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The MGRUSH technique encourages different approaches based on whether your project is seeking incremental gain or requires real breakthrough. Blue Ocean Strategy promotes breakthrough thinking, justified by the higher profits such thinking generates among companies studied by its authors, Kim and Mauborgne.[1]

Blue Ocean Strategy

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

The authors note the failures of companies over the past fifteen to twenty years—since the publishing of In Search of Excellence and Built to Last—including Atari, Data General, Fluor, and National Semiconductor. Therefore, the cornerstone of Blue Ocean Strategy is value innovation, defined as “the integrated and simultaneous pursuit of differentiation (ie, buyer value) AND low-cost (ie, supplier value).”

Their analytical toolset begins with a strategy canvas that identifies the principle of competitive and investment factors within your industry. With wine as an example (in brief), they might include price, distinction, marketing, aging, vineyard, complexity, and range. Their framework (called Four Actions) relies on facilitating consensual agreement around four questions. Participants’ answers suggest a new value curve that might enable your company to shift from traditional industry factors to uncontested market space. The four questions are:
1. ELIMINATE––Which factors that the industry takes for granted should be eliminated?
2. RAISE––Which factors should be raised well above the industry’s standard?
3. CREATE––Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered?
4. REDUCE––Which factors should be reduced well below the industry’s standard?

Illustrating Blue Ocean Strategy Four Actions Using Cirque du Soleil

For example, they suggest the success of Cirque du Soleil (compared to a traditional circus) accelerated with the following insights:
1. ELIMINATE––Star performers, animal shows, etc.
2. RAISE––Unique venue, type of concession sales, etc.
3. CREATE––Theme, artistic music, and dance, etc.
4. REDUCE––Multiple show arenas, thrill, and danger, etc.

Using the strategy canvas of Southwest Airlines they emphasized the factors of friendly service, speed, and frequent point-to-point departures. Both Cirque du Soleil and Southwest Airlines provide shared focus, divergence, and a compelling tagline. Overall, the authors’ steps for visualizing strategy draw upon group discussions and consensusaka, excellent facilitation. They also suggest the use of a Pioneer-Migrator-Settler perceptual map that would seem to offer far less benefit than seeking consensus with answers to the Four Actions above.

Blue Ocean Strategy offers additional and valuable questions[2] that challenge each of a life-cycle’s steps (eg, MG RUSH’s Plan-Acquire-Operate-Control). These questions seek to identify the biggest blocks faced by value drivers such as productivity, simplicity, convenience, risk, fun/ image, and environmental friendliness.

Blue Ocean Strategy Organizational Hurdles

The authors finish their discussion with four “organizational hurdles” including politics, motivation, resources, and groupthink (ie, “cognitive”). However, like many academics, they complete their otherwise valuable book by discussing the importance of converting the strategy into execution—missing the importance and significance of building consensual analysis to pave the way. They jump from the WHY to the HOW without a complete understanding about WHAT is required—ie, the consensual aspects that assure buy-in, confidence, and ownership. They talk about the importance of attitude and behavior but offer little insight about how to acquire “fair process,”—something that MG RUSH alumni do regularly by building consensus around the analysis framework.

[1] See chart on page 7, “The Profit and Growth Consequences of Creating Blue Oceans.”
[2] See chart on page 123, “The Buyer Experience Cycle.”


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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