Competitiveness or Efficiency

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by: Sigurd Rinde

Sometimes when I hear the term "competitiveness" it hits me as ever so slightly aggressive. Fists flying, brats vying for a position in the front row, a tad macho the whole thing.

But it’s not, it’s about success, delivering great value, being liked, being loved, being human, using a minimum of resources to deliver a maximum of value. Basically it’s all good.

It’s about doing your very best, accepting that the ones not doing their best will be weeded out. That’s life.

Business talks the competitiveness game. But I am a sceptic as I often see that the term is interchangeable with efficiency. I see it in the focus, I see it in the investment choices.

I certainly see it when dabbling in enterprise software!

Of course, efficiency could lead to competitiveness, but with one important caveat; that you are alone having the efficiency gains.

But if you blindly buy the "best practices", install "what your competitor just installed" or invest in almost anything that demands no thinking you’re forgetting something: A must for any strategy is the part that says "how to be different"! Accepting being just another one does not make a strategy.

If you’re about to participate in the Olympic marathon, you’re ready at the start line and off you are: Now the focus is on every step, make each step, every breath as efficient as possible. No time now to do much different from the competition, short cutting is frowned upon and tripping competitors is stuff for funny films only. Your coach is now relocated to the sidelines trusting you to do your best.

But over the last four years your coach has studied what others do, he has developed a training regime different from the others and your running style is now slightly different while well suited to you. That’s the difference that might make you competitive. That’s the strategic preparedness period that gives you a shot at success. Your coach is your board of directors.

Just like it should be in any business decision forum; the board should focus on the strategy and how the business can strengthen it’s different ways.

So why is important board and management time still spent on efficiency? Perhaps the new efficiency tools we’ve seen the last few hundred years have delivered so much? Do we not see that the upward-moving-efficiency-graph has reached a plateau?

And keep in mind, the day you start to focus on "how to be different" you will start to do things differently. And at that point some of the prior investments in efficiency will be moot, so start with the first thing first – strategy.

When at it; "doing things differently" often means making better use of the smartest, most creative resources you have – humans. Your task is to support that, and let them do it, which would include tools and frameworks that are change-enabled.

Hugh calls it "Humanification", while Lee calls it "Free the human battery".

In sum:

– Efficiency is nothing but a daily chore.
– Competitiveness is the important issue and it’s about how to be different.
– Your organisation would love to do things differently, so give them the possibility and let them loose!