Plan for disruption in a disruptive age

The recent Poultry Tech Summit again highlighted the impressive progress of the past 50 years, yet that progress may be dwarfed by upcoming disruptions.

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Natali_Mis |
Natali_Mis |

The recent Poultry Tech Summit again highlighted the impressive progress of the past 50 years, yet that progress may be dwarfed by upcoming disruptions.

As Paul Aho said, we have been sent through a vortex to the year 2030, that is the pandemic and its consequences forced changes in 10 weeks that otherwise would have taken 10 years. Zoom calls and the use of digital technologies in food production are the classic examples of this.

Coping with disruption

How should a poultry business, or a business planning to service the poultry industry in 2021, cope with such disruption?

Learning from other business is instructive. Airbnb disrupted the hotel business. Uber the taxis. Google the way we find answers to questions, directions. Movie houses were disrupted and now feel so threatened by Netflix they want to ban them from the Oscars.

So will the same thing happen to our poultry industry? Is our industry going to be disrupted and by whom? ‘Fake’ meats produced on a petri dish or with texturized vegetable proteins? Robots in processing plants or houses? Blockchain? Cameras? Disruptive times require a new way of planning.

Let’s disrupt the way we think about business

In a survey I commissioned of 1,000 business leaders, I found that the traditional business plan is dead. Too long, too complicated, and too soon out of date. Once written who reads it?

The traditional sequence of business planning I like to call 1-2-3-4. These numbers represent the four parts. 1) What is the history of our business. 2) what business are we in now. 3) what strategies are in place and 4) what outcomes are we expecting from those actions?

2-1-4-3 disrupts the old way of planning by changing the order. Flexible, created in less than a week, it is created by a team. It is living document that eliminates unrealistic goal setting and aims to achieve superior results not seen with incremental planning.

2 - Where are we now?

  1. How did we get here?

            4 - Where do we want to go to?

                        3 - How are we going to get there?

Reversing the order of how we think, 2-1-4-3 examines where our business is today in much more depth and detail, and where we have come from in a shorter, more relevant manner. By disrupting the order, it allows us to focus our energy and thoughts on where our business should be going and focus as a team on the path or paths to take us there. 2-1-4-3 is a new model for business, sales, marketing and life.

A clear example of disruption in agriculture is the company I worked in for 28 years, Alltech Inc.

Growing from $25 million in sales of nutritional supplements and feed additives to over $2 billion, Dr. Lyons, Alltech’s founder, and carried on by his son Mark, pushed everyone to think differently, never to predict the future by the road you were on, but to choose the road based on the destination you wanted to reach. This led the corporation to expand geographically into global markets before others, to create and expand rapidly new technologies and applications and to pursue innovation.

Aligning focus

Conducting a 2-1-4-3 with poultry companies has been instructive. Many are misaligned in their focus, firefighting or spending resources on incremental opportunities. Others show a singular disconnect between the vision the management espouses and the actions of middle and senior management.

Even traditionally successful poultry companies get caught up in incrementalism and miss the chance to grow faster. Refining your business every year results in better resource allocation, investments or identifying the real key customers.

Engaging with agritech start-ups is increasingly part of the innovation strategy the largest food companies. Working through 2-1-4-3 with them helps to make it clear what markets, what customers, what resources and, of course, what goals they need to pursue. Introducing them to a new customer can be enough to transform their future.

One agribusiness I worked with applied the idea of 2-1-4-3 differently.

Instead of using the 2-1-4-3 in their company, they applied it with their sales people. They called farmers who weren’t buying and who said they would never buy. Instead of trying to sell to them they asked the producers to describe what their goals and plans were.

The answers received were varied. Acquire more land, expand into new species, prepare for succession. Most of the farmers they called became customers within the next year. It proved the adage that your customers don’t care how much you know, until you show them how much you care.

They key of 2-1-4-3 is to work as a team and get the plans distilled to one page. Easier said than done. Mark Twain is reputed to have said ‘I apologize for writing such a long letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one.’

In over 20 years of using the 2-1-4-3 in food businesses, poultry feed additives, poultry equipment and ag digital technologies, I have found it to be a simple but powerful business model. Even in businesses growing slowly, or not at all, with little apparent opportunities, 2-1-4-3 led to disruption and turnarounds.

Remember if you aren’t thinking about disrupting your business someone else probably is. As one general said ‘if you don’t like change you are probably going to like irrelevance a lot less.’

The book, As Simple as 2-1-4-3, is available on Amazon or at Context Publications (save $10 with the code “aidan01”).

Attend the 2021 Poultry Tech Summit

Join an exclusive international gathering of industry-changing innovators, researchers, entrepreneurs, technology experts, investors and leading poultry producers at the 2021 edition of Poultry Tech Summit on October 31 - November 2 in Atlanta, Georgia. Attendees can expect the same groundbreaking innovation and insightful presentations that made the previous events well-attended with deep dialogue on new prospective solutions and developing technologies.

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