Thursday, May 12, 2016

Launching a New Executive Education Program

Earlier this year I accepted the challenge of creating an executive education program at the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. Up until this point, Bauer had no formal strategy for executive education. It did, however, have an outstanding faculty and was engaged with a number of high profile companies in developing custom curricula for developing managers and executives.

My job would be to continue with the custom programs already in place and to add classes that could be used by individuals or companies that had a need for only one or two classes. This would require engaging the faculty and community experts in developing classes for the program, creating a format to for communicating the class topics and qualifications of the faculty and designing a website that would be user friendly. That’s just the beginning.

The next steps include developing a winning marketing campaign and developing enough demand to fill the classes at a rate that covers the cost of the program. 

Pricing would be a key factor. Fortunately, there were many universities with executive education programs and studying the existing pricing structures was very helpful. In the end I looked at several public and private Universities and chose a pricing model that would put our program in the middle of the pack.

Product was key. Our classes had to be developed by the best faculty and cover the topics most in demand. Fortunately the Bauer College of Business is highly ranked, has outstanding faculty and has been creating classes for Fortune 50 companies. Restructuring the custom classes for “open enrollment” classes that are available to anyone was easily accomplished. 

Additionally, Bauer was nationally recognized for several of its programs, most notably entrepreneurship, sales, accounting, finance and management. Restructuring some of these courses into not to three day workshops would be a challenge. The faculty responded enthusiastically and created a wide variety of “open enrollment” classes. 

Finally, there were some topics that might be in demand that would require experts from the business community. Being located in Houston, one of the most diverse economies in the country provided another benefit. We had access to financial, health care, energy, retail, and manufacturing experts just to name a few. Our cybersecurity class will be taught by the chief technologist for platform security and privacy for HP. Our consulting classes will be taught by a former Accenture partner who now has a successful private practice.

Having the classes in a comfortable environment with the latest technology is important. Fortunately, Bauer has state-of-the-art facilities. On the downside there is a lot of demand for the classroom facilities. So in addition to having the availability of campus facilities we formed relationships with other organizations that allow us too use their facilities. In our custom course classes we use on-line webinars to allow an organization’s employees to remain in their offices while learning.

Getting the word out for a new program is always challenging. We are using some newspaper advertising but are focusing on Email to alums, social media, attending conferences and conventions and speaking to chambers of commerce and professional organizations.

While it is very early in the program, I think we are on the right track. Our website is:

I would appreciate any thoughts you might have on how to improve the success of this new program.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How to Save Newspapers Part II

In August of 2013 I wrote a blog on how to save newspapers ( . This blog described the differences between print and digital editions of a newspaper and their websites. The article focused on creating a symbiotic relationship between the newspaper and the website.

I see that newspapers are trying to create a business model that relies on inputs from electronic and print components but I don’t see much symbiosis.  Most of newspaper efforts still seem to be driven by the old model and its strengths. 

News stories are printed in the paper and digital editions with reference to those stories being repeated in a different format and different timing on the website.  I saw, in one newspaper, a large photo (half page) of an event with a caption telling the readers they could learn more about the event on the newspaper’s website.

Now there is a synergistic effort gone bad. The folks getting the newspaper don’t get the story and those on the website are reading what should have been in the newspaper. Newspapers strength is built on great journalism  and great photojournalism. These are its strengths. The Internet strength is built on immediacy and audio-video capabilities. The strengths of both platforms were wasted with this effort.

When I was in the newspaper business there was this desire to also own television stations so its audio-visual capabilities could enhance coverage and create new revenue streams.   Why is it then, that newspapers now have access to a medium to exploit audio-visual capabilities and fail to use them? In the example above why not have a great photo (smaller) and a good story with a reference to a video of the event on the website? This is synergy – using the strength of both to create something better than either can do alone.

It is symbiotic when each thrives because the other exists.  If newspaper editions used their print model for advertising pricing and an electronic model for website pricing perhaps there would be a creation of revenue rather than an internal battle between the website and print sales staffs to move diminishing newspaper revenues to one platform or the other.

Suppose that a newspaper website had exclusive rights to live-stream events (yes this means programming expenses) that would be covered in print and digital editions. The digital editions could have a link to the web site.

Suppose the print and digital editions used static ads and the web site used dynamic audio-visual ads (just like television).

I know that newspaper websites use audio-visual capabilities and the newspaper digital editions link to their websites. What is missing is a concerted strategy to make both the website and the newspaper editions successful. Based on what I have seen this is due to separate management teams for each platform. Advertising sales tries to bundle (which usually results in inaccurately valuing the strength of each platform) or discount ad buys based on the number of platforms being used. Content managers work on creating value for each platform, which, in turn, disallows a collaborative approach to building a synergistic, symbiotic strategy.

This outcome underscores the newspaper industry’s inability to understand that the Internet was not and is not a disruptive innovation that requires two separate organizations. The Internet is a sustaining innovation that allows industry leaders to better serve their best customers.  A sustaining innovation requires one organization focused on an overarching strategy to create value for customers, the company and any collaborators.

So here it is, if you want to save newspapers have one mission – to provide information and entertainment to as large an audience as possible. This mission should have the vision of:
1)   Using multiple media platforms to create value for audiences of all sizes,
2)   Create content that has value to audiences and advertisers,
3)   Manage content to appear on the platform that provides the best outcome,
4)   Create partnerships with entertainment and information groups to provide unique experiences for readers and advertisers.
5)   And so on.

Now setting objectives should be somewhat easier and it should be apparent that all platforms have to be engaged in strategy, tactics and execution discussions. If all platforms are not engaged in the same strategy, newspaper organizations will not be successful.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Consulting Project Framework

I have used a framework to guide my consulting projects and internal corporate projects for years. The approach has kept me focused on project completion and has helped in providing data driven solutions for complex problems. The approach to designing a consulting project framework is based on starting with the mission and vision of the organization I am working with and understanding how the objective of the project fits with the mission and vision.

Before next steps are taken there needs to be an assessment of the organization’s current position vis-à-vis the universe in which it exists. Only then can you move forward to developing a strategy, its tactics and an execution plan.

An exercise that should help in gaining clarity for your project relates to the acronym:

Mission – How does the organization service a universal need? This is why the organization exists.

As you consider your next consulting project it is always good to consider how the client’s organization fits in to the scheme of the general universe. Organizations exist to fill some need. This need can help you understand how the organization views its mission. For Coca Cola, their universe is all of the people in the world and one unifying theme is that all people seek happiness and optimism.
Coca Cola’s mission is to bring happiness and optimism to the world.

Vision – How will the organization create value by fulfilling its mission? Remember the organization cannot exist for the long term if it doesn’t create value. Coca Cola has chosen to create value by offering beverages, creating partnerships with bottlers, being a great place to work and providing increasing financial value for its shareholders.

Objective – What action can be taken to enhance the vision and is in keeping with the mission? This exercise is where managers and consultants can experience some difficulty. The initial objective statement may be something like  - “What new business should we be in?” 

Refining the scope of the objective requires the manager or consultant to fully understand the vision and mission. For example getting into providing low cost, high quality housing might fit into the mission of Coca Cola but not the vision.

Situation Analysis – What is the nature of the universe in which the organization must survive? Who are the competitors? How big is the market? What share of the market is required? What are the organization’s strengths and weaknesses? What are the opportunities and threats? What are the legal and technical challenges?

Remember any changes that are recommended must consider the current organizational structure, the people making up the organization and all of the constraints facing the organization. One of the biggest errors that can be made is moving to strategy development, tactics or execution phases before completing an exhaustive situation analysis. Think of this process as analogous to taking a trip. It would be like deciding to take a trip to Atlanta from San Francisco without understanding the costs of travel, the travel mode options, the best route, the weather conditions and so on.

Strategy – Based on an exhaustive study of the mission, vision, objective and situation analysis, what should be done to reach the assigned objective? In most cases this will push the manager or consultant in a direction that provides a macro view solution. In other words, rather than being in just the cola business or considering adding a new soft drink flavor what other beverages would support the mission and vision of Coca Cola? What new approaches to beverage distribution might provide value?

Tactics – Based on the strategy defined above, what combination of manpower, methods, money and machinery will be required to implement the strategy successfully? This is the plan.

Execution – After developing an understanding the resources that will be required, how will these resources be organized, directed and controlled (outcomes measured against goals)?

At the end of your project your recommendation should have all of the above elements included. As you proceed through your project searching for a strategy, you may feel like you are not making progress. If this happens, go back through the MVOSSTE framework to see what you have missed or could have considered differently.