Every organization seeks to gain a strategic advantage over their competitors.
However in my experience I find that many of the more common practices used by organizations are actually counterproductive to the intent of achieving an unmatched position in the marketplace — they work against the intent of standing out from everyone else.
These practices are typically followed by most organizations today. I find it somewhat ironic that their stated purpose is to help differentiate the organization from their competitors yet they don’t work — they have the opposite effect.
The very fact that they are followed by the multitude means that they can’t possibly create uniqueness, they create sameness. They serve no strategic driver; they typically are a response to either internal interests — keeping costs down — or with the belief that if the experts — academics or strategy advisors — advocate them, they must surely work.
Copying best in class
Copying others; looking to another organization for new ideas. The copy process is quite simple: find a best in class organization and incorporate what they do into how you do business.The problem is—strategic advantage is achieved by innovating and by being different than the competition. The best practices approach may help improve operational processes but it will never produce strategic benefits. All copying does is increase the size of the herd who does the same thing.
Snubbing the frontline
Treating the frontline as if they were at the bottom of organization. Applying modest recruiting standards. Accepting minimum skill and competency requirements. The problem is—strategic advantage is determined by how well an organization executes, and this is largely in the hands of frontline employees. Treating them as second class citizens encourages them to deliver second class results. On the other hand, honour them and they will catapult any organization ahead of any competitor.
Managing call centers as a cost center. Maximizing throughput and productivity. Rewarding employees who take the most number of calls and spend the least amount of time on each call.The problem is—strategic advantage is achieved by creating memorable experiences for customers; this is rarely achieved by imposing internal productivity constraints on the customer transaction. Rather a WOW! experience happens when the customer is amazed with the outcome of the call.
Treat the call center as a customer loyalty center to create an advantage.
Pursuing mass markets
Searching for opportunities in mass markets. Pushing solutions to as large a market cross section possible. Looking for lowest common denominator solutions that apply to the masses to maximize competitive market share. The problem is—strategic advantage is earned by discovering and satisfying the unique wants and desires of individuals not by flogging products to the masses. It’s gained by maximizing share of wallet not share of market. It’s the result of serving the chosen customer group so they never leave.
Acquiring new customers
Prioritizing new customer acquisition to fuel revenue growth. Trying to gain new customers by enticing them from their current suppliers through special deals and promotional offers – “With every purchase of our internet service you will receive a free flat screen TV.”The problem is—strategic advantage requires a healthy base of existing customers who are loyal and willing to be an active source of new business referrals. Offering deals to new customers while ignoring current ones can lose business and destroy market position.
Honouring the strategy
The strategy doesn’t deliver results; brilliant execution does. Yet so much time and attention is paid to formulating the perfect plan using all of the sophisticated tools available, with the underlying belief and expectation that if the strategy uses the rigour of the state of the art toolbox then it must somehow be right — and get closer to perfection. I have been involved in many a painful planning session where we have tried to squeeze another 10% more accuracy out of our plan to no avail rather than use our time to determine how to implement the imperfect plan that we had created to that point.
Absolute rubbish. Strategic advantage is achieved by organizations that can execute imperfection brilliantly not by the efficacy of their strategic intent.
Take a close look at the portfolio of tactics used in your organization to gain strategic advantage; make sure you’re not fooling yourself.
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