Guardian Membership strategy

Screen shot 2014-03-28 at 10.18.08The Guardian used to be the seventh biggest newspaper in the UK.

Today it has become the third most read newspaper website in the world.

It has achieved this remarkable transformation by doing something that is complete anathema to the old paradigms for “how to run a successful newspaper”: it gives its content away for free.

But if we apply the thinking of The Escher Cycle, we can easily understand why this makes sense.

Deputy chief executive of Guardian News & Media, David Pemsel, recently gave a short speech outlining the organisation’s strategy. It contains a number of elements that resonate with The Escher Cycle.

The simplest of these is shown in the screenshot on the right. It is the ‘Customer Chain’.

Guardian News & Media now thinks about their readers in terms of ‘membership’.

Their strategy is to “Grow, Deepen, and Retain” that membership.

In David Pemsel’s own words, managing Membership “is all about how do we take the huge global reach, translate that into data [about who each reader is, what they are interested in], and how we then create communities of interest where we can then either make more money or start to create deeper relationships with our readers.” (This role will be headed by David Magliano, as MD for membership strategies.)

In Escher Cycle terms this is a classic ‘Customer Chain’.

Customers/Members move from not knowing about the paper, to becoming aware, liking, and trialling the newspaper’s content (‘fickle’ customers). As the relationship deepens, so the Guardian finds it useful to think in terms of two classes of ‘Loyal’ customers: ‘members’ and ‘advocates’.

Here is how the chain works for The Guardian:

  1. First, the free content brings the company what it refers to as ‘Reach‘. The result for the Guardian is that the maximum number of readers get to try out the newspaper, get to know its style, and decide whether they like it.
  2. Accessibility on any device lets readers share the stories they like, which brings what the Guardian refers to as ‘Referral’, which again increases reach (at low marginal cost to the Guardian).
  3. As the members come to Know and Like the paper they start to sign in, and become what The Escher Cycle calls ‘fickle’ customers.
  4. The Guardian learns more about them and guides them to become Loyal Members, either with existing content, or by developing new content specifically for them.
  5. For the deeply loyal readership, the company creates ‘Communities of Interest’, comprised of people who are not so much ‘readers’ of the paper, but rather ‘Members’ of the global community who share the same kind of thinking as the newspaper.
  6. The truly loyal customers become ‘advocates’ of the paper — an unpaid salesforce, if you like, but also the core ‘membership’ that the Guardian serves.
    The deep role of management at Guardian News & Media is now to ‘curate’ that membership — but that’s another story.

Unaware, Aware, Know and Like, Fickle Customer, Loyal Customer (stage 1 and 2) — these are the links along The Customer Chain that are defined by The Escher Cycle (chapter 2).

And here is how they map on to the Guardian’s own slide of that chain:

Guardian Membership Chain


IBM: Leadership as ‘guided serendipity’

Adam CutlerAs the pace of business life accelerates, so we expect managers to shift from focusing on control (which becomes impossible) to facilitation: to switch from focusing on outcomes to focusing on the processes that create those outcomes.

We’d expect those shifts to appear first in the parts of the business that face directly on to the outside world, namely design, marketing, and sales.

This short article by Adam Cutler, design studio director at IBM, describes the steps he is taking to revitalise that company’s design approach.

He talks about optimising “for possibilities rather than outcomes.”

He designs a circulatory flow “to create a self-sustaining culture of curiosity and collaboration that feeds itself by mobilising thoughts, ideas and possibilities… The recursive effect through the studio helps spread ideas that, in turn, influence the quality of everyone’s work.”

The Escher Cycle is all about focusing on the fundamental processes that create the key outcomes for any business. The process Adam describes is very much in line with the AUDIO cycle, described in Chapter 6.

You can read more about his story here.

A blueprint for winning any game your business chooses to play

The Escher Cycle delivers lean, powerful tools for tackling the activities that matter. The result is a compelling, holistic framework for transforming your business, starting with the priorities you face today.

The Escher Cycle reveals a ‘unified theory’ of seven key activities that underly all business success. It shows how they fit together to form a living system.

The book provides lean, effective tools that help you apply the thinking directly to your business.

Each tool is lean, scalable, and focused on the essentials. It enables you to efficiently address the key strategic issues you face today, whilst building towards an enduring, holistic business model for the future.

And as one reviewer put it, “The Escher Cycle weaves powerful tools for building competitive advantage into a compelling, holistic framework. It offers a blueprint for winning any game your business chooses to play.”

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Describes business as a living system

When you learn to manage your business as a living system, you create an organisation that is inherently able to adapt, evolve, survive and thrive in a changing landscape.

The Escher Cycle uncovers a ‘unified theory’ of seven key activities that drive all business success.

These activities interact with one other and with the outside business environment.

The result is what scientists call a ‘complex adaptive system’:

  • It is ‘complex’ because outcomes cannot always be predicted
  • It is ‘adaptive’ because it changes over time, and
  • It is a ‘system’ because the parts are interconnected and work together as a whole.

Essentially, this means a business is a living system. Its separate parts work together, just like the body of an animal.

The Escher Cycle reveals and describes that system, and shows how to lead and manage it as a living (or ‘complex adaptive’) system.

In a fast-changing world this becomes the perfect recipe for success.

Switching the focus of leadership in this way frees up the organisation to adapt, evolve, survive and thrive — just like a living organism in a changing landscape.

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A unified theory of business

By identifying the seven key activities essential to the success of any organisation, The Escher Cycle shows you where to focus for maximum impact.

This increases the effectiveness of your actions.

Unified TheoryThe Escher Cycle starts out by asking one very  simple question:

“What is the least a business needs to do to be successful?”

The answers reveal seven core activities that bring maximum return for minimum effort. The strategic success of any organisation is driven by its operational performance at these activities.

Each activity is clearly explained, from the relatively straightforward ‘Satisfy Customer Needs’ to the more complex ‘Escher Cycle’. Technologies and markets, products and services may vary but these seven essential activities remain unchanged.

Because they apply to all businesses, these fundamental activities together form a ‘unified theory of business’. This can be applied to any situation, in the same way that the theory of gravity allows you to explain and manage the fall of an apple, the fall of a cannon ball, or the orbit of a planet around the sun.

But in this case, the result has been called “a blueprint for winning any game your business chooses to play.”

Applying The Escher Cycle will improve your leadership and organisation performance in three very practical ways:

  1. It shows the critical areas where you need to focus your attention, freeing up time from unimportant tasks and telling you the right questions to ask
  2. It shows clearly the outcomes you need to create
  3. It provides focus and tools to know where and how to apply your limited resources for maximum impact.

As one reader put it, “If I’d achieved the perspective this book gave me earlier, it would have saved me a year of development and given me a year of sales.”

You can buy The Escher Cycle here.

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