The given paper aims to discuss various strategic issues in 3M. It emphasizes on the strategic planning and strategic decision making process in the company. This paper also describes the SWOT analysis of 3M in order perform strategic analysis of 3M. It also discusses about the strategic issues and then provides appropriate recommendations to solve these issues. At the same time, it studies about the current strategic posture and recommend for the future posture. In the future strategic posture recommendation, this paper provides various alternatives to the business in relation to improvement in its strategic position.
Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) is involved in the offering of thousands of products such as laminates, adhesives, passive fire protection, electrical materials, dental products and optical films worldwide. It is known for its diversified technology in product and service innovation for serving customers and communities. It has worldwide presence through various heterogeneous elements. It runs its operation in more than 60 countries around the globe. It has its laboratories for research and development in 35 countries and international manufacturing operations in 29 countries. 3M offers its products and services through distributors and retailers in more than 200 countries in the world. It also offers its products through e-commerce.
The product and services of the company helps the customers to enhance their life standard by ensuring safety and security. It develops new and innovative products and solutions to the customers, which help them to face the challenges and opportunities of the environment. The management of the company is also committed for the sustainable development of the company and the community through the fulfillment of social responsibility, environmental protection and economic progress. Through its business operation it serves a diversified community in global market.
The business operations of 3M include six types of businesses, which have the leading market position in the global market. Various businesses of the company are as follow –
Electro and communication business.
Consumers and office businesses.
Health care business.
Safety, Security and Protection Services Business.
Display and graphics business.
Industrial and Transportation Business.
This offering of the customers through these six business segments enable the managers to increase the efficiency and speed for sharing the marketing, manufacturing and other resources (3M Businesses). The electro and communication business segment serve the electronic industries by various interconnect and micro-interconnect systems. The consumer and office business segment is the retail market segment of the company, which mostly focus on the customers and office products. The display and graphic segment serves the market by using traffic safety and commercial display products.
Vision, Mission and Objectives-:
The vision statement of the company includes the complete solution for the customers. The vision statement of the company is to “solve the unsolved problems of the customers by introducing innovative products”. The vision statement of the company shows the leadership of the company in the product innovation. It involves a large amount of money in the research and development for the achievement of its vision and mission. The main objective of the company is to enhance living standard and provide most innovative solutions to the customers. And the investment in research and development helps to fulfill these objectives.
The mission of the company is to lead the market through the innovations in the product and services for enhancing customer satisfaction. The current position explains the leading position of the company in research and development, as it is known for its thousands of innovative products and different technology platforms. Various technological platforms also provide competitive advantage to 3M in the industry.
SWOT analysis is an important tool to identify the current position of any business organization. In the SWOT analysis, both internal and external factors related to the business environment of the company are analyzed. In the internal analysis, the strengths and weaknesses of the company are evaluated while in the external analysis, opportunities and threats found in the current economic and marketing conditions are evaluated. The SWOT analysis of the company explains the internal and external strengths of the company. It also helps to understand the weak points of the company regarding its internal and external environment.
The following are the strengths of 3M –
Diversified technology – It is the main strength of the company. The company has its presence in various businesses because of the diversified technology. The diversified technology ensures the significant presence of 3M in healthcare, industrial and transportation, electro, communication etc.
Distribution channels – The Company use various channels to distribute its product and services all over the world. The distribution channel of the company includes various types of wholesalers, retailer, distributors and jobbers, which provide its product and services to customers. The Company also sells its products and services directly to the customers.
Brand name and significant mix of businesses – The well known brand name is also a significant strength for the company. 3M also serves a wide area of market and also the wide market segment through its various products and services. The broad area of market provides the company an effective growth and cushioning in the industry. It also causes the worldwide presence of the company because of the various business segments (2007 Sustaining Progress).
There are also some weaknesses in the business operations of the company, which cause decrease in the advantages from its international leadership position. The following are the weaknesses of the organization, which are affecting its business operations-
Decrease in sales – The management of the company is facing a reduction in the total amount of sales.
Economic slowdown – The major part of revenue for 3M comes from the United State. It is also the weakness as any decrease in the economy of US directly affects the total revenue of the company.
Large R&D department – It is also the strength of the company. But it represents it as a science company, which requires a pipeline of the innovative products. It also causes the focus of the management on the innovative production rather than the market demand or acceptance for the innovative products.
Competitors and customer preferences – The financial position of the company is affected by the customers’ preferences and from the competitors position in the industry. The competitors of the company are also involved in the development of the new products, which cause an impact on the revenues and profits of the company (3M).
The diversified technologies and the large research and development investments also create some opportunities for the 3M, from which management can enhance effectiveness of its business operations.
The following are the opportunities for 3M –
International operations – The most obvious opportunity for 3M is the international operation. Presently, 67% revenue comes from outside the United State. The company can improve its revenue by increasing its operations in international market. It can expand its business operations in the emerging markets such as Eastern Europe, Latin America and China.
International leadership – The Company can also achieve the international leadership through the new innovations in the technologies for production.
The above is the most obvious opportunity for 3M because of its leadership in the global market through the innovations in its products and services. At the same time, the company also faces some threats because of its leading technologies and its internal business operations. The followings are the threats for the business of 3M –
Less international exposure – The organization has large variety of products and technologies but it doesn’t have the significant international exposure. In the present time, a large portion of the revenues comes from the United State in comparison of the other countries in world, while its competitors are expanding its business operation at the international level, which is directly affecting the revenues of the company.
Pollution cost – The Company is also facing various legal issues, which cause an increase in its overall cost.
International exchange rates – The international exchange rates can also cause decease in the actual reported sales. The changes in the price of fuel and energy also affect its business operations. The financial statement of the company is dominated in the US currency, while about 67% revenue comes from the countries outside the US. So, the decrease in the currency exchange rates can affect the results of the company.
Availability of raw material – The Company is also facing problem in the supply of raw material because of the change in the material prices. The prices of the raw material are increasing continuously, which is affecting the financial position of 3M.
The internal and external environment analysis of 3M explains the strengths and opportunities as well as weaknesses and threats for the company, which can affect to the business operation of the company. The management of the company can use the opportunities to increase the effectiveness of its business operations and on the other hand, it can make the strategies to eliminate its weaknesses and face the threats. To face the challenges and grab the opportunities of the environment, the company can use its leadership position. The use of leadership in the strategic management process will help to grab the opportunities and to face the threats in the competitive environment. Through the internal exposure of its business, the company can achieve international leadership positioning in the industry. The innovation in the products and services will also help to get the international entrepreneurship in the industry. It will also cause an increase in the market share and the revenues of the company.
The above strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis of the company will also help the management to analyze its core strength sectors and consequently, it can make some strategies to make these areas better to achieve competitive advantages. The competitive advantages in these particular sectors will also help to enhance the leadership position of 3M in comparison of the other companies in the industry. To reduce the weakness of the supply of raw material, the management of the company can make the strategic decision to acquire the firms, which are engaged in the supply of raw material. It will also help to reduce the cost of the company as well as will increase the effectiveness of the business operations. The company can also achieve its business mission and objectives. The company should use the following strategies according to its internal and external strengths –
Offensive Strategic planning
Defensive strategic planning
Strategic analysis is really critical for any organization. It aims at evaluating the effectiveness of the strategy of the company in the attainment of the main objectives. Here, we have done the strategic analysis of 3M. Strategic analysis conducts the major function of keeping the firm on the right track and assuring that the strategy is creating the desired results. 3M shares technological, marketing and manufacturing resources.
It offers several innovative products and services to its customers. The strategic analysis includes the analysis of the strategies, strategic issues and analysis of the internal and external environments of the organization; also the strategic planning and decision making. The strategic analysis of an organization (in this case – 3M) includes the assessment of various factors that have been explained below.
Strategic Decision Making Process
The strategic decisions are very crucial to any business organization and they are the most tough to deal with. They are directly related to the growth of the organization and thus, they have a long term focus. They pertain to the relation between the organization and environment and therefore, are concerned with the external issues facing the firm. Strategic decision making is a very complicated task. Firstly, the set of problems in decision making is associated with objective setting. Then, the identification of the alternative choices is to be made and it is a quite difficult task in itself. Finally, the best alternative is selected out of the available alternatives.
An example of a strategic decision for 3M is explained here. The company was facing the increased competition with the new companies and to fulfill the increasing demand of the innovative products and services for its customers, it entered into a joint venture with South wire to produce 3M™ Aluminum Conductor Composite Reinforced – ACCR (3M). The resulting new product will satisfy the needs and demands of the customers in different areas and will give an edge to the company to enhance its market share.
3M carries out the Product Development so well, that they are regarded as the ‘benchmarks’ of excellent Product Development practices. The new product development teams have wide-ranging freedom and exceptionally challenging goals. However, these goals do not include the scope, schedule and cost. At every appraisal, the central hurdle faced by the team is demonstrating that the planned product has a superior margin potential. 3M gets 100’s of high margin new products annually due to the fact that the decision making of the Senior Management focuses the teams on the broad strategic aim (Reflections on Development).
Introduction of new and innovative products
0.8 mm Cable Assemblies
For example, one of the strategic decisions made by the firm is that of the cabling solutions. 3M Electronic Solutions Division at present provides creative cabling solutions for those, using the high-performance digital camera applications. The High Speed 0.8 mm Cable Assemblies for Power over Camera Link from 3M is grounded on the PoCL base arrangement for the applications of the machine vision. An extensive variety of interface solutions are offered by the 3M family of 0.8 mm cable assemblies for the Camera Link functions (3M Offers Wide Range of Power over Camera Link Cabling Solutions for Machine Vision Applications).
In order to make the outdoor wire connecting faster, 3M introduced a new connector. This connector strips, connects and seals wire in just a single step. The 3M™ Scotchlok™ Moisture Guard Connector fits the denser insulating material employed in the irrigation controls. The wires ranging between 20-12AWG will be handled by the 3M Scotchlok Moisture Guard Connector and it is made for the purpose of the applications of commercial and residential irrigation and landscape lighting (3M News – 3M Moisture Guard Connector Provides Quick and Easy Moisture-Resistant Connection).
Strategic planning offers the firm with an easily discernable, clear cut, objective-strategy design, which consequently gives the organization the desired directions. The objective strategy design of the company, in fact, results in a blueprint for the actions of the Management. They consist of the growth objectives, product market scope and competitive advantage of the company (Ryall & Craig).
Objectives of 3M
The company desires to achieve long term growth through the fulfillment of its chief objectives. It seeks growth through the attainment of its chief objectives. It wants to achieve increased competitiveness and faster growth in future by penetrating further in the global markets of the developing nations, where there is a lot of potential to be explored.
The key objectives of the company take in the following:
Manage the environmental footprint.
Preserving a safe and healthy place of work.
Establish solutions that tackle the social, as well as, environmental challenges for its customers.
Promising the suitable management of any of the issues concerning health and safety that may affect the customers, neighbors and the public by large.
Fulfilling the needs of its customers by offering a superior quality and value.
Ensuring that its products are safe for their planned use by means of their whole life cycle.
Carry out its business with the uncompromising reliability and honesty.
Giving a flexible and supportive environment of work.
Backing the local needs and education in the areas where the employees of the company live and work.
Give an adequate return to the investors.
The competitive advantage of 3M is that it is diversified across so many areas and industries. The Industrial and Transportation segment of 3M is the biggest of all divisions and it yields about 30% revenue for the company. The core strength of 3M is that more than 40 of its different technology platforms are applied frequently in combination to a broad range of the needs of the customer.
Product market scope of 3M
The company’s product market scope is really extensive. It has its operations, all over the world including the countries like the United States, Canada, Asia (India, China), Europe, Middle East and Africa. It serves its customers by means of a diversified portfolio of products and services that consist of six business segments Consumer and Office Business, Display and Graphics Business, Electro and Communications Business, Health Care Business, Industrial and Transportation Business and Safety, Security and Protection Services Business.
Recession Survival Strategies
There are a few major factors that have the greatest influence on the capability of the firm to come up as firmly through the period of recession. 3M also frames such strategies through which it can cope up with the ongoing recession (Changing the Game: Recession Survival Strategies). 3M has done it by the following activities:
Concentrate on the core business – It allots the resources on the core business, where they are most required. This generates opportunities for acquiring the market share from the competitors, who can diversify and divide the focus.
Process and efficiency – Since, sustaining the speed and efficiency is extremely critical in implementing the recession strategies, the company has been doing so, by means of new and innovative products and faster and better services.
Strategic divestment – Many organizations have been dropping the non-core operations to enhance the liquidity and focus on the basic strategy. The non -core activities split the greatly required resources and focus. 3M also adopted this policy and have been successful in utilizing its resources in an effective manner.
Contingency planning – In order to be prepared for the contingencies in future, effective planning is important. Planning should either be careful structuring of the business or formal scenario planning so that, the resilience could be maximized.
Acquisitions and strategic alliances – Acquisitions and strategic alliances are another significant way of dealing with the recessionary phases of the economy. 3M have entered into a joint venture with a company, in order to meet the demand of innovative services and face the tough competition. It assists the organization in strengthening, re-focusing and positioning it to attain improved profitability and growth. The entry price for acquisition will probably be lower and less competition exists for the targets of acquisition. The companies should also make acquisitions to reach new products, customers, markets, technologies and talent at an increased speed.
Better advertising and marketing – This is important for enhancing the market share and taking the advantage of the superior advertising reach, probably at more competitive rates. 3M also followed superior advertising and marketing tactics to improve its position and the overall share in the market.
Research and development – Research and development will be useful in creating innovative value in the fundamental products or services of the firm that can affect the recessionary consumers since, trading is more competitive.
Many other successful businesses also aimed at enhanced effectiveness and took out the operational slack in the periods of recession. At Cisco, the roles and responsibilities were designed again for making the coordination across the functions and reducing the duplicity of effort. And at 3M, the Management introduced the Six Sigma™ cost cutting techniques in this time of recession. This facilitated the product development through the reduction of defects and errors.
They rationalized and updated the needed labor for the manufacture of the new products and along with this; they also enhanced the value through the engineering quality and decreasing the manufacturing cycle time. It is observed by several experts that the driving factor for the growth of 3M has been the better efficiency of 3M, that came out as a result of the cost cutting methods (Changing the Game: Recession Survival Strategies).
Strategic Positioning of 3M
The strategic positioning of an organization shows that where does it stands in the industry and the market as a whole. The company has a strong position in the market and it divides and segments its customers in a way that they are accessible in different ways by focusing on a specific area or offering a service on the Web.
3M is amongst the leading and most innovative, as well as, diversified organizations in the United States. It is a leader in research and development and makes products for several diverse markets. The diversity has been increasing rapidly in an exponential manner since the last 60 years. After 20 years of its foundation, the business of 3M was moderately simple. In the early 1920s, the company made a line of sandpapers, which was marketed to various major industries, like the automotive and furniture. The competitors of 3M provided same products and sold them to the similar consumers. During that time span, the strategy of 3M was straight; i.e.; to manufacture quality product at a reasonable price and sell it in an aggressive way.
Current strategic posture
Strategic posture is the alignment of the design components with its corresponding strategies and with each other. The strategy and the organization, both, are important and they develop at the same time, in a rather ratcheting manner. It means that, as there is an improvement in the planning of the organization, there is an improvement in the strategies; and as a result, the organization tries to improve so that, it can support these strategies in a more effective manner. This gives out better planning, further (Chapter 6 – Strategy and Strategic Posture).
Strategic Focus – 3M
The strategic focus reflects the areas, where a firm needs to concentrate and devote its resources, so that, it can strengthen its position in the industry. The current strategic focus of the company mainly consists of four key aspects.
Developing the present core business;
Enhancing the investments in the international opportunities in a considerable manner;
Setting up new business through the Emerging Business Opportunities;
Undertaking the complementary acquisitions for supporting the core business, as well as, expansion in the adjoining markets.
By focusing on these areas, 3M can take the advantage of the existing situation and its businesses and explore the opportunities for further development in the future, as well.
The design strategies of the company are in alignment with the chief objectives of 3M. The strategic initiatives (to accomplish the strategies and meet the objectives), have been clearly stated. The mission is to be considered significantly, while framing a strategy for the organization and 3M also does it. It also prepares its annual implementation plan for the successful and timely execution of its strategies. This assists 3M in accomplishing its objectives and goals. Furthermore, its strategies are aligned with the external environment.
In order to sustain its competitiveness in the market and cope up with the new companies and innovation in the industry, 3M should be following a strategy of pursuing its mission and vision and keep on the greatest percentage of the revenues coming from the new product annually. Moreover, it must also evaluate its acquisitions on the yearly and half yearly basis for ascertaining the profitability of the businesses. This will facilitate the power within the other diversified companies.
In addition to the above mentioned alternatives, it ought to shut down any of its businesses or sell them to earn revenue, if they are found unprofitable. The mission statement of 3M is to solve the unsolved problems in an innovative way. Besides, 3M should also take care that in future, if any acquisition is made, it should involve a small technology company, that fits with the standards and practices of the organization and enable future growth and profitability for 3M.
It should continue its innovation and new products development strategies to preserve and maintain its position in the market. For this, it can spend more on the research and development activities. Research facilitates the development of the new products and gives an overview of a new proposal. It provides an idea about the effectiveness of the new technology or product that is intended to bring about an increase in the revenues and enhance the competitiveness of the corporation.
There are always some risks linked with the proposed alternative solutions for resolving a problem. Since, risk and return go hand in hand, this is bound to happen. The associated risks with an acquisition are that of the high cost involved with it and the expected benefits arising from the alliance or merger. If the organization does not receive the anticipated benefits from the merger, it will not be fruitful for it and its future objectives of growth, profits and high market share.
In addition to it, the assessment of the acquisitions would demand adequate cost, time and effort. Again, the increased expenditure on research and development does not necessarily assure that the company will get the best results out of the research and development. It also involves a heavy cost, which can not be withdrawn later on. So, this decision also includes some risk that the new technology or product might not be successful.
There are various issues, which are faced by the organization in its strategic decision making and strategic planning. The continuous research and development and use of new technologies & machines are creating some issues for the organization. The most common issues which are faced by the organization in the current situation are the environmental issues. In the current business operation, the company is using various types of chemicals and machines, which causes the emission of gases and polluted water. It also causes air pollution and water pollution in the country. According the United State Environmental Protection Agency, 3M produces 4.75 million pound of air pollution every year. This emission of the gas is causing problems for the organization as it is creating some litigating issues for the company management. The company 3M is also facing some of regulatory issues because of its environmental pollution activities.
3M is also facing other issues than regulatory issues such as community interaction, performance of environment and management system. The deficiencies in the management system affect the economical performance of the company. The inappropriate management system reduces the effectiveness of the organization and its operations. The community is also facing the issues related to its large technology and R&D department. It is because of the focus of the department.
The main focus of the department is on the product innovation or the use of new technologies in its products and services to provide new and innovative products. But in this process, the company is not looking towards the customers’ requirements and the market acceptance for the innovative products and services of 3M. The continuous success of the healthcare business of the company is also causing the requirement of a broad pipeline of the significant investment and new drugs for the industry. It is also causing the problem for 3M. The other current issues, which the company is facing, are the balancing between the commitment to shareholders and the responsibility towards the community. The company has a commitment to its shareholders to provide them significant return on their investment, while at the same time it also has social responsibility of providing appropriate products and services at reasonable prices. But the company is facing this issue very efficiently as it believes in the growth of the organization through the growth of people (3M Businesses).
To face these issues, the management of the company is involved continuously in the product innovation and the international exposure of the business. To get more international exposure, the company is involved in the strategic decision related to the joint ventures or acquisitions. The continuous involvement in joint ventures and acquisitions are creating international leadership in the industry. The continuous innovation in the product and services is causing an increase in the international entrepreneurship position of 3M. In this product of innovation process, the company has launched various products and currently it has launched a wide range of power for machine vision application.
The continuous offering of the innovative products and services are causing an increase in the international entrepreneurship. The electronic solutions division of the company offers various types of innovative solutions to the market. These innovative solutions includes cable and supported assemblies, static control products etc. This department also helps to achieve international leadership in the entrepreneurship or in the innovation of the new products.
To face the environmental issues, the management of 3M can use various strategies. The management of the company should build an ethical environment in the culture of the 3M business. The environmental issues should be recognized at the corporate level in 3M to fulfill its corporate responsibilities. The Environmental Foundation Act in the company should be established as the basic principle. It will help to face the environmental issues and will also help to enhance the effectiveness of the business operations (3M Businesses).
The company should produce its products and services according to the needs of the customers and also with the respect of the physical environment. 3M should also encourage its employees to take initiative for more innovative products, which will help to reduce the wastage and cost for the company. The management of the company should also be highly committed for the environmental and health safety. The company can also use other strategies to face the environmental issues such as solving of the environmental and conservation problems, prevention of the pollution at source, development of environmental friendly products and conservation of the natural resources. These strategies will help to reduce the environmental pollution (Gottlieb, pg. 394-398).
To face the managerial issues, the management of the company should design the appropriate management solutions, which enhance the delivery of the information. It will help to enhance the strategic decision making process much better and faster. It will also help to face various management challenges, which the company is facing in the current environment. It should also implement the policies for the secure data management, document authentication, and policy & workflow integration. It will help to solve some particular managerial issues and will also enhance the unique situation of the company.
To face the issues of the customer interaction, the management should implement an appropriate customer relationship management program in the organization. The customer relationship program will enhance the interaction with the customers and will also enhance the product innovation process. In the current environment, the management is more concerned about the product innovation rather than the market acceptance of the products. The implementation of the customer relationship program will help to enhance the effectiveness in the strategic planning process for the product innovation.
Through this program the research and development department of the company can identify the needs of the customers easily. It will help to enhance the market acceptance of the product. It will also cause lesser failures of the products and services because of the increase in the market acceptance of the products and services. An increase in the communication with the customers also provides more opportunities to the company to make or develop innovative solutions for the customers. It will also boost the revenue and the market share of the company.
The company can also achieve the competitive advantages by using these strategies as these strategies will help to make the effective decision making. The competitive advantage will cause an increase in the market share in comparison of the competitors. It will affect the competitors’ position in the industry. These strategies will also enable the management to fulfill the social responsibilities of business to achieve its objectives. The improved management system, ethical environment culture, customer relationship program should be implemented as the basic principles of the company to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency in fulfilling the responsibility towards the community and customers.
Through the paper, we have illustrated the strategic analysis of an organization. The organization we have chosen is 3M. It is a big multinational company operating in several nations. In order to clearly and completely explain about the strategies and their relevance, we have given information about the strategic posture of the firm, strategic decision making and the strategic planning process of the company. The strategic positioning of the company shows that it has a large market presence and is trying to handle the recessionary stages of the economy.
For this also, it has been pursing various strategies and it has been able to cope up with it successfully. In order to clearly show the suitability of its strategies with the environment, we have also provided an exhaustive SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the corporation. Besides, various strategic issues facing the company have also been explained and the recommendations to solve these issues and to execute effective strategies too have been provided.
Therefore, overall, the strategic decision making process and the strategies adopted at 3M to fulfill its organizational objectives in a successful manner have been reflected in this paper. Through this paper, the importance of a strategy in an organization can be easily seen and its use in accomplishing the objectives is also illustrated. The strategic focus of 3M is directly related to its mission and vision and helps in achieving the strategic objectives and goals.
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