Friday, June 17, 2011

Real Competitive Advantage

Winning companies haven't always been first into the marketplace. They've gotten into the marketplace in a better way. We know people can copy our technology. They can copy our service policies. They can match our performance for on-time delivery, price and quality. What they can't copy is how well your organization works together.

  • Corporate culture: the values and their manifest actions are unique for every corporation. It's the composition of those values with regard to inward focus or outward focus that determine the dynamics of the interactions between people, departments and business units, and the interactions with its customers and suppliers. Is risk and commitment rewarded? Is there a high level of integrity and accountability, as well as a sharing of responsibility? Answers to these questions and others determine the culture of the company.
  • Collaboration or Teamwork: The extent of collaboration cannot be duplicated without the right culture and the right driving forces. It is collaboration that creates smoother operations and interactions for the business processes to work effectively and efficiently. When a customer has a problem, does the service rep only know what the policy book says or do they know the people who can solve the problem for the customer? When engineering wants to verify a process or design change will reduce costs, do they contact production for assistance?
  • Systems Thinking, or Breaking Down the Silos: This is a lot like collaboration but systems thinking is more about planning, realizing that you cannot succeed in a vacuum and that what you do in your own little area affects many people in other areas. Before a change is made, are people assuring that they're not creating more problems for someone else? Are they willing to make the change for the overall success of the organization even though it means difficulty for their department? Are resources focused on corporate priorities rather than departmental priorities?
I've been in organizations where we weren't the lowest cost supplier, but we were the best. Our businesses grew. Why? Because we looked at organizational success as King, we collaborated like crazy and we broke down departmental barriers and these efforts were backed up by the values we expressed and exhibited through our behaviors that we were in this together. We knew we couldn't succeed as individuals; we succeeded as a team and only if our customers were successful too.

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