Obtaining the Strategic Edge: Competitive Advantage for the Future

Strategy from everyoneAchieving business success in any economic scenario can be a daunting task.

The task becomes a little easier when each activity, function, and team is aligned with the long-term business strategy.

When conducting our research projects and seminars, we operate under a simple premise: each manager has to think and act like a CEO for his or her piece of the organization’s value chain and be their own strategic leader.

We refer to this concept as “managing the business within the business.”

In short, we believe that every manager at every level must be thinking about their strategic contribution to the business.  They must also be accountable for creating a strategic direction that links to and supports the organization as it evolves.  Preparing each function and activity for the future is how managers can contribute to and align with the firm’s overarching plan to win in the marketplace.

Firms create a powerful competitive advantage when all of the business’ activities and functions fit, link, and align with the larger business. The alternative is both ineffective and harmful to the firm: a bundle of silos, individual business activities that are not galvanized into one unified body marching toward the goals and changes that lie ahead.

Think of it this way: if the parent corporation has a strategy, and each business unit has a strategy, and if the marketing department has a strategy for products being offered, then why shouldn’t each function, team, or project be responsible for producing a proactive strategy as well?

Having individual strategies working in concert throughout the business adds significant value to the business, helping it grow, innovate, become more internally efficient, deal with competitive threats, or serve the customer better than the competition.

For 25 years, the academic experts have been saying that highly successful businesses must either have differentiated product/service offerings or they must perform the same operational activities, processes, and tasks differently than their competitors.  This means that each functional area must constantly be searching for both best practices and next practices in order to create a compelling value proposition and build sustainable competitive advantage.

This strategic edge will come not only from senior management but from middle management and individual contributors on the front lines where the competitive war is being waged.

We think strategy should move fluidly in both directions, filtering down from the top as well as up from the bottom.  In essence, strategy is everyone’s job.  Everyone has to understand the business strategy, contribute new ideas, and actually formulate and execute strategy in a practical way at the functional level.

When all of the strategy pieces come together, a firm can create a different experience or a more cost-effective solution for the customer, thus enabling the firm to invest in research and development, reward shareholders and employees, or charge less for the same product or service being offered by its competitors.

Watching people create and execute strategy at the very heart of the business is actually pretty exciting.  As people use their strategic thinking skills, they become more engaged in the roles they perform and understand in a deeper way how what they do matters to the business.

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About the Author

Steven Stowell, Ph.D.

Dr. Steven J. Stowell is the Founder and President of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc. CMOE was created in 1978 for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and create strategic competitiveness. Steve’s special interests lie in helping leaders and organizations transform into high-performance cultures that are focused on long-term, sustained growth. Steve began his career working in the energy industry. During the past 30 years, Steve has consulted with both small and large corporations, government agencies, school systems, and non-profit organizations in 35 different countries. Steve enjoys the challenges of • Helping functional organizations define, create, and execute strategy in order to differentiate the business. • Developing and designing creative and innovative learning experiences, simulations, and keynote presentations. • Helping functions across the organization be more effective and aligned in executing long-term plans. The centerpiece of Steve’s consulting, learning, and executive coaching work is his advocacy of applied research and data collection. Steve is a highly effective presenter and facilitator and enjoys creating customized solutions, assisting senior teams, defining strategic direction from the individual level to the corporate and business-unit level, and improving teams that are faced with important challenges and issues.