I interviewed Alan Braithwaite who discussed Business Operations Models, Becoming a Disruptive Competitor.







It's great to speak with you today, Alan. Before we start to interview about business operations models and becoming a disruptive competitor, can you provide a brief background of yourself?


Surely.I'm the chairman and founder of a specialist supply chain logistics and operations management consultancy in the UK, but we work internationally. We're a team of about 35 people. We're called LCB Consulting, and we're arguably the leading specialist independent in the UK and Europe. So that's been my life's work. But I'm also a visiting professor at Cranfield School of Management, which is the premier supply chain logistics operations institute in Europe and has a great reputation. I've been going there since 1987, and in 2006, they kindly gave me a visiting professor status, which was very nice. So I'm part-time academic, business consultant,and then as of 2015, an author with a book.


Can you talk about the book? What is the book about? And the title of it?


The book is called Business Operations Models, and the subtitle is Becoming a Disruptive Competitor. I took it as an opportunity to unpack and explore my obsession, which is what makes businesses super-performers. What makes them really tick? And the finding from 40 years of experience that very often, operations, just how you do things, is significantly underplayed as a strategic advantage.


So I've tried to unpack, with my coauthor Martin Christopher, and present a framework through which managers and academics can look at super performance in business...


First for its customers is giving them compelling value, and then secondly and equally important, financially makes a great return on revenue and investment. And that's basically the definition of a super performer. And if the company is then listed or valued, it will generate a superior value for the shareholder at the same time. So magic for customers, superior financial performance, super value for shareholders is the sort of maxim. And we just tried to unpack that and describe the role of operations in achieving that sort of magic cocktail, if that's the right way of putting it.


Is there any more that you can say about why did you write the book?


Constantly being asked when teaching and consulting, "What does ‘good’ look like?" "What is a super performer? How do they get there?" And trying to explain what good does look like and the subtleties around it, that's been our life's work, so we've to encapsulate it in the book and provide a framework for people to think through how they could generate a superior value for customers and for the business.


One of the discoveries through the cases studies that are in the book is that competitive advantage is actually very slender. So you don't need to be dramatically better to be a super performer. You need to be a little bit better probably in several places. And we've called that the power of 1%, and if you exercise the power of 1% across the operations of the business, then you can do better things for customers, and you can do them cheaper.


And so we've tried to make that point and then unpack what we've called four scenarios for disruptive competition. So the four dimension that we've picked and unpacked are obviously technological development and there, the digital revolution looms large, and we've described how, really, technology is not a disrupter in its own right, it's how the technologies enables companies to disrupt. That's the first one.


The second one is channels to markets, so how you select your channel to market to reach your customers and how both service and cost benefits, and that can be a disruptor. Clearly with [inaudible 00:03:11] of existing channels and reformatting channels of distribution.


The third one is excelling at the basics, doing the basics brilliantly. And it's amazing how many companies don't do the basics as well as they could. Frequently, there's two, three, four points of margin hanging around in how you do the basics.So there's quite a big opportunity.


And then, finally, slightly tongue in cheek, we talked about optimizing the business model because in the book we actually talk against classic optimization theory. And we're saying, actually optimizing is about finding new paradigms. So not about riding a particular mathematical curve.It's about changing the shape of the curve.


So those are the four scenarios. And we unpack those and provide a case study on each, or two or three cases on each. And then we close the book off by talking about how difficult organizational change can be, particularly in larger corporations and trying to provide some signposting as to how executives could address change.


So that's a short summary of the book. It was exciting to write. People tell us they like it. They find it interesting. It's full of practical maxims for being a disruptive competitor, achieving super performance.


This summer I was fortunate enough to be invited to South America to do a lecture tour on it. So it's been fun, as I've moved towards retirement, to do it.


My last question, in the book, do you mention at all about how to implement some of the ideas?


Clearly, each case study is written from the experience of implementing and achieving success. So each case provides insights into what the executive team did that was particularly different. And then the final two chapters really talk about the challenges of implementing and bringing a team together and making the changes that are necessary.


But the discovery was, and is in the book, the implementation is very often very dependent on one or two people want the top of the firm that have the new vision. It's dependent on their persistence, because it can take years to become an overnight success. So you can spend a lot of time digging away at the coal face and not getting the returns before suddenly, the last brick in the wall falls into place, and then the whole thing goes forward at huge speed.


The importance of understanding just where your operations, structures, organizations, capabilities will make a difference, because another big learning from the book is that most brilliant companies are not brilliant at everything, and actually, they don't need to be. They need to be brilliant at things that really make a difference for their customers. And over time, they made need to add skills. But in the framework, when you diagnose how companies have become super performers, what you find is that in a framework of nine different modules, companies will typically have been really good at three or four, no more than that. But they'll have pieced that capability together. So there's some quite practical guidance, we hope, on how to implement.


Thank you for sharing today. And where can people get your book?


Online at Amazon.


Great. Thank you.


If you want to hang on, I'll just give you the... I don't remember the ISBN number, but I must be able to find it here. It's published by Kogan Page, well-known, global educational publisher.


Oh, great. And I'll put the link also later in the blog post.


ISBN is 9780749473310.



About Alan Braithwaite






Alan Braithwaite


Business Operations & Supply Chain Expert | Consultant | Visiting Professor, Cranfield | Author, Speaker, Researcher


LinkedIn Profile