Organisations playing hare and tortoise at the same time

Organisations playing hare and tortoise at the same time
– by Matt English

The story of the hare and tortoise is one that is most enduring. How many times have we heard or used the term “slow and steady wins the race”.

But organisations today face a very complex arena regarding how and where they compete. Their race is set in the context of rapid and constant change, and in a world where global business dynamics are shifting.

This environment challenges the capabilities of organisations to deliver value. Historically, solid foundational capabilities such as accounting, marketing, finance and so on were seen as the keys to success for executives. Whilst these capabilities are still very necessary, they are not sufficient in today’s environment where agility, flexibility and responsiveness are crucial.

Hence, successful organisations today rely on a blend of capabilities of people across three areas of excellence, namely:

  • Product and service creativity
  • Business processes and
  • Customer delivery.

The real trick is how different organisations blend these in varying ways to be successful in their markets. Large consumer facing organisations such as Apple have a major focus more on creativity and delivery, and have built a distinctive business model to deliver value consistently. These principles are also strongly applicable in industries such as retail and travel.
On the other hand, major business to business organisations such as IBM have a strong focus on business processes to drive global synergies, leverage and skills. That is not to say that the elements of creativity are not important. Rather, it is the mix and emphasis that are different.

Many natural resources organisations show a different mix again depending on where they are in their life cycle. For many, creativity and process are key areas of focus. Take organisations involved in shale oil for instance. Creativity in using new technologies to find and develop opportunities is a crucial set of capabilities to drive future value.

So what are the emerging lessons? There are four that stand out from successful organisations:

  1. Understand the different capabilities needed in the industry, and why they are important for success.
  2. Clearly define the mix of capabilities needed and any gaps that need to be addressed.
  3. Re-shape management development policies and programmes to ensure the right skills are encouraged and developed.
  4. Ensure the measures and rewards are in line with the mix of capabilities.

Back to the hare and tortoise story mentioned at the start. For organisations today, it is not just about one or the other. It is not just speed and flexibility versus slow and steady. Rather, it is about the mixing and blending of capabilities across a wide spectrum of activity. It is about doing both and blending them well for success in the industry.


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