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So, You Think You’re World Class?
It is common that, when I’m discussing a company’s future strategy, someone will say that they want the business to be worldclass. Their premise is that world class companies thrive and prosper in any economy, grow relentlessly and deliver returns to shareholders way ahead of their competition.
And who wouldn’t want a bit of that action?
But the term ‘world class’ has become little more than empty rhetoric. When I ask these executives what they mean by the term‘world class’ I often get inconsistent and sometimes incoherent responses, and it is rare for me to see a strategic agenda that is consistent with an organisation seeking to achieve world class status.
Of course, it’s not a requirement for businesses to become world class. After all, you can still get views from half-way up a mountain that are nearly as good as those from the top (although you only see the mountains immediately in front of you if you stay in the valley).
The point is that if you say you are world class, or if you have ambitions in that direction, you should mean it. Only then will your people demonstrate the commitment, endeavour and creativity to help the organisation achieve that aim.
So let me give you 10 criteria to help you judge whether your organisation is ‘world class’. Score yourself from 0-5 for each of the following criteria, where: 0 = Strongly disagree; 1 = Disagree; 2 = Slightly disagree; 3 = Slightly agree; 4 = Agree; and 5 = Strongly agree.
- Global Presence. We don’t just seek to be great in our own back yard, but bring our unique value to customers across the globe. We are present in all the world’s leading economies.
- Brand Affection. Our brand and its values is known to 100% of our target customers in our domestic market, and over 70% of users in the world’s top 20 markets.Wherever we go our brand is trusted, respected and generates warm affection.
- Customer Magnetism. We don’t just attract and keep customers but create fierce loyalty that keeps our customers coming back to us time and time again, preventing our competitors from getting any of their attention, affection or cash.
- Shape Perceptions. We are a beacon and driving force for new ideas and innovations that drive and define both our own and other markets. Other organisations follow in the slipstream that we create.
- A Force For Good. Our impact on society and communities is broader than the narrow business activities we undertake. We make a genuine, tangibleand hugely positive impact on the wider world, and protecting and enhancing the fabric of the world is our #1 aim.
- Excellence Everywhere. Our organisation sets the highest standards in performance, integrity and behaviour. Yes, we understand the big picture, but we are also fanatical about getting the details right, every time.
- Organisational Passion. There is a tangible buzz across our organisation, where people delight in achieving our goals and improving the lives of others.
- Talent Leadership. Not only is our organisation full of people who are passionate about what they do, our colleagues, managers and executives have genuinely superior skills and capabilities to our competitors. Just as customers are magnetically attracted to us, our colleagues seek us out ahead of other organisations.
- Focused Perseverance. We are selective in where we choose to direct our efforts, but tenacious in delivering success. We remain fixed on our goals and objectives, resilient in the face of setbacks and flexible in finding the best route to get there.
- Superior Financials. Our growth and returns are dramatically ahead of other players in our markets. We may not always lead in any one year but look back over, say, 10 years and our track record speaks for itself, as do our plans and strategies for the future.
So how does your organisation measure up? Compare your total score to the ratings below.
Over 45 – World Class: Congratulations, you are part of a genuinely world class company, at least for now. But what steps are you taking to ensure you stay there and don’t take a Toyota, Goldman Sachs or BP-style fall?
30-45 – Middle Class: You are certainly a more effective organisation than most, and may well show leadership on some dimensions. What are the priority areas that you can focus on to improve your position over the next 3-5 years?
Less than 30 – Remedial Class: If you have any genuine ambitions to become world class you will need to do far more than focus on incremental improvements – you must dramatically raise the bar. Reaching anything close to world class performance is likely to take many years, so identify initial priorities and milestones to drive your organisation forward on that path.
The Bottom Line
Having an ambition to become a ‘world class’ company is easy to say but hugely difficult to achieve. Only by exploring what the term ‘world class’ really means can you really determine whether you seriously want to get there, and what actions you need to take to make it a reality.