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Often strategy sessions spend time answering the question: "What business are we in?"; but this question is not as important as another one: "What are we good at?"
Few businesses answer that question, because few think to ask it.
Indeed we are so used to asking the first question, that even those who ask the second question often twist it into "What are we good at being?", and we come back to the answer for the first question - consultants, architects, industrial psychologists, coffee shop operators, whatever.
The answer - "We are a consulting firm"; is a trap. It traps you into doing what others do, saying what others say, and offering what others offer. It traps you into being the same instead of finding ways to be different.
Federal Express asked itself that in the 1980s when it realised it should diversify its portfolio. But what is Federal Express good at? The industry mental model would lead you to answer, "They're good at overnight delivery"; or "fast package delivery." This model would lead you to answer the question with a mere description of the business.
But Federal Express realised that what it was astonishingly good at - as good, perhaps, as history's great armies - is logistics. Federal Express is brilliant at procuring, distributing, and replacing materials. Recognising this, the company established a consultancy that advises companies on logistical management.
For years, accounting firms decided they were good at accounting. But Arthur Anderson realised that in becoming skilled at modern accounting, it had become adept at understanding the information systems that push the numbers through companies. So the firm established what has become a well regarded information management consulting practice.
For years, most advertising agencies decided they were good at advertising. Since many agencies have recognised that what they are good at is interesting and persuasive communicating, more have expanded their services to include public relations, sales promotion, and even presentation and speech consulting.
When I think about this for my self, I get a totally different answer from what's on my business card. My business card says: "Bruce is a change agent. He helps large organisations become more focused, fast and flexible.". However, the answer to: "What am I good at?" is: "I have a gift for helping groups of people to see what's really important in their business, to put their horsepower where it matters, and as a result, to move with more confidence, energy and speed."
Your opportunities for growth often lie in being different, not offering what others offer, but first you need to know what you are good at and make sure that this is where you build your business.
While this Strategic Snippet has focused at the level of the organisation, it applies equally well at the level of the individual. So even if you aren't in a position to build your organisation to capture what it is good at, please make sure you build yourself to capture what you are good at.
For more details and how you can benefit, click on: http://www.virtual.co.nz/PDFs/StrategyWorkshops.pdf
Very best wishes.
Helps large organisations be focussed, fast and flexible. Places where people have more meaning, depth and connection.
Expert in Strategy, Structure, Culture and Leadership Development.
One of NZ's most experienced change agents.