by Stephen M. Dent
Considerable intellectual work has been done in the area of “business integration,” which views the business enterprise as a holistic entity comprised of many parts. (Anderson consulting for one). When the connections and relationships among these parts are aligned and properly integrated, the idea is that the benefit to the organization is more than the sum of its parts.
Clearly we can understand this thinking on an intuitive level and agree that, say, installing advanced IT systems in a company with limited process capability and relatively unskilled people will lead to sub-optimized results. Similarly, assigning the smartest people, or the smartest partners, to a project that is dis-enabled by a poor technology infrastructure or broken processes will yield limited results.
While the objective in any change initiative is balance and synergy, some aspects of change carry more weight than others. If we look at change through the lens of competitive advantage, at this point in the history of business we are behooved to place more weight on people than on processes, technology or even strategy. In other words, people are the last bastion of non-replicable competitive advantage.
A 1998 McKinsey study on the war for talent points out very plainly that there is a wide-ranging shortage of talent based on growing GDP-related demand and a shrinking talent pool. The report states plainly that “superior talent will be tomorrow’s prime source of competitive advantage.” The report also states that “companies that manage their physical and financial assets with rigor and sophistication have not made their people a priority in the same way.”
Among three key threats to obtaining and retaining talent, McKinsey says that “a more complex economy demands more sophisticated talent with global acumen, multicultural fluency, technological literacy, entrepreneurial skills and the ability to manage increasingly delayered, desegregated organizations.”
Partnering intelligence adds a very important plank to the 'people as competitive advantage platform.' We can say with confidence that an effective executive, manager or employee consistently practices self-disclosure and feedback, is proficient at building trust, approaches business situations with a win-win orientation, possesses a high level of comfort with change and has a demonstrated comfort with interdependence.
In other words, people who possess high degrees of the partnering
attributes are people who provide competitive advantage in the new
economy. For the first time, the PQ assessment quantifies and
validates such attributes, making the ideal of partnering intelligence
tangible and achievable. Further, the Partnership Continuum
The reality in today’s business environment is that partnership acumen cuts across virtually every critical success competency. A brilliant executive with a strong technical and educational background, for example, will be ineffective if unable to successfully align the agendas of different organizations, unable to attract and retain young talent, unable to assemble and motivate multicultural teams. While technical acumen is a prerequisite for efficacy, partnering acumen is a strategic advantage.
In terms of leverage, partnering intelligence and the partnership continuum are major fulcrum points for building competitive advantage in business and efficacy in public organizations. They create the skill set and operationalize the process by which organizations define and accomplish their goals.
Stephen M. Dent, founding partner of the consulting firm Partnership Continuum, Inc., is an award-winning organizational consultant working with such clients as USWEST, Inc. Northwest Airlines, AT&T, GE Capital Services, and the U.S. Postal Service. He lives in Minneapolis MN.
Copyright 2000 by Stephen M. Dent. All rights reserved.
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