Unleash Change and Innovation

October 19, 2017
Unleash Change and Innovation

"Know Your Competition and Limitations"
from Leapfrogging the Competition
by Mac Anderson and John J. Murphy

Competition can take many forms. It can appear as an external force against you—from another company competing with you for market share, or a new technology offered by another source. It can appear as an internal force against you—fear, doubt, disbelief, ignorance, waste, non-value-added activity, and inefficiency. Competition can even appear in the form of another company that has nothing to do with your industry. Like it or not, your customers compare you to everyone else they do business with. Consciously and subconsciously, they wonder why you can't be Disney friendly, Subway flexible or FedEx fast. If I can click on a link to see where my Domino's pizza or my UPS package is, why can't I click on a link to know where the shipment from your company is? If I have a smart phone, why can't I have a smart garage or a smart stove? If I can pay bills, check into a hotel, board a plane, and buy groceries with a card, why can't I do the same thing with my finger print? It is questions like these that reveal who and what our real competition is. It is any force against us, anything holding us back from really wowing our customers and setting others back to zero.

The word empowerment might be one of the most overused words in business jargon today. Yet, despite its popularity, many struggle to understand what it is really about. Empowerment is not about adding more power, authority, and responsibility to people. It is about subtracting the forces against us—removing obstacles and eliminating the barriers to success. The essence of empowerment is killing obsolete and ineffective policies, meetings, limitations, and reports while engaging people on the front line in authentic kaizen events where real change is made before the event ends. It is about going far beyond outdated, reactive suggestion boxes and open-door policies to proactive blitzes on waste and inefficient value streams.

True empowerment is about helping people realize that they have abundant power and ingenuity within and around them. The key is to get out of your own way and let energy and empowerment flow!

Over the years, many psychological studies suggest that the average human being achieves only 10 to 18 percent of his or her true potential in life. Stop and contemplate this. Talk about a significant amount of waste. Where is the remaining talent and potential going? And why?

Great companies and business leaders are very clear on the various forms of competition. As a result, they are crystal clear on finding ways to attack and eliminate it. Take the Disney organization, for example. Disney's mission is to make people happy. When Disney accomplishes this, their customers become advocates and promoters. This means that not only do they tend to return to Disney, providing more revenue and growth, but they advocate Disney to friends and family. They sell Disney, providing even more revenue and growth!

So how does an organization like Disney do this? How do they continue to leapfrog the competition? They pay attention to the forces against them. They pay attention to the moments of truth, or magic moments, as they like to call them. This translates into "anything and everything that makes people unhappy" since the organization's mission is to make people happy. This is a very different way to think about competition. Yet, it is no different than how many world class athletes, performers, and professionals see it. True competition is often right in front of us and within us and yet we fail to see it. At Disney, this translates into things like litter, long lines, lost cars in the parking lots, lost children in the parks, sunburns, boredom, and rude service–specific things that are within our control. As a result, Disney has "preprogrammed responses" for people who forget where they parked or if they get separated from a child. Disney is renowned for being clean because of its efficient maintenance practices, and rarely do people have to stand in the direct sunlight while being entertained in line.

Stop and ask yourself: What is your mission as a business and what is in your way?

  • While paying attention to the ever-changing market and external competition is critical, do you tend to the forces against you in an immediate way?
  • What is obstructing flow in your business in the following areas—product, service, information, cash, and even people?
  • What is holding you back?
  • What are your limitations, including any limiting beliefs?
  • What assumptions are you making that drive policy, procedure, design, measurement, marketing, compensation, hiring, training, incentive, capability, and competition?
And entrepreneurs, managers, and business owners—beware! Often, it is you who are holding the organization back without even knowing it.

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