Driving competitive advantage through people

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Denison Culture modelTimelessTime are proud to be using Denison[1] tools to support firms in their mission to improve their performance by improving their culture and leadership. Denison work with a network of consultants, like TimelessTime, to help clients who are facing a wide range of challenges. These challenges can include many things as listed below:
• helping firms assess their culture and determine the areas for improvement,
• integrating two firms through a merger, and
• developing leaders in a firm.

The solutions provide a range of options to address critical business challenges at the firm, team and individual level.

Culture is “the way things are done around here”. Culture plays a fundamental role in the success of any firm. Get the culture wrong and the firm fails, optimise the culture and between 26%[2] and 49%[3] can be added to a firms bottom line. The Denison Model provides a framework to help TimelessTime work with firms to measure the culture and then formulate a plan to move the firm to where they want to be.

There are four key questions which the model explores:

  1. Do we know where we are going? – Mission
  2. Is everyone aligned and engaged? – Involvement
  3. Are we listening to the marketplace? – Adaptability
  4. Do we have systems and processes in place to make it happen? – Consistency.

The four traits (mission, involvement, adaptability and consistency) are then broken down into three indexes as shown in the diagram above. The model can be divided in two, left and right. On the left there is ‘Flexible’ which is made up of adaptability and involvement. Firms who score highly here are more likely to be agile and able to adapt quickly as the environment changes. The right hand-side of the model is ‘Stable’ incorporating missions and consistency. Firms who are high in these two traits are generally very focussed and predictable.

Denison Culture FocusWe can also divide the model in two, top and bottom. The top is concerned with ‘External Focus’ and firms who are strong in adaptability and mission are likely to have a good eye for the market and will be able to adapt and change in response to the external environment. The ‘Internal Focus’ is made up of involvement and consistency and strong firms will be focussed on internal systems, processes and people.

Denison research suggests strong links between culture scores and other performance measures. High scores on the stable side tend to be good predictors of profitability and return on investment whilst high flexibility scores are good predictors of innovation and customer satisfaction. Growth can be predicted by the external focus whereas internal focus can predict operating performance, quality and employee satisfaction.

“We have the same ingredients and use the same ovens, but it’s the skills, attitude and experience of the workforce that differentiates the brands” , and the CEO of Domino’s Pizza sees employees as assets not costs. He says “Pizza is pizza. People are the key.” TimelessTime believe that a firm drives competitive advantage through people. By using the Denison model we work with firms to achieve improvement in any aspect they determine is important.

There is a typical life cycle of a project designed to gain this competitive advantage. We start by delivering the survey, reviewing the results and then bench marking the strengths and weaknesses of the firm. This allows identification of the gaps and consideration of what aspects might need to be changed. The next step is to work with senior managers to identify who will be part of the team to lead the change management. TimelessTime will play a key role in facilitating this change, but there has to be drive from within the firm with representatives from different functions and levels on the team.

A vision needs to be created which includes the following questions. Where are we now? Where do we want to be? What will success look like? Once these questions have been addressed an action plan needs to developed. Progress needs tracking and regular evaluation of what is and isn’t working needs to take place. It is important to note that the route to the end goal may change as actions taken are found not to work.

Changing a firm is not linear. There will always be new challenges and a changing environment both of which need to be taken into account. Repeating the survey after a year will allow change to become a continual improvement that will be ‘driving competitive advantage through people.’

If you find this blog interesting and you’d like to make changes to your firm, talk to TimelessTime today.

[1] Denison Consulting Inc, see www.denison.com.
[2] Watson Wyatt
[3] ACAS
[4] David Brandon, CEO of Domino’s Pizza.

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