to three years of concerted management effort to make them stick. But management has either gone, or is well into the next fad, or the one after that, before most changes have stuck. The recession will only serve to make management short-termism worse.

On the other hand. I heard British Telecom boast of a 20 year plan at a conference the other day. Ludicrous. Hardly any organisation needs even a 10 year plan. Think back ten years ago to 1998; to a world where mobile telephones weren’t, where there was no public Internet, where you had to fly on a national carrier and where music still came on tapes. The world has changed hugely in the last 10 years and we will probably hardly recognise the world in the next five years. And as the world speeds up, so does the rate of strategic planning.

But all is not lost.

McKinsey wrote a brilliant article on Staircases to Growth back in 1996. The article described how to grow by building out strategy in a series of steps. Each step lasted 90 or so days, developed critical business capabilities, delivered tangible value to the organisation and provided a learning ground to improve the next 90-day step. And the next. Like a staircase for growth in fact. It is the same approach I have used to run projects in organisations for the last 12 years. Only today I have learnt how to run them much better using tools borrowed from private equity, corporate venturing and lean thinking.

What has this all to do with management short-termism?

In a nutshell, if you think management is only going to be around for a couple of years, or that your world is changing at breakneck speed, you had better build your strategy around your own marketing strategic staircase. One that allows you to move towards your strategic goals one step at a time. No matter who is taking them.

The CMO is dead, long live the CMO!

What do you think? Have your developed your own staircase for market growth? Or is your CMO already on the way out the door?

Post a comment or email me at graham(dot)hill(at)web(dot)de and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

Further Reading:

Alan See, Can Customer Value be Calculated in Executive Months

Graham Hill, Take Three Bites at the Customer Value Cherry

McKinsey Quarterly, Staircases to Growth

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn


  1. Here are some more resources that I use myself when running these sort of projects:

    The Venture Imperative
    Mason & Rohmer
    Explains how to set up a nimble venture like group (project) within a stodgy corporation

    The Art of the Start
    Guy Kawasaki
    Explains how to do a start-up, as only Guy Kawasaki can

    Real Options; A Practitioners Guide
    Tim Copeland
    Whether you do the maths or not, and it doesn’t have to be difficult, real options is a great way to think about structuring each of the project steps for maximum value

    Hoshin Kanri for the Lean Enterprise
    Thomas Jackson
    I use the various A3 sheets from Hoshin Kanri to plan, run and manage all projects (and pretty much everything else too, come to that)

    Womack & Jones
    Lean Solutions
    No matter what sort of projects you run, you should be looking to strip out all waste from them from the very first day (rather than having to strip it out later when the project has become daily business). Lean thinking is a LIFE SKILL.

    Happy reading.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager


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