7 Steps to Avoid “Head in the Sand” Syndrome

Meaning: Refuse to confront or acknowledge a problem(from the Phrasefinder website):

Origin: “… The notion is that the supposedly dumb ostrich believes that if it can’t see its attacker then the attacker can’t see it.

Competitive Disadvantages: How hard is your competition attacking you? Do you have eyes wide open or head in the sand? When was the last time your company sat down and listed your disadvantages?

I am not referring to the trusted old SWOT analysis “weaknesses,” but true bona fide competitive disadvantages.   Things that you do not offer that the customer wants or that you do offer but offer poorly: our on time delivery is awful; our sales people don’t follow up often as our customers want; we don’t have the right technology.

An exercise in Competitive Disadvantages offers a good opportunity for getting everyone’s head out of the sand and creating new competitive advantages:

  1. Ask a large cross section of employees to name your company’s top three competitive disadvantages: we have done this a couple hundred times and senior management is often startled at what staff cites.
  2. Then, brainstorm ways to fix these issues, or to create new ways of doing business; let everyone know all ideas are acceptable and safe to put on the table. Be thick skinned. Don’t shoot the messengers.
  3. Assign teams to execute solutions.
  4. Keep a sharp eye on the competition. Assign someone to monitor your competitor’s differentiators and report to internal teams at least quarterly.
  5. Discuss how you can do what they are offering, and better than them.
  6. Assess the investment needed and expected ROI for executing any new offerings.
  7. Make sure the offering is something the customer truly values.

Too many companies don’t talk enough their disadvantages; they are swept under the rug. Organizations that lack this discipline often lose the ability to differentiate and build a solid customer driven value proposition.

We have seen:

  • A specialty food retailer offer online ordering when customers didn’t want it;
  • A manufacturer, and a service company, both with billing accuracy issues; neither realized it was a big deal. Customer research revealed it was at the top of the list of things most valued by their customers.
  • Many companies think a single point of contact is highly valued. Research frequently shows, in some businesses, it’s not as important as swift responses, i.e., they care less about who calls them back as long as it’s quick.

So, for example, if your competitive disadvantage is that you don’t “respond quickly” then fix it, set up metrics and accountability. Create bragging rights on how much better you are than the competition. Just because you don’t always see the competition hovering, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

 

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