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Blue Ocean Strategy > Best Practices > Visionary Leadership and Blue Ocean Strategy

Visionary Leadership and Blue Ocean Strategy
Sharad Donga
I think Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS) success merely depends on the leadership of the leader and how visionary the leader is, and how far ahead the business is seen/predicted.

The process of achieving the strategic vision will generate and execute the blue ocean strategy involuntary.

I think it is all about being visionary and setting the vision changing the world.

BOS and leadership
Yes I do agree partly, if leader namely CEO is not able to foresee the business and correctly launch the vision then it automatically discourages out of the box thinking process and so does BOS.

Leadership and BOS
I completely agree, since often we experience that in the end only leaders or their voice builds the consensus. And this entire process as well as its outcome normally shapes the organization or business activities.
So if the idea or built voice is lousy anyway, then forget the BOS. Capable leadership and especially a capable CEO play a crucial role here.

BOC Strategy Visionary Leadership
Bernadette, Sales, Kenya, Member
It is quite true that for a BOC strategy to be used a leader has to have a vision. This kind of strategy is used by very innovative people/leaders, innovators who want to keep off the competition with their strategy. One must be very alert not to do it for the imitators who come fast and perfect.

Vision of Leadership versus Blue Ocean Steps
Doets, Entrepreneur, Netherlands, Member
Sharad, the quality of leadership is always important. On the other hand, the great thing of Blue Ocean methodology is in the fact that successful entrepreneurship is brought down to a set of stepping stones which any company can implement.
Having found their Blue Ocean arena, than onwards it will be a big help to have a kind of visionary or charismatic leader on board in order to capture the newly found market.

BOS and Creativity: People Matter
Max Pindo, Manager, France, Member
I'm always skeptical about methodologies; if they are so good and easy, everybody would be successful just buying a book and following the recipe... I know one can argue the methodology was not properly applied, but let's face it: in reality the cook is as important (if not more) than the recipe.
The successful company listens carefully to what employees say; its top management then is able to develop those ideas in a coherent and sound business plan.

Ideas are Cheap
Andrew Nelson, CEO, Australia, SIG Leader
I have seen many cases where there is lots of vision but no execution. You need both in good measures. Ideas and vision are easy to come by. It's the ability to be systematic and thorough in strategy formulation, validation and execution which separates dreamers from leaders.

Execution and Implementation
Hareb Suroor, Management Consultant, United Arab Emirates, Member
Yes. I share Andrew's opinion that "ideas and vision are easy to come by". What we have to worry about is the implementation part, which seems for me a critical issue in any strategy.

Examining Various Visions and Blue Ocean Strategy
Ted Garrison, Management Consultant, United States, Member
I hate to be the contrarian, but I don't agree with Ms. Donga's conclusion. When you consider that 86% of new start ups are red ocean businesses - merely having a vision doesn't make it. It takes a structured approach to examine various visions to identify one that is truly unique.
Of course, you could make the case that people that create a red ocean strategy don't have a very good vision - but if you ask them, they think they do.
Creating a Blue Ocean Strategy is challenging, but no more challenging than trying to compete in a red ocean. The difference is it requires a different focus and mentality. For most people it's difficult to do things totally different. Most people think by tweaking what they are already doing is sufficient, usually it's not.
@Andrew Nelson's comment is very valid about execution. Any effective Blue Ocean Strategy must include a process to execute it. Not sure ideas are cheap - because without the idea you have nothing to work with, but not executing a great idea isn't any better.

BOS is a Means to Improve One's Marketing Strategy
Alan Kennedy
I agree with Mr. Garrison that just having a vision is not sufficient and with M. Pindo on being skeptical about methodologies, such as BOS. I think BOS provides excellent insights into marketing, but I see most of the comments on it recognizing that something more than just a marketing strategy is needed. Most folks seem to default to the conclusion that the missing piece is "leadership" or "vision" or, as M. Pindo says, "a sound business plan".
I argue in my book, The Alpha Strategies, that what is missing is the fact there are 8 strategies common to all organizations. Marketing is simply one of those 8. Any one of the 8 can and does lead to the other 7 and is the organization's dominant or alpha strategy. The alpha strategy sets an organization's culture.
I know marketing is not the alpha for all organizations. For me, BOS seems to assume marketing is the alpha and the starting place for developing all strategy and I cannot agree. BOS is a way to understand and improve one's current marketing strategy and nothing more.

BOS is Simply About Being Unique
Ted Garrison, Management Consultant, United States, Member
@Alan Kennedy: great points. I think the issue some people have with Blue Oceans is that they make things too complicated. A blue ocean is simply a euphemism for being different or unique. Obviously, to do that successful one needs leadership, vision, and the ability to execute it. The point of blue ocean is illustrated by the following figures:
When new businesses are started, 86% of them are red oceans - meaning they copy an existing business.
These 86% red ocean companies create 62% of the revenues but only 39% of the profits.
The 14% blue ocean companies generate 61% of the profits.
The underlying message about blue oceans is: the better you can provide a unique product or service, so that you don't have to compete on price, the more profitable you will be.
Another statistic that supports this concept is those companies that benchmark against competitors actually lose market share. Why? Because they are trying to compete against the market leader instead of differentiating themselves from them.
PS: The statistics I quoted appear in the book Blue Ocean Strategies by Chan Kim and Renee Maubourgne.

Leaders should not be Visionary Dreamers Only
Stephen Nzita, PhD, Professor, Congo, Democratic Republic of the, Member
Ideas and dreams must precede good realisations.
But isn't leadership the ability to do things through other people (teams)? I guess team building is the key...

Proceeding Beyond Rhetoric!
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
If there is no vision there is no strategy and there is no leader – then all else is mere rhetoric.
To get to talking about oceans of colors can only have meaning when the leader envisions the goals through team effort, prunes through management by objectives, dresses the dialogue through open/informal communication – taking into account and accepting censure and criticism and proactively updating the goals.
A visionary – who alone is a leader -- simply does not 'imitate' but rather benchmarks his strategic vision through ‘prying’ (Editor: ~curiously exploring) on the industry's benchmarkers and then ‘initiates’ an out-of-the-box inimitable strategic vision.

BOS is a Different Kind of Vision
Arunas Beksta, management consultant and trainer, Lithuania, Member
I also agree with Mr. Garrison and Mr. Kennedy that vision is not sufficient. The problem is that our way of thinking about business strategies is imprisoned in two-dimensional (plane geometric) image of Porter's Generic Strategies (or other similar) and our visions are limited by the boundaries of those images.
I think that what the authors of BOS are trying to say is that instead of trying to expand the horizons within those two dimensional worlds (red ocean), one needs to find other dimensions (go to blue oceans).
Therefore the BOS-need is not just for a vision, but for a whole different way of thinking, a different kind of vision.

BOS & Visionary Leadership
Feraidoon Bakhtiari, CxO / Board, Iran, Member
This is true: leadership is a function of how deep you can look into matters involved in your ability and capability of understanding the external environment as well as handling the firm's operations.
To be equipped with necessary tools and techniques to prove being a visionary leader you need to practice the art of making impossibles possible.
This never happens unless you experience decision making and problem solving in various situations. Creativity, innovation, and sensitiveness are the basic elements which enable leaders to do the right things and lead the resources to safety.

Vision is Just a Guess About the Future: Agility is also Important
Bernhard Keim, Business Consultant, Germany, Premium Member
Let's be honest: nobody - even the most charismatic leader - can predict the future. There are more and there are less reasonable assumptions about future's development. A good leader might be right in the majority of his expectations.
That means we should not expect that a good leader always has to be right and that means that even the most charismatic visionary can fail.
IMHO agility of an enterprise matters at least as much as vision (Editor: see: operational agility, organizational agility, strategic agility, portfolio agility). The German sociologist Niklas Luhmann made a distinction between a bureaucracy and an enterprise:
- Bureaucracies expect that the client adapts to the organization's needs
- Successful enterprises adapt to the client's needs (without getting bogged down in details). Where needs are constantly changing, agility is king.
Vision might matter when it comes to communicating the companies mission to make it comprehensible to the employees' work.

Visionary Leadership and BOS
Warren Miller, CPA, CFA, United States, Member
@Sharad: Good luck with that... But I doubt that all of the luck in the world can help do whatever it is you think should be done. BOS has some excellent constructs, but I don't think your comment addressed those in any substantive way.

The Unique Mouse Trap
Tom Wilson, HR Consultant, United States, Premium Member
I suspect this paradigm has greater resonance with sailors. The source of vision is primal, not of logic, per se, and those who are passionate about open ocean racing or can identify with standing watch like the narrator in "Southern Cross" by Steven Stills are more likely to draw upon those resources for their speculations of what can occur beyond the horizon. I think it is a legitimate construct within those parameters, but it is about differentiation and may not lead the uninitiated as far as the it will the enthusiastic 12 Metre skipper.

Visionary Leader and Blue Ocean
Yegoyant Thermilus, Student (MBA), United States, Member
Both are important. To change the world one must have a vision. Without vision it is hard to provide leadership.

Different Kind of Vision
Victor Manuel Monteiro Seco, Entrepreneur, Portugal, Member
Vision is the glue of times. BOS goals differentiate main stream companies, grounded on old market ideas and efficiency, from future-oriented ones, answering to market trust and people hope.
We must be humble; we have no longer the most intelligent, the most charismatic, and the most brilliant leaders.
Top-down decisions are past-oriented and nowadays, especially in Europe, give us no trust, no hope, and probably no future. We are all together, so we have to listen stakeholders, propose alternatives, negotiate respecting differences and, being authentic, act, act and act.

Visionary Leadership and BOS
dharam gokhool, Teacher, Mauritius, Member
My reading is: in a world of growing complexity, uncertainty and confusion, BOS is an invitation for visionary leaders to dare take the road less travelled, to break away from the mould of conformity and embrace the path of creativity and innovation and make a significant qualitative difference to themselves, their organisation and society.
Just like strategic management emerged as a new management paradigm in the 1960s, BOS is poised to usher a new phase, a new philosophy of management based on creativity as opposed to conformity. I find the concept very stimulating and provocative.

Leadership and BOS
tokunbo odusanya, CEO, Nigeria, Member
Every leader with vision has acquired the authority to break events by executing a strategy, wriggling through challenges. Even when he is lacking the necessary means, he holds on to his vision because that's his dream.
So it's important to have a vision and to translate that vision through execution. In case of both poor or excellent transforming and execution of vision, the fact is that the inert energy to conceive a vision is enough to continue to fire the desire to achieve the set goals.

Leadership - Vision - Culture and More
Jaro, Professor, Slovenia, Member
I agree with all those that "vision" is not enough and methodologies that are unilateral cannot answer the key questions. Just look on TQM, Lean, 6-Sigma etc. methodologies and still we have problems. Why? Because they do not deal with organizational and environmental “culture”. Therefore, they're missing basics elements on how to operate.
There is a need to merge different principles, knowledge (west and east), philosophies and cultures to begin a new cycle of changes.

How to Implement the BOS Vision?
Olaf de Hemmer, Business Consultant, France, Member
BOS surely is revolutionizing strategic thinking by helping us 'think out-of-the-competition-box' towards unmet clients needs!
Vision is a must. But what next?
Other methodologies can help deploy this vision throughout the company, based on the same 'create value(s) for stakeholders' vision: Value Analysis for products, Lean for processes, Business Analysis for IT projects and organisations, CSR for governance, Customer Perceived Value for marketing, Purchasing Value Creation, etc.
Putting these in synergy would lead to a 'new wave' in management, for more value(s) across the enterprise system!

Other Qualities for Success in BOS Leadership
srinivas, Lecturer, India, Member
Besides being visionary, what OTHER qualities are typically needed for a person to be a successful BOS leader? Why?

Visionary Leadership
tokunbo odusanya, CEO, Nigeria, Member
Everybody seems to have a dream, we all do, but the problem is the WILL.
A vision is just a dream, but with a mission accomplishment becomes possible.
And then, still a lot has to be done, even when having the will to carry the mission, because many atimes most missions die before the dreams are realized because of the many limitations that are abound.

'Strategy Without Execution is Hallucination!' (Source: Unknown)
Conroy Fourie, Coach, South Africa, Member
While visioning and strategizing are important I find it difficult to understand how "The process of achieving the strategic vision will generate and execute the Blue Ocean Strategy involuntary". Execution is hard and requires wilful action.

The Onslaught, the Storm
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
Hi Everyone!
A thought even with the best of intent, is a mere thought. And beyond being a thought it has no meaning. Meaning comes only when it is put into action. Whether we talk of the pink or the red or the blue or the purple ocean – they will remain mere colors in the figments of our mind. They take onto meaning when a doable strategy – developed diligently with commitment, embracing transparency, sets the different ‘colors’ to take to the crest of the surging waves and the rising winds, then every individual ‘contributing’ to this ‘onslaught’, this ‘storm’, needs be labeled a leader..

The Disconnect between Formulation and Execution of Strategy
Ted Garrison, Management Consultant, United States, Member
@Conroy Fourie: your point is well taken that without execution you have nothing. In fact, a poor strategy executed well is better than a great strategy that is not executed.
That said - anyone understands that any strategic plan (vision or whatever you want to call it) must include an execution plan as part of the plan. For a strategy to work it must be executable by the company that is proposing it. This is where the disconnect occurs - they are not two separate exercises - but two interrelated halves of the same activity.
BOS is simply about getting a company to search out strategies that will not only make them different by addressing needs or desires of clients that aren't being addressed or satisfied by some segment and that the company can execute.
If they can't execute it - it's a bad strategy for them no matter how exciting the vision.

Implementing Blue Ocean Strategy Requires Increasing R&D Budget
GHESSASSI, Student (University), Morocco, Member
Indeed, vision is required to adopt BOS, but it will be better if the staff is let aware about the magnitude and the stakes of the changing in order to create synergies, and also if the planning of the strategy is done after a joint decision by the R&D department and the Finance & Investment department.
Furthermore, an increasing annual Budget for R&D would be required in order to allow a renewable and sustainable strategy.

Implementing BOS
Ted Garrison, Management Consultant, United States, Member
Mr. Ghessassi - unless I misunderstand your comments it appears you make a one of the fatal flaws about strategy - namely focusing the effort on the company. The most effective strategies are focused on the customer's needs - we need greater dialogue with customer to determine what they need - what's problems they have are not being addressed - how to help them be more successful.
Once these are determined - of course someone needs to figure out solutions (so maybe that's where R&D has a role. But just having R&D doing their thing doesn't always produce the desired results. They come up things they think are great - not necessarily what the customer thinks is great.
To improve the strategic thinking process - greater effort needs to be spent on making the customer more successful. If companies do that they will in turn become more successful.

Organization Design and the Customer
Tom Wilson, HR Consultant, United States, Premium Member
@Ted Garrison: Ted, you are exactly correct: the customer is the reason why the company exists.
In the field of Organization Development, there are two designs for organization: the Customer/Mission oriented system. And the Management oriented system. Deming's Quality agenda is relentlessly Customer oriented, but the strategy during the 80's and 90's was to employ Deming as a pretext for destroying organized labor and for maximizing executive compensation, in the process creating Management oriented organizations. Frank Lorenzo's rape of Eastern Airlines is a the classic case study of this trend in business.
Any large scale organization that pays its CEO over 60 times the floor wage is a Management oriented system. They may talk customer service, but it is pure PR.

Visionary Leadership and BOS
Dumisani, Manager, South Africa, Member
As a leader you need to do the talk and still be able to dance for your own music, meaning: whatever you envision, you must be able to lead your team to that vision.
Most leaders read all the said books but don't know how to do the dance. That leads planning and preparation rite trough to strategy implementation and to execution.

Which Comes First: Leadership or Blue Ocean Strategy?
Alan Kennedy
I think Mr. Donga has generated a wonderful discussion. There seem to be two lines of thought.
- One line is that concepts, such as Blue Ocean, are secondary to being a great leader. It doesn't matter what the strategy is, a great leader will take us to success. It is hard to disagree with that belief.
- The second line of thinking is that great leaders need to understand the various strategy choices available to them in order to become great leaders.
The essential difference between the two lines of thought is whether leadership can be taught or is just something some people have from birth. If it can be taught, which is something I believe, then great leaders must learn and understand the concept of BOS, as well as the many, many other business concepts on this website, so that when it is time for them to lead, they can make informed, educated decisions. Great leaders are also great learners.
Thank you, Mr. Donga. Well done!

Leadership and Blue Ocean Strategy
Ted Garrison, Management Consultant, United States, Member
Mr. Kennedy you raised some interesting issues. Leadership and BOS are two different things. It is actually old school to believe it's the leader's responsibility to craft a strategy all by himself. It must must a team effort. The leader's role is to make sure the process occurs.
But more importantly strategy should not be just about your company. That approach doesn't work. Sure once in awhile some comes up with a great strategy sitting in his office, but most strategies developed that way don't work. In fact, many don't even get buy in from company employees - never mind the customers.
The difference with BOS is about going back to the basic of what Drucker defined as the reason for a business "finding a customer's need and filling it." BOS is about finding customer's unfilled needs & filling them. When they are unfilled it means no one is doing it - thus no competition. The leader's role here is align the company with the customer's needs - only attempting to fill those unique needs they can.

The Vision and the Leader are One
Tom Wilson, HR Consultant, United States, Premium Member
@Alan Kennedy: It is absolute doctrine of the US Army that leadership can be acquired through role play. I am not a natural leader and don't particularly like command, but I am an effective leader because of that training.
Leadership comes before strategy or it is an academic exercise. I agree with you that the enlightened leader will constantly seek out useful strategic paradigms, such as BOS, to expand his/her skill sets, but that the most useful paradigm will be largely organic to the individual leader. Expanding this personal paradigm into a community aligned with this vision, which it is, is the function of leadership. This is the point where the nature/nurture question becomes especially relevant. Some people are naturally better at it than others.

Aspiration Comes First Before Strategy and Execution
srinivas, Lecturer, India, Member
I think aspiration comes first before the strategy and execution of strategy takes place. The quality of the strategy and execution depends on how strong the aspiration is. I think the aspiration can be developed by auto suggestion (I mean by association with the idea).

Aspiration - Isn't the Solution
Ted Garrison, Management Consultant, United States, Member
Mr. Srinivas - While aspiration is certainly important - if one has no desire to succeed or ambition one tends to not do anything worthwhile. But aspiration doesn't create strategy. One needs a strategy to be aspired about. Therefore the strategy must come first.
The analogy is technology - Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great - technology never solved a problem. Must solve the problem first, then one can use technology to implement it.
In our case we need a strategy, then aspiration can help us implement or execute it. First as I mentioned in early post - the strategy must come from filling the client's needs - so one needs to learn from the client what is needed and hopefully one can align one's company with those needs. That creates an effective strategy - if you don't address the client's needs or you can't address those needs properly your strategy will fail no matter how aspirated you are to be great.
I agree aspiration will help carry out the strategy, but aspiration alone will not work.

Implementing Blue Ocean Strategy
Alan Kennedy
Thank you, @Tom Wilson. Every military person I have had the privilege to work with or teach over the years has held the same view: leadership can be taught. The difference indeed is that some of us are stronger at it and have a greater appetite for the risks associated with leadership.
That said, I would like to raise one more point on implementing a Blue Ocean Strategy. Research shows that the most common reason for strategy failure is a lack of understanding of current strategy. By current strategy, I mean the 8 strategies that are common to all organizations - not just the marketing strategy, which is arguably what BOS is. Not only do we need to understand what those 8 strategies are, we need to know which is dominant and sets the dominant culture for the organization. For most leaders, the 8 strategies are already set and being implemented. They are not running a start-up. Changing strategy without first understanding current strategy is a recipe for disaster.
I wonder if this point might provoke a different opinion from the group as to what now comes first; the leader or the strategy.

The Beginning, Initial Success and Sustainability of a Blue Ocean Strategy
Jun Aspacio, Director, Philippines, Member
Yes indeed the beginning and success of BOS greatly depends on the vision of the leaders.
However, its sustainability will depend on the talent of the management team.
Leadership and management are two different things. Ergo, there must be the synchronized synergy of the leadership and management teams.

Authentic Leadership and Blue Ocean Strategy
Victor Manuel Monteiro Seco, Entrepreneur, Portugal, Member
In Blue Ocean Strategies (BOS) development I prefer authentic leadership more than visionary. I'm not a dreamer but present managers' attitudes are not enough to modify followers practices. That's why we need authenticity in action, sustainable solutions. In fact it's easy to get tired of talk and role play. So we need the dimensions of an authentic leader behavior: self-awareness, relational transparency, balanced processing and internalized moral perspective (Walumbwa et al., 2008, P.95-96).

BOS and Leadership
asada raymond, Accountant, Nigeria, Member
@Tokunbo Odusanya: A vision may be a road map for the actualization of goals, an essential ingredient, but should be submissive to a dynamic world of constant change because 'the only stability possible is the stability in motion' (Peter Drucker).
I am for a situational leadership because every leader has a time frame to bring in positive changes.

Passion Sets the Vision
Damodaram Kuppuswami, Consultant, India, Member
While I agree that ability to foresee the future is critical for envisioning, the passion for the cause is the corner stone that brings meaning, strength and sense of direction to work for the organisation.

Advantage of BOS being a Methodology
Ted Garrison, Management Consultant, United States, Member
@Max Pindo: Max - what you describe (in your last sentence) is a methodology. I agree Blue Ocean is also a methodology.
The advantage of a methodology is it provides a check list to work through. Of course, most often we need to adapt any methodology to our unique situation. Air plane pilots often have thousands of miles flying but are still required to use a checklist to take off and land. Why? We all tend to get distracted and the methodology keeps us on task.
The other benefit of the methodology is it provides a common language - this simplifies communications and saves a lot of time.
There is no need for everyone to reinvent the wheel - methodologies provide the wheel and we often can take that wheel and improve it. Another term for methodology would be systems. Too often systems are misunderstood - people think they restrict people. Not really - they simply mean this is our best idea today, but maybe tomorrow we can improve it. You need a base line to measure and improve.

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