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Assessment Technology

The Age of Hypercompetition

As markets heat up all over the world, companies strive to end with today’s dynamic conditions, or at least survive them. “Hypercompetition is an environment of intense change in which flexible, aggressive, innovative competitors move into markets easily and rapidly, eroding the advantages of the large and established players.”

Responding to this fast-forward world of “the quick or the dead,” companies have undertaken reinvention and the redesign of how they do business. They are casting all the industrial age rules, assumptions, and hierarchical trappings on the table to be changed, tossed out, or revitalized. All of this in an effort to streamline processes that serve and add value to the customer. Management has become captivated by strategies of radical process redesign and, in some cases, has taken into account only as an afterthought the skills and capabilities of those who must ultimately manage and be responsible for the performance of the redefined organization.

What will employees need to know to successfully execute the new process? What training of existing employees or hiring of new people will be required to change the organization to one that operates with speed, resiliency, and innovation? How do you anticipate what skills your organization will need in the future, and how do you select and develop employees based on those needs?

Without the right answers to these questions, reengineering efforts fail or, at least, fall markedly short of their promise. James Champy, coauthor of Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution, said recently, “When I wrote about reengineering, I didn’t mean to suggest that you fire half the people and expect the other half to do twice the work.”

In fact, the ability to tie human capabilities precisely and comprehensively to business strategies will be the next frontier of competitive engagement. This issue will ring loud in the halls of reengineered corporations seeking to continue on. Having the right people, with the right skills, in the right (reengineered) job (or process) will mean the difference in an unforgiving marketplace.

“Investing in acquiring, keeping, and developing the right people with the right skills for today is no less than an investment in the continuation of corporate existence.”

“Consider the case of Seymour Cray,” says Donald Curtis, a partner in the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche, in his 1990 book Management Rediscovered. “Cray was the top engineer and visionary for Control Data, the Fortune 500 company that was once the only manufacturer of supercomputers. Disgruntled by the company’s reluctance to pursue one of his projects, he left one day with some other Control Data engineers to form Cray Research. Assuming that no major financial transactions took place that day, the accounting system recorded that nothing happened. But that defection marked the beginning of a spiraling decline for Control Data, which no longer makes supercomputers.”

Investing in acquiring, keeping, and developing the right people with the right skills for today is no less than an investment in the continuation of corporate existence. Today, with decisions, accountability, and responsibility for customer satisfaction being pushed down into the organization (well below the level of the Seymour Cray’s of the past), the skills and capabilities of employees on the front lines, charged as they are with the success of the enterprise, are as critical an asset as any the company retains.

Investing in acquiring, keeping, and developing the right people with the right skills for today is no less than an investment in the continuation of corporate existence.