Why the name “The Third Road”

The first road of managing marketing and strategy is the one that is taught in most business schools and is very top-down. A central function and limited number of people -CMO, CSO, CBO- define the strategy and the innovations to come -often product out- and the regions and functions execute. It imposes a lot of control and processes to ensure its implementation. This system is struggling as it does not fully integrate the local specificities and more importantly ideas that emerge from multiple places and functions. In its implementation it often faces local resistance. This is the reason why many start-up are “disrupting” the established order of things and big corporations have difficulties to adapt.

The second road of management, mostly dominant in Japan is “ultra-localised”. In this bottom-up system, each function and region can decide its own action plans. It is also called multi-domestic. It  ignores the fact that the world is getting more global with trends that are across borders. It results in a lack of global strategy or common directions and priorities and focus and eventually products and services that are undifferentiated and don’t address customer unmet needs. As a result, the brand image based on contradicting and weak messages gets blurred. It is the reason why so many Japanese companies, excelling in technology and manufacturing, the so-called “monozukuri” have seen their brand value and market share decline in the last decades.

The third road of management is a road in which, contrary to the second one,  there is a strong strategy  with clear brand direction and differentiation and successful innovations. But contrary to the first road, this strategy and those ideas are crowd-sourced from the different functional and regional entities and businesses. Once the common direction is decided, each entity gets a global role as the leader of one particular project or expertise based on its recognised competence. Rather than a strong central function far from realities, the brain is organised in a network of centers of competences. The implementation is left to each entity who acts freely. Rather than a heavy bureaucratic approach of plans, budgets, approval and controls, the execution is based on trust and the belief that if the direction is built with the actors, they will implement it with more passion. It is the “freedom within a frame” concept.


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