Steve Spear, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management and Engineering Systems Division
From The Hill
General Motors (GM) shutting five factories and cutting 14,000 jobs reflects poorly on a legacy approach to managing. Big shots making transactional decisions — buy or sell this, open or close that, hire or fire them.
What is required is a dynamic approach of building capabilities to be agile and resilient, learning quickly how to bring value into the marketplace with speed and responsiveness.
CEO Mary Barra’s announcement set off a firestorm of criticism and praise. President Trump led the barrage, saying the company was making a “big mistake” and that GM “ought to stop making cars in China and make them here.”
Furthermore, he took Barra to task, saying he was “disappointed” in her. Similar outrage was voiced by those advocating for the clock-punching working class.
But other commentators praised her “hard decisions” in the face of declining demand. The stock market agreed, with GM’s shares rising 7 percent.
Apparently, if you’re do something poorly and you promise to do less, then your valuation increases. It’s like relatives who are lousy cooks. If they say, “I’m not preparing the next holiday meal,” you cheer.
En las primeras semanas de la Administración Trump, han surgido dos polémicas separadas con asuntos concomitantes. Una es la supuesta protección del suelo estadounidense frente a una amenaza extranjera, en forma de una muy polémica prohibición de los viajes a EE UU de ciudadanos de siete países mayoritariamente musulmanes. La segunda es la intimidación de Trump a los fabricantes para que aumenten la presencia de sus fábricas en Estados Unidos y la reduzcan en el resto de lugares.
Implícitas en ambas cuestiones hay dos visiones claramente diferentes sobre cómo conseguir una seguridad y prosperidad duraderas para EE UU. Una postura es que competimos mediante la localización y la acumulación de cosas: recursos, instalaciones, y el acceso a ellas. La postura alternativa es que una ventaja sostenida depende de la superioridad sostenida en la generación, identificación y aplicación de buenas ideas en un mundo cada vez más globalizado.
Según el primer punto de vista, “transaccional”, la competitividad se apoya en la conservación de la ventaja posicional y mediante la construcción de barreras que eviten que molestos competidores tengan acceso a mercados y clientes a los que uno ya está intentando atender y para evitar que los clientes actuales se marchen a fuentes alternativas de bienes y servicios. Puede que no sea una coincidencia que alguien que construyó su carrera comercial en el sector inmobiliario, caracterizado por el mantra “localización, localización, localización”, tenga esta visión de la competencia.
Certain companies continually deliver more value to the market. They do so with greater speed and ease than their rivals, even when they lack the classic elements of strategic advantage: locked-in customers, dependent suppliers and barriers that keep competitors at bay. Absent such structural advantages, you would expect parity. There are, however, still those companies that regularly outscore the competition. Toyota, Intel, and Apple are among them, as are many lesser known but no less disproportionally successful ventures.
The source of uneven outcomes on otherwise level playing fields? Learning, at which the very best organizations excel. They are far faster and better at discovering what to do and how to do it, as well as at refreshing the set of problems to be solved and solutions to be delivered faster than the ecosystem can render their relevance obsolete.
For sure, learning is not simply training. Training involves accepted skills with an accepted application, and then using an accepted approach to deliver those skills to the organization. Learning, on the other hand, involves converting ignorance and a lack of capacity into knowledge, new skills and understanding. It requires recognizing what you do not know and finding new approaches to solve new problems. This, in turn, requires critical thinking and a willingness to challenge accepted practices, even when those practices are perceived as successful.
Challenge—even respectful challenge—is not a natural act. When something has worked well, complacency and inertia accumulate and interests get vested in sustaining what is familiar, even if it is not optimal. Challenging historical approaches goes along with challenging the emotions, status and prestige associated with those approaches. That is not typically welcome.
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MIT Sloan’s Steven Spear speaks with Anders Wallgren at the DevOps Enterprise Summit about how high-performers in different industries stand out from the competition. These companies tend to be constantly learning, allowing them to deliver value even in hypercompetitive markets.