What’s your approach to understanding your competitiveness?
In most of the businesses we are introduced to we typically find some combination of:
• Product/service differentiation (something that’s invariably hard to do)
• Their understanding of and relationships with their customers and suppliers
• Their awareness of market needs and trends (which is often based solely on the preceding perspective)
• Their prices relative to their competitors
“And what’s wrong with that?” you may ask. Well, bluntly, it’s relevant but not sufficient.
In most areas of business today, it’s increasingly hard to differentiate on these criteria and be sustainably competitive. That’s not to suggest you shouldn’t strive to do so, but to be really competitive in business you have to do much more.
To fully understand your competitiveness, you need to conduct a deep analysis of your business. Examine everything you do, how you do it, why you do it – and even whether you should do it.
This is not just about finding fault and fixing things either – although that’s a good idea! It’s about understanding what you really must do well – whether through people, systems, technology or processes. We’ll look at each of these facets in turn in future posts, starting in this blog with people.
We often see businesses where the focus of performance management is about identifying “strengths” and “weaknesses” (sorry – “areas for improvement”!). Staff and managers are expected to devise and implement “improvement initiatives” based on this kind of evaluation.
That’s all well and good – it has its place BUT….what about what people do well? I mean REALLY well! How about focusing there and aiming to get even better, faster, more efficient, more effective? How about inviting the better performers to coach others (team members, colleagues, bosses) to be as good as them?
We all recognise that, whilst sports people will always seek to fix a serious weakness that blunts their competitiveness, they spend much more of their time practicing what they are already good at. That’s at the heart of their progress to ever greater performances.
In our view – and we have plenty of evidence to support it – it’s the same for competitiveness in business. Understand what you need to do really well to succeed. Then invest in being better at that than all your competitors. That investment will make a bigger contribution to improving and sustaining your competitiveness than you can imagine.