Who will Bell the Cat? A Manager's Toolkit for Strategy Formation and Execution

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Moid Siddiqui

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    Epigram

    No one knows what he can do till he tries.

    ~PubliusSyrus

    Dedication

    To my pussycats, Mashael and Sarah, my granddaughters! They are so charming and responsive that wherever they go everyone gets captivated.

    Epigram

    In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

    ~AlbertEinstein

    Introduction

    Who will Bell the Cat?

    The fable ‘Who Will Bell the Cat?’ has fascinated me since my childhood. Today, it has become my passion!

    Why has this simple story become my passion as I grew up to be a corporate guy? Precisely because it is a simple story which asks thought-provoking questions and teaches us many a lesson, namely, ‘Who will bell the cat?’, ‘How to bell the cat?’ and eventually, ‘Is the cat really belled?’

    Wow!

    To my mind, this simple story leads us magnificently towards wholesome solutions to many strategic business issues, right from strategy formation to execution. I have made an honest attempt to give a holistic pattern to this powerful story in the form of this book.

    This book is divided into five parts, each conveying one of the major aspects of strategic management in simple words.

    Part I: Evolve Business Strategies

    The foremost aspect in strategic management is to develop a determined mind with an innovative outlook, one that can think beyond the age-old model of the 3Cs—Company, Competitor and Customer. Though the ‘3Cs model’ explains how your company can gain the competitive advantage over your competitors by adding greater value to the customer in terms of QCD—Quality, Cost and Delivery—it should not be taken as the be-all and end-all of corporate strategy. The strategic focus must be on how to play with boundaries and create a new configuration of business, products or services, instead of remaining confined within defined boundaries?

    Such an approach warrants courage. One must dare to challenge well-established assumptions and the so-called accepted norms within the industry. One must think smart and work smart. In today's corporate world, one needs to evolve ‘offbeat strategies’ to go beyond the ‘competition-focussed’ pattern of business. One has to be proactive to stay ahead. ‘Digging out a well when you are thirsty’ will not work anymore.

    We often look to the Western world to find business solutions, but one need not always do so—instead, if we turn the pages of our own history books and try to rediscover the ancient Indian values, we will find that there are plenty of things to learn. How many managers know that the classic Panchatantra by Visnu Sarma is the best book on Strategic Management? It contains riches that many books on modern management fail to deliver.

    Part II: Strategic Management Techniques

    ‘Bell the Cat’ is a smart strategy. This strategy, however, will not cut any ice unless one knows the ‘How’ part of it. One must therefore design the techniques and processes of achieving ones goal. Apart from this, it is also important to have a clear understanding of the pattern of creativity.

    One must understand the patterns of divergent thinking, convergent thinking, lateral thinking, vertical thinking, intuitive thinking and logical thinking. In addition, one must also learn various techniques that help to generate a variety of ideas. One must know the art of managing these techniques to get the best results. Part II of this book stands as a simple guide for the formation and utilization such strategic management techniques and processes.

    Part III: Locate Right People

    This part deals with the question: ‘Who will bell the cat?’ Obviously, it is people who put strategies into action—the right people ensure that it is done in the right fashion. You may have to develop them, and if need be, you may have to hire them. Equally important is ‘locating the growth-supporting people’ with a positive bent of mind and strong will power. People are important not only for evolving strategies but also for designing the processes and techniques for carrying them out successfully. Managers must know how to discourage formation of ‘comfort zones’ and to demolish them if they already exist.

    Part IV: Develop People's Capabilities

    In today's dynamic corporate world it is not sufficient to simply form a talent pool. Talents get antiquated if not polished from time to time. They must be provided opportunities to sharpen their skills and develop their capabilities. They must know how to expand their learning horizon by breaking the pseudo-barriers that impede the learning process. You have got to keep an eye on their capabilities—‘Are they still capable enough to bell the Cat?’

    Part V: Align and Execute

    Most brilliant strategies fail because one does not know how to execute them. The art of execution is the key thing in strategic management. So one must ensure that the Cat gets belled!

    Lastly, it is extremely important to balance your long-term and short-term strategic plans. Many bright strategies fail when the company is not able to align and balance long-term and short-term plans. Executing a robust strategy is like walking a tightrope, which is not possible unless you know how to maintain the balance. When you execute a long-term robust strategy you take a big risk in terms of time, liability on account of interest on the borrowed money, changing demand and interests, and many other things which you may not be able to foresee. So, to mitigate your risk, you must have some short-term strategic plans which can generate some revenues and maintain the flow of income. There must be some monitoring system in place which should be able to locate the shortfalls and expose incongruities, both in planning and execution. I have discussed this important aspect in detail in the last chapter of the book.

    It has been my effort to make the difficult simple without entering the dangerous zone of oversimplification. The exercise has been a great challenge. How far I have succeeded depends on how easily you understand the entire process of strategic management in conjunction with the art of execution! Good strategies never fail—they fail because we do not know how to execute them.

  • ‘The Mousetrap’—The Last Tip!

    The corporate world has become too selfish. It has lost both soul and heart. When the mind is left uncontrolled, it creates disasters. Business is not a battlefield where the competitors must fight breaking the bones or chopping off the heads of corporate rivals. Business is not to kill the competition, but to maintain a healthy competition where there is an equal opportunity for everyone to survive and thrive. When there is a problem in the industry, the problem is yours, mine and everyone's. If we do not possess this simple business wisdom, the consequences will be beyond our control. Each of us will suffer. Let me illustrate with a story:

    The next time you hear that someone is facing a problem and think it does not concern you, remember: when one of us is threatened, all of us are at risk. We are all involved in this journey called life. We must encourage one another. Corporate life is no different. The corporate world is not an alien product, after all—it is a part of the same cosmos in which we breathe in and breathe out. Cosmic principles, therefore, apply equally to business and the business houses.

    About the Author

    Moid Siddiqui is the Managing Director of Intellects Biz, a company highly regarded for its innovative training and consulting outlooks. He is a new-age corporate professional with wide-ranging interests in several areas—from developing human potential by honing soft skills to scripting and directing business management films.

    Moid Siddiqui has served corporate India in senior- and board-level positions with premier public and private sector organizations, including Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd., National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, Cement Corporation of India, Hindustan Machine Tools, Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. and the Nagarjuna Group. He has also been a senior professor at the Centre for Organization Development, Hyderabad. He is the author of 11 books on management themes and seven books on spirituality. His articles were published in international training journals of repute, including the American Society for Training and Development's professional journal Training & Development. He is the recipient of several awards, including the All India Management Association's ‘Best Management Book Award of 1995–96’ for his book, The Brave New Manager. His recent books Corporate Soul and The Acrobatics of Change (co-authored with R.H. Khwaja), published by Response Books (Business books from SAGE) have created ripples throughout the corporate sector. Corporate Soul was adjudged as the best book (third position) of the year 2005–06 by the Indian Society for Training and Development (ISTD).

    Moid Siddiqui has also carried out a research study on ‘Performance Management Systems’ at the International Resource Centre, UK, and participated in many national and international conferences, including the Global Convention organized by the State of the World Forum at San Francisco, California, in October 1999, on ‘Envisioning and Creating a Sustained Compassionate Society’.

    His current areas of interest include imparting training in soft skills, spirituality in business management, ethical values, human potential development, and creativity and innovation.

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