VUCA World Part 6: Pillar 3 of the Light Footprint Approach

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In previous articles, we began to discuss The Light Footprint Approach presented by consulting firm Roland Berger, regarding how to survive in the VUCA world. They describe standout organizations as “meta-winners – firms so singular that they are game-changers in their industry.” This approach, based on seven pillars divided into three areas (Innovation, Organization, and Approach) are the characteristics found in top performing corporations in the VUCA world. We will discuss the final three pillars, which make up the area of Approach, here:

Principles of The Light Footprint Approach

Openness: “In today’s increasingly complex world, it is unsurprising that the most successful actors are those who build the strongest partnerships – with different firms, customers, public services, researchers, local partners, and others.”

“One of the best examples of a collaborative approach with customers is the French telecommunications company Free. Free has built a community of its users – “Freenautes”, as they are known – by allowing them to create websites about its products. It also organizes events to stimulate interest in the company and its offering, and holds regular exchanges between its CEO Xavier Niel and journalists.”

Secrecy: “Being open does not mean that you should share everything with everyone. In fact, metawinners tend to be highly secretive about key issues. This secrecy applies in particular to innovation, protecting the ability to take the competition by surprise.”

“For instance, the telecommunications company Free cultivates an open attitude toward the public yet retains tight control of information about new products. It releases a new version of its Freebox product every two years, but no information about it is leaked before the official release date. The CEO makes regular statements to the press to create a buzz about the new version. The result is that the firm places a spotlight on innovation and grandstands its new releases in a way reminiscent of Apple.”

Risk mitigation: “The final principle employed by meta-winners is risk mitigation. In a volatile world, it is not always possible to predict the consequences of your actions. Business actors must make it part of their strategy to minimize the risk of damage. Where damage does occur, they must own up to it and put their efforts into limiting its extent.”

“Here, again, Free offers a good example. The company’s strategy is aggressive, with low costs and strong rhetoric. This attitude is bound to have some unwanted consequences, and dealing with them is part of Free’s strategy. The company owns up to its mistakes immediately. For example, when a mobile offer led to its website crashing, CEO Xavier Niel acknowledged that it was “a catastrophe” – while at the same time suggesting that it only proved how eager people were to switch to Free.”

The Light Footprint Approach is an inspirational look at the way a strategy developed for military efficiency and dealing with volatility can change the way we look at how businesses are being run. Adapt for success and survival. Think Act summarizes this approach as:

“The light footprint strategy is driven by the mix of these three weapons: launch efficient strikes while leaving the minimum footprint in the field. Avoid leaving unnecessary and exposed forces, protect human lives and save money without relaxing the pressure on the enemy. Maximize the benefits of technology by remaining at the cutting edge, use the element of surprise and leverage operational excellence.”

The key words being “operational excellence.” Stayed tuned for next week’s article on how meta-companies succeeded using this approach.

Traci Kingery, PHR is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in immigration and talent management. When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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