Coming up on 20 years without a proper job - or pursuing a career in management consultancy as it is sometimes referred to - I often get asked what is it that separates successful from unsuccessful companies. In the short to medium term, there is typically no single thing that you can point to as being the key to success or competitiveness.
We’ve seen businesses succeed through being in the right place at the right time, having great systems or business processes, the failure of others, force of personality, great products, talented people, differentiated marketing or being ahead of the curve in terms of technology or thinking. There are of course other reasons, but these and those listed often erode over time as people or priorities change, competitors adapt and catch up or markets move on.
Businesses that maintain success over the medium to long term do, however, seem to have one thing in common: ‘commitment’. They are committed to seeking out and maintaining all the advantages listed above. They make this commitment central to their organisation and they remain committed to a culture of positive challenge and change even when they are enjoying success.
This is even more critical to those businesses needing to change to survive in challenging markets or where their performance falls short of shareholder expectations. The organisations which, in our experience, consistently succeed in such circumstances:
• commit to understanding the root cause of underperformance
• commit to developing a plan that addresses these causes
• commit to engaging the whole business in the process
• commit to being honest with stakeholders as to why change is essential
• commit to understanding and mitigating the barriers to change
• commit to delivering to time, quality and cost
• commit to leading the business through the changes required and
• commit to supporting their team in the delivery of change
• commit to practical first, often small, first change steps
Finally, there is one common feature that really marks out the successful companies from the unsuccessful…
• leaders who hold people, including themselves, to account in the delivery of the commitments they have made