“So, after the 6 months Pilot of our ‘Strategic Supply Depot (SSDs)’ project, these are our results:

• No of SSD Units Piloted: 16

• Product Availability: 96% (+8% vs trend)

• Sales Volume: +16%

• Market Share: +2.7%

• Reduction in Distribution Costs: 48%

• Reduction in Head Count: 12

Our results met and surpassed all pre-set go/no-go KPIs. For our Annual Business Plan, we seek approval to establish an additional 100 SSDs”.

This was the summary report on the ‘Strategic Supply Depot (SSDs)’ that my colleague (TA) and I had superintended. Our Boss (JLB) just concluded his presentation to (late) Andrew Davids who was the ‘god’ of Nigerian Bottling Company. He wanted an expansion to 100 units from 16.

Mr. Davids was having palpable orgasmic excitement from what he had just heard. Here was the magic wand he was looking for. It would revolutionalise our distribution, crash distribution costs and reduce head count, while growing availability, sales volume and market share.

Then, he reached for the stars.

“I approve 600!”.

It was not a slip of tongue. He has just given approval for 600% of what we had requested.

Even in the presence of the ‘gods’, we were exuberant and chirpy. We felt vindicated and validated. Our arduous work had not been in vain. Mr. A. A. Davids himself has just given us his seal of approval. It was nirvana.

The SSD Concept was very simple (but, as we will later discover, not that easy to scale). We were going to set up small “Distributors” who would be responsible for ensuring availability of our products in carved out small territories. We will set up and own the SSDs and appoint the Distributors (so that we could fire them, and appoint someone else, if they were not meeting our expectation). Setting up an SSD consisted of getting a good location, negotiating and paying for the land, procuring a container and re-purposing and branding it for our use, appointing the distributor, supplying the products, and providing push carts for manual distribution.

The SSD project had started about 9 months earlier. It had two gargantuan objectives: Crash our Distribution Cost and Expand Numeric Availability. We had exploded both objectives. We were the golden boys.

If only I knew better.

Scaling that pilot was going to turn out to be one of the most difficult assignments that (TA and) I ever handled. Eventually, not only that we did not scale or replicate the initial results, but the project also eventually failed and tapered to an unheralded death about 3 years later.

Our results looked something like:

• No of SSD Units Established: 48% vs Target

• Product Availability: -12% vs trend

• Sales Volume: +16%

• Market Share: -2.5% (we started fighting Nielsen and questioning their sample and methodology)

• Reduction in Distribution Costs: 17% increase

• Reduction in Head Count: negligible.

What went wrong? Why did the SSD project not scale well? Why do most very successful Pilots not age well? Even more, why do they not scale well?

We took time to review that and other ‘Pilots’ that did not scale well and the ones that scaled well. And on the basis of that, today, if a client engages us, we would almost not undertake any project scaling without using our adapted SSRS process/model. You must first Segment, Sequence, Replicate before you Scale.

TO BE CONTINUED (I will address what went wrong with the scaling of the SSD Project and how to scale pilots)

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