Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Think Competition is Hard? Try Cooperation!

And so we continue to debate the purpose of managing systems and computer networks. Tired.

In the process we lose the higher purpose of managing knowledge and social networks. That's right. You would think that the aim of computers is to help people to communicate, not just store the communication. You would think that with all that raw processing power we could spend less time on their speed, volume, and display, and more on the quality of the message.

But if it's true that companies get what they measure: time-to-market, book-to-bill, cost-per-unit, then it's doubly true that they don't get the costs and benefits around competition's kinder, wiser, stepcousin -- cooperation.

Is there any mystery why? Control is lodged in what's processed and calculated in dollars -- not in what people say and think. Cooperation is prefaced on goodwill and better natures. Competition carves up the spoils.

Show me a company that benchmarks:

* How well it fuses its interdepencies
* How cohesively it weaves its systems into one seamless infrastructure
* How closely its supporting functions base that support on forging cross-unit consensus

... and I'll show you an organization that takes its fight outside, closes ranks, and executes on a strategy long after the last re-org was supposed to take effect. I'll show you an organization whose competitive advantages are as plain to the eye as they are invisible to the balance sheet.

Harvard Business Review's current issue couches this approach in decision rights -- a new flavor substitute for delegating responsibility in a way that favors open tables over closed doors.

For most companies execution is as solid and grounded on behalf of its revenues as it is calloused and tone deaf when it comes to petitioning on its own behalf. When the unsatisfied customer is the front office, the back office would rather turn on itself than satisfy a new requirement. Nothing new there.

What the Booz & Co. research team suggests in the HBR piece is that we don’t need to convene task forces, distract executives, fatten overheads, or eat away the clock. We need clear direction on decision rights and information flows:

The single most common attribute of such companies is that their employees are clear about which decisions and actions they are responsible for. As a result, decisions are rarely second-guessed, and accurate competitive information quickly finds its way up the hierarchy and across organizational boundaries.

This is not a choice between marching to academy fight songs or sitting around camp fires. The efficiencies gained and redundancies shed in a cooperative enterprise would hearten the most calculating bean-counter. The connections made would warm the coldest calls. And the resources marshalled could help solidify an otherwise shaky entry into new markets.

Competition intensifying? We're no better equipped to control market forces than we are in containing greenhouse emmissions -- not yet. But we can foster internal cooperation to cool down, and recharge, before we pitch back into the heat of battle. It's not a call to arms. But it is a response to competing more effectively.

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.