In The Discipline of Market Leaders, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema explore what I consider to be one of the top 5 models that can help focus on virtually any business, brand and customer/employee engagement challenge.
I’ve advocated and used the concept successfully with a range of clients and situations – more often than not, the mere act of senior management teams even debating and considering what they can and should make their core focus yields great results.
But the model’s nearly 20 years old – pre-dating the internet. And while the oldies are often the goodies, again based on recent client experience, I think it’s time to re-think the Disciplines themselves – but not the idea that underpins them.
Why? Two key drivers of change:
- Technology. When they did their study in 1995, T&W lived in a world where the technological capabilities that could drive Operational Excellence, Product/Service Leadership, and Customer Intimacy were frankly in a different universe than the one we inhabit today. I’ll lump the emergence of technology-enabled social media here. Perhaps wrongly…
- Sustainability. In 1995, we still lived in the world of shareholder value-driven management; corporate responsibility and sustainable business were nascent ideas that still inhabited the fringes of corporate governance.
I’ve been playing with some ideas, and the real challenge is to try to shift the model’s three categories without destroying the concept’s integrity – while addressing the many challenges such changes would inevitably raise.
Technology has radically enabled improvements in Operational Efficiency (the, erm, internet, cloud computing, mobility, etc.); Customer Intimacy (better data, social media, real-time engagement, viral marketing), and Product Leadership (crowdsourcing R&D, Open Source, etc.).
My initial hypothesis would probably be that technology has squashed Product/Service Leadership and Customer Intimacy into the same bucket. So that is Debate 1.
This would mean that the new third discipline needs to be defined, which is Debate 2.
Could it be Sustainability? Businesses who chose to make their longevity and their relationship with society their core focus? Granted, much of this could arguably overlap with Operational Excellence (e.g. the inherent business and social benefits of reducing waste) and product leadership (e.g. the inherent benefits of sustainable products) – but such overlaps already exist in the existing model.
I suppose the question is whether this model is predictive of future success, as opposed to defining what drives historical success (the original model).
I hear Dan Gray’s shot incoming… brace for impact…