By W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne (Authors) Harvard Business School Press; 1 edition (February 3, 2005)
The FAST technique embraces different approaches based on whether your project is seeking incremental gain or requires real breakthrough. “Blue Ocean Strategy” promotes breakthrough thinking, justified by the higher profits such thinking generates among companies studied by its authors, Kim and Mauborgne.
The authors note the failures of companies over the past fifteen to twenty years—since the publishing of “In Search of Excellence” and “Built to Last”—including Atari, Data General, Fluor, and National Semiconductor. The cornerstone of Blue Ocean Strategy is value innovation, defined as “the integrated and simultaneous pursuit of differentiation (ie, buyer value) AND low-cost (ie, supplier value).”
Their analytical tool set begins with a strategy canvass that identifies the principle competitive and investment factors within your industry. With wine as an example (in brief), they might include price, distinction, marketing, aging, vineyard, complexity, and range. Their framework (called Four Actions) relies on facilitating consensual agreement around four questions. Participants’ answers suggest a new value curve that might enable your company to shift from traditional industry factors to uncontested market space. The four questions are:
1. ELIMINATE––Which factors that the industry takes for granted should be eliminated?
2. RAISE––Which factors should be raised well above the industry’s standard?
3. CREATE––Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered?
4. REDUCE––Which factors should be reduced well below the industry’s standard?
For example, they suggest the success of Cirque du Soleil (compared to a traditional circus) accelerated with the following insights:
1. ELIMINATE––Star performers, animal shows, etc.
2. RAISE––Unique venue, type of concession sales, etc.
3. CREATE––Theme, artistic music and dance, etc.
4. REDUCE––Multiple show arenas, thrill and danger, etc.
Using the strategy canvass of Southwest Airlines they suggest the more factors of friendly service, speed, and frequent point-to-point departures. Both Cirque du Soleil and Southwest Airlines are viewed as sharing focus, divergence, and a compelling tagline. On the total, the authors’ steps for visualizing strategy draw upon group discussions and consensus—aka, excellent facilitation. They also suggest the use of a Pioneer-Migrator-Settler perceptual map that would seem to offer far less benefit than seeking consensus with the Four Actions above.
“Blue Ocean Strategy” offers additional and valuable questions that challenge each of a life-cycle’s steps (eg, FAST’s Plan-Acquire-Operate-Control) to find the biggest blocks faced by buyer drivers such as productivity, simplicity, convenience, risk, fun/ image, and environmental friendliness.
The authors finish their discussion with four “organizational hurdles” including politics, motivation, resources, and groupthink (ie, “cognitive”). However, like many academics, they complete their otherwise valuable book by discussing the importance of converting the strategy into execution—missing the importance and significance of building consensual analysis to pave the way. They jump from the WHY to the HOW without a complete understanding about WHAT is required—ie, the consensual aspects that assure buy-in, confidence, and ownership. They talk about the importance of attitude and behavior but offer little insight about how to acquire “fair process,”—something that FAST alumni do regularly by building consensus around the analysis framework.
 See chart on page 7, “The Profit and Growth Consequences of Creating Blue Oceans.”
 See chart on page 123, “The Buyer Experience Cycle.”
Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.
Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills
The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).
Do not forget to order Change or Die if you working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.