Published on November 8th, 2013 | by Jan Godsell


BIG: Lifting the Bar Higher

It’s been six weeks since I joined WMG as Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy. I have come to the rapid conclusion that WMG provides a powerful platform for business innovation, in a way that I have not witnessed in any other institutions. This was somewhat surprising, as I have come from Cranfield University. Cranfield is known for its strategy of ‘knowledge into action’, but WMG takes this to a new dimension. WMG sits at the centre of a powerful network that is connected to critical stakeholders in research (funding bodies and leading academics), policy (policy makers) and practice (industry). This network is both internal and external. WMG works hard to ensure that it has its finger on the pulse. That it knows the key challenges facing policy and practice, and it is at the forefront of developing innovative research-led solutions to meet those challenges.

WMG is also an extremely successful organisation. Since I’ve joined it has announced plans for the £100m National Automotive Innovation Centre (NAIC), and a £4.1m International Institute for Nanocomposite Manufacture (IINM). Full-Time MSc student numbers have also hit record levels breaking the 700-student barrier. WMG sets the bar high, but I like a good challenge. My challenge is to replicate this success in my specialism of operations and supply chain strategy.

My work to date has focused on developing business models that have business alignment at their core. Business models where the product, marketing and supply chain strategy are in unison and ensure superior business performance in terms of growth and profitability. The business models with best alignment tend to be contemporary, with value creation and value delivery closely coupled and self-reinforcing. Alignment tends to slip away as initial sales begin to plateau and organisations seek new ways to grow. They often do this without considering the impact on the supply chain and the costs associated with growth. Value creation and value delivery become decoupled and businesses destroy both customer and shareholder value.

I am very proud to be part of the Business Innovation Group (BIG) for three key reasons. Firstly, it seeks to be different from the current business transformation functions that classic business schools offer. Being part of WMG brings unique access to enabling technologies that enable BIG to look to the business models of tomorrow and not today. Secondly, it brings together expertise in value creation and value delivery, and ensures their close coupling and business alignment from the outset. Thirdly, BIG seeks to work with policy makers and practice in a proactive and engaging way to ensure that our solutions are at the forefront of business innovation.

The analogy of lifting the bar higher is an important one for BIG. Traditionally, organisations conceptualise the apparently conflicting objectives of the supply chain trying to reduce costs, and marketing trying to grow sales as a set of scales. This suggests tension and that the organisation cannot achieve both simultaneously. A more accurate analogy is to consider the organisation as a weight lifter. The goals of minimising costs and maximising sales are the two weights at either end of the bar. A well-aligned business strategy lifts the bar in a level way and the weight lifter (the organisation) stands strong. If sales growth or cost reduction is pursued in isolation the bar becomes unbalanced and the weight lifter struggles to hold the weight of the bar. The business suffers from mis-alignment and performance suffers.

I look forward to working with my colleagues in BIG to help create the business models of tomorrow, lifting the bar higher for BIG, WMG and the organisations we work with to continue to innovate their businesses.



Jan Godsell is Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy at WMG. Jan's research focus is on the way that product, marketing and supply chain strategy align to create a responsive or demand-driven approach to supply chain management.

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