Successful organisations share two characteristics: they are competitive in the delivery of their activities and they have high-performance teams.
Both attributes have been quite widely commented about and can mean different things to different people. Yet, and that is the beauty of it, there are a few fundamental guiding principles for what underpins competitiveness and team performance, irrespective the sector you are active in.
At the same time, these principles lie at the basis of what can turn a project into a success or failure. In other words, root cause analysis systematically finds the origin of underperformance in one of these areas.
This makes understanding these principles, their interdependencies and the techniques to manage them properly all the more important. And the good news is they are quite easy to master.
So, what are they?
Competitiveness relies on three elements: value, function and risks. It is achieved by balancing them in the most optimal way.
At the heart of it lies the definition of value and what it means to the beneficiary of the activity (user or customer). Also key is the understanding of the value drivers or levers. One of the mistakes, which dooms a project right from the start, is getting that picture wrong.
Then comes function. In function, you’ll find all the options you can use to craft the product or service you are developing. Function doesn’t limit itself to the actual product or service, it can include ways to build it, commercial and economic models.
And finally, there’s risk. This element sums up all the risks associated with the development of a product or service and its use.
Having a good understanding of these 3 elements is crucial and necessary. However, it won’t guarantee success on its own, because they are linked to each other and therefore not independent. Modifying one of them, will also influence the other ones and the overall competitiveness, as a result.
Along the value-function axis, the control parameter will be cost. In other words, the question to ask oneself is whether a given option for the product or service will deliver enough value for it to be worth its cost to the business.
Along the function-risk axis, the control parameter is the design. What governs the decisions along this axis is centered around eliminating them by design, i.e. by including certain elements in your product or service. But it won’t just be risk management that has to be considered, the impact (positive or negative) on value will also have to be considered at the same time.
Risk-value is the third competitiveness axis, along which quality will be the control parameter, as certain risks can’t be designed out and will need to be brought to a tolerable level through choices based on quality consideration, whether it be the quality of materials and/or processes, which will ensure any remaining threat from risks is managed proactively.
Here too, the link between risk management and value creation will need to be considered in relation to the cost being made for the available options, in order to evaluate the impact on the overall competitiveness.
Competitiveness is about creating value more competitively than your competitors. Team performance is about delivering it more efficiently than your peers.
Team performance, in turn, relies on three elements: alignment, competency and agility. Here too, performance is achieved by balancing the three elements by adjusting a control parameter to the complexity and the dynamics of the environment, in which an organisation operates.
Along the alignment-competency skill, the leadership style is the adjustment parameter. The Alignment and competency are both essential ingredients for performance. However the leadership style required to foster alignment will be dependent on the competence level within an organisation.
The way decisions are made is the adjustment parameter along the competency-agility axis. The more competent the team, the more empowerment for decisions can be delegated to its members and the more agile it will be. So agility and competency balance each other through the decision-making process.
Finally, the organisational model will define how the needs for alignment and agility can co-exist to achieve performance.
The above elements and principles are fundamental success factors for projects and organisations, irrespective of the nature of their activities. They are easy to understand and translate in the work culture. Supplemented with experience and industry knowledge they form a powerful recipe for success.