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September 5, 2004
Applying Operations Theory to Early-Stage Ventures (Part I)
Topic: 3) Ventures
Early-stage ventures frequently have dynamic and demanding environments. Aside from the technical aspects of corporate governance and executive management, a key question for operating managers in a venture is who is going to do what by when (the 3Ws).

While this goal-driven perspective is important, I also find it useful to draw analogies and apply operations concepts such as those illustrated in the popular business novel by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox, "The Goal". In that book, the reader is essentially introduced to having to increase the output of a manufacturing plant, a foreign environment to most readers. One concept introduced in the book to solve the problem is to try to figure out where the bottleneck is and to alleviate the bottleneck, e.g., by increasing processing capacity at the point of the bottleneck, to increase throughput.

I find the bottleneck concept to very important for early-stage ventures, especially since there may be little margin for error in the venture and since response times are so critical. Sometimes the bottleneck is sales prospecting or lead generation. Other times, it has to do with insufficient marketing collateral or capital. Managers in early-stage companies need to look at problems using multiple frameworks and methods so that they can not only remove bottlenecks but also recognize them. I suggest that using principles of operations can also help as even experienced managers in early-stage ventures will find themselves in new, foreign environments like the main character in "The Goal".

Unfortunately, removing a bottleneck can create a bottleneck in another area (shifting bottlenecks). If companies didn't have enough things to worry about! Well, we'll save that for Part II.

Steve Shu, Managing Director, S4 Management Group

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 11:17 PM CDT
Updated: September 6, 2004 7:35 AM CDT
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September 3, 2004
Interim Management and Auditioning
Topic: 2) The Consulting Trade
The term "interim management" connotes different things to people. Some view it as a niche separate from consulting where the interim manager takes responsibility for a particular aspect of the business for a short period of time. Others view interim management positions as turnaround-type positions for a firm.

Rather than define the term, I think its useful to view interim management in terms of fitting a role to the need at hand and minimizing side effects. On the one hand, a good purpose of interim management could be to bring in world-class resources immediately. One the other hand, a tendency may develop to make the company overly dependent on an interim manager like a crutch.

I have been involved in cases where an interim manager is used in conjunction with the immediate process of placing a permanent manager. If designed properly, such a structure can yield excellent results including faster time-to-market, creative tension, and a coaching and supportive environment for the prospective permanent hire. If the prospective permanent hire in mind does not work out, senior management can use the auditioning period as a means to determine what to do next, e.g., move the team players around a bit, let the evaluation period for the permanent hire go longer, or work with the interim manager more actively to get the permanent hire on track.

Steve Shu, Managing Director, S4 Management Group

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 11:51 PM CDT
Updated: September 4, 2004 7:22 AM CDT
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September 2, 2004
On the Air
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: 1) General Management
This blog complements the S4 Manangement Group website at The blog will serve as a dynamic place to capture perspectives from S4 Management Group consultants and invited partners.

Initial topics will center around aspects and tricks of the trade that I've found few people make accessible for more general consumption. The initial topics are:
    i) General Manangement
    ii) Consulting Trade
    iii) Early-Stage Ventures
    iv) Business Templates
Please feel free to post your feedback or send the authors comments. Thanks for tuning in!

Steve Shu, Managing Director, S4 Management Group

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 1:01 AM CDT
Updated: September 18, 2004 10:18 PM CDT
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