Usually this column has a personal focus when it comes to discussing performance
This month, however, I want to address “performance improvement” from
an overall corporate perspective. For clarity, let’s use a
new label – I suggest Competitive Advantage. Every activity
within a company should be evaluated based on whether or not it adds
competitive advantage. If it does not, serious questions should be
raised about why it is being done.
There are three critical questions every CEO,
every leader, must ask about their organization. These three questions
will drive your
organization to that most illusive of goals – profitable competitive
1) What don’t I know?
I’ve hit an age where one begins to think much more about
health. I feel great, run four miles a day, take my supplements – no
presenting problems at all. But I started to wonder, “What
don’t I know?” So I went to one of those clinics that
do MRI body scans because what I didn’t know could kill me.
Got some brutal news for you – what you don’t know could
kill your company too! Every CEO likes to think that they have a
totally informed grip on all that’s going on in the company.
Got more news – you don’t.
Please, that’s not at all a negative comment on your leadership
skills; it’s a comment on the way human systems work. We’d
all like to think that our employees will freely risk their careers
to communicate difficult news to those who need to hear it. Yup,
we’d all like to think that. Time to get real!
On top of that, our organizations are just
too complex to know and understand the competitive implications
of every component. What
don’t you know about the $2 million software package your IT
guy wants you to buy? What don’t you know about which products/services
are actually profitable? What don’t you know about your supply
chain that may be hemorrhaging revenue faster than you can earn it?
It only takes one critical thing that you don’t know about
to bring the whole ship down. The first step – to not only
competitive supremacy, but to your peace of mind – is knowing
what you don’t know.
2) What do we need to do right now?
Based on your new level of knowing, decisions need to be made as
to what you need to do right now to move the company significantly
toward profitable competitive supremacy.
This is not as straight forward as it first
seems. The first move, if necessary, is to “Stop the bleeding!” If you discover
that some activity is decimating your profitability then you’ve
not much choice but to pull the plug until you have the chance to
reassess its value.
Beyond that it is a matter of prioritizing
necessary changes. Trouble is that what is a high priority depends
on who you ask. This is where
a wise third party can be most helpful because they have no interest
but your overall competitive advantage. Make sure this third party
isn’t in bed with certain vendors, however, or they can do
more damage than good.
“Prioritizing” isn’t a matter
of what is most important. Prioritize in a way that gives you the
most leverage toward
competitive supremacy. Is it better to spend the money on reorganizing
and automating your Distribution Center or to spend it on doubling
the sales force? Which will give you the most leverage? Which puts
you in a better position to make the next decision?
Finally, one important aspect that is usually
overlooked is something called ROI. It is beyond me why companies
do not calculate the return
on investment before they make the investment! It is absolutely possible
to do so. Something could be a pet project, have new bells and whistles,
and maybe even draw headlines – but if it doesn’t bring
added profitable competitive advantage why on earth would you do
3) What’s coming next?
Most of us would give almost anything just
to feel ‘caught-up’ with
the current situation, let alone get ahead of the game.
In every industry, those who lead are those
who see what’s
coming just a little faster than others. Everyone else runs around
playing ‘me too’ and looking for ‘best practice’ because
they can’t figure things out for themselves.
This is where leadership activities like competitive intelligence
and market signaling come into play. Unfortunately most companies
get their competitive intelligence from the newspaper, which means
it is already too late.
Not only should you know as much about the
competitive plans of your competitors as you know about your own,
you need to build in
a ‘brain trust’ component as well.
Every leader complains: “I don’t have time to think!” Who
on earth would follow a leader who doesn’t have time to think?
Build into your leadership activities a scheduled time where the
best minds in your company sit around and creatively talk about things
that haven’t happened yet, about things that aren’t real,
If all your leadership meetings focus on solving
problems – you will spend your life in last month! Meanwhile
your competitors are focusing on tomorrow’s market.
Let these three questions be the framework for your leadership decisions and
you will be well on the way to profitable competitive supremacy!
Ian Percy is an international speaker and consultant and can be reached at
The following quotation must be printed at the conclusion of
each reprinted article:
"Copyright The Ian Percy Corporation." Ian Percy is one of North America's
most inspirational speakers.
Bureaus & Planners |
Ian | Newsletter | About
Photos | Client
List | Programs | Articles |
Deals | Links | Contact
Us | Home
©MMVI Ian Percy Corporation
11558 E. Buckskin Tr.,
Scottsdale AZ 85255