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Competitive Excellence

| On 28, Dec 2007

Michael S. Slocum

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu –


A great idea is never enough. Excellent execution is not enough. In today’s complex business environment, a confluence of expertise must be coordinated in order to assure anything close to victory. A bad idea can be implemented ideally and a great idea can be implemented poorly. Neither will help you win the race to long term survivability. You can also have a great idea that is implemented ideally and still miss the needs of the business. You need the right need identified, you need the right idea that will meet the need, you need the right execution, and on top of all of that, the timing needs to be right.


From this perspective, it is easy to admit that Six Sigma is not enough. There isn’t any single method that is enough. Not yet anyway. Competitive Excellence should change the landscape by presenting a holistic approach for business success that can do all that is asked of it.


“Do not repeat the tactics that have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.” – Sun Tzu


A business must perform across many domains in order to move from concept to commercialization. The initiating event is the identification of a societal need (SN). A societal need is an unmet desire/need that exists in society. It is the prime mover for the development of an idea (product or service related). Identification of an unmet societal need is the critical step in the commercialization of anything. Society wanted to change the television channel without leaving its seat – the remote control was a response to that need. Society did not want to die from small pox – the small pox vaccination was the response. In order for a business to develop a product or service to meet an identified unmet societal need, the need must be converted to a set of customer requirements (CRs). This translation starts to move the business in the direction of an actionable set of criterion. Responding to an unmet societal need must decompose into action like strategy must decompose into work (Drucker). The customer requirements describe the attributes the product or service must possess in order to meet the societal need. The correlation between the SN and the relevant set of CRs describes the quality of the solution. When a product or service is released to the consumer and the CRs are not met, competition is invited into the space. The leverage that competition has is proportional to the number of unmet (or partially met) CRs. The set of CRs must be converted into a corresponding set of functional requirements (FRs). The identified functions identify a language that the product/service developers use to create a concept. The functions are those necessary to meet the CRs that in turn deliver the SN (SN–CRs–FRs). This decomposition decays the strategic need into a set of necessary functions that the system must provide in order to be a viable response to an unmet SN. The FRs are actionable as they are the drivers for concept generation. The identified concept(s) must provide the functions, that then meet the CRs, which satisfy the SN (SN–CRs–FRs–Concept).


While concept generation is not its own domain, it is the critical transition point from need to response. Once a concept has been generated, design parameters (DPs) must be identified that will deliver the functionality inherent in the concept. The DPs are the language necessary for the reduction of a concept to practice. The DPs must correspond to the FRs and this correspondence strength determines, in part, launch success (SN–CRs–FRs–Concept–DPs). The DPs identify the architecture a product or service must represent in order to provide the necessary functions. These functions meet the CRs, which satisfy the societal need. The DPs must be converted into the language of production in order to be manufactured and/or assembled. This is called the process variable domain (PV). The same correspondence should be preserved: SN–CRs–FRs–Concept–DPs–PVs.


Although there is much that takes place in the commercialization process, these five domains categorize the centers of activity appropriately. Therefore, a business needs competency across these domains. The plot continues to thicken though. Just being able to execute a good idea efficiently is no guarantee of continued success. The business needs to identify the ideal state it seeks to attain. It must also assess what its current state is and identify the gap between the two. The business must identify the appropriate path of action to bridge this gap. These larger strategic issues form the backdrop upon which concept commercialization is played. There is also a larger need for an infrastructure able to support multiple methodologies. All of this works together to create a complex need state for an organization. Also, the strategic alignment will provide a polarizing force that will allow the entire organizational resource pool to pull the organization towards the ideal state.


Without a polarizing force, the organization is in a state of Corporate Brownian Motion (CBM). Brownian Motion is (named after Scottish botanist Robert Brown) is the random movement of microscopic particles suspended in liquids or gases resulting from the impact of molecules of the surrounding medium. Corporate Brownian Motion is the phenomenon where members of a corporation do what they think is best for the organization and also react to each others activities. There is no concerted effort to achieve, just effort to do.