Imitability


If a firm is making profits from core competences, the question is, why can’t other firms imitate it and build similar competences. This takes us to one property of competences: imitability—the extent to which a competence can be duplicated by competitors.  A firm would rather have competences that are difficult to duplicate or substitute. The question is, how? If the knowledge that underpins the competences is tacit in that it is not coded but rather embedded in organizational routines and cumulatively learned over time, potential imitators have three problems. In the first place, it is difficult to know just what it is that one wants to imitate in the second place, even if a firm knew exactly what it is that it wants to imitate, the firm may not know how to go about it since competence is learned cumulatively over the years and embedded in individuals or routine of firms. In the third place, since competences take time to build, imitators may find them themselves always lagging as they spend time imitating while the original owners of the competences move on to higher levels of the competences to newer ones.

If a competitor cannot build competences, the next question is, why not buy them? One answer is that competences may not be tradable or easily moved from one firm to another. Two reasons have been advanced for why. First, because of the tacit nature of the underlying knowledge, it may be difficult to tell just what it is that one wants to trade and who has the property rights for what parts of the underlying knowledge. What is it that we will buy from Honda that allows us to build zippy engines for cars, motorcycles, lawnmovers, and marine vehicles? Who has the rights for what part of the technological knowledge that underlies this competence? Second, the underlying knowledge may be sticky in that it is too costly to transfer. Because of the tacit nature of the data, one may need to observe the seller over long periods in order to learn. This may be too complex and expensive.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

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Changing Company’s Culture


A short list of mechanisms leaders can use to establish, embed, and reinforce organizational culture. There are five:

  1. Make it clear to your employees what you pay attention to, measure, and control.
  2. React appropriately to critical incidents and organizational crises.
  3. Deliberately role model, teach, and coach the values you want to emphasize.
  4. Communicate your priorities by the way you allocate rewards and status.
  5. Make your HR procedures and criteria consistent with the values you espouse.

Don’t stop there. Use secondary mechanisms—such as redesigning physical space—to further reinforce the desired cultural changes. These secondary mechanisms are just that secondary, because they work only if they are consistent with the five primary mechanisms:

  1. What leaders pay attention to, measure, and control
  2. Leader reactions to critical incidents and organizational crises
  3. Deliberate role modeling, teaching and coaching
  4. Criteria for allocation of rewards and status
  5. Criteria for recruitment, selection, promotion, retirement, and communication.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Expertise


Whaereas intelligence is a feature attributable to most people, expertise is a scarcer commodity. This scarcity gives expertise its value and makes attempting to capture expertise worthwhile. The skills needed to process a company’s payroll would not, for example, be considered expertise. Although it may make sense to program this task, the ability to process payroll is not rare. Certain areas of expertise have more practical value than others. For example, expertise in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics may be scarce but is of less practical value than expertise in strategic management or auditing.

 The difficulty in acquiring expertise is what usually contributes to its scarcity. Expertise must be obtained from some source (e.g., an expert). Most companies make use of expertise either by acquiring it temporarily in the form of consultants or by sending a seasoned employee from site to site.

 One of the problem in defining expertise is understanding exactly what knowledge the expert has acquired and how it can be used. Expertise can be the ability to interpet Egyptian hieroglyphics, diagnose certain diseases, or formulate a strategic plan. For computers to perform specific tasks, they must be programmed to stimulate features of expertise. The goal of an expert systems development poject is to understand and embed scarce expertise in the computer program and use it to solve specific problems.

 The first question that must be answered concerns where to find the required expertise. The time spent answering this question, acquiring the relevant knowledge, and then encoding it in a program constitutes the bulk of the development effort.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Creating Strategic Slack


In considering strategies for supporting or protecting core distinctive competences and growing new ones, the issue of resource demands has to be considered. One means of releasing resources is to review those distinctive competences that are no longer central to the strategic future. As is often the case in organizations, competences and distinctive competences emerge, and become embedded into the culture/conciousness of the organization. However, as organizations change their strategic direction, the utility of these competences may reduce, sometimes with them becoming completely irrelevant. Identifying these will free up resources—creating strategic slack. Where competences (or the activities supporting them) are to be withdrawn, careful considration of how this is to be achieved is necessary (who needs to be consulted? What needs to be put into place?) so as to ensure that the resources are freed up rather than covertly protected.

 

An obvious means of freeing up resources is through outsourcing. Through building the business model, those areas that are considered potential candidates for outsourcing will have been scrutinized. Often organizations outsource units, departments and tasks without considering the overall impact on the business model, or on a distinctive competence. Understanding how the particular area or task to be outsourced fits in with the overall model can thus ensure a more sustainable and coherent approach.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight