What Race Are You Running?

In two long conversations this month with mid market business leaders, the conversation turned to “what business they were in?”  Most of my time is spent talking to leaders about how to “run the race” but these two conversations were more about “what race they should be running.”

As I was driving home from the first conversation, I began to reflect on one of my very favorite business books. Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema wrote “The Discipline of Market Leaders” in 1995 and it hit a chord with me at the time.  It was during that period that the leadership of our old company was struggling with that very same question … “what race were we running?”  Tracy and Wiersema suggested you had a few choices, but only a few.  You could be a leader in:

  • Operational Excellence
  • Product Development or
  • Customer Intimacy

BUT, you could not be a leader in all three.

They argued that you have to be a leader in one of these disciplines and be competent in the others.  It is a general rule that I’ve lived by for the past 15 years.

Back to my marketplace conversations.  Both conversations revealed that the leadership had drifted from being a leader in one particular discipline and allowed themselves to become average at all three.  This was creating a collision course with mediocrity.

So the question for today is not whether you are winning the race, but whether you are running the right race at all.

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