Outlining the elephant

13th August 2015

If there is one thing I have learned it is that in business change is the constant. You can do all the basics; financial planning, customer and market research, product innovation, employing a great team, assigning an appropriate budget and putting in some good old fashioned hard work, yet for whatever reason the proposition becomes market-led and the results are not what you expected.


If they are worse than expected then this can be frustrating and stressful for management and staff alike and lead to a whole raft of down-stream scenarios: knee-jerk strategy reviews, resource hiring and firing, plateauing of product or service, disinterest and de-focus or simply a loss making business. It is not dissimilar with companies who are on a mega growth trajectory, this can be unexpected, unplanned and lead to cash-flow and staff turnover issues or product spin-offs which de-focus the organisation and which can ultimately lead to one of the scenarios above if not addressed.


No one wants to see all their hard work come undone and certainly a plan is better (and less tiring) than a reactive strategy so the question is, how do we manage these changes and scenarios?


We have run a number of companies over the last 17 years and on more than one occasion the board have thought we had hit the nail on the head with the product or service, but for whatever reason it wasn’t gaining traction. In each of these cases we took a new look at what we had and decided where the ‘value’ lay based on the context of the business at that time – the bigger picture. The issue wasn’t usually with the building blocks it was the way the product looked to the outside world and the steps we were taking to get there. By re-framing the proposition and adding in some solid implementation methodology, in each case we were able to re-ignite the businesses and move them to the next level.


The simple analogy here is that we had an elephant dot-dot picture, with all the dots, elements of the shape but no consistent view of what we were supposed to be drawing and certainly no numbering to guide us through the process. We knew we had to complete the picture and the final shape was beautiful but with no start and end and we were randomly joining dots and hoping a picture emerged that we, and the market recognised.


Taking the analogy one step further we (at Rokker) see a number of different scenarios we can map to our dot-to-dot elephant:


The Nucleus
This is a business which knows they want to draw an elephant but has no outline or numbered steps to follow.


The Jigsaw
This is a business or a group with a number of products or services represented as all the dots but with no form, making the elephant hard to see.


The Underachiever
This is a business, department or product which is under performing or plateauing, in our dot-to-dot we either need to come up with a new picture or get back on the numbered steps to achieve our elephant.


The Hamster Wheel
This business is running at full speed joining random dots as fast as they can to keep the picture moving but with very little return for their effort; no elephant – here we can simplify the proposition, create some next numbered steps and give the business the tools to draw the elephant then onto the zoo!


At Rokker we use Business Design as a tool to addresses these strategic challenges; taking the research and implementation rigour of management consulting and the creativity-driven innovation of design thinking to solve the problems for clients. If you have an elephant you need defining or even worse you don’t know the market needs an elephant, then why not give us a call.


Andy Rogers
Founder and Managing Partner