Do we need to re-think the way that businesses roll out new solutions? Should we give a higher priority to small, fast-growth regions (the tail) and less to the larger, established markets (the dog)?
When we usually talk about this canine analogy, it's in a negative context. Typically, you don’t want a minor part controlling the more significant whole. But perhaps there can be times when that’s a positive.
A case in point
Let’s think about how businesses roll out global changes to, for example, their core financial systems. These changes will affect how teams work in every country, and will require significant investment to get it right.
Decision makers tend to focus their plans for this type of transformation around the big countries or regions, and not think about the smaller divisions until later. On the surface, that makes sense. The big countries are usually where the most resource is available and where there is the ‘most to lose’. Some workshops may take place in the developing markets, but these are usually about creating buy-in rather than genuinely considering the needs of those markets.
A missed opportunity?
By starting with solutions that work for the established regions, organisations run the risk of setting in stone business models that are suited to low-growth, stable environments. These models could stifle expansion and innovation in more dynamic countries or business units.
My counter-proposal is that we should look first to the developing markets. They offer an energy and a thirst for innovation that could be extremely valuable to the rest of the wider business. They tend to be more agile, closer to customers and growing faster than the larger countries.
Some of our most successful rollouts have begun with a greater emphasis on the needs of smaller countries. For example, the Virtual Company model for supporting fast-growth areas is an approach where back-office functions are provided entirely ‘as a service’. This allows products to be rolled out in new markets quickly and without distraction.
When done successfully, allowing the smaller countries to take a leading role in the redesign can inject much-needed energy into the business and start to change established outdated cultures. It's about designing processes for growth and dynamism, and looking to the future, not the past. It's about letting the tail wag the dog and focusing on where there is the ‘most to gain’.