Strategic Planning and Implementation
According to Pearce and Robinson, “Strategic Management" is defined as the set of decisions and actions that result in the formulation and implementation of plans designed to achieve a company’s objectives” (Pearce and Robinson, 2010). Stategic management is affected by several factors. Identification of mission, vision and goals is one of the first steps since everything the company does should reflect them. The internal and external environments of the company along with strategic planning and implementation are all part of the process.
A company’s mission, vision and values are an outline of how the company views itself and the business path it will pursue. Strategic management must consider the role of ethics and social responsibility in the formulation of all plans and implementation. No matter how well strategic planning is executed, failure to consider ethics and moral responsibility will not allow a company to reach its full business and growth potential. The manner in which the mission, vision and values are formulated and executed will manifest itself in the company’s reputation.
When a company establishes its mission statement, goals and value statements, it is important that they be consistent with the true identity. Any inconsistencies can be identified by employees, consumers, stakeholders and competitors. Inconsistency leads to mistrust for consumers, employees and stakeholders and that mistrust leads to financial loss. Employees may think certain actions and behaviors are acceptable that may actually be detrimental to business. Consumers may not want to patronize an organization they do not trust or whom they find morally lacking. Stakeholders may not invest their money in the organization which compromises business opportunities and, ultimately, profitability. Competitors can use it to their advantage to make themselves look better.
One of the most important aspects of strategy is the identification of goals. Verizon Wireless identifies five main goals. The company identifies them as priorities. These priorities include: 1) Grow customers faster than the competition, 2) Lead in revenue growth, 3) Ensure a great customer experience every time, 4) Lead in profitability growth, and 5) Use the strength of our culture to compete (Verizon Wireless, 2008). These priorities do a good job of addressing various important aspects of business. Profitability and growth are key indicators of success. The goal is also inclusive of the consumer. This is important and a positive way of thinking because consumers are necessary to growth and profitability. The priorities also include the strength of culture. This seems to be missing some steps. The culture has to be strong in order for this to work. How can the company guarantee strength in culture? What will it do to foster that strength? Enough has not been strategically addressed concerning employee satisfaction and compliance. With such strong ethical goals, the company must do more to ensure employee morale is high so the goals will not be compromised.
“Our people” refers to the employees. The company prides itself on creating a strong organizational culture that is receptive to constant change. The wireless industry is ever-changing and the company knows that it must be ready to meet these changes at a moment’s notice in order to maintain its position in the industry. The company has its credo and goals readily available to both employees and the general public. The credo states: “Our Customers Come First. Teamwork enables us to serve our customers. Integrity is at the core of who we are. We know our best was good for today. Tomorrow we'll do better. We are Verizon Wireless”(Verizon Wireless, 2010) On the company employees’ website, Verizon Wireless states about its credo, “ It’s our guide to be the best company to work for and the best company for our customers. It’s where our work ethic comes from. It defines who we are as a company. It captures our culture in words and reminds us that integrity, customer needs, urgency and teamwork need to drive everything we do. Our Credo provides clear direction about how to execute and what it takes to be successful. Its one tool we can use to reinforce our culture every day with each other and with our customers” (Verizon Wireless for Employees, 2010). By reinforcing the culture, the company sends the message to employees, consumers, stakeholders and competitors of what is expected and that it is serious about maintaining that standard. This is a great concept, however, a company cannot speak for its employees. Does everyone feel this way? What is being done to lead the company to believe that everyone feels this way? Some people are naturally non-chalant and agreeable for purposes of keeping their job.
Verizon Wireless recognizes “our core values” as: 1) Customers First, 2) Integrity, 3) Respect, 4) Performance Excellence and 5) Accountability. Strategically, this look great on paper, but is each and everyone employee working towards this? Some of these goals cannot be accomplished 100% without full compliance by every single employee.
External economic conditions are important to any industry dependant upon product and service sales. Currently, the economy in the United States is still experiencing a bit of a depression. Verizon Wireless has still experienced growth and profitability when many other companies have gone bankrupt or experienced great hardships. The growth is due to consumers’ view that the service provided is essential to their lifestyle. Consumers are willing to cut other unnecessary expenses, but not their wireless services. This is because communication is necessary.
Since the company has grown, it would be interesting to know how much growth was hindered by the economic condition. This indicates there is much more room for future growth. When economic conditions improve, growth may accelerate. Verizon Wireless’ growth and prosperity have allowed the company to invest money in its network, making it more technologically advanced than its less prosperous competitors. The growth has also allowed more money to invest in innovation. Due to more advancements, it is predicted that less prosperous competitors will experience difficulty competing. Their network is not as advanced and innovation may be lacking due to shortage of funds. Externally, the market is dominated by two major wireless companies: Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Strategic planning should include strategies that will allow the company to maintain its leading role. It already leads in profitability and growth. Strategies should be implemented that will foster continued innovation, growth, and maintaining the current customers. It costs more to secure a new customer than to keep an existing one and if a company is losing customers as quickly as it gains, it would not reflect positively on the reputation. Reputation is external to the organization and once it is established, it is very difficult to modify.
Technology is an essential external non-economic factor within the wireless industry and probably the one that affects the industry the most. Pearce and Robinson state, “Both consumer and industrial markets have come to expect periodic changes and improvements in the products offered. As a result, some firms find it profitable to make innovation their grand strategy. They seek to reap the initially high profits associated with customer acceptance of a new or greatly improved product. Then, rather than face stiffening competition as the basis of profitability shifts from innovation to production or marketing competence, they search for other original or novel ideas. The underlying rationale of the grand strategy of innovation is to create a new product life cycle and thereby make similar existing products obsolete. Thus, this strategy differs from the product development strategy of extending an existing product’s life cycle” (Pearce and Robinson, 2009). This is especially applicable in the wireless industry. It is ever-changing and evolving. Technology changes very quickly and the companies with the most innovation will best prepared to respond and grow effectively.
Social and cultural considerations are non-economic factors that must be considered. Culturally, the United States is a large melting pot that includes many individuals from various backgrounds and with unique tastes and opinions. There are many individuals living in the country for whom English is not the primary language. Further, many of these individuals do not speak English. It is important in business strategy planning to consider all consumers within the market. There is a great deal of potential business available and consumers will choose the company that is the best fit for them as an individual. Verizon Wireless offers products and services beyond basic cellular service. Marketing must be directed to reach everyone.
Socially, Americans tend to follow trendsetters. Tastes and trends change over time. The company has to be willing to respond to social change and able to change business practice, products and services to meet the demands of the changing desires of consumers. When products or services are not popular, the company has to be consistently innovative in order to respond to the negative feedback through the introduction of new and exciting products and services.
Socially, “managers recognize their responsibilities to their customers and to society at large. In fact, many firms seek to exceed government requirements. They work not only to develop reputations for fairly priced products and services but also to establish themselves as responsible corporate citizens” (Pearce and Robinson, 2009). Image is important to consumers. They have their choice of companies to patronize. Consumers are most likely to choose an organization they feel identifies with their own code of ethics and moral responsibility.
Verizon Wireless seeks to create a positive standard not only within its own organization, but also externally within the wireless industry and in society. The company’s goal is to establish itself as an outstanding good corporate citizen. The Verizon Wireless website also offers information on programs such as “Hopeline” that offers phones and free service to domestic violence victims, exemplary of a good corporate citizen. Verizon Wireless along with Verizon Communications also created The Verizon Foundation for which employees make contributions to an approved charity and the company matches it dollar for dollar. This demonstrates a high degree of ethics to the consumer and presents a positive company image. Consumers are more comfortable dealing with a company they view positively, or a company that demonstrates it cares about the community. This type of strategic planning is done to relay a positive message to employees, consumers, stakeholders and competitors alike. It raises the bar for what is expected within the wireless industry.
Demographics are external non-economic factors that affects strategy. Consumers are both older and younger than ever. Products and services must cater to the needs of all prospective markets. Various cohorts have needs and expectations for their wireless service. Populations in once-rural areas have increased in the past several years and are expected to continue in an upward trend. Areas that once experienced limited cell service availability now have more options due to technological and innovative advances. The target markets are no longer limited to more urban areas and to business consumers. Strategic planning must now include more diverse groups of people.
Political concerns are non-economic factors that are external to an organization. The wireless industry is regulated by a division of the Fedral Communications Commission (FCC) called the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Verizon Wireless has to follow regulations established by the Bureau. Strategy planning must allow flexibility for change in regulations. The company must also maintain a good relationship with the bureau because it has the power to implement regulations that could be very detrimental to the business of Verizon Wireless. Good relations should also be maintained with competitors in case the need should ever arise for a mutual cause.
Michael E Porter developed a theory of five forces in relation to industry analysis and business strategy development. These include: the threat of substitute products, the threat of established rivals, the threat of new entry, the bargaining power of suppliers and the bargaining power of customers. All of these external forces have the capacity to positively or negatively affect the business of Verizon Wireless.
The threat of substitute products is minimal at this time and will likely continue that trend. Any substitute products would not offer the same innovative technology. It is not comparing apples to apples. Consumers pay for Verizon Wireless service because it is the best and the network is superior.
The established threat of rivals is ongoing and will likely continue on that trend. Strategic planning is essential to competing effectively within the dynamic wireless industry. AT&T is the primary rival Verizon Wireless must contend with. Verizon Wireless prides itself on being “the most reliable network”. The company website states, “According to national surveys by organizations such as JD Powers and Consumer Reports, our Network regularly stands out as the best in America” (Verizon Wireless, 2010). Verizon Wireless has lost many potential consumers due to the popularity of the iPhone. In response to this obstacle, the company relies on market innovation and ethics to separate it from the competition. “Our network” refers to the strategic planning and innovation Verizon Wireless utilizes to separate itself from the competition. Strategic planning must be implemented that will maintain this position of excellence. This will create less opportunity for the company to be affected by external forces.
The threat of new entry exists, but is of minimal threat at this point since the wireless industry is dominated by Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Due to the growth and profitability of Verizon Wireless, the future has a positive business outlook that keeps this threat at a minimum. The wireless industry is driven by technology and innovation and these two forces are expensive. Only very lucrative companies can normally afford the highest degree of the two. One method by which new companies may threaten Verizon Wireless is through benchmarking. The companies may see how successful Verizon Wireless is and attempt to imitate its business practices.
The bargaining power of suppliers is a threat because consumers often want certain products. Verizon Wireless has lost some customers strictly due to their desire for the iPhone. Strategy should include better strategic alliance with suppliers such as Apple.
The bargaining power of customers has the potential to affect the company. It seems to have done so recently with the implementation of some price plan changes. There have been decreases in some price plans and this may affect the profitability per customer, but overall, the change was positive because some customers switched to Verizon Wireless because it is now more affordable. The bargaining power of the customers led to the change since Verizon Wireless’ strategy was to gain new customers and keep existing customers. Since that is a primary goal, Customer bargaining power will continue to impact strategic planning.
A rivalry exists between AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Verizon wireless must differentiate itself within the industry in order to secure and maintain customers. The primary method of differentiate is through offering the most reliable network. AT&T differentiates itself primarily through the iPhone. In the wireless industry, companies offer the same proposed service. Some just have better service or another outstanding advantage over the competition. Innovation is especially important. It is all about the best differentiation from the competition. Whoever has what consumers consider to be the best and most desirable competitive advantage will be more appealing.
“Strategic decisions ostensibly commit the firm for a long time, typically five years; however, the impact of such decisions often lasts much longer. Once a firm has committed itself to a particular strategy, its image and competitive advantages usually are tied to that strategy. Firms become known in certain markets, for certain products, with certain technologies. They would jeopardize their previous gains if they shifted from these markets, products, or technologies by adopting a radically different strategy. Thus, strategic decisions have enduring effects on firms—for better or worse” (Pearce and Robinson, 2009). Verizon Wireless has come to be known in its customer markets and segments as a good corporate citizen, a company with innovative technology and superior service and products. The company must evolve strategically with the needs of its culturally and socially diverse customer base and their ever-changing taste and with demographic markets while maintaining the attributes that separate the company from its competitors.
Market customer needs are changing. When cellular phone were first introduced, the main target consumer was the business customer. Then, customers who could afford the hefty costs of service began carrying a phone for emergencies only. Today, many consumers elect to use a cellular phone in place of a home phone. Land lines are being eliminated by consumers who find them unnecessary. Middle-aged adults are purchasing phones for their elderly parents and parents purchase them for their young children to carry for safety. While the cellular phone is still viewed by the government as a luxury, most consumers feel it is a necessity. The cost of service is much more affordable today than in previous years. Towers are more readily available in remote areas. Various companies allow other companies to use their towers for a price. This allows for coverage in more areas on every network who use this practice. Wireless internet is available in most locations and much more convenient than home internet service.
According to Pearce and Robinson, “SWOT is an acronym for the internal Strengths and Weaknesses of a firm and the environmental Opportunities and Threats facing that firm. SWOT analysis is a historically popular technique through which managers create a quick overview of a company’s strategic situation” (Pearce and Robinson, 2009). The Swot analysis (Strengths and Weaknesses of the firm and the external Opportunities and Threats finds that Verizon Wireless faces a favorable external environment due to market social and cultural diversity. “Cell 1 is the most favorable situation; the firm faces several environmental opportunities and has numerous strengths that encourage pursuit of those opportunities. This situation suggests growth-oriented strategies to exploit the favorable match” (Pearce and Robinson, 2009). Verizon Wireless appears to fall within Cell 1. There is additional room for growth. The company’s resources are superior to most rivals and this allows for continued opportunity for increased innovative technology. The company is financially stable and has continued to grow through the economic depression which allows room for further growth opportunity. The company has the cash to further invest in increased innovation and product and service development. The company already has an outstanding asset in its superior network.
The threats that may be of biggest concern for the future is entry of new rivals and the threat of existing rivals. “A major focus in determining a firm’s resources and competencies is comparison with existing (and potential) competitors. Firms in the same industry often have different marketing skills, financial resources, operating facilities and locations, technical know-how, brand images, levels of integration, managerial talent, and so on. These different internal resources can become relative strengths (or weaknesses) depending on the strategy a firm chooses” (Pearce and Robinson, 2009). Ourrently, Apple is working on a phone that will work on the Verizon Wireless network. When this happens, AT&T will no longer have the one advantage it currently has over Verizon Wireless, AT&T will attempt to change its strategy and would likely begin by attempting to imitate the advantages Verizon Wireless has over it. New rivals may attempt to benchmark, but costs are high in maintaining the level of innovative technology Verizon Wireless has, so this will be difficult for less affluent companies. The rival companies will likely attempt to use the bargaining power of customers against Verizon Wireless. The rivals may offer less expensive products, but they will not be of equal comparison. Still, it remians especially importnt for Verizon Wireless to continue to strive for diffrentiation from the competition. This can be accomplished through innovation and product development, along with superior service.
One huge opportunity Verizon Wireless has is to strive for strategic planning that implements the highest degree of consideration for diverse markets. Social and cultural change is present and constant. The opportunity exists to embrace it. The largest opportunity is to continue striving for excellence and the highest degree of innovative technology possible. The external environment appears favorable with room for growth, profitability, new target markets and continued innovation.
Utilizing grand strategies are an important aspect of the strategic planning process for Verizon Wireless. Concentration, market development, product development and innovation are all important to the business of this company. Verizon Wireless, is biggest on innovation. “The Network” is how Verizon Wireless strives to maintain its industry-leadng position by “offering the highest quality products and services while introducing innovative technology solutions”. (Verizon Wireless, 2010) Through innovation and strategic alliance, Verizon Wireless introduces and helps develop products to meet its customers needs and desires. Innovation and product development work together. The company meets the demand of consumers and strives to market products and services that are as innovative as possible. The company has substantial contacts that create new equipment and test services. To help combat the popularity of the iPhone, Verizon Wireless introduced the comparable LG Voyager back in 2008. The new Blackberry Storm, the first Blackberry with a touch screen, also arrived in November 2008. Late last year, the Blackberry Storm 2 was introduced. Failure to be innovative any technology-driven business will result in competitive advantage for the competition.
Market concentration is increasingly important to contemporary business practices. Culturally, the United States is a large melting pot that includes many individuals from various backgrounds and with unique tastes and opinions. There are many individuals living in the country for whom English is not the primary language. Further, many of these individuals do not speak English. It is important in business strategy planning to consider all consumers within the market. There is a great deal of potential business available and consumers will choose the company that is the best fit for them as an individual. Verizon Wireless offers products and services beyond basic cellular service. Marketing must be directed to reach everyone.
Due to Verizon Wireless’ strengths in the areas of innovation, financial stability, superior network, it is indicated there is much more room for future growth. When economic conditions improve, growth may accelerate. Verizon Wireless’ growth and prosperity have allowed the company to invest money in its network, making it more technologically advanced than its less prosperous competitors. The growth has also allowed more money to invest in innovation. Due to more advancements, it is predicted that less prosperous competitors will experience difficulty competing. Their network is not as advanced and innovation may be lacking due to shortage of funds. This can change quickly if the company should appear unstable or demonstrate weakness. The company must be solid in all aspects of its business. For this reason, strategies have been identified that would help insure continued success.
One proposed generic strategy for Verizon Wireless is to increase focus on strategic alliances. It definitely has some. Otherwise, there would not be so many great products available on the network. The biggest threat the Verizon Wireless has been the iPhone, available through AT&T. This is one reason AT&T is the biggest competitor. If Verizon Wireless also had the iPhone, there would not even be any competition. Some customers have actually left because they had to have that phone. Google and Apple are two companies that Verizon should strengthen its relationship with. The easiest way to achieve this is to maintain good relations with all potentially beneficial companies. Be willing to give a little. Every relationship requires work and compromise. Business relationships are no different.
Differentiation is a proposed strategy for Verizon Wireless because Verizon wireless must differentiate itself within the industry in order to secure and maintain customers and to achieve the goals of market share, profitability and growth. A rivalry exists between AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The primary method of differentiate is through offering the most reliable network. AT&T differentiates itself primarily through the iPhone. In the wireless industry, companies offer the same proposed service. Some just have better service or another outstanding advantage over the competition. Innovation is especially important to differentiation. Whoever has what consumers consider to be the best and most desirable competitive advantages will be more appealing.
The best way to create increased differentiation within the wireless industry is to continue with the grand strategies of innovation, product development and market development. In order to realize the long-term goals of: 1) Growing customers faster than the competition, 2) Leading in revenue growth, 3) Ensuring a great customer experience every time, 4) Leading in profitability growth, and 5) Using the strength of our culture to compete, differentiation must be present. These goals are long-term, but they are also short-term because market position changes regularly. These goals must be recognized and worked towards daily. Everything that every employee does can affect the outcome. What separates this company from its competition?
The most effective strategy for optimal differentiation is to perform market analysis. What are competitors doing? How can we exceed that expectation for our customers? Verizon Wireless can also perform surveys that ask open-ended questions. Everyone knows that closed-ended questions will not get the most amount of information from the consumer. Most individuals will take the opportunity to answer if someone openly asks them, “What could we have done to make this a better experience for you or to better exceed your expectations?”. Differentiation is increased open communication, which brings us to our next proposed strategy.
Better communication should be implemented. This is evident even in my small arena of the company. Team members who are not working on the same projects or team are often unaware of the implications or relationship to their own. Projects and plans could be even more successful if all team members were better educated about them. It is increasingly beneficial to have more advocates of the program. Often, managers not working on the same team, but still in the department are not even aware of all the details and they do not know their roles in assisting the other teams meet optimal success. When that being the case, it is difficult for them to educate their own teams about how to foster project success.
This can be remedied in several ways. One solution that would help achieve the optimum results is that all team members should be active participants (even if not directly on the projects) and managers should definitely be aware of their role, rather direct or indirect. Currently the company has team meetings. Each team has a supervisor over approximately ten team members. Monthly meeting are held for an hour and a half. It is meant to be a “meeting of the minds” in which teams are given information about the latest changes in the department. The meetings are spent instructing as opposed to listening and discussing. Employees are never given the opportunity to speak with members of upper management. Anything they have to say goes to their supervisor first. When something is needed or desired by the majority of the department, employees are limited to discussion with their immediate supervisors who are not the particular people with the authority to implement change. For purposes of better communication, employees should be invited periodically to a meeting with the heads of their department. Perhaps a panel of 10 employees at a time could sit with the associate directors for an hour or two. The associate directors could hold one meeting per month and with about 120 employees in the department, employees would meet with them about once per quarter. Another solution is for there to be a more open forum for employee feedback. Currently, feedback is not utilized except from consumer to wireless provider. Feedback provides the opportunity for open communication between individuals with various job functions. Often the best strategies are developed in groups or team. Strategy is most effective when it is evaluated and modified by a number of individuals with various experiences and expertise.
“Our people” refers to the employees. The company prides itself on creating a strong organizational culture that is receptive to constant change. The wireless industry is ever-changing and the company knows that it must be ready to meet these changes at a moment’s notice in order to maintain its position in the industry. The company has its credo and goals readily available to both employees and the general public. The credo states: “Our Customers Come First. Teamwork enables us to serve our customers. Integrity is at the core of who we are. We know our best was good for today. Tomorrow we'll do better. We are Verizon Wireless”(Verizon Wireless, 2010) On the company employees’ website, Verizon Wireless states about its credo, “ It’s our guide to be the best company to work for and the best company for our customers. It’s where our work ethic comes from. It defines who we are as a company. It captures our culture in words and reminds us that integrity, customer needs, urgency and teamwork need to drive everything we do. Our Credo provides clear direction about how to execute and what it takes to be successful. Its one tool we can use to reinforce our culture every day with each other and with our customers” (Verizon Wireless for Employees, 2010). By reinforcing the culture, the company sends the message to employees, consumers, stakeholders and competitors of what is expected and that it is serious about maintaining that standard. This is a great concept, however, a company cannot speak for its employees. Thus, it is proposed that Verizon Wireless engage in activities that foster employee motivation. After all, these are the indivduials who are the first line of defense for the company. The representatives are the ones customers have contact with. Customers do not normally meet executives and experience things as executives would ideally picture.
To help alleviate the uncertainty associated with employee satisfaction and motivation, Verizon Wireless can develop anonymous surveys to be completed by all employees at their own discretion. The company can make people feel more valued as individuals. The company can offer more opportunity for feedback and be sincere in its efforts for positive change. Positive reinforcement within the job should be increased. The company can offer recognition to more individuals and teams. More rewards shouls be offered for a job well done. Verizon Wireless can lead by example, meaning the company can treat everyone as equals, regarding of job title. This will help set a better example within the organization.
The deadlines for the proposed strategies of strategic alliance, differentiation, communication and employee motivation are ongoing. All of these proposed strategies are things that require constant work and improvement or enhancement. Both communication and employee motivation should start immediately because are readily available. They simply need improvement, but that can start as soon as the choice is made to pursue them. Strategic alliance will take time because relationships require trust and work. It is a long-term commitment. This should be allowed a 1-2 year minimum for even the slightest change in current status. Differentiation is ongoing, but should be evident short-term. It may be somewhat evident within 6 month-1 year.
Evaluation of strategies includes feasibility, suitability and acceptability. Feasibility evaluates whether the required resources for the strategic implementation are available. This includes money, time and human resources, among other things. Break-even analysis is an example of how this can be measured. Break-even analysis determines how long it takes to recoup an investment. Suitability evaluates the overall rationale of the strategy. The main consideration is whether the strategy addresses the key strategic issues identified by the organization's strategic position. Acceptability refers to the reactions of all involved stakeholders. This includes employees, investors and customers, among others. Within this category is risk and return. Risk is the consequences that would result in the event of strategic failure. Return is the expected benefits.
Once key performance indicators have been established relative to the applicable department, target scores should improve as a result of the implementation of a new strategy. The improvement must be statistical significant enough for causation to be inferred from the change. If improvement is not significantly related to the implementation, yet there is no detrimental effect, it is at the discretion of managers whether or not to keep the strategic changes.
When considering strategic development and implementation, it is important to remember that every success is a result of strategy. Sometimes, success may be what some consider to be “luck”, but even “luck” is associated with the decision to implement a strategy. In order to attain the highest chance of success, strategy must consider long-term and short-term goals, strategic development, planning, implementation and evaluation.
Do consider a company's ethics when making a purchasing decision?
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