To hell with your competitors, compete against perfection
This is a quote from the book Lean Thinking by Jim Womack and Daniel Jones, and I think one of the most useful phrases brought out from this book. What does it mean?
So many companies spend considerable amount of time focusing on their competitors: what are they doing? What’s their next product? What’s their pricing? Which markets are they going after?
If you take this line of thought far enough, you are not looking for competitiveness. You are looking to find whatever niche is leftover after everyone else has made their moves for you to still make a bit of money. That’s no way to win.
Instead, focus on perfection. Focus on new ways to deliver value to customer, or new customers to deliver value to. When you do that, you end up creating new markets and forcing your competition to follow you.
We (the Lean Learning Center) get asked all the time to compare ourselves against our competition. It’s quite difficult, because that’s never been our focus. We don’t know what they’re doing. We haven’t hired people from them. In fact, everyone on our team has never done consulting before they were with us, they’ve only been applying lean as leaders inside companies. What does this gain us? We have many unique offerings that are unlike anything found in our field. Our Lean Learning Laboratory, our Lean Experience, some of our simulations, our Single Point Lessons – these are very unique offerings and products. I’m not arguing whether they are better or not – that’s a matter of opinion. But what’s fact is that they are unique.
Our focus has always been on helping clients solve their most difficult problems on a lean journey. That has lead to these unique solutions. And sometimes, because of this, when our solution fits someone’s needs exactly, we have no competition.
I believe Womack and Jones got this premise right. Focus, as a concept, is the point that you can only pay attention to so many things at once. All the time you spend looking at, analyzing, and copying your competitors is time and energy that you could have used to focus on pursuing perfection.
Reflection question: How do you or your company view your competition? How does it affect your decisions and actions?