Analysing a Company’s Competitive Position

Previous articles have looked at the tools and frameworks used to analyse the competitive landscape within which organisations compete. This article is going to review competitor/company profiling and how this relates to analysing the competitive position of a company.

Some of the tools and frameworks which can be used have been discussed elsewhere (Strategic Group Analysis and Critical Success Factors), and so will not be discussed here further. This post reviews company/competitor profiling, with a future post looking at the market attractiveness/business strength matrix and financial ratio analysis.

Competitor profiling gives us an assessment of a company’s performance compared to its competitors. There are a number of key components that will be useful and insightful in developing such a profile.

Competitive Position

There are four steps to creating competitor profiles:

  1. Acquire a basic understanding off the company or industry
    1. Read general information about the company on its web site;
    2. Read introduction to analysts’ company reports;
    3. Read the CEO’s statement in the Report and Accounts;
    4. Establish where it fits in the value chain.
  2. Determine data needed
    1. Ensure all necessary background information is included;
    2. Include information related to the strategic issue being examined by the project.
  3. Gather and analyse data
    1. There are a wide variety of sources available;
    2. Analyse data where appropriate:
      1. use financial analysis techniques;
      2. Product/channel analysis
    3. Understand key tradeoffs that competitors in an industry have:
      1. eg niche vs scale
  4. Evaluate company
    1. Plot competitor field maps;
    2. Understand relative competitive positions and rationale
      1. Product/service offerings
      2. Channel usage
    3. Depending on what we need to know, use SWOT model to help evaluate competitor;
    4. Ensure analysis relates to, or answers the questions, we are trying to answer.

Two easy ways to illustrate company profiles are as a Company Profile Template, which is a series of headed boxes detailing the summarised information which is required, and the preparation of a Competitive Field Map, which is a two axis, sized and coloured bubble diagram graphically detailing the competitor information.

Both of these are appropriate, and, I believe should be used together as a useful way to present the data. Obviously, each would need to be tailored to the data , industry and situation requiring the analysis.

Good analysis can result in a number of useful insights:

  • Directs further analysis by highlighting key strengths and capabilities;
  • Enables a comparison between players through use of a common template;
  • Helps us to understand strategic positions of competitors (product/service offering, channel usage);
  • Helps identify strengths and weaknesses of different players in an industry;
  • Identify gaps in portfolios and capabilities of the client company;
  • Identify relative strength of the client company; and
  • Understand key competitor moves.

However, as with all models, there are identified strengths and weaknesses of the model:

  • Strengths:
    • Gives a clear overview of basic facts about a company;
    • Provides direction to further analysis; and
    • Gives an overview of competitors’ attributes along multiple axes.
  • Weaknesses:
    • May provide few insights in itself:
      • Requires benchmarking over time or against competitors
    • Often complex and difficult to use effectively in presentations:
      • Requires effort to extract key messages
    • Often focuses on the present rather than the future; and
    • Can be considered a static tool.

If company or competitor analysis is something you want to do, here are some useful tips.

Dos and Donts of Company Profile

Alternatively, Innovation for Growth offers a desk top research service, including competitive position and company position analysis. Please contact us if you would like more details, or visit our website.

 

Critical Success Factors – Analysing the Competitive Landscape (Part 4)

Critical Success Factors

Critical Success Factors

The previous three posts in this series outlined the importance of understanding the competitive landscape, and identified that there were four theories/models which could be used to help us to do this. The first post looked at Porter’s Five Forces as a tool to undertake a structural analysis of the market. The second post introduced the Industry Lifecycle analysis as a tool, and the third post looked at Strategic Group Analysis. This post looks at Critical Success Factors, which represent the criteria for success in the market or industry.

Critical Success Factors are any dimension in which excellence is crucial for competitive access, for example:

  • Parts of the marketing mix;
  • Research and development;
  • Low-cost manufacturing.

The analysis of CSFs is crucial in studies of competitive strategies as the really important insights come from understanding what is key to success in the industry or segment. It is worth noting that they are likely to differ in each market or industry, but are usually the same for competitors in the same market.

There are five steps to conducting Critical Success Factors analysis, as follows:

  1. Develop a list of potential critical success factors for each market opportunity.
    1. This list is identified by:
      1. searching for commonalities across successful competitors already in the market;
      2. gathering insights from client personnel regarding the potential critical success factors in the industry;
      3. conducting interviews with industry experts.
  2. Evaluate Relative Competitor Strength in the CSF Index.
    1. Assign each competitor a rating of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 on each CSF:
      1. 1 = poor relative performance, 5 = strong relative performance;
      2. the rating should represent the average results from a survey of industry experts and client executives;
      3. the ratings should be assigned relative to the industry average of 3, so two competitors with equal performance on a CSF should be assigned equal strength ratings.
  3. Identify the business impact of each critical success factor.
    1. Find the average strength rating across all competitors:
      1. the CSFs with the highest average strength rating should be considered to have a ‘significant’ business impact in the market;
      2. the assumption here is that successful competitors will focus their investments and effort on the critical success factors that have a significant business impact in the market.
  4. Determine the client’s relative competitive position on each CSF.
    1. Identify the sustainable competitive advantages of the client versus its competitors;
    2. Identify unique assets, patents, processes or skills of the client that might lead to a strength.
  5. Plot the CSFs on a Strategic Implications Matrix.
    1. Create a matrix:
      1. vertical axis – business impact;
      2. horizontal axis – client’s relative position.
    2. Place all CSFs for a client on the matrix.

The following table illustrates the numerous techniques to developing CSFs, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Techniques to identify CSFs

Step 5 above requires the plotting of the CSFs on a Strategic Implications Matrix. An example of such a matrix is set out below:

Strategic Implications Matrix and Critical Success Factors

The matrix outlined above gives the client company some guidance as to how useful the different CSFs are. Another useful tool is to map the client CSFs against the competition, as outlined below:

CSF Comparison Table

Critical success factor analysis  can generate powerful and extremely useful insights. The resultant output can be summarised as follows:

  • Insights:
    • Helps define the key factors that the client should focus on to be successful in a chosen market or industry;
      • Strengthen capabilities;
      • Defend capabilities
      • Outsource non-critical factors.
    • Helps determine which competitors are well positioned to compete successfully, and estimate the relative performance of competitors;
    • Helps assess competitors’ relative strengths and weaknesses;
    • Leads to the identification of competitive advantages or core competencies for the client;
    • Determines the potential success of an entry into a new market or market segment;
    • Leads to the prioritisation of markets for potential entry.
  • Strengths:
    • Can be very insightful and offers a rational logic for change.
  • Limitations:
    • The CSFs and comparative index are only as good as the business understanding and judgment used to develop them.

This concludes the series of posts discussing the importance of and techniques used to analyse the competitive landscape.

 

 

10 Ways to Motivate Yourself for the Day

This post is designed to outline 10 ways that you can use to motivate yourself when you need a kick. The 10 ways are as follows:

  1. Win early. Get something done early, and it will give you a boost for the rest of the day;
  2. Change the game. Do things differently if you are not succeeding. This could give different results;
  3. Celebrate the small wins. These little victories add up over the longer term;
  4. Believe in yourself. Nothing generates motivation like confidence;
  5. Prepare for your day. Being ‘ready’ is motivating and you feel excited about the day;
  6. Do something you enjoy. find a task you enjoy doing to kickstart the day;
  7. Plan your dreams. Plan for tomorrow and put steps in place to achieve your dreams;
  8. Do something physical. Get your body moving, and it will stay that way throughout the day;
  9. Take care of loose ends. Are you carrying around a mental load of undone tasks? Taking care of these frees up your brain; and
  10. Connect with someone positive. Positive attitudes are contagious. Multiple positive attitudes lead to exponential motivation as a group.

I hope that this helps you to have a more productive day!

Strategic Groups – Analysing the Competitive Landscape (Part 3)

Strategic Groups

The previous two posts in this series outlined the importance of understanding the competitive landscape, and identified that there were four theories/models which could be used to help us to do this. The first post looked at Porter’s Five Forces as a tool to undertake a structural analysis of the market. The second post introduced the Industry Lifecycle analysis as a tool. This post looks at Strategic Group Analysis. Strategic groups are a cluster of competitors that follow similar strategies.

The idea behind strategic groups is that companies that share similar strategies compete more directly with each other than with other firms in the same industry. They are conceptual clusters, as they exist only for analysis purposes and it should be noted that if all firms followed the same strategy, there may be only one industry group!

Creating strategic groups appears straightforward, but is more difficult in practical application. There are three steps:

  1. Identify the key dimensions of companies’ strategies. Examples include:
    • Size;
    • Breadth of market served;
    • Product/service quality;
    • Vertical integration;
    • Channel selection;
    • Brand identification;
    • Technological leadership;
    • Cost structure;
    • Service;
    • Pricing.
  2. Identify how and against which dimension each organisation competes:
    • For each organisation, pick out the key features of their strategy;
    • Identify the two most critical dimensions of competition to create a matrix:
      • in theory a strategic group could stretch along multiple dimensions; but usually no more than two are considered at a time (unless a third and fourth dimension can be represented by the size and colour of a ‘bubble’);
      • these two critical dimensions can be determined through interviews with internal and external industry experts or through a detailed critical success market analysis.
  3. Plot all competitors in a matrix relative to key dimensions:
    • Place competitors on the matrix and identify clusters;
    • there are usually a small number of strategic groups that capture the strategic differences among firms in the industry:
      • in general, strategic groups with fewer competitors have a greater likelihood of earning higher profits.

Strategic Groups

Evaluating each strategic group presents different opportunities and threats:

  • Additional opportunities may arise from the review of the impact of the competitive forces in each strategic group:
    • the creation of a new strategic group;
    • shifting to a more favourably positioned strategic group;
    • strengthening the structural position of an existing group.
  • Competing in a specific strategic group may pose significant threats:
    • risk of other firms entering the strategic group;
    • factors that reduce the mobility barriers of a firm’s strategic group;
    • decreasing power with customers or suppliers;
    • risk of faulty investments necessary to improve a firm’s position.

The concluding post of this series will look at critical success factors.

For more information about Innovation for Growth, and how we can help you, contact us via our website.

 

 

High Growth Firms, UK

High Growth Firms

The Enterprise Research Council has recently released a note on the ‘Spatial Incidence of High Growth Firms’ and I thought it might be useful to set out some of its data and conclusions. High Growth Firms are a very small proportion of the UK business population, yet have a disproportionate impact on job creation, and hence on the economy as a whole.

The OECD defines such businesses as ‘continuing firms’ (firms which are born before the beginning of a designated three year period and are alive at its end) with at least 10 employees at the beginning of the period, and which record average growth of 20% in employment per annum over the three year period. The HGF incidence rate is defined as the number of HGFs divided by the number of continuing firms with 10+ employees. They are considered important because research by the ERC concludes that HGFs create around one-third of the increase in private sector jobs in the three-year periods over which they are measured.

The number of HGFs has reached 11,885, the highest level since the dotcom boom of the early 2000s. Approximately 89% of these are in England, although Scotland has increased by 35% to 722, and Wales increasing by 38% to 365. HGFs account form 7.5% of all firms of this size in the UK. London continues too have the largest number of HGFs, 2,430 in 2012/15, or 9.5% of all firms. Incidence (as defined above) has risen to 7.7% (up from 6%) in England, and to 6.5% in both Scotland and Wales (ip from 4.7% and 4.6% respectively). London’s incidence rate is 9.5% (up from 9%).

London has increased the number of HGFs by 15%, below England’s average of 32%. Solent, New Anglia and West of England have increased by more than 60%, and Sheffield City, Liverpool City, Cornwall, Worcestershire, York and North Yorkshire up by more than 50%. Considering incidence rates, London retains the highest incidence rate (9.5%), closely followed by Liverpool (8.5%), Cheshire and Warrington (8.4%), and West of England (8.4%).

Outside London, the South East did not fare so well Buckinghamshire Thames Valley saw a 2% increase in HGFs, Oxfordshire 11%, and Thames Valley Berkshire only 15%. Incidence rates for these locations stood at 6.4%, 6.3% and 8% respectively. Of more importance, Buckinghamshire Thames Valley was ranked 3rd in the period 2009/12, Oxfordshire 9th, and Thames Valley 2nd, compared to 32nd, 35th and 8th, respectively for the current period.

 

 

Industry Lifecycle Analysis – Analysing the Competitive Landscape (Part 2)

Industry Lifecycle Analysis

The previous post in this series outlined the importance of understanding the competitive landscape, and identified that there were four theories/models which could be used to help us to do this. Last week we looked at Porter’s FiveForces as a tool to undertake a structural analysis of the market. This post takes the analsis further and introduces Industry Lifecycle analysis as a tool. This presumes that sales and profitability in an industry follow a predictable pattern.

Accepting the above assumption, the Industry Lifecycle analysis model predicts how sales will develop based on the age of a product category. The model distinguishes five stages of development, as shown in the graph below. It should be noted that the length of time in each stage varies tremendously: some products have very short cycles; others take decades or even centuries to go through the cycle. Furthermore, growth is still possible in mature categories, but typically will require greater investment or greater creativity than in less mature categories.

IndLCycle2

The model assumes that, as time progresses, markets – and hence competitive strategies – move through distinct stages, with the following characteristics:

  • Introduction:
    • Slow sales growth;
    • Minimal market awareness;
    • Focus is on educating consumers and encouraging trial usage.
  • Growth:
    • Significant increase in sales volume, growth and profitability;
    • Decreasing prices due to competitive pressure.
  • Maturity:
    • Reduction in the rate of sales growth and a further reduction in unit costs;
    • Excess capacity puts downward pressure on prices, forcing out weaker competitors;
    • Customer preferences stabilise.
  • Decline:
    • Rate of sales growth enters a steep decline and profit margins are minimised;
    • Customers switch to new or better products, private-labels take an increasing share.

Each stage has typical competitive strategies:

  • Introduction:
    • Invest heavily in advertising and promotion to stimulate demand for the new product;
    • Monitor competitors and adjust positioning to pre-empt competitive moves.
  • Growth:
    • Focus on building customer loyalty and repeat purchases;
    • Invest in process improvement to reduce manufacturing costs faster than prices are falling;
    • Proactively invest in capacity to maintain cost advantage and discourage additional competitive entry.
  • Maturity:
    • Maintenance – employed when threat from competitive entry or technology innovation minimal;
      • Maintain market position/profitability through advertising, promotion and pricing tactics.
    • Defense – employed when new or current competitors are altering the status quo by changing their marketing mix;
      • Adjust marketing mix to maintain profitability.
    • Innovation – employed to expand the market, fill customer needs and pre-empt competition.
      • Develop product innovation, eg through ‘flankers’ or new uses and users.
  • Decline:
    • Use competitive advantages to exploit unserved market niches;
    • Rejuvenate the product by finding new uses, new users, or new product line extensions;
    • Alternatively, reduce marketing expenditures and ‘milk’ the product or business for the cash generated (i.e. cash cow).

The lifecycle stage of a market can be identified using specific metrics. The metrics required to conduct the analysis and the approach are set out below:

  1. Establish the entire curve and timing for the industry:
    1. Data required:
      1. Sales figures/timeframe:
        1. Either actual past/current sales; or
        2. Forecasted figures.
    2. Use statistical/graphical analysis:
      1. Plot past category sales data in a spreadsheet, in such a way that a long-term pattern is easily shown.
    3. Use strategic/judgmental analysis:
      1. Use the theoretical curve to evaluate where the category stands.
    4. It is important to predict the highest level that sales will reach.
  2. Establish the current stage of the cycle:
    1. The key indicators of life cycle stage are:
      1. Relative growth rate;
      2. Market industry potential;
      3. Breadth of the product lines;
      4. Number of competitors;
      5. Distribution/stability of market share among competitors;
      6. Entry barriers;
      7. Technology innovation.
  3. Establish a company’s performance against ‘typical’ strategies:
    1. The indicators allow us to map a company’s performance to the relevant life cycle stage:
      1. A life cycle scorecard can be built against which the client’s performance is measured;
      2. This analysis requires some personal judgment, since it is rare that an industry will consistently fall in one stage for each descriptor.

The results of industry life cycle analysis can drive a number of strategic hypotheses. The resultant output can be summarised as follows:

  • Insights:
    • Forecasts of industry or product sales:
      • Assuming that every industry follows a pre-determined life cycle, subsequent estimates of sales will be more realistic if the stage of the life cycle is understood.
    • Estimations of competitors’ strategic moves:
      • Given their stage in the life cycle, competitors’ actions should be somewhat predictable if they are rational players.
    • Identification of the appropriate pricing for a product:
      • Understanding the stage of the life cycle will provide information as to the likely requirements of the buyers of the product;
      • By analysing the characteristics of these groups, price elasticity can be estimated and prices can be set accordingly.
  • Strengths:
    • Most useful as one of several sources of evidence.
  • Limitations:
    • Any prediction is difficult;
    • Companies can affect the shape of the growth curve through product innovation and repositioning.

Future posts will review strategic group analysis and critical success factors.

 

 

 

Five Forces – Analysing the Competitive Landscape (Part 1)

Five Forces

This is the first part of a four part series looking at the tools and methods used to analyse the competitive landscape. This post will introduce the reasoning behind the analysis as well as introducing Porter’s Five Forces framework. Understanding this is crucial to succeeding in the market. Undertaking this process will help you to identify the following:

  • How concentrated is the market;
  • Competitor background (traditional, foreign, new players);
  • Positioning along the value chain;
  • How competitors have evolved; and
  • What has happened to financials.

Once these are answered, further questions might arise:

  • How easy is it to grow market share?
  • How easy is it to enter?
  • Who are the suppliers/buyers and what is their power?
  • What are the key industry trends? and
  • Why is the industry in decline/growth?

This series reviews the four key theories and models which allow us to undertake this analysis.

 

Blog5216Pic1

 

This part of the series will focus on Five Forces, with the other three being considered in parts 2 and 3. In the 1940s, the Structure Conduct Performance (SCP) framework was invented as a standard tool for market analysis.

The SCP framework asserts that industry structure drives company behaviour and performance:

  • External Influences:
    • Changing consumer tastes/lifestyles;
    • Technology, innovation;
    • Government policy:
      • International;
      • Domestic.
  • Structure:
    • Economics of demand;
    • Economics of supply;
    • Business system/value chain analysis.
  • Conduct:
    • Marketing;
    • Capacity;
    • Producer’s efficiency;
    • Relationship between industry participants.
  • Performance:
    • Financial;
    • Innovation;
    • Technology adoption;
    • Market development.

Porter’s Five Forces analysis provides a framework for the structural analysis of an industry or market. Porter assumes that competition in an industry depends upon five basic forces:

Five Forces Model

Porter’s Five Forces Framework

The collective strength of these forces determines the ultimate profit potential and allocation in the industry. This framework/model can be used at different levels of analysis:

  • Hypotheses generation:
    • Can be used as a technique to understand key dynamics and trends in an industry and to initially form hypotheses regarding the critical success factors;
  • Analytical framework:
    • The technique can be used to structure the data collection, environmental, and situation analysis for the audience;
  • Industry economics analysis:
    • The technique can be used to structure a detailed analysis of an industry prior to developing a competitive strategy. Potential applications include:
      • Assess attractiveness on the basis of competition in an industry;
      • Highlight areas in which industry trends may pose opportunities or threats;
      • Analyse where the company stands vis-a-vis the underlying causes of each competitive force;
      • To understand/diagnose cost driver and levels of return.

It is often used strictly qualitatively; quantifying findings can broaden the scope for applications of this methodology.

The strength of each force for a particular industry is identified by considering important technical and economic characteristics:

Characteristics of each force

Understanding the relative strengths of the Five Forces provides a ‘point of time’ picture of structure and competition in the industry. The resultant output can be summarised as follows:

  • Insights:
    • assess attractiveness on the basis of competition in an industry;
    • highlight areas in which industry trends may pose opportunities or threats;
    • analyse where the company stands vis-a-vis the underlying causes of each competitive force;
    • to understand/diagnose levels of return;
  • Strengths:
    • quite a comprehensive model;
    • good starting point to understand key drivers and trends;
  • Limitations:
    • very often used strictly qualitatively;
    • provides only a static picture:
      • to understand the dynamic view, it is necessary to review environmental trends that are likely to impact structure.

Part 2 will review Industry Lifecycle Analysis.

The Management Consulting Market

Despite the relative maturity of the business- or management consulting industry, there remains no consensus on how the market should be defined. As a result of the various definitions, estimates of the size of the global consultancy market range from $95 bn to $344 bn. 

 

Management Consulting

 

It is estimated that there are over 400 different types of consulting areas. However, the term ‘consulting’ and ‘consultancy’ has increasingly been associated with management- and business consulting services. As referred to above, there is no consistency as to what definitions are used, but the following seems appropriate. Within the business consulting field, it is assessed that there are five broad areas, all subdivided further, as follows:

·       Strategy:

  • Corporate strategy;
  • Public sector policy;
  • Mergers and acquisitions;
  • Organisational strategy; and
  • Functional strategy.

·       Operations:

  • Sales and marketing;
  • Supply chain;
  • Finance;
  • Process management;
  • Procurement; and
  • Outsourcing.

·       Financial advisory:

  • Corporate finance;
  • Transaction services;
  • Restructuring;
  • Risk management;
  • Real estate advisory; and
  • Forensics and litigation.

·       Human resources:

  • Organisational change;
  • Talent management;
  • HR function;
  • Benefits and rewards; and
  • Learning and development.

·       IT:

  • IT advisory;
  • ERP implementation;
  • Data analytics;
  • Software management;
  • Systems integration; and
  • Enterprise architecture.

The following chart sets out the global consulting market size by sector.

GlobalManCon1

The European consulting market is estimated by Kennedy to total $82.1 bn in 2014. Adopting Kennedy’s global market size of $234 bn, suggests that this market is approximately 35% of the total.

Further analysis breaks this market down into sub regions, from which it can be seen that the Germanic Countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) and the UK and Ireland are the two largest, $20.2 bn and $19.4 bn respectively  (8.6% and 8.3% of the global market and 24.6% and 23.6% of the European market, respectively).

 

EuroManCon1

Further analysis sets out a detailed breakdown of the sectors by  sub region as shown below.

EuroManCon2

The UK market is estimated to total £6.38 bn in 2015, up from £5.28 bn in 2011. Source Information Sources estimate that the UK market is the second largest business advisory market.

In 2014, the biggest growth rates were seen in technology (up 7.7%), financial management and risk (up by 7.1%) and strategy (up 7%).

In 2013, it was estimated that the largest management consulting service line was ‘Digital and Technology Consulting’ at 25%. In the same year, the sub sector which produced the greatest fee income was ‘Financial Services’ at 35%. Charts of both these sets of data are set out below.

MCA20131

 

MCA20132

 

What is a Consultant?

A consultant is a person who provides professional or expert advice in a particular field or science of business to either a company or an individual. There are three characteristics that distinguish a consultant from other professions.

Firstly, a consultant provides expertise that a client lacks or support that a client is unable to fulfil. Secondly, a consultant operates independently from the client. Thirdly, a consultant operates in a professional manner.

In the UK, it is not known how many consultants are active, but it is believed that there are tens of thousands of firms and hundreds of thousands of consultants. These are broadly split between ‘inside industry’, ie working for a consultancy or freelance and ‘outside industry’, ie those working as an internal consultant for non-consultancy firms.

Of those working for consultancy firms or freelance:

  • 2% work for large firms;
  • 5% work for midsized firms;
  • 8% work for small firms; and
  • 85% are self-employed.

Research by Deltek estimates that in 2014 there were 139,480 consultancy firms in the UK, up by 10.4% over the previous year. They also calculate that firms with a turnover greater than £5m currently stand at 890, up 17% over the five preceding years!

 

What does a Consultant Do?

On projects, there are typically two main client related activities, with a number of sub-phases for each:

  • Advisory Phase: Preparation; Problem definition; Data gathering; Analysis; and Advice.
  • Execution Phase: Implementation; and Handover.

Depending upon the scale and complexity of the project, it can last from a few days to a few years.

 

 

A New Year’s Resolution? The Pomodoro Technique

Writing this at the beginning of January 2016, I thought it might be useful to see if I could adopt a new technique to help me with my resolution to be more productive and use my time better. Yes, there are lots of different techniques, to-do lists of all varieties, zero in-boxes, more exercise, better eating, etc, but I thought I would try out the Pomodoro technique.

So, what is the Pomodoro technique? It was originally developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. In summary, it uses a timer to divide your time into 25 minute sessions called ‘pomodoro’, or italian for tomato. After each session, you take a five minute break. After four 25 minute sessions, you take a longer break of 20 to 30 minutes.

Pomodo Cycle

One Pomodo Cycle

Research has shown that being tied to your desk for hours without a break can be detrimental to your health, so not only does this technique increase productivity, it can also benefit your health if you move around at each break.

In addition to the health benefit commented on above, there are other benefits:

  • Using it to break tasks down into shorter, highly focussed work sessions helps you to manage your time more effectively, and makes large projects seem less overwhelming;
  • It encourages you to minimise distractions and discourages multi-tasking and procrastination;
  • Regular short breaks improve concentration, which also increases productivity levels;
  • Frequent short breaks also give your mind a chance to assimilate information, allowing for more ‘light bulb’ moments and creativity;
  • Taking time to rest and recharge throughout the day also allows you to pace yourself, helping you feel less tired in the afternoon;
  • It is simple and easy to implement, and does not require much ‘specialist’ equipment.

As with all things, there are some cons:

  • This technique might not suit everyone. The short breaks might prove distracting, especially if the work is really flowing;
  • You may work in an environment where there are frequent distractions and interruptions from colleagues or customers;
  • The apparent inflexibility of the technique may have a negative impact on productivity.

To use the Pomodoro technique, follow these five simple steps:

  1. Check your schedule, look at your to-do list or action programme, and estimate how long each task should take you, in terms of Pomodori (i.e. 25 minute sessions). Timetable the tasks so that they fit in with your schedule. Don’t forget to include both the 5 minute breaks and the longer breaks;
  2. Set the timer (this can be anything from a kitchen timer [as in Cirillo’s original tomato shaped one] to an on-line one, or one from App stores. Make your commitment to only work on the task at hand, minimise interruptions (shutting office door, turning off phone/email, etc);
  3. Work on the task and only the designated task. Devote all your attention to it and do not allow yourself to get distracted. Jot any occurring thoughts down in a notepad to look at later. If you complete your task early, use the remaining time to do any short tasks needed;
  4. Take a short break. Get away from your desk, stretch your legs, get a drink, etc. Don’t do anything which requires much thought;
  5. Continue your work sessions and after the fourth pomodoro, take a longer break. In the longer break, again, do not do anything work related. read a book, go for a walk, have a snack, etc.

It is worthwhile experimenting with the length of the pomodoro and also how many to have before a longer break. This can also change between morning and afternoon, but it will only work well if you adapt the timings to suit you.

So, only time will tell how successful the technique is form. Suffice it to say, I have got this post written using it!

 

What is Responsibility Charting (RACI)

Responsibility charting is a technique to assist in the identification of different roles and responsibilities attached to different key activities. It is a visual tool which is intended to reduce ambiguity, duplication,confusion and clarify potential areas of conflict.

RACI stands for the different roles, as follows:

Picture1

To complete a RACI matrix, you need to:

  1. List all the tasks, activities and decisions that are being worked on;
  2. List all the functions of the people involved;
  3. Create a matrix from the two lists made (see below)
  4. Now plot the RACI for each task. Indicate who is accountable, responsible, needs to be consulted and informed.
  5. Check the RACI for each task:
    1. there must be only one person who is accountable;
    2. there must be at least one person who is responsible;
    3. there do not need to be any persons to be consulted or informed.
  6. Now analyse the RACI matrix. Do this by analysing the roles that each function have been assigned:
    1. Does one person or function have too many responsibilities?
    2. Does one person or function have too many, or all the ‘A’s?
    3. Is any one person or function involved in every task?
  7. Communicate the matrix to all involved persons, and keep it updated.

RACIMatrix

Obviously, the method can be adopted depending upon the processes and culture of the organisation involved. Furthermore, when preparing the list of tasks, activities, etc, it is worthwhile:

  • Avoiding obvious and generic activities, and be more specific;
  • Beginning each activity or decision with a good action verb (examples include: conduct; operate; schedule; write; update; develop; decide; authorise, etc);
  • When an action verb implies a judgement or decision (for example, evaluate, monitor, inspect, review) add a phrase to indicate the primary outcome;
  • Activities and decisions should be short, concise and apply to a role or need, not to a specific person.

There are a number of variants, some of which are listed below:

  • ARCI – merely rearranging the letters to give more prominence to accountability, can give rise to amusement due to pronunciation if soft c.
  • RASCI or RASIC – the addition of a ‘supportive’ role, identifying those who provide resources and assistance to the ‘R’s.
  • RACI-V – the addition of a ‘verifies’ role, ensuring that any necessary checks are carried outside the team.
  • CAIRO – the addition of an ‘omitted’ role, or outside the loop. Used to designate those who you specifically wish to exclude.
  • PACSI – P – perform, the person carrying out the activity; A – accountable, the person ultimately answerable for the correct and thorough completion of the deliverable; C – control, the person reviewing the result of the activity. Will have power of veto; S – suggest, the person consulted to give non-binding advice based upon recognised expertise; I – informed.
  • RASI – dropping the consulted, and replacing with the supportive role.
  • RACIQ – the addition of ‘Q’, quality review – checking whether the product meets quality standards.
  • RACI-VS – the addition of a verifies role, and also ‘S’, the signatory, the person who approves the verify decision and authorises the hand-off.
  • DACI – D – a single driver of the overall project; A – approver, those who approve decisions and are responsible if the project fails; C – contributors, those responsible for the deliverables; I – the informed.
  • RAPID – R – recommender, gathers information and proposes a course of action; A – agree, formal approval of a recommendation; P – perform, he role which is accountable for the execution or implementation of the decision; I – input, the provider of relevant information; D – decide, the person who is ultimately accountable for making the final decision.
  • RATSI – R – responsibility, the person who is in charge of making sure the work is done; A – authority, the person with the final decision; T – task, the person who actually does the work; S – support, the person who provides support; I – informed, the person who needs to be informed that the work has started.