TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

Mastering the building blocks of strategy

Left unchecked, market forces continually conspire to deplete profits. Powerful business strategies can counteract those tendencies, but good strategy is difficult to formulate. Indeed, the latest McKinsey research (see "The strategic yardstick you can't afford to ignore.") finds that a very small number of companies create most economic profit. The research also shows that a significant number of good companies outperform even in so-called bad industries, where the average economic profit is less than the market average.

How do they do it? In other words, where do powerful strategies come from? Sometimes it's luck, or good timing, or a stroke of inspiration. In our experience, it's also possible to load the dice in favor of developing good strategies by focusing on the core building blocks that often get overlooked. One is the need to gain agreement - before creating strategy - on the essential decisions and the criteria for making them. Another is to ensure that the company is prepared and willing to act on a strategy once it is adopted. Too much of what passes for strategy development, we find, consists of hurried efforts that skip one or more of the essentials. The resulting strategies are often flawed from the start.

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TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

Stronger Than Steel, Able to Stop a Speeding Bullet -- It's Super Wood!

Some varieties of wood, such as oak and maple, are renowned for their strength. But scientists say a simple and inexpensive new process can transform any type of wood into a material stronger than steel, and even some high-tech titanium alloys. Besides taking a star turn in buildings and vehicles, the substance could even be used to make bullet-resistant armor plates.

Wood is abundant and relatively low-cost - it literally grows on trees. And although it has been used for millennia to build everything from furniture to homes and larger structures, untreated wood is rarely as strong as metals used in construction. Researchers have long tried to enhance its strength, especially by compressing and "densifying" it, says Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park. But densified wood tends to weaken and spring back toward its original size and shape, especially in humid conditions.

Now, Hu and his colleagues say they have come up with a better way to densify wood

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TradeBriefs: What's important, not just what's popular!

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TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

How to Build a C-Suite in Less Than Two Years

In 2017, Indonesian state-owned giant Pertamina had two ambitious strategic objectives: Transition from oil and gas to a more diverse portfolio including renewables, and entrench itself deeper in the global market.

But there was a problem. Thanks to a remarkably low retirement age of 56 for Indonesian SOEs, the organisation - one of the nation's largest, with more than 31,000 employees - would be losing nearly all its top leaders within a few years. Worse still, a past hiring freeze that lasted more than a decade had left a plunging experience gap between the highest-ranking company directors and their appointed successors.

In order to meet its audacious goals for the future, Pertamina would have to prepare hundreds of second-tier leaders to assume command before the retirement window closed. That meant cramming up to 15 years of missing experience into a two-to-three-year timeframe. For SOEs, which are not known for their agility, this was a tall order to say the least.

To tackle the challenge, Human Capital Director Nicke Widyawati (promoted to CEO in 2018) and Senior VP for Human Capital Ihsanuddin Usman developed the concept for Catalyser, the largest leadership accelerator in Southeast Asia.

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