Human Resources

Does Your Organization Have Good Maneuvering Skills?

Industries and markets are constantly (and rapidly) evolving, and to survive, your organization must be maneuverable. How can you develop such skills in your workforce? We have insight on this from Jeffrey Phillips and Alex Verjovsky, authors of the book OUTMANEUVER: OutThink, don’t OutSpend.

You’ve heard the saying, “fighting the last war.” It refers to preparing to compete using familiar techniques against competitors you’ve faced before in the same markets or industries, only to discover that the rules have changed. Modern business competition is changing rapidly, and to compete effectively, you need to understand the skills that are required to win.

For the last few decades, most companies have met their competition in a head to head, feature to feature battle that creates a significant amount of “me too” products with little differentiation other than price. This lack of differentiation leads to commoditization. In these market battles, everyone eventually loses because quality, customer service, and margins fall.

The feature-to-feature competition is called “attrition,” and it’s adopted from the military, where the goal is to overwhelm and defeat a competitor regardless of the cost. But attrition relies on size, deep pockets, and slowly evolving markets in order to succeed. Increasingly, that’s not the competitive landscape most companies are facing.

Instead, what we see now is a demand for more speed, more agility, and more innovation because the competitive landscape is shifting. This maneuver strategy seeks to win by building competitive insights, taking valuable positions before competitors recognize them, and attacking competitors in areas of recognized weakness. Maneuver seeks to win the most at the least possible cost, understanding that slow and steady no longer wins the race.

Rupert Murdoch said recently that the victory no longer goes to the large over the small, but to the fast over the slow. Large, bureaucratic companies are slow to move and slow to change. They don’t compete based on strategic insight, speed, or agility.

Instead, they hope to slowly wear down their opponents, gradually forcing them over a market or segment after a long struggle. When markets were more stable, when consumers were less demanding, when it was more difficult to enter a market as a new competitor, this strategy made sense. It doesn’t any longer.

Shifting market demands requires more speed and agility. Consumers demand new products spawned from innovation. Rather than consider these factors in isolation, maneuvering provides a rationale to think strategically about speed, agility, and innovation. Thinking isn’t enough, however.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, Phillips and Verjovsky further discuss maneuverability, including some specific skills and capabilities necessary for strategy.